By Miranda Massie on May 2, 2019
The spring edition of Healthy UBC is always my favourite because I get to talk about a subject I’m passionate about: sex. As a community sexual health educator and health promoter, I see the critical importance of unbiased education, inclusive health care, and safe spaces for discussing a topic that’s often kept behind closed doors.
This month, I’m sharing some helpful hints, tips and information to support your sexual and reproductive health journeys.
Check under the hood regularly
Whether you’re sexually active or planning to conceive, regular checkups are important. Annual physicals or sexual health screenings help ensure that you’re free from health risks associated with your reproductive system, like infections or cancer.
To find a comfortable, supportive environment for all your needs, check out this list of sex-positive sexual health service providers across the province1. Click here to explore transgender and gender-affirming health care services in BC. (learn more about sex positivity and how to tell if your health care provider is sex-positive here).
Know your rights
Historically, many aspects of sexuality have been controlled, limited or prescribed by law. Supporting sexual health can sometimes involve knowing your rights and understanding how to advocate for them. Check out the following resources:
- Rights critical to the realization of sexual health (Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights)
- Understanding abortion law in Canada (Options for Sexual Health)
- Sex Discrimination and Sexual Harassment (Human Rights in BC)
Avoid Dr. Google
The internet can be a scary place, especially when you type “sex” into the search bar. For accurate and unbiased information, try going directly to one of the following sources:
- Sex&U (The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada)
- Options for Sexual Health (BC member of International Planned Parenthood)
- Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights
- Sexual and Reproductive Health Week
- Sexual Violence Prevention and Response (UBC resource)
The body-brain connection
Mental health can impact our ability to lead the sexual lives we want (both positively and negatively). Conversely, difficulties like illness, injury and challenges with conception or sexual function can take an emotional toll on our wellbeing. The following resources explore the connection between the brain and sexual health:
- UBC researcher Dr. Lori Brotto’s work on mindfulness and sexual pleasure
- Sexual Health and Disability (Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights)
- Pregnancy Loss Resources (BC Women’s Hospital & Health Centre)
Learning is a lifelong process
It’s never too early or too late to learn more about sexual health. Body science is a great way to teach young children about consent and prevent abuse. Older adults might try dating again, or learn about the physical changes that come with age. Regardless of age, there is always more to learn!
- Sex-Ed: What is it and why does it matter? (Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights)
- Understanding your child’s sexual development and information and resources for children with differing abilities (Alberta Health Services’ teachingsexualhealth.ca)
- Sexuality and Aging (Centre for Sexuality)
- Sex and Seniors (Canadian Public Health Association)
- Why we need to talk about menopause — candidly (Globe and Mail)
I encourage you to consider one thing you might do to support your sexual or reproductive health. Have fun exploring what sexuality means to you and how it connects to your overall sense of wellbeing.
Don’t forget to “heart your parts”!
All my best,
Posted in Editorial, Mental Health, Miranda Massie, Physical Health | Tagged age, ageing, brain, care, editorial, mental health, physical health, reproductive health, rights, Safety, sex, sex positivity, sexual health, sexuality, Support, transgender | Leave a response
By Miranda Massie on May 3, 2016
That being said, I always think it’s a great time to talk about sex, but perhaps that has a lot to do with my background as a community sexual health educator. The reality is that talking openly and honestly about sex and sexuality is hard to do and it can make us uncomfortable. This discomfort has historically led to generations of misinformation, shame and silence.
Everyone, of any age, deserves the right to access accurate and unbiased sexual health information in order to make informed decision about their health. The challenge is often knowing where to find it.
Our newsletter theme this month is health literacy and if there is one area that I think we could all benefit from more well-sourced information, it is sexual health.
A crash course in sexual health information:
Beware of search engines
My advice when it comes to sexual health and Google: just don’t. There is a lot of bad information on the internet, and pulling up a google search makes it difficult to decipher where the information is coming from and what potential biases or ulterior motives might be at play. Learn more about The Dangers of Dr. Google here.
My top 5
A list of the best sites for unbiased and non-judgmental sexual health information are as follow:
- Sexuality and U: Rated one of the top 10 health websites in Canada.
- Options for Sexual Health: Similar to Planned Parenthood, with services available for free to all residents of BC
- Scarleteen: Don’t be fooled by the teen/20’s label: This site has accessible information and advice for all ages.
- Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights: Like the World Health Organization, but for sexual health in Canada. Policy, research, advocacy and information.
- Sex is good for your health: Last year in my S is for SEX article, I outlined the physical, psychological and emotional benefits of being sexually active.
Brush up on the research
UBC has some amazing folks doing some interesting research on sexual health and sexuality:
- Dr. Lori Brotto and the UBC Sexual Health Laboratory
- The UBC Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice
- UBC Faculty of Medicine Youth Sexual Health Team
Increasing your sexual health literacy is a learning process, one that includes being both critical and curious. Even as an adult, it is okay to not have all the answers – as long as you keep looking.
Talking about sexual health as a parent can add another layer to a tricky topic, one that can provoke both anxiety and stress. For any parents or guardians out there looking for tips on how to talk about this topic with your kids, consider registering for our upcoming workshop:
All my best,
By Miranda Massie on May 5, 2015
I wanted to spend this month’s editorial taking about an aspect of health that is very close to my heart. This particular topic is not often openly discussed, especially among adults and yet, at its core, is strongly linked to both our mental and physical wellbeing.
A lack of open dialogue and access to accurate information on this topic can lead to misinformation, confusion, shame and even illness. Have you guessed it yet?
Let’s talk about sex.
In my life outside of UBC, I am a community sexual health educator. I feel passionately about empowering society (particularly children and youth) with accurate, informative and non-judgmental sexual health information. According to the World Health Organization, sexual health is “a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.”[Source]
There are myriad of different elements related to sexual health that can impact our overall wellbeing including reproduction, sexuality, infection and disease prevention, intimacy, pleasure, relationships, safety, body image, and more. The presence of a challenge or a decline in one area of our health can impact other areas of our life in ways that we perhaps do not realise.
Sex and sexuality are very personal and discussing them openly can be challenging. Knowing where to access accurate and unbiased information can also be a frustrating task that may lead to additional stress and anxiety.
Like other aspects of our wellbeing, there are valuable benefits that can be had from caring for our sexual health! There are also some interesting facts to be aware of that may normalize (self-imposed or societal) feelings of inadequacy.
Facts about sexual health:
- Emotions can impact libido or levels of sexual desire.
- Levels of sexual desire differ from person to person and from day to day. Do what is right for you, not what you think or hear is ‘normal’.
- Overall sexual satisfaction is linked to overall quality of life.
- Certain medications (particularly those used in treating mental health conditions) can decrease your libido or levels of sexual desire.
- Though some physical functions may diminish over time, sexuality does not disappear with age. Good health has been found to be a strong predictor of being more sexually active later in life.
Health benefits of sex:
- Intimacy (sexual or emotional) fosters wellbeing and its absence may be psychologically and physically harmful to our health.
- Knowing and confirming that you are free of infection or illness can alleviate stress and anxiety.
- Sexual activity has been linked to lower blood pressure.
- The hormone oxytocin is released during orgasm. Oxytocin can result in better sleep, enhanced feelings of optimism and can promote a sense of bonding.
- In men, more frequent ejaculation has been linked to a reduced risk of prostate cancer.
- Experiencing a non-consensual or unwanted sexual experience can have negative impacts on mental health and wellbeing. If you are in need of support, options include counselling, advocacy and support services. Options include your EFAP at 1-800-361-5676 or the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres (604-876-2622).
Have you ever heard the expression that ‘the sexiest body part is the brain’? That is why is it important to keep learning and to remain critical of where you access information. When we don’t know enough about our sexual health or if we are ashamed to talk about it, there is a chance of putting our health (or the health of others) at risk.
Though the physical act of sex occurs behind closed doors, our sexual health needn’t exist surrounded by silence. I am opening the door to a conversation around sexual health today and I invite you to think about the role that it plays in your life. Everyone deserves accurate sexual health information in order to lead safe, pleasurable and fulfilled lives.
All my best,
Looking for trusted and credible information and resources?
Videos, reading lists and websites for youth, adults, parents, seniors and more:
Chao, J-K., Lin,Y-C., Ma, M-C., Lai, C-J., Ku, Y-C. , Kuo, W-H., Chao, I-C. (2011) Relationship Among Sexual Desire, Sexual Satisfaction, and Quality of Life in Middle-Aged and Older Adults. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy 37(5).
Frappier, J., Toupin, I., Levy, J.J., Aubertin-Leheudre, M., Karelis, A.D. (2013). Energy Expenditure during Sexual Activity in Young Healthy Couples. PLoS ONE 8(10): e79342. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0079342
Rathus, S.A., Nevid, J.S., Fincher-Rathus, L., Herold, E.D., McKay, A. (2013). Human sexuality in a world of diversity (4th ed.). Toronto, ON: Pearson Education Inc.
Rogers, P. (2014, 07/21) The Health Benefits of Sex. Healthline. Retrieved from: http://www.healthline.com/health/healthy-sex-health-benefits#Overview1