The Benefits of Healthy Decisions About Sex

Sex is a personal choice that can be healthy or unhealthy. A healthy sexual relationship includes mutual trust, respect and care.

A good time to talk about sex is with your parent(s)/guardian(s), a trusted adult (like school counselor, someone from your religious center/youth group), or your health care provider.

1. Self-esteem

Having healthy sexual decisions can result in a higher self-esteem. It can also improve relationships and help people feel more confident in themselves. This is especially true for women who report that they have a higher sense of self-esteem when they are satisfied with their sex lives.

Some people choose to wait until they are older before having sex or may choose to be celibate for various reasons. Some may have religious or cultural beliefs that influence their decision. Others may want to avoid the risks of STIs or pregnancy. Still others may simply be unsure about what they want or might find that abstinence helps them to focus on other things.

The bottom line is that everyone is different and should make their own choices about sex. It is important to talk openly with your partner(s) about the decisions you are making and to respect each other’s choices. If you decide to have sex, make sure that it is because you: trust your partner(s), know how to protect yourself against STIs and unplanned pregnancies (including by using condoms) and that you are ready!

Having sex should never be done to please someone else or because they think you’re a loser. That isn’t fair to you or them! It is also completely okay to say no if you’re not feeling it.

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2. Relationships

People who make healthy decisions about sex may also have healthy relationships with other people. This includes friendships, romantic relationships and families. It’s important to teach youth about healthy and unhealthy relationships, so they can recognize abusive ones.

Healthy relationships can be supportive, encouraging and respectful. They can help people feel confident and secure enough to express their needs, make good choices and be their best selves.

In healthy relationships, people talk honestly and openly about their feelings. They don’t use negative or harmful words, such as “abusive,” “clingy” or “controlling.” They respect each other’s thoughts, feelings, decisions, opinions and physical safety. They share and discuss finances, and make sure both partners are responsible for their actions.

Unhealthy relationships can be harmful and dangerous. They can lead to serious problems, including teen pregnancy. If teens become pregnant, they might need to make difficult decisions about their lives, such as parenting, finding a foster family or terminating the pregnancy. They might also have to worry about STIs (chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes and genital warts) and HIV/AIDS infection.

Many teens decide not to have sex for personal and relationship reasons. They might want to wait until they’re older, finish school or get married. They might have religious or cultural beliefs that influence their decision. They might choose to avoid the risks of STIs or pregnancy. Or they might be unsure what kind of sex they want to have.

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3. Health

Few things are more personal than the decisions we make about sex. Some people enjoy a full sexual life, while others choose to abstain from all or part of it. Both options have their benefits. For example, some people say that abstinence helps them focus their energy on other goals and improves their mental health.

Having strong decision-making skills about sex can also help us avoid unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. It’s important to have a plan in place for how we want to protect ourselves, including having condoms and water based lubricant available. It’s also helpful to talk about our values and morals with parents, friends or other trusted adults.

Sexual health is now considered a national priority, and there are many opportunities for health-care providers to change the way they talk with their patients about these issues. It’s important to debunk myths about sex and STIs, as well as discuss the effectiveness of different birth control methods and the potential risks of abstinence. The goal should be to equip teens with the tools they need to make healthy choices about sex throughout their lives. UNESCO’s International Technical Guidance on Quality Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) is a great resource for those looking to implement CSE in their communities or schools.

4. Safety

A person is more likely to be safe if they have healthy decisions about sex. For example, if someone is in an unhealthy relationship they may be putting themselves at risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections or even pregnancy (again if unprotected). A strong decision-making skill can help people avoid these risks.

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It is also important for teens to understand that practicing safer sex can reduce the chances of getting an STI or becoming pregnant. This knowledge will encourage them to be more careful in relationships and to use condoms whenever they are having sex.

However, some youth are not able to make safe decisions about sex because of circumstances out of their control. For example, they might be in an abusive relationship where setting limits or asking their partner to use a condom could put their safety at risk. This is a very serious situation and if this is the case, it is best for them to seek help from a trusted adult.

In addition, some youth do not feel prepared to have sex and are not aware of the benefits of abstinence or how different forms of birth control work. A good way to increase their confidence in making these decisions is to talk openly with parents, teachers, religious leaders or health care workers about the topic.

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