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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at TCU chapter.

When someone brings up the topic of sexual health, most people’s minds go to sexually transmitted infections, condom use, and birth control. Very rarely do we think about sex through a pleasure-focused lens. This is very different than how we think about other types of health, such as physical or mental health. Health is usually seen through the lens of positive actions we can take to stay healthy, from physical activity to self-care. Why, then, do we only think about risks to our sexual health rather than how to maintain a pleasant sex life?

For 2022, the World Association for Sexual Health has set the theme for Sexual Health Month as “Let’s Talk Pleasure.” The American Sexual Health Association states that “Sexual health is more than the absence of disease. Sexual pleasure and satisfaction are integral components of wellbeing and require universal recognition and promotion.”

I think that it’s common for adults to believe that exposing teenagers to the pleasure that sex can bring will encourage them to have unprotected sex before they’re ready. In reality, studies show that comprehensive sexual education does just the opposite. When students are fully informed about the risks and benefits of sex, they can make information-based decisions instead of relying on sources that may not be true.

In a 2022 study by the University of Oxford, researchers tested 33 interventions ranging from sex education workshops to videos and pamphlets that placed pleasure and fun at the center of the messaging. The international study targeted many groups, including members of the LGBTQ+ community. Findings show that incorporating messages of eroticism and fun in contraception messaging is more effective than sharing perceived negative outcomes, such as pregnancy or STIs.

According to Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region & Southwest Missouri, “When comprehensive sex education is ‘pleasure based,’ it emphasizes that sexual activity should be pleasure-focused. It normalizes the idea of giving and receiving pleasure not just in sexual activity, but in relationships as a whole. When sex education is pleasure-based, students develop healthier relationships both with themselves and their partner, increasing their overall life satisfaction and happiness.”

During this year’s sexual health awareness month, I encourage you to start the conversation about positive sexual health. This doesn’t mean sharing all of the details of your sex life with everyone. If you’re single, it can be as simple as taking some time to think about what you want out of sex. If you’re in a sexual relationship, whether casual or committed, you can take some time to talk to your partner about each of your desires and how you can incorporate them into your sex life. Even taking a moment to start the conversation with your close friends about healthy, happy sex can help start the change toward seeing sexual health in a positive way.

It is possible to know the risks of sex while celebrating and embracing the positive aspects. The TCU Health Center is a great resource for all of your sexual health needs, including STI testing, contraception prescriptions, UTI diagnosis and treatment, and more. They even have a phone number specifically for sexual health concerns: 817-257-4624. Happy SHAM, and stay healthy!

Kendall McCarthy is a double major in strategic communication & French and former founding President of Her Campus at TCU. Her friends describe her as enthusiastic, positive, and a friend to all-- so if you see her on campus, come say hi! You can usually find her at Ampersand or Common Grounds. Contact her at k.mccarthy11@tcu.edu.