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Healthy sexuality is often defined as the ability to take delight in and feel empowered by one's sexual feelings and interactions. Many experts in healthy sexuality believe sexual activity isn't limited to the activities that can occur before, during, or after sexual intercourse. Instead, they believe that sexual activity can encompass all activities that help to build an intimate relationship, where trust, respect and affection are shared. Healthy sex allows both partners to feel that they are freely consenting to any sexual interaction that may take place, and that each partner enjoys an equal measure of personal empowerment in the situation. Both partners should ideally enjoy mutual trust and respect, and both partners should feel safe emotionally and physically during the sexual interaction.
Many experts believe expressing healthy sexuality requires a deep level of trust, commitment, and communication between sexual partners. They often stress the building of a mutually respectful and comfortable relationship before sexual contact can be considered healthy. Even after boundaries of physical intimacy have been passed in a relationship, most experts recommend ongoing, honest communication to help both partners maintain a sense of safety and comfort with sexual contact.
Some kinds of sexual expression are considered unhealthy. Any sexual contact in which one partner fears dangerous or unpleasant consequences could be considered unhealthy. These consequences could be physical, such as unplanned pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease, or they could be emotional, such as the fear of betrayal. Persons who are forced into sexual activity often suffer severe emotional damage in the aftermath. The expression of healthy sexuality generally requires that both sexual partners feel safe.
Other unhealthy ideas about sex could include ideas that sex is shameful, wrong, or dirty. Experts typically believe that healthy sexuality depends largely on the belief that sexual feelings and needs are normal, natural, healthy, and even empowering. Healthy sexuality is generally considered a means of expressing love and affection. Experts believe that healthy sexual expression can help support self-esteem, individual boundaries, and ethical values.
Abusive sexual behavior is another type of unhealthy sexuality. It is often classified as sexual behavior intended to control or harm another. Healthy sexuality, by contrast, typically allows both partners to give or withdraw consent to any sexual activities, before or after sexual interaction has begun.
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