What is Healthy Sexuality?

Before we can explore sex and sexual preferences, we need to understand healthy versus unhealthy sexuality. In his book Sexual Anorexia, Patrick Carnes has written the best description I’ve encountered on what is involved in the dimensions of healthy sexuality. Carnes describes these twelve dimensions as follows.

1. Nurturing—capacity to receive care from others and care for oneself.

2. Sensuality—awareness of physical senses that creates emotional, spiritual, and physical presence.

3. Self-image—positive self-perception that includes embracing your sexual self.

4. Self-definition—clear knowledge of both your positives and negatives, and ability to express boundaries as well as needs.

5. Comfort—capacity to feel at ease with yourself and others about sexual matters.

6. Knowledge—about sex in general and your own unique sexual patterns.

7. Relationship—capacity to enjoy intimacy and friendship with friends of both genders.

8. Partnership—ability to maintain a relationship that’s intimate and erotic, and interdependent but equal.

9. Nongenital sex—ability to express erotic desire emotionally and physically, without using your genitals.

10. Genital sex—ability to express erotic feelings freely.

11. Spirituality—ability to connect sexual desire and expression to the meaning of life.

12. Passion—capacity to express deeply held, meaningful feelings of desire about one’s sexual self and intimate relationships.

Consider whether your sexual desires, fantasies, and behaviors have these healthy dimensions. If not, that simply means you might want to seek out a therapist who understands how to help you understand them. But if you’re acting out any fantasy that puts you or others at risk in any way, you should seek help immediately.

©2009 by Joe Kort

Related: Issues, Books

Psychotherapist Joe Kort, MA, MSW, has been in practice since 1985. He specializes in Gay Affirmative Psychotherapy as well as IMAGO Relationship Therapy, which is a specific program involving communication exercises designed for couples to enhance their relationship and for singles to learn relationship skills. He also specializes in sexual addiction, childhood sexual, physical and emotional abuse, depression and anxiety. He offers workshops for couples and singles. He runs a gay men's group therapy and a men's sexuality group therapy for straight, bi and gay men who are struggling with specific sexual issues. His therapy services are for gays and lesbians as well as heterosexuals. His articles and columns have appeared in The Detroit Free Press, Between the Lines Newspaper for Gays and Lesbians, The Detroit News, The Oakland Press, The Royal Oak Mirror, and other publications. Besides providing therapy for individuals and couples, he conducts a number of groups and workshops for gay men. Now an adjunct professor teaching Gay and Lesbian Studies at Wayne State University's School of Social Work, he is doing more writing and workshops on a national level. He is the author of 10 Smart Things Gay Men can do to Improve Their Lives and 10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do to Find Real Love. or E-Mail

* Gaydar (gay'.dahr, n.): (1) The ability that lets gays and lesbians identify one other. (2) This column--where non-gay readers can improve their gaydar, learning more about gay men's psychology and social lives. Also, (3) a regular feature where gay readers can discover the many questions and hassles their straight counterparts--and themselves--must face!

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