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 Ive
encountered on what is involved in the dimensions
of healthy sexuality. Carnes describes these twelve
dimensions as follows.
1. Nurturingcapacity to receive care from
others and care for oneself.
2. Sensualityawareness of physical senses
that creates emotional, spiritual, and physical
3. Self-imagepositive self-perception that
includes embracing your sexual self.
4. Self-definitionclear knowledge of both
your positives and negatives, and ability to
express boundaries as well as needs.
5. Comfortcapacity to feel at ease with
yourself and others about sexual matters.
6. Knowledgeabout sex in general and your
own unique sexual patterns.
7. Relationshipcapacity to enjoy intimacy
and friendship with friends of both genders.
8. Partnershipability to maintain a
relationship thats intimate and erotic, and
interdependent but equal.
9. Nongenital sexability to express erotic
desire emotionally and physically, without using
10. Genital sexability to express erotic
11. Spiritualityability to connect sexual
desire and expression to the meaning of life.
12. Passioncapacity to express deeply
held, meaningful feelings of desire about
ones sexual self and intimate
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 youre acting out any
fantasy that puts you or others at risk in any way,
you should seek help immediately.
©2009 by Joe Kort
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
Smart Things Gay Men Can Do to Find Real
(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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