Self-respect is the foundation of sexual health and of healthy sexual relationships. All people are sexual and it is normal and healthy for women to have sexual desires. It is also normal and healthy to not want to do some things even if the world around you suggests that ‘everybody’ is doing it. Respect your body’s desires and your own ability to make good decisions.

Sexual choices have consequences. Some of the most difficult choices you ever make will be about sex. Your choices may shape your:

  • social relationships
  • relationship with your family
  • future lifestyle
  • experience of emotions like love and trust

There is a lot riding on your decisions, so you have to make sure that you chose what you really want. If you’re not sure about a relationship or if you don’t want to do something sexually – wait. Human sexuality has many physical, emotional and mental elements. Ideally all three are leading you to the same decisions, but in the real world, things may not be that neat. Give yourself time to work through conflicting desires; this is an important part of self-respect. Don’t let other people make your decisions, if they respect you, they’ll wait too.

Because it can be difficult to make decisions in the ‘heat of the moment,’ think about what you want in advance.

What does it mean to you to have sex?

Our culture gives women and men very mixed messages about sex. We are often taught that we must be in love to have sex. We may also be taught that having sex is an important part of being an adult, or that sex proves we are desirable. Sex can be about all of these things, or it may not involve any of them. What do you think the purpose of sex should be?

  • Does a sexual relationship also involve other social and emotional commitments?
  • Can it be casual, just a way to learn about yourself or release physical tension?
  • What do you need to know or feel about your partner before you have sex?

There is no ‘right’ way to answer these questions, but it is important to be honest with your partner about what having sex means to you. Honest communication is one of the essential parts of a healthy sexual relationship. It is often very painful when two people have not thought about and discussed what they expect sex to mean. What you want out of a sexual relationship may change at different stages of your life.

What are your sexual interests and limits?

You are entitled to sexual pleasure but you need to decide what is pleasurable and appealing to you. If you respect yourself, you will not ‘put up’ with activities that hurt or embarrass you. Think about your fantasies. If you are already sexually active, remember what activities you have enjoyed in the past. What you enjoy may change over time. Be ready to talk to your partner about what you enjoy and what you don’t. Finding sexual activities that are enjoyable for both partners is an important part of a healthy sexual relationship.

Explore your Own Sexual Responses

Each woman enjoys different things sexually. Some women like having their clitoris rubbed; others find it is too sensitive to be touched directly. You can explore your sexual responses with a partner but you can also learn about your responses by masturbating.

Some women don’t enjoy masturbating or don’t believe they should do it because of their religious beliefs. Other women use masturbation to explore how they like being touched. This is particularly useful for women who are not reaching orgasm with their partner. Learning how your body responds can help you relax and enjoy sex. It also gives you information to teach your partner about what you like.