What is Sexual Health?

Sexual health is a state of physical, emotional, mental, and social well-being in relation to sexuality (World Health Organization, 2016). It requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination, and violence. Sexual health is about well-being, not merely the absence of disease. It is expressed through diverse sexualities and forms of sexual expression. Sexual health is relevant to people of all ages, not only to those in the reproductive years.

Health Education & Promotion recognizes sexual health as a broad field that encompasses anatomy, sexuality, sexual activity, gender identity, partner communication, pregnancy prevention, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Everyone has the right to make responsible decisions and protect their sexual health – mind, body, and spirit.

Love your parts

“Sex” refers to the biological characteristics that define humans as female or male; we typically think of male and female anatomy. “Intersex” is when someone has a mixture of male and female reproductive anatomy. People of all body types should seek specific health screenings from professionals. Follow the links below to learn more about sex and important screenings.

gingerbread person

Sexuality is more than body parts and sex. The scope of sexuality spans from gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, and sexual experiences to intimacy. Each component operates independently, yet they all are interconnected to someone’s sexuality. It’s important to understand that each element rests on a spectrum, in which the person’s identity can remain static or at times move fluidly among the spectrum.

Condom superhero

Safer sex means protecting yourself against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and/or pregnancy. There are many methods of protection, however the only 100% effective way to prevent STIs and pregnancy is to not have sex or to practice abstinence (vaginal, anal, or oral sex). There are many birth control methods for both females and males (see birth control section below). If you’re concerned about STI protection, it’s important to remember that some STIs can be passed from an infected person to another person by skin-to-skin contact. Male and female condoms offer good protection against STIs and pregnancy.​

birth control graphic

Birth control is primarily used to prevent pregnancy. Some methods are available over-the-counter (drug store) while others require a visit with a medical provider and a prescription. There are different types of birth control: hormonal, barrier, permanent, and fertility awareness methods. Check out the links below to learn more about the various types of birth control available for men and women.

sti test

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are commonly passed from one infected person to another person during sexual contact (vaginal sex, anal sex, and oral sex). Young Americans ages 15-24 make up for 50% of the 20 million new STI cases in the U.S. each year. Since most STIs don't show any symptoms, it’s recommended that people who are sexually active seek STI testing on an annual basis. Knowing your status is important for your health and the health of your partner.

The most effective way to lower the risk of STI transmission is by not having sex. If you choose to have sex, it is highly encouraged to use either a male condom, female condom, or dental dam during sexual activity to reduce your risk of STI transmission.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers detailed information about STIs. Follow the links below for details on common STIs:

Two fingers with faces hugging

When it comes to communicating about sex, each partner has a right and responsibility to themselves and to their partners to express their likes and dislikes.  Each individual has control over their own body; it is their choice whether they want to be sexually active (when, with whom, and in what manner). It is a personal responsibility to respect the rights of others. Only participate in sexual activity with a partner who is freely, knowingly, and enthusiastically consenting.

Medical Services

  • Stan State Student Health Center (209) 667-3396
    The Student Health Center offers sexual health services: pregnancy testing, STI testing, birth control, pap smears, male checkup. Call for the most up-to-date services and pricing.
  • Planned Parenthood
    Clinical services including STD and HIV testing, contraception, emergency contraception, pregnancy testing, and options counseling.
  • Stanislaus County Health Services Agency (209) 558-7700
    STD Clinic with family planning services, anonymous and confidential HIV testing, HIV/AIDS services (CARES, ADAP)
  • HIV and STD Testing Resources
    Enter ZIP code or City, State for a searchable database of test sites

Sexual Health Information

  • Go Ask Alice!
    This is a health question and answer resource created by Columbia University. You can search the archives to find health information or you can submit your own question.
  • It's Your (Sex) Life Guide
    This website, co-sponsored by MTV and Kaiser Family Foundation, provides a comprehensive look at the decisions and choices about sex: contraception, abstinence, STIs, and how to talk to your partner.
  • Bedsider.org
    This website serves as a resource to “help college students get smart about birth control.”
  • STD Wizard
  • This is an online STI risk calculator. Find out what STI tests are recommended for you, based on your personal assessment.
  • American Sexual Health Association (ASHA)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Sexual Health topics
  • LGBT National Help Center
    Call 1-888-843-4564 for peer counseling information and local resources.

Updated: April 16, 2024