10 Signs of Healthy Sexual Self Esteem

by Sarah Sloane

I usually read those linkbait-y blog posts that promise ten life hacks, or twenty ways to cut down the clutter in your house…I suspect I’m hoping that they may actually prove fruitful, but most often it’s a rehash of what I already know.

Years ago, these posts prompted me to start thinking about our sexual self-esteem — how we feel about ourselves, sexually — and how little that we talk about the underlying structure of sexual wellness.

Cosmo (and tons of other sex help resources) shout out that ‘here, now, are five amazing ways to please your lover! and keep them faithful to you!’ and all sorts of other bullshit — and none of that helps us to have better self-esteem (though some of the tips are occasionally pretty fun to try out!).

So here’s my rendition: 10 Signs that Your Sexual Self-esteem is Healthy.

Now, none of us are going to be perfect with these; like our emotional and physical self-esteem, it’s a constantly growing, changing, and evolving process. I think, though, that these are good questions to ask ourselves as we explore how we want to grow in our intimate relationships (including the most intimate of all — our relationship with ourselves).

1. I feel good about my sexual identity

2. I feel that the ways that I wish to engage with myself sexually are healthy

3. I feel that the ways that I wish to engage with others sexually are healthy

4. I feel pleasure from the sexual activities that I partake in, both during and after the activity

5. I am willing to negotiate for what I want without shame or guilt

6. I am willing to hear “no” and respect it.

7. I am willing to speak up if I am uncomfortable with a direction that a sensual encounter is moving

8. If I experience betrayal, abuse, or harassment, I am able to ask for help in healing from it.

9. I accept that my partner(s) sexual desires or orientations may not fully match my own, and I do not feel that the disparity is my fault or my failure.

10. I understand the levels of risk of various sexual behavior (physical, emotional, reproductive, or spiritual) and am able to choose to engage in sexual behavior from an informed position, and am aware of ways to mitigate the risks.

I also want to acknowledge that there are many people who, because of circumstance, are unable to effectively advocate for their own sexuality or sexual well-being, so this is, in essence, a privileged concept. I still believe that these are worthy goals, even if they are temporarily unattainable for some (and really, what can we do to help them advocate for themselves better? Better access to education, support, and social service would be a great start!).

(An older version of this post was originally published on Sarah Sloane’s blog in Dec 2013)

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