Gay priest “Bart” continues his weekly series of posts on the challenges of sexual honesty faced by gay priests:
Rummaging through a pile of books waiting to be read, I picked up Sex Camp (Brian McNaught) and took a cursory look at the contents. I thought: Well, this is just what I need to read right now! The book details the workings of a week-long programme on sexuality. The manner in which the events are narrated make it a thoroughly absorbing book, a blend of fun and seriousness, but informative nonetheless. More or less midway through the story, Brian and the rest of the team discuss in greater detail the importance of achieving and maintaining sexual health. Two particularly interesting definitions resonated with me, and helped me to understand that there is a common denominator to sexual health and responsible love. I would like to reproduce the definitions here [emphases in bold print are mine]:
“Sexual health is a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being related to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health 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. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled.” (World Health Organisation, 2002. The original definition together with a report was made in 1975, and was subsequently refined)
“Sexuality is an integral part of human life. It carries the awesome potential to create new life. It can foster intimacy and bonding as well as shared pleasure in our relationships. It fulfills a number of personal and social needs, and we value the sexual part of our being for the pleasures and benefits it affords us. Yet when exercised irresponsibly it can also have negative aspects such as sexually transmitted diseases – including HIV/AIDS – unintended pregnancy, and coercive or violent behavior. To enjoy the important benefits of sexuality, while avoiding negative consequences, some of which may have long term or even life time implications, it is necessary for individuals to be sexually healthy, to behave responsibly, and to have a supportive environment – to protect their own sexual health, as well as that of others.
Sexual health is inextricably bound to both physical and mental health. Just as physical and mental health problems can contribute to sexual dysfunction and diseases, those dysfunctions and diseases can contribute to physical and mental health problems. Sexual health is not limited to the absence of disease or dysfunction, nor is its importance confined to just the reproductive years. It includes the ability to understand and weigh the risks, responsibilities, outcomes and impacts of sexual actions and to practice abstinence when appropriate. It includes freedom from sexual abuse and discrimination and the ability of individuals to integrate their sexuality into their lives, derive pleasure from it, and to reproduce if they so choose.” (Office of the [US] Surgeon General, 2001)