Eight steps to sexual self-esteem
SEX is beautiful. I know that’s a controversial thing to say when for so many in our country it has proved a death sentence.
It’s no easy message for the estimated two million children who have been orphaned nationally due to Aids. Or close to 40% of KwaZuluNatal’s pregnant women (aged 15 to 49) who are HIV-positive. Or the 25% of South African women and 10% of men who have been raped.
But the beauty of sex is an important message to give our youngsters, partly because the 15 to 24 age group is disproportionately affected by HIV.
This message counters the current one of doom — that sex is dangerous and can kill. Which, obviously, it can and it certainly does. But despite high-profile campaigns pleading for abstinence, condom use and faithfulness, new research shows the message doesn’t seem to be getting through. The 15 to 24 age group has a high awareness of HIV/ Aids yet high-risk sex continues unabated. The age of first sexual encounters is low, having multiple sexual partners is common, and inconsistent use of condoms is widespread among our youth. What this indicates is a lack of self-esteem. Youngsters who value themselves are less likely to knowingly put their lives — and others’ — at risk.
We need to accept that people — and the youth in particular — are choosing not to abstain. And frankly, that’s not surprising. For a youth generation that remains largely mired in poverty and economic impotence, sex provides a beacon of pleasure and potential love. It offers hope for a better future. And then there’s the feel-good factor: sex boosts our sense of wellbeing as it has a myriad of health benefits, such as increased immunity, raising selfesteem and lowering stress levels.
It’s time we faced reality instead of beating our heads against the abstinence brick wall. Granted, the best way not to become infected with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases is simply to avoid having sex (or not to have sex forced upon you — a non-option for many as 28% of men from KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape admitted to rape, as have one in three Gauteng men).
Using condoms promotes safer (but not completely safe) sex, and being faithful to your partner helps keep your partnership HIV-free. But in this line of defence against Aids, a major tactic is being overlooked — one that promotes people’s sexu- al self-esteem and empowers them to enjoy a life of pleasurable sex free from guilt, inadequacy and ignorance.
To every negative there is a corresponding positive. People are naturally optimistic and hopeful for the future — their future. Sex is a natural part of this grand plan. But there’s a deafening silence when it comes to a positive approach to building our sexual self-esteem.
This is because, apart from fear being instilled about HIV and other STDs (and rightly so), our sexual selfesteem is battered on so many fronts