In have an impact on sexual health as many

In
conclusion, it is evident that there are a copious number of factors which
directly influence the sexual health of both men and women. Although males and
females both have a different anatomy, they both experience many changes over
their lifespan, such as puberty and menopause. During these periods, their
bodies are going through vast amount of change, which can in turn have an
effect on their sexual health, such as menopause can cause vaginal dryness for
females and erectile dysfunction for males. Risk taking behaviour can also have
an effect on sexual health, such as participating in unprotected sex or oral
sex as this has a threat of spreading STIs or unplanned pregnancy. Girls and
boys who are conditioned to the ‘norms’ of gendered attitudes can lead to
influences on their sexual health due to risk taking behaviour, for example
boys are seemingly more likely to participate in risk taking behaviour due to
proving their ‘masculinity’, but this can lead to unwanted consequences with
their sexual health. However, although males may be risk takers, it is also
evident that females participate in risk taking behaviours, for instance only
using the oral contraceptive when partaking in sexual activity, this does not
protect from STIs or HIV. It is clear that natural body changes as well as risk
taking behaviour, plays an overall direct effect on both men and women’s sexual
health.

 

Disability
can have an impact on sexual health, being both physical and learning
disability. People with learning disabilities may find it confusing
understanding issues such as contraception, STIs, pregnancy or masturbation,
and this could lead to risks to their sexual health with being unaware of the
outcome. Another factor which can lead to risky behaviour for sexual health is
when alcohol and drugs are involved. Whilst under the influence, decisions can
be made in which you would not necessarily make if sober, such as not using
condoms during intercourse or oral sex. Also, participating in sexual
situations with someone whom you do not know well, not having the sober mind to
ask if they have any STIs for example is risky to both participants sexual
health. In addition, pornography can have an impact on sexual health as many
videos include men participating is sexual activities without the use of
contraception and gives unrealistic views about sexual activity. This portrays the
image to viewers, that this is the ‘norm’ and it is acceptable to engage in
sexual activities unprotected with unfamiliar others. This is especially risky
to vulnerable groups such as teenagers, as they are susceptible to learn from
others and carry on them behaviours themselves.

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Not only
STIs have an effect on sexual health, but self-image can, “Because sex involves
both the body and the mind, our self-image has a strong affect on our sexual
health” (ASHA, 2018). Everyone has a different shape and size body,
participating in risk taking behaviour can lead to uncertain consequences like
unplanned pregnancy or STIs and being embarrassed of yourself, your body or
your sexual body parts (penis, vagina, breasts) will discourage getting
yourself checked, and therefore “Valuing and respecting your own body is a crucial
part of a healthy sexual life” (ASHA, 2018). Different cultures can have a
direct effect on sexual health, for example in poorer countries, contraception
and sex education is not readily available and therefore can spread HIV, Aids
and STIs. “Cultural practices and beliefs that can prevent condom use exist in
many communities and these include religion and unfaithfulness. Some people
also think that one cannot enjoy sex when using a condom while others believe
that condoms cause zilonda (sores)” (Bisika, 2008).

 

Women
can also participate in risk taking sexual behaviour. They may not realise they
are doing so, but they are risk taking by only using contraception such as the
pill or the coil, as this only prevents pregnancy and does not prevent the
spread of STIs. “The highest rates of sexually transmitted infections are among
those aged 15-24. Those under 25 accounted for 63% of all new Chlamydia
diagnoses in 2014” (Hagell, Coleman & Brooks, 2015). The risk of contracting
an STI can lead to devastating consequences, for example chlamydia in girls can
be asymptomatic and if left untreated can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease
which can later result in ectopic pregnancy and infertility. “At least 70% of
women with chlamydia don’t notice any symptoms” (NHS, 2015). STI symptoms can
not only be caught in the genitals, for example gonorrhoea can infect the eyes,
through or rectum. In men, it can cause discharge from the penis, pain in
testicles or burning feeling whilst urinating and if left untreated this can
cause serious complications. “The infection is easily treated with antibiotics,
but can lead to serious long-term health problems if left untreated, including
infertility” (NHS, 2015).

 

Girls and boys are generally socially
conditioned to adopt gendered attitudes towards sexual health and sexual risk-taking
behaviour. “The more boys and
men subscribe to traditional norms of masculinity, the more likely they are to
take sexual risks” (Pleck et al., 1993). Young men are usually taught to be
competitive, tough and risk takers to demonstrate their “manliness”. In some
situations, being this way can be beneficial, however in sexual risk-taking
situations can lead to spread of STIs or unplanned pregnancy. Males are less
likely to use condoms, believing it is not their responsibility to prevent
pregnancy, leaving it to the female to take responsibility. Young men are
usually less likely to attend STI clinics as they are unaware of the
consequences of their risk-taking behaviour, feel too embarrassed or feel like
it just will not happen to them.

 

Sexually transmitted infections
(STIs) are passed from one person to another through unprotected genital
contact or sex. “STIs have a profound impact on sexual and reproductive health
worldwide” (WHO, 2016). STIs can be passed on through vaginal, penetrative sex.
Infection can still be transferred even if the penis has not fully entered into
the vagina or if the man does not ejaculate. “Anal sex has a higher risk of
spreading STIs than other sexual activity” (NHS, 2016). The reason for this is viruses and
bacteria, which could be in semen, vaginal fluid or blood, can enter quite easy
into the partner’s body via breaks in the skin. Another way which carries risks
of transferring STIs is through oral sex, whether you are giving or receiving.
“The risk of passing on or getting HIV during oral sex is lower than anal or
vaginal sex without a condom. However, the risk is increased if there are any
cuts or sores in or around the mouth, genitals or anus” (NHS, 2016).

Women and men both face common
sexual health problems at some stage in their life. When women go through the
menopause, the changes in hormones can lead to a low libido and vaginal
dryness. This can be really challenging for a woman as the menopause comes
along with other symptoms such as fatigue which is another factor for low sex
drive. For men, they themselves can go through the ‘male menopause’ at some
stage of their life. At around the age of their late 40s, men can suffer from
low sex drive, depression, difficulty sleeping, lack of energy and erectile
dysfunction. These factors for both women and men influence their sexual health
in a way that is out of their control due to natural changes in the body,
however it can really interfere with happiness and everyday life and would be
encouraged to speak to a healthcare professional about how to create coping strategies
to help overcome certain situations. For example, there is lubricants for women
with vaginal dryness and Viagra helps men with erectile problems. Women can
also experience vaginismus which is a tightening of the muscles when
penetration is attempted and again this can be a common sexual health problem
which can affect sexual relationships, but there are ways in which specialised
medics can help.

 

“…1: Prepubertal, 2: Breast bud
stage with elevation of breast and papilla; enlargement of areola, 3: Further
enlargement of breast and areola; no separation of their contour, 4: Areola and
papilla form a secondary mound above level of breast, 5: Mature stage:
projection of papilla only, related to recession of areola” (Child Growth
Foundation, n.d). The scale for the development of male genitalia is 1: prepubertal,
2: growth of scrotum and testes; the skin on the scrotum reddens and the
texture changes, 3: enlargement of penis (length); additional growth of testes,
4: enhanced size of penis with growth in width and maturation of glans; larger testes
and scrotum, darker skin on the scrotum and finally, 5: Adult genitalia. Tanner
also developed scales for the growth in height of girls and boy and a joint
scale for the growth of pubic hair in girls and boys during puberty.

James Tanner, a British
paediatrician, developed the Tanner Scale which categorises the development of
physical changes in children, adolescents and adults. The scale explains the
physical measurements through development in regard to the external primary and
secondary sex characteristics. These are breasts, testicles, genitals and pubic
hair. There are five stages to each scale, for breast development the stages
are:       

 

Males will also notice a lump appearing in the neck
which is laryngeal prominence (Adam’s apple) and their voice will go from high
pitched to deeper which is the voice ‘breaking’. Puberty can be quite a
challenging time for boys and girls, as their body is going through not only
physical changes, but it is also going through mental changes. They can feel
self-conscious about the changes such as body odour or acne, which can be
difficult to deal with, however it can also seem quite exciting as it’s a time
where they are growing up and changing too.

 

In boys, the first signs of puberty are usually
their testicles grow, the scrotum becomes thinner, pubic hair begins to grow
and they grow taller and heavier. Another main sign of puberty for boys is
erections begin and they can experience “wet dreams” which is where an
ejaculation occurs whilst asleep. Like girls, boys also can encounter changes
like acne, increase sweating and grow leg and underarm hair as part of puberty
symptoms, however boys will experience the growth of facial hair. Both girls
and boys can endure mood swings during puberty which is caused by the release
of several hormones and the body getting used to the changes. After a couple of
years from the start of puberty, boys will notice than their penis looks larger
and more adult like, alongside the pubic hair growth to the inner thighs.

 

The male
anatomy consists of both external and internal parts. The external reproductive
organs include the penis which is used to ejaculate semen and to release urine,
the scrotum which house the testes and the urethra which is where the urine
travels through out of the bladder and the sperm also travels up this. The
internal genitalia consist of the seminal vesicle, prostate, testes, bulbourethral
gland, epididymis, vas deferens and ejaculatory duct. The functions of the male
anatomy include the testes make and store sperm alongside supplying the body
with hormones which manages the development of reproductive organs and
characteristics. The epididymis reserves, develops and carries the sperm
amongst the testes and vas deferens, which conveys sperm towards the urethra. The
seminal vesicles release a milky fluid which sequentially ejected through the
ejaculatory duct. Finally, the bulbourethral glands aid in the release of
semen.

 

As a woman reaches around the age of
45-55, they can experience the menopause, although in some cases it can happen
earlier or slightly later. “The menopause is when a woman stops having periods and is
no longer able to get pregnant naturally” (NHS, 2015). Symptoms of the
menopause can begin months or years before the final period takes place, and
symptoms can also last for several years after the last period. Menopause
symptoms include things like: hot flushes, night sweats, difficulty sleeping,
vaginal dryness or discomfort during sex, low mood or anxiety, low libido and
concentration problems. These symptoms can really have a negative effect on a
woman’s confidence, especially whilst in a relationship as this can be
difficult to deal with situations like if the partner wants regular sex.

 

At around the age of 10, girls will
begin to start their period (menstruation). This is the build-up of tissue and
blood from the lining of the uterus. The flow of periods can vary from light to
heavy, lasting approximately 3 to 5 days and the cycle does not become regular
for a while. Therefore, when girls start their period they can go months before
their next one starts. “Natural body chemicals, or hormones, cause your ovaries
to release one egg about once a month. Most months, the egg and the lining of
your uterus come out of your vagina as your period” (Girls Health, 2014). A
woman has a cycle to make it possible to have a baby. The cycle is about 28 to
40 days long, and around 10 to16 days before a period, ovulation occurs where
an egg releases leaving the woman fertile for the next 24 hours.

 

Throughout human life, there are
constant physiological, physical, and emotional changes happening. In girls,
puberty begins from around the ages of 8 to14, however it can happen earlier or
later. Hormones begin to be released, such as oestrogen and this starts to
cause changes like curving of the hips, bigger breasts. Something else which
happens during puberty is hair begins to grow in places such as underarms, legs
and the pubic area. Girls will begin to notice vaginal discharge once puberty
starts, this normal as it helps keep the vagina clean and healthy. Hormone
changes during puberty can also start to make you feel sexually attracted to
others.

 

Female anatomy is a phrase used to describe
parts of the human body which belong solely to females. It is the female
reproductive organs which are classed as the female anatomy, not only the
external parts but the internal too. The reproductive system for women contains
the ovaries, mammary glands, fallopian tubes, vulva, uterus, vagina and
breasts. These parts are associated in producing and transporting gametes and
the creation of sex hormones. The reproductive system which belongs to women
also allows the fertilisation of ova by sperm, aiding the maturity of a foetus
during pregnancy.

 

“…a
state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation 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.” (WHO, 2006a).

There
are many factors which can influence the sexual health of men and women. Both
men and women go through many changes in life, such as puberty. During puberty,
there are not only physical changes but also physiological and emotional
changes. During this assignment, it will also be discussed whether gender has
an impact on sexual health and sexual ill health. According to The World Health
Organisation, sexual health can be defined as: