Inconclusion, it is evident that there are a copious number of factors whichdirectly influence the sexual health of both men and women.
Although males andfemales both have a different anatomy, they both experience many changes overtheir lifespan, such as puberty and menopause. During these periods, theirbodies are going through vast amount of change, which can in turn have aneffect on their sexual health, such as menopause can cause vaginal dryness forfemales and erectile dysfunction for males. Risk taking behaviour can also havean effect on sexual health, such as participating in unprotected sex or oralsex as this has a threat of spreading STIs or unplanned pregnancy. Girls andboys who are conditioned to the ‘norms’ of gendered attitudes can lead toinfluences on their sexual health due to risk taking behaviour, for exampleboys are seemingly more likely to participate in risk taking behaviour due toproving their ‘masculinity’, but this can lead to unwanted consequences withtheir sexual health.
However, although males may be risk takers, it is alsoevident that females participate in risk taking behaviours, for instance onlyusing the oral contraceptive when partaking in sexual activity, this does notprotect from STIs or HIV. It is clear that natural body changes as well as risktaking behaviour, plays an overall direct effect on both men and women’s sexualhealth. Disabilitycan have an impact on sexual health, being both physical and learningdisability. People with learning disabilities may find it confusingunderstanding issues such as contraception, STIs, pregnancy or masturbation,and this could lead to risks to their sexual health with being unaware of theoutcome. Another factor which can lead to risky behaviour for sexual health iswhen alcohol and drugs are involved. Whilst under the influence, decisions canbe made in which you would not necessarily make if sober, such as not usingcondoms during intercourse or oral sex. Also, participating in sexualsituations with someone whom you do not know well, not having the sober mind toask if they have any STIs for example is risky to both participants sexualhealth. In addition, pornography can have an impact on sexual health as manyvideos include men participating is sexual activities without the use ofcontraception and gives unrealistic views about sexual activity.
This portrays theimage to viewers, that this is the ‘norm’ and it is acceptable to engage insexual activities unprotected with unfamiliar others. This is especially riskyto vulnerable groups such as teenagers, as they are susceptible to learn fromothers and carry on them behaviours themselves. Not onlySTIs have an effect on sexual health, but self-image can, “Because sex involvesboth the body and the mind, our self-image has a strong affect on our sexualhealth” (ASHA, 2018). Everyone has a different shape and size body,participating in risk taking behaviour can lead to uncertain consequences likeunplanned pregnancy or STIs and being embarrassed of yourself, your body oryour sexual body parts (penis, vagina, breasts) will discourage gettingyourself checked, and therefore “Valuing and respecting your own body is a crucialpart of a healthy sexual life” (ASHA, 2018). Different cultures can have adirect effect on sexual health, for example in poorer countries, contraceptionand sex education is not readily available and therefore can spread HIV, Aidsand STIs.
“Cultural practices and beliefs that can prevent condom use exist inmany communities and these include religion and unfaithfulness. Some peoplealso think that one cannot enjoy sex when using a condom while others believethat condoms cause zilonda (sores)” (Bisika, 2008). Womencan also participate in risk taking sexual behaviour. They may not realise theyare doing so, but they are risk taking by only using contraception such as thepill or the coil, as this only prevents pregnancy and does not prevent thespread of STIs. “The highest rates of sexually transmitted infections are amongthose aged 15-24. Those under 25 accounted for 63% of all new Chlamydiadiagnoses in 2014” (Hagell, Coleman & Brooks, 2015). The risk of contractingan STI can lead to devastating consequences, for example chlamydia in girls canbe asymptomatic and if left untreated can lead to pelvic inflammatory diseasewhich can later result in ectopic pregnancy and infertility.
“At least 70% ofwomen with chlamydia don’t notice any symptoms” (NHS, 2015). STI symptoms cannot 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 intesticles or burning feeling whilst urinating and if left untreated this cancause serious complications. “The infection is easily treated with antibiotics,but can lead to serious long-term health problems if left untreated, includinginfertility” (NHS, 2015). Girls and boys are generally sociallyconditioned to adopt gendered attitudes towards sexual health and sexual risk-takingbehaviour. “The more boys andmen subscribe to traditional norms of masculinity, the more likely they are totake sexual risks” (Pleck et al., 1993).
Young men are usually taught to becompetitive, tough and risk takers to demonstrate their “manliness”. In somesituations, being this way can be beneficial, however in sexual risk-takingsituations can lead to spread of STIs or unplanned pregnancy. Males are lesslikely to use condoms, believing it is not their responsibility to preventpregnancy, leaving it to the female to take responsibility. Young men areusually less likely to attend STI clinics as they are unaware of theconsequences of their risk-taking behaviour, feel too embarrassed or feel likeit just will not happen to them. Sexually transmitted infections(STIs) are passed from one person to another through unprotected genitalcontact or sex.
“STIs have a profound impact on sexual and reproductive healthworldwide” (WHO, 2016). STIs can be passed on through vaginal, penetrative sex.Infection can still be transferred even if the penis has not fully entered intothe vagina or if the man does not ejaculate. “Anal sex has a higher risk ofspreading STIs than other sexual activity” (NHS, 2016). The reason for this is viruses andbacteria, which could be in semen, vaginal fluid or blood, can enter quite easyinto the partner’s body via breaks in the skin. Another way which carries risksof 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 orvaginal sex without a condom. However, the risk is increased if there are anycuts or sores in or around the mouth, genitals or anus” (NHS, 2016).
Women and men both face commonsexual health problems at some stage in their life. When women go through themenopause, the changes in hormones can lead to a low libido and vaginaldryness. This can be really challenging for a woman as the menopause comesalong with other symptoms such as fatigue which is another factor for low sexdrive. For men, they themselves can go through the ‘male menopause’ at somestage of their life.
At around the age of their late 40s, men can suffer fromlow sex drive, depression, difficulty sleeping, lack of energy and erectiledysfunction. These factors for both women and men influence their sexual healthin 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 beencouraged to speak to a healthcare professional about how to create coping strategiesto help overcome certain situations. For example, there is lubricants for womenwith vaginal dryness and Viagra helps men with erectile problems. Women canalso experience vaginismus which is a tightening of the muscles whenpenetration is attempted and again this can be a common sexual health problemwhich can affect sexual relationships, but there are ways in which specialisedmedics can help. “…1: Prepubertal, 2: Breast budstage with elevation of breast and papilla; enlargement of areola, 3: Furtherenlargement of breast and areola; no separation of their contour, 4: Areola andpapilla form a secondary mound above level of breast, 5: Mature stage:projection of papilla only, related to recession of areola” (Child GrowthFoundation, 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 thetexture changes, 3: enlargement of penis (length); additional growth of testes,4: enhanced size of penis with growth in width and maturation of glans; larger testesand scrotum, darker skin on the scrotum and finally, 5: Adult genitalia. Tanneralso developed scales for the growth in height of girls and boy and a jointscale for the growth of pubic hair in girls and boys during puberty.
James Tanner, a Britishpaediatrician, developed the Tanner Scale which categorises the development ofphysical changes in children, adolescents and adults. The scale explains thephysical measurements through development in regard to the external primary andsecondary sex characteristics. These are breasts, testicles, genitals and pubichair. There are five stages to each scale, for breast development the stagesare: Males will also notice a lump appearing in the neckwhich is laryngeal prominence (Adam’s apple) and their voice will go from highpitched to deeper which is the voice ‘breaking’. Puberty can be quite achallenging time for boys and girls, as their body is going through not onlyphysical changes, but it is also going through mental changes. They can feelself-conscious about the changes such as body odour or acne, which can bedifficult to deal with, however it can also seem quite exciting as it’s a timewhere they are growing up and changing too.
In boys, the first signs of puberty are usuallytheir testicles grow, the scrotum becomes thinner, pubic hair begins to growand they grow taller and heavier. Another main sign of puberty for boys iserections begin and they can experience “wet dreams” which is where anejaculation occurs whilst asleep. Like girls, boys also can encounter changeslike acne, increase sweating and grow leg and underarm hair as part of pubertysymptoms, however boys will experience the growth of facial hair. Both girlsand boys can endure mood swings during puberty which is caused by the releaseof several hormones and the body getting used to the changes. After a couple ofyears from the start of puberty, boys will notice than their penis looks largerand more adult like, alongside the pubic hair growth to the inner thighs. The maleanatomy consists of both external and internal parts. The external reproductiveorgans 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 urinetravels through out of the bladder and the sperm also travels up this.
Theinternal genitalia consist of the seminal vesicle, prostate, testes, bulbourethralgland, epididymis, vas deferens and ejaculatory duct. The functions of the maleanatomy include the testes make and store sperm alongside supplying the bodywith hormones which manages the development of reproductive organs andcharacteristics. The epididymis reserves, develops and carries the spermamongst the testes and vas deferens, which conveys sperm towards the urethra. Theseminal vesicles release a milky fluid which sequentially ejected through theejaculatory duct. Finally, the bulbourethral glands aid in the release ofsemen. As a woman reaches around the age of45-55, they can experience the menopause, although in some cases it can happenearlier or slightly later. “The menopause is when a woman stops having periods and isno longer able to get pregnant naturally” (NHS, 2015).
Symptoms of themenopause can begin months or years before the final period takes place, andsymptoms can also last for several years after the last period. Menopausesymptoms include things like: hot flushes, night sweats, difficulty sleeping,vaginal dryness or discomfort during sex, low mood or anxiety, low libido andconcentration problems. These symptoms can really have a negative effect on awoman’s confidence, especially whilst in a relationship as this can bedifficult to deal with situations like if the partner wants regular sex. At around the age of 10, girls willbegin to start their period (menstruation). This is the build-up of tissue andblood from the lining of the uterus.
The flow of periods can vary from light toheavy, lasting approximately 3 to 5 days and the cycle does not become regularfor a while. Therefore, when girls start their period they can go months beforetheir next one starts. “Natural body chemicals, or hormones, cause your ovariesto release one egg about once a month. Most months, the egg and the lining ofyour uterus come out of your vagina as your period” (Girls Health, 2014).
Awoman has a cycle to make it possible to have a baby. The cycle is about 28 to40 days long, and around 10 to16 days before a period, ovulation occurs wherean egg releases leaving the woman fertile for the next 24 hours. Throughout human life, there areconstant physiological, physical, and emotional changes happening. In girls,puberty begins from around the ages of 8 to14, however it can happen earlier orlater. Hormones begin to be released, such as oestrogen and this starts tocause changes like curving of the hips, bigger breasts.
Something else whichhappens during puberty is hair begins to grow in places such as underarms, legsand the pubic area. Girls will begin to notice vaginal discharge once pubertystarts, this normal as it helps keep the vagina clean and healthy. Hormonechanges during puberty can also start to make you feel sexually attracted toothers. Female anatomy is a phrase used to describeparts of the human body which belong solely to females. It is the femalereproductive organs which are classed as the female anatomy, not only theexternal parts but the internal too. The reproductive system for women containsthe ovaries, mammary glands, fallopian tubes, vulva, uterus, vagina andbreasts.
These parts are associated in producing and transporting gametes andthe creation of sex hormones. The reproductive system which belongs to womenalso allows the fertilisation of ova by sperm, aiding the maturity of a foetusduring pregnancy. “…astate of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation tosexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity.Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality andsexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safesexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexualhealth to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must berespected, protected and fulfilled.” (WHO, 2006a).Thereare many factors which can influence the sexual health of men and women.
Bothmen and women go through many changes in life, such as puberty. During puberty,there are not only physical changes but also physiological and emotionalchanges. During this assignment, it will also be discussed whether gender hasan impact on sexual health and sexual ill health.
According to The World HealthOrganisation, sexual health can be defined as: