Characteristics of Sexually Healthy Adults - Minnesota Dept. of Health

Characteristics of Sexually Healthy Adults

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From a holistic perspective, sexual health includes emotional, psychological, physical, intellectual and spiritual dimensions. The following are characteristics of sexually healthy adults however sexual health is developed over a life-span, from cradle to grave. Integrating sexuality into one’s life in a balanced way is a life-time endeavor.

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  • Interact with all genders in appropriate and respectful ways
  • Communicate effectively with family and friends
  • Ask questions of other adults about sexual issues, when necessary
  • Are able to communicate and negotiate sexual limits
  • Communicate respectfully their desires to have sex and not to have sex
  • Accept refusals of sex without hostility or feeling insulted
  • Can physically express feelings of attraction and desire in ways that do not focus on the genitals (ex: holding, caressing, kissing, etc.)
  • Talk with a partner about sexual activity before it occurs, including limits, contraceptive and condom use, and meaning in the relationship
  • Communicate with partners their intentions for the relationship (ex: only dating, want marriage)
  • Listen to and respect others’ boundaries and limits
  • Are sensitive to non-verbal cues of others’ boundaries and limits


  • Develop friendships that do not have a sexual agenda
  • Avoid exploitative relationships
  • Choose partners who are responsible, trustworthy, safe and giving
  • Can be sexually intimate without being physical (ex: talk about sexual feelings, verbally express attraction, do things that awaken desire in partner)
  • Can express themselves in ways other than genitally (ex: holding, caressing, kissing, etc.)
  • Take personal responsibility for their own boundaries

Self-Esteem, Self-Worth

  • Appreciate their own bodies
  • Are sensually aware and able to stay conscious in their bodies
  • Can touch their own bodies without feeling shame or disgust
  • Allow themselves to experience pleasurable sensual and sexual feelings
  • Have the capacity to nurture themselves and others, and accept nurturing from others
  • Feel joy in sexual experiences of their choosing
  • Know when they need touch rather than sex and try to get their needs for touch met appropriately
  • Have a developed sense of self, an understanding of who they are
  • Enjoy sexual feelings without necessarily acting upon them
  • Accept refusals of sex without hostility or feeling personally insulted
  • Allow themselves to be vulnerable
  • Are comfortable with their sexual identity and orientation
  • Are becoming aware of the impact of negative sexual experiences such as sexual abuse, and the impact of negative cultural messages on their sexual development
  • Are taking steps to address issues that have arisen as a result of past experiences
  • Feel confident in their ability to set appropriate boundaries
  • Realize that, by working through sexual issues, individuals may heal psychological and emotional wounding from past experiences and damaging beliefs.


  • Realize the consequences of sexual activity
  • Comprehend the impact of media messages on thoughts, feelings, values, and behaviors related to sexuality
  • Understand that the drive for sex is powerful and can be integrated into one’s life in positive and healthy ways
  • Respect the right of all people to enjoy and engage in the full range of consensual, non-exploitive sexual behaviors


  • Decide on what is personally “right” and act on these values
  • Demonstrate tolerance for people with different values
  • Are not threatened by others with sexual orientation different from theirs
  • Show respect to others whose cultural values, ethnic heritage, age, socioeconomic status, religion, and gender are different from theirs

Contraception, Protection, Body Integrity

  • Take responsibility for their own bodies and their own orgasms
  • If sexually active, use contraception effectively to avoid unplanned pregnancy and use condoms and safer sex to avoid contracting or spreading a sexually transmitted disease
  • Practice health-promoting behaviors, such as regular checkups, breast or testicular self-exams, regular and routine testing for STDs


  • Honor the sacred aspect of sexual union
  • Understand that sexual energy is not separate from being human
  • Understand that sexual union is one way human beings connect body and soul
Created by Hadsall and Associates 2001, revised 2010

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Updated Monday, June 29, 2015 at 09:32AM