Sex is part of life. For many women, it is a way to feel
pleasure, express love or sexual desire for their partners, or to
become pregnant with the children they hope for. Or, sex may
simply be part of what it means to be a woman.
Sex can be an important and positive part of life, but it
can also lead to health problems, such as pregnancies that are
unwanted or that threaten a woman’s life, dangerous infections,
or physical and emotional harm from forced sex.
Most of these problems could be prevented. But in many
communities, harmful beliefs about what it means to be a
woman can make it hard for a women to have good sexual
health. For a woman to have good sexual health, she needs to
be able to:
• express her sexuality in a way that gives her pleasure.
• choose her sexual partner.
• negotiate when and how to have sex.
• choose if and when she becomes pregnant.
• prevent STIs, especially HIV infection.
• be free from sexual violence, including forced sex.
This chapter gives information and suggestions about how
to make sex safer and more pleasurable. It also suggests some
ways women can work together to overcome harmful beliefs
and improve their sexual health.
We have been
ignorant for so long,
and full of fear about
— Oaxaca, Mexico
Where Women Have No Doctor 2012