Get Real! What Are Some of the Benefits of Having Sex?

This week on Get Real!, Heather talks to a young woman who wonders what some of the positive outcomes could result from having sex with her boyfriend.

Editor’s Note: We’re delighted to bring Get Real!, Heather Corinna’s
popular sexuality advice column, to you on Rewire, now every week!

Amy asks:

I hear a lot
about the negative side of sex and bad things that could happen from
having sex. What are some of the benefits of having sex? What are some
of the positive outcomes that would/could result in having sex with my

Heather replies:

Fantastic question!

It’s so important for people to remember that usually when we’re
looking to engage in activities of any kind where there are some risks
of negative or unwanted outcomes, it’s usually because we also want to
take risks of discovering or getting some positive or wanted outcomes.
If we want to audition for a part in a play, we’re risking rejection or
disappointment, as well as what we might see as a waste of our time in
preparing a lot for something which we may not get, but we take those
risks because we also want to risk getting that plum part, having the
opportunity to perform and having our talent, preparation and risk
visibly appreciated by an audience.

If partnered sex put us only at potentially negative risks, and not also
at potential risks of positive things, it’s not likely most people
would even consider choosing to seek it out or engage in it. What would
be the point?

So, what are some of those wanted outcomes or risks of positive results?

On a physical level, our sexual response cycles and sex with a
partner (or all by ourselves, through masturbation) can be pleasurable:
when we seek out any kind of sex, one of the primary things we want is
to experience and share pleasure. It can wake up our bodies with a lot
of energy, make us feel revitalized, energized. We can experience
arousal, orgasm, and any or all the parts of the sexual response cycle.
It can leave us feeling physically and mentally relaxed and
rejuvenated. We also are celebrating our bodies with sex, so it can
leave us feeling great about them and can deliver a nice body image
boost. While any kind of partnered sex certainly isn’t the equivalent
of an aerobics class or a long jog, sex does also have some actual
physical health benefits, such as giving your heart a mini-workout, and
some studies have also found that on top of reducing risks of heart
disease, for men, orgasm and ejaculation (alone or with a partner) aids
prostate health, and for women (also alone or with a partner) it may
help prevent endometriosis. Too, for many women, orgasm can alleviate
menstrual cramps.

Emotionally or psychologically, sex and orgasm are big
mood-enhancers. The chemical/hormonal changes our bodies go through
during the sexual response cycle will often leave us in a better mood
than when we started, feeling emotionally and psychologically relaxed
and satisfied. Good sex in healthy situations is known to reduce
stress, which is great for both your mental and physical health. As
well, we get to discover things about ourselves we may not have known
before, explore parts of ourselves we might not get to in other parts
of our lives, and find acceptance for our sexual selves with others, as
well as new levels of self-acceptance. Sex and expressing our sexuality
can raise our consciousness: sometimes it can earnestly be a spiritual
or metaphysical experience. It allows us to take our creativity and
imagination out for a spin and give those things a good stretch and
time to play (it can also inspire those things, giving us extra
creativity to take away from sex and use or express in other areas of
our lives). Sex with a partner is, in and of itself, a creative
endeavor: we are creating something which did not exist before, which
is completely unique to the people involved in it: what sex you and
your boyfriend have isn’t the sex you and someone else later may have,
or he and someone else before have had. As well, when our sex life is
such that it’s something we embrace, shedding off shame or
embarrassment about sexuality that a lot of people can have and carry
around is certainly a positive.

Interpersonally, it can bring us closer to our partners, increasing
trust, our understanding of each other and the depth of our
relationship. When we have sex with each other, we allow ourselves to
be more vulnerable than we tend to in other situations, as does our
partner, and when we go there, and also discover in doing so that it’s
safe to be vulnerable together, that increases our trust.

When we have sex together, we disclose things to each other about
what we like and dislike, what we fantasize about, what our unique
sexuality and experience of sexual response is like — things which
most people tend to keep pretty private — so we not only glean new
understanding about our partner and ourselves, we can deepen our
intimacy by sharing these private things. Because good sex tends to
both require and develop good communication — by telling one another
what we like and dislike, want and need; asking the same of them,
voicing and negotiating limits and boundaries, even talking about risk
management like safer sex and birth control — sex can be one way we
can enhance our communication skills with a partner. As well, while our
friends and family can know a lot about how we are as a couple, how a
couple is sexually is usually a special, private secret: a part of your
relationship which, for the most part, is only experienced by you and
your partner.

In a lot of ways, sex between people is also a kind of adult play:
being playful together brings joy into our relationships. Much like sex
is a celebration of your body and your sexuality, it’s also the
celebration of a good relationship: sex is often a mirror of the kind
of relationship you have with someone, that reflects all the best
things you and your partner have going together, what you enjoy and
appreciate most about one another.

With all of these things, I’m talking about any kind of
sexual or sensual activity, from making out to shared massage to oral
sex to intercourse to a serious snuggle session. It’s not so much what
activity a person does sexually which creates opportunities for these
positives, but what people having sex (or even just one person engaging
in masturbation) bring to what they’re doing.

Suffice it to say, you can open the door more widely to the
possibility of these positive outcomes when you both do what you can to
reduce the risks of unwanted or negative outcomes. Making sure you have
what you need to prevent unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted
infections not only reduces those unwanted outcomes, but knowing your
risks are reduced allows you both to better enjoy yourselves and to
feel more safe and relaxed before, during and after sex. (Worry, stress
and anxiety tends to limit how aroused you can even become in the first
place.) Talking out any insecurities, anxieties or concerns about sex
together either of you might have in advance not only brings you closer
in and of itself, those are things you then either don’t have to worry
about, or which you’ll worry less about, during sex together. Making
sure you have and nurture a healthy relationship overall makes it way
more likely you’ll have a healthy and happy sexual relationship, too.
Having realistic expectations for sex is also a big help: sex won’t
always be mind-blowing, it sometimes will be more comical than
romantic, it won’t always be satisfying for both partners every time,
and it might push buttons for a partner which were unexpected (pleasant
or not so pleasant) or even give each other or oneself a glimpse of
places which aren’t so emotionally comfortable or familiar. It often is
also something that in a lot of ways, takes practice, which deepens or
improves over time, so hitting a home run the first time you both go to
bat probably won’t happen. When your expectations leave room for things
like that and more, your sexual experiences are more likely to be

Here are a few more links to help round this out for you: