Prior research suggests sexual health and well-being are directly related to sexual behavior. Sexual experiences (e.g., frequency of sex or orgasm) have been associated with both positive and negative aspects of sexual and reproductive health.
Among other benefits, fertility and conception are two ways by which sexual activity may have a positive effect on sexual health. Researchers have shown frequent vaginal sex (i.e., at least weekly) is associated with increased fertility (Cutler et al, 1985); women who have sex daily during their fertile period (i.e., five consecutive days in a woman's menstrual cycle culminating with a sixth day of ovulation) had a 37% chance of conceiving compare to a 15% chance among women having sex once during the same period (Wilcox et al, 1995). Moreover, frequent sexual activity, including sexual intercourse and orgasm, are positively associated with sexual and emotional satisfaction and relationship quality among both men and women (Costa and Brody, 2007; Laumann et al, 2006).
Despite the benefits, sexual health is undermined by intimate partner violence (e.g., sexual coercion and rape) and by sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Recent US estimates of sexual coercion indicate that 1 in 59 adults have experienced unwanted sexual activity in the past year with 1 in 15 adults forced to have sex at least once in their lifetime (Basile et al, 2007). Among a diverse sample of women (adolescents, patients attending a STI clinic, homeless women, and college students), sexual coercion was consistently related to subsequent risky sexual behavior (Biglan et al, 1995). Risky sexual behavior (e.g., unprotected sex with infected partners) threatens sexual health and puts people at risk of contracting STIs. In the USA, an estimated 19 million new STIs are diagnosed each year, including 56,000 new cases of HIV/AIDS, over 1 million cases of chlamydia, 355,991 cases of gonorrhea, and 11,466 cases of syphilis (CDC, 2009; Hall et al, 2008).
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