Sex vs. Sexuality

To understand what influences your child’s sexual health and development, it’s important to understand the difference between sex and sexuality. While these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, sex is just one aspect of a person’s sexuality.

Sex

Sex refers to the biological characteristics that define people as male or female. Most people are either clearly male or female, but some people have the biological characteristics of males and females (e.g., someone born with both a penis and a uterus).

In general use, the term sex is often used to mean ‘sexual activity’ or ‘sexual intercourse’. In this website, we use the term ‘sex’ when talking about males and females, and ‘sexual activity’ when talking about behaviours like kissing and intercourse.

Sexuality

The World Health Organization (2016) defines sexuality as a central aspect of being human throughout life, which encompasses sex, gender identity and role, sexual orientation, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction. Sexuality is experienced and expressed in thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviour, practices, roles and relationships. While sexuality can include all these dimensions, not all of them are always experienced or expressed. Sexuality is influenced by the interaction of biological, psychological, social, economic, political, cultural, ethical, legal, historical, religious and spiritual factors.

As a parent, you teach your child about sexual health, not just sex. Sexual health includes things like personal hygiene, healthy relationships, sexuality and consent.

A person’s sexual health includes their physical, mental, emotional and social well-being. Taking care of your sexual health is an essential part of maintaining overall health and wellness.

Teaching sexual health means making sure your child has the knowledge, skills and ability to protect their health and the health of others, now and in the future.

The Sexuality Wheel

The Sexuality Wheel illustrates how broad the concept of sexuality really is. Each part of the wheel represents one part of who we are, and these parts are all connected and influenced by each other. The boxes on the left side of the wheel show who we are by nature, while the ones on the right show who we are taught or who we learn to be. When all parts of the wheel are healthy, our sexuality is healthy.

Scroll over each term below to learn more.

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