Be Open to… Sexual Health in the US

Mary M Buxton LCSW, Inc.
AASECT Certified Sex Therapist

Each year, many single and married or newly married South Asian Indian women and men move to Silicon Valley.  Individually or together, they conquer life in the US, adjust to marriage, and forge new relationships with community, jobs and extended family.  But for their “healthy life” in the US, many new residents do not know where to turn for certain kinds of help that may not be customary or widely available in India.   In fact, some health services, like sexual health services, will often be “new” experiences that can involve tension, fear and distrust.  Education about what is available and what to expect can provide access build confidence and calm nerves on the path to using these health services.  Here are three differences that you might want to consider exploring.

  1. Be open to educating your children about sex

    Sex education is very often a subject that is not mentioned in Indian families. Although few people have what would be considered a comprehensive sex education in the US, many parents feel that their voice and values on sex education needs to be heard by their children.  Young children can and do get distressed by the wrong idea or incomplete information about sex and reproduction from the misinformation told by peers on the playground.  Middle and high school students have to navigate peer pressures about sex.  Finally, there is the almost constant bombardment of sexual messages and images in magazines, movies, ads, song lyrics and the Internet. Many parents do try to provide information and facts needed to make healthy decisions.  These include communication and decision making skills and facts about anatomy, birth control, sexually transmitted infections, and safer sex. They use books, DVD’s and websites and the braver parents also have discussions.  Sex education in the schools usually occurs in 5th and 8th grade.  It is more openly discussed in high school student publications. 
  2. Consider a sexual health check up with your doctor

    Maintaining your sexual health is a lot easier when you develop a comfortable relationship with your health care provider.  In the San Francisco Bay Area, there are many South Asian Indian physicians available, and many are women.  Women usually get regular pelvic and breast exams from their Obgyn.  Men can see their internal medicine doctor, general practitioner or urologist to have their prostate and testicles checked. Your provider can provide information on the different forms of contraception.  Planned Parenthood lists them as continuous abstinence, "outercourse", the shot, the pill, the patch, the ring, the condom, a diaphragm or cap, the female condom, spermicide, or sponge, the IUD and emergency contraception (not recommended for teens).  Sexual health check ups can also involve screening for STDs and HIV/AIDS, reproductive and breast cancers, menstruation, fertility issues and sexual function problems. It's important to take preventive care of your sexual health.
  3. Contact your doctor and / or sex therapist if you have some sort of sexual dysfunction

    Many young women and men from India have been raised with little information, instruction or comfort with sexuality terms and information.  This can lead to sexual function problems for newly married couples. In the US, it is estimated that at least 40 - 60% of all couples struggle with a sexual problem at some time in the course of their relationship.  In most cases, sexual and relationship functioning can be improved with proper diagnosis and treatment by a sex therapist.  Treatment is confidential. Sessions usually last one hour and consist of talking and no touching   Homework is assigned to help you work towards your treatment goals. 

South Asian Indian patients may initially struggle to engage in open discussion with their doctor, may not have words to ask questions about sexual health, and may feel shame, embarrassment, fear…at first.  However, knowing that help is readily available and practice seeking that help can create comfort.  They may also find solutions for problems they formerly felt stuck with.

Updated 7/11/11


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Mary M Buxton LCSW, Inc. - Sex & Couple Therapy - Licensed Clinical Social Worker  #LCS 7780
15951 Los Gatos Blvd., #14, Los Gatos, CA 95032 -  Phone: 408.371.4847 -  Email Mary

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