One the biggest parts of sexual health is knowing what’s normal for you and your body – have you ever taken a good look at what’s going on down in your pants?

It’s likely that you’ve seen anatomical diagrams for what male and female genitals are “supposed” to look like, but bodies are all different; some parts might be a bit bigger, some smaller, maybe some are shaped a little differently, and some don’t fall under the classic “male” and “female” diagrams. It’s important to know what your own body looks and feels like so that you detect any signs of changes that could indicate problems, which could include STIs or other infections. It can also help you find which areas feel more sensitive to stimulation and which don’t (sexual pleasure is a natural bodily function, and it can have lots of benefits!).

There are several ways to make sure your body is staying healthy: self-exams, clinician appointments, clinic tests, and general tracking of your body’s functions. Self-exams can help you understand your body’s natural state, and if you perform them regularly (say, in the shower or when you’re changing clothes), you can notice any changes that might occur. Self-exams include visual and manual checks on your breasts and/or genitals – check for any abnormal lumps, discoloration, swelling, pain, or STI symptoms. If you do find anything unusual, remember to stay calm and consult a clinician before jumping to conclusions. Regular clinician checkups give you the opportunity to discuss any health issues or concerns you might have, and clinicians can conduct physical exams and procedures (including STI tests if you’re sexually active) that they’re trained to do that you might not be able to. They can also instruct you on how to perform self-exams if you’re unsure. Even if you’re not sexually active, checkups are important – especially if you have a family history of certain conditions (like breast, cervical, or testicular cancer).

Keeping track of how you function on a regular basis can lead to questions that trained clinicians can answer easily for you – and remember, sexual health is just a part of your overall health! So know what your body looks and feels like – whether it’s through checkups, self-exams, or some self-lovin’ – and don’t be afraid to schedule an appointment if you think something is wrong. Know what’s normal for you, and stay healthy!

-Mariya