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Sex: the Facts
It can be embarrassing to ask questions about sex, contraception and general sexual health, but don't let that stop you finding out what you need to know! Your doctor or a sexual health practitioner will be able to help, and you can also look for further information on-line.
If you do look for online information, it's important to use recognised, authoritative resources to find advice, rather than relying on your friends, social media or even pornography. Your friends may mean well, but they might not have as much knowledge or experience as they think, and could end up giving you incorrect information. Similarly, many myths get passed around on social media without being fact-checked. Finally, pornography rarely depicts realistic sex, and may promote distorted or unhealthy ideas about what sex should involve and what your partner should look like. The information supplied by the organisations noted on these webpages, particularly SHine SA and Clinic 275, is accurate and easy to read.
- The 'Ins & Outs' of Sex
There is no contraceptive method 100% guaranteed to prevent unwanted pregnancies. A woman can get pregnant
- the first time she has sex,
- even if she's taking the contraceptive pill,
- despite using a condom or another barrier method,
- despite having sex during her period,
- even if ejaculation does not occur in her vagina,
- despite studying her ovulation pattern and not having sex on the days when she's most likely to be ovulating, and
- even if she douches (washes herself internally) after sex.
Basically, if a man's penis has been inside a woman's vagina at any point during a sexual encounter, pregnancy is possible. In most of the situations listed above, if you're using a combination of hormonal and barrier contraception (eg the pill and a condom) it's very unlikely that you'll get pregnant - but if you're not, and you're ovulating or close to doing so, then pregnancy is a possibility. To reduce the chances of having an unwanted pregnancy and/or contracting a sexually transmitted infection – USE A CONDOM, even if you're on the pill.
- Not Having Sex
Having sex, or not having sex, is your choice both now and at any point in the future. If you decide that you never want to have sex, that's fine - it's entirely your decision to make. You never 'have' to have sex with someone for any reason - not because you're married to them, not because you've had sex with them before, and not because they've bought you dinner or a drink, or given you a lift home. No-one is ever entitled to 'expect' sex from you. Sex has to be consensual, meaning that both partners want to have sex and are happy to do so - don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise.
There are plenty of reasons why you might not want to have sex at this point in your life, even if you feel a strong attraction to your partner - the risk of pregnancy is only one - but just because you choose not to have sex doesn't mean that you and your partner can't experiment and have fun with each other.
Some sexual activities (often called "outercourse") which pose no risk of pregnancy include
- kissing or making out,
- general body stroking ("feeling up") or massage,
- dry sex (in which one or both partners are dressed),
- oral sex,
- manual sex,
- mutual masturbation,
- solo masturbation,
- phone sex or cybersex,
- role playing and/or sensation play (within or outside the context of BDSM activities), and
- any same-sex partnered sexual activity.
Just remember that some of the sexual activities listed above can still pose risks of sexually transmitted infections, so make sure you use condoms or dental dams as needed.
Used with kind permission from Scarleteen and the author Heather Corinna.
- What Sex Should Be
This isn't about the how, where, who and when of sex so much as it is about the mindset you bring to sex - the attitude or approach that can help lead to good, healthy sex. If you're in the process of developing your 'philosophy' and own ideas about sexual activities, remember that first and foremost, all sex - whether it's casual, mutually monogomous, or part of a long term or short term relationship - should be consensual. Both parties should be involved of their own free will, and everyone has the right to stop things at any time. Good sex isn't just physically enjoyable, it's is also respectful, fun and protected (safe sex), and that means that it's good for your psychological and emotional wellbeing too. Ideally, it involves you and your partner communicating about what you enjoy, what you want to do and where your boundaries are.
To be a good sex partner, it's important to understand what your partner finds arousing, fun and acceptable as well as knowing your own likes and dislikes. Just because you've seen a position, activity, behaviour or practice elsewhere, that doesn't necessarily doesn't mean your partner will want to try it, so always check first.
- What Sex Isn't
If you watch commercially-produced pornography, you may have a mental image of sex that doesn't match up to reality. Everyday, ordinary, 'conventional' sex doesn't look like what you see in the vast majority of pornography, and neither do most of your potential sex partners. If you've gained some (or most) of your sex education from pornography, as many young people do, then you and your partner may not be entirely happy with the result.
See Jake talking about this topic.
Heterosexual pornography, especially the commercially-produced variety, tends to portray women as submissive partners being used by dominant, powerful and aggressive - or even violent - male partners. This legitimises and eroticises male aggression towards women. This is not what good sex is about.
Same-sex pornography isn't much better, especially for men, as it frequently shows one partner getting all the satisfaction while the other gets no pleasure themselves. This is also not a feature of good sex - it's supposed to be mutually enjoyable!
Pornography can bring extra 'spice' to a relationship if you and your partner enjoy watching it and using it to broaden your outlook, but it isn't for everyone, and there's a real danger that it can set expectations about sex that are at best unrealistic, and at worst degrading, abusive and damaging.
If you want to learn more about the negative side of consuming pornography, 'It's time we talked' is great starting point.