Female couple on a bed

You may have covered some of the basics of sexual health at school… but how much of it do you remember and more importantly, what’s changed since then?

Filled with giggles, smirks and outdated videos about sex – you either looked forward to your sexual education classes, or you dreaded the idea of talking about such an intimate topic with a teacher that you saw every day. Either way, despite all the countless efforts to awkwardly slide a condom onto a banana, you may still have some unanswered questions when it comes to sex and sexual health. 

Maybe you were too embarrassed to ask about sex in front of your friends or perhaps you’ve since learnt new things, which have left you feeling curious; however you feel, it’s time to take a further look. 

What do you want to learn about? 

What counts as sex?

There are plenty of ways you can engage in sexual activity – you can do it alone (through masturbation) or with other people (of the same or different gender) and it doesn’t matter if it includes 10 orgasms or no orgasms at all! Sex also doesn’t have to just involve penetration by a penis; oral sex, fingering or anal play are all forms of sexual activity too.

At what age should I start having sex?

Quite simply, when you’re ready. Although there is a legal age of consent, there’s no fixed age to dictate when you need to start or stop having sex by. When you do it (and who you do it with) mostly comes down to how you feel. Friends can be a huge influence. If they’re all at it and you’re not, it’s easy to feel left out. Just remember that you don't have to live up to the expectations of others, just your own. Ask yourself: “Do I really want to do it, or do I want to please others? Do I feel comfortable with this person? Do they respect me? And am I ready to share something really intimate?” If you’re struggling to answer these questions, then you may want to give yourself some time to think before jumping into any decisions. 

Also, there are plenty of other things that can feel incredible with a partner, so there's no need to treat intercourse as the only option! Kissing and cuddling can feel just as good as sex and are a great way to start building up intimacy with your partner.

How do I stay safe during sex?

The best sex is always safe sex, which includes not only protection against STIs and unwanted pregnancy, but also consent. Ahead of having sex with someone new or trying something new with a regular partner, it can be helpful to question yourself as to whether you feel comfortable and ready. There’s no right or wrong way to have sex, but it is important to have an honest discussion about your needs and preferences. 

You should also have a think about your preferred method of contraception. Whatever you want to try, the key is to speak about it with your sexual partner. And if you are looking for the most suitable contraception for you to use, you can’t beat the advice that a doctor can give you.

Are condoms safe?

When it’s only a thin layer of latex (that looks a bit like the cling film in your kitchen), you may start to fret over how secure this method of contraception is. However thin and delicate condoms may seem, they are in fact 98% effective at providing protection from most sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and preventing unwanted pregnancy (when they are used consistently and correctly!). [1]

The reason that condoms protect from most and not all STIs, is that not all STIs are spread through genital fluids; for example herpes, pubic lice (sometimes known as crabs) or syphilis can be passed on by skin-to-skin contact instead of through bodily fluids. So it doesn’t mean that condoms (both male and female types) don’t do their job well!

It’s also worth noting that there is no form of contraception that can provide 100% protection from all STIs, so if you are sexually active, it’s always best to get tested regularly to be on the safe side and put your mind at ease.

What are the symptoms of a latex condom allergy?

This allergy may seem like a sure-fire way to kill any sexual vibes, however it is estimated that only around 1% of the population is actually allergic to the latex in condoms.[2] Some of the symptoms of having this allergy include; a runny nose, swelling in and around your V-Zone, hives and potentially some difficulty breathing. It is extremely rare, but if you do experience any of these symptoms while using a condom then you should remove it and contact a medical professional as soon as possible – while it may not be ideal to stop mid-sex, this is definitely an occasion which calls for it.

So, if I am allergic does that mean I can’t have sex anymore? The good news is that just because you’re allergic to the latex in condoms, it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to enjoy safe sex. There are many condoms on the market which are latex-free! So make sure to do your research, check the label and if in doubt you can always ask your doctor to recommend you a specifically latex-free condom brand.

Can you catch HIV from kissing?

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is an STI that damages the cells in your immune system and weakens your ability to fight everyday infections and disease. [3] While the medication for HIV has become much more effective in recent years, there is still no cure for it. This can be a scary topic to think about, but just as with all serious viruses, it’s really important to understand more about it in order to not only protect yourself, but also to keep from panicking unnecessarily.

So, can you catch HIV from kissing? In short, no you can’t. This is because even though HIV is passed on through bodily fluids (such as blood, anal mucous, breastmilk, semen and vaginal fluids), evidence shows that this does not include saliva. [4] The science behind this is that even though HIV can be detected in saliva, the amount is so small that it wouldn’t be able to be passed on to another person.

There’s no denying that HIV is a serious topic that should be taken with care, but don’t let rumours and myths around the virus cause you to stress or in this case even stop kissing people! Keep yourself informed and talk to a doctor if you are worried that you may be at risk of contracting HIV. The most important things are to practise safe sex, get regular sexual health screenings and be open with your sexual partner(s) so you can safely enjoy intimacy.

Why does it hurt when I have sex?

There is no question that sex is a great form of physical and emotional release, but this doesn’t mean that it should hurt! Yes, penetrative sex can sometimes feel a little sore, but chronic pain before, after and during sex is not normal. Painful sex (also known as dyspareunia) may sound a little frightening, but it’s a very common experience that 3 in 4 women will have at some point during their life. [5]

Painful sex can be caused by a variety of factors. Lack of arousal due to stress, anxiety or tiredness can lead to vaginal dryness, resulting in painful sex when it comes to penetration. Similarly, during menopause, a drop in estrogen levels can cause vaginal dryness. On the other hand, vaginal infections (like thrush and vaginitis) and STIs can also cause irritation and pain during sexual activity.

If you are finding it painful to have sex, try discussing it with your partner so you can find a solution together – maybe you could start using lube to prevent dryness, or introduce more foreplay to help get your vaginal juices going!

And if you think there may be a deeper-rooted issue, you can always confide in a close friend, relative or sex therapist if you feel like it. It’s also a good idea to go to your local sex clinic or see your doctor so that they can first diagnose any underlying problems and then provide you with the best solution.

Lastly, remember that sex is supposed to be pleasurable and fun, so don’t feel like you must suffer in silence or carry on having painful intercourse – we all deserve to enjoy safe, consensual sex!

Is it rude to say no to sex?

The word “no” is not an insult. It exists so that we can make decisions that are right for us. “No” is not always a negative word either – it helps us create positive boundaries for ourselves and our bodies.

When it comes to sex, being able to say “no” is really important. Although it may be harder to say during these intimate and personal moments, the message behind the word should always be respected and heard. It doesn’t matter if it’s been a “yes” before. It doesn’t matter if someone changes their mind, and “yes” suddenly becomes “no”. The matter of fact is: no means no.

If you feel like you may have some difficulty saying “no” or have previously struggled to do so, then it might help to practise saying “no” to yourself in the mirror. If a tricky situation does come up, you’ll have had a go at speaking out.

And if somebody says “no” to you, try not to take it too much to heart (we know how that little word can sometimes feel as painful as a punch in the stomach). We should have the confidence to be honest, and also be grateful of someone being open with us. Remember that a “no” could mean the person you’re with isn’t ready to do something that you are. It’s not always a rejection of you as a person.

Do girls masturbate?

Yes! Though it’s certainly not talked about as much as guys doing it. This has a lot to do with taboo and the old-fashioned idea that women don’t get the same strong sexual feelings that men do – which is totally untrue! 

Masturbating (or wanking/jerking off/tossing off) is a healthy way to get to know your body. And once you work out what you like, you can take your sexual pleasure into your own hands. 

Discovering what you enjoy on your own will also improve your experiences with another person, so go explore. Stroking your nipples or tickling the backs of your knees (or even your earlobes) can give you surprisingly nice feelings and may even result in an orgasm – you won’t know ‘til you try!

Is it normal to be confused about my sexuality?

Trying to work out who you like can be a bit of a mind screw, regardless of gender. Sometimes you might know for certain, but others, you might need some time to figure it out, and that's ok!

When it comes to sexuality, the good news is that you don’t have to state your orientation by a certain time in your life and stick with it like a signed a contract. After all, you have the right to be yourself and to make up your mind as many times as you need – there’s no right or wrong!

Though if you are finding yourself confused then talking to close friends or family, sharing your feelings and hearing their experiences will help you work out who you are and what you want. The more you do this, the more you’ll be practising being honest with yourself, rather than always trying to please others. 

What is queefing?

A queef (known as vaginal flatulence in scientific terms) is basically a release of trapped air that comes out of your vagina; it may sound a bit like a fart, but it’s actually far from being the same thing!

We get it, farting can be embarrassing. From the loud sound to the pungent odour, it’s not exactly what we’d want to happen on a first date or when doing a presentation at work. Farting is a natural bodily process and so is queefing, which unlike its anal counterpart, comes without the smell.

Also, with queefing, it doesn’t matter what you eat (so don’t think skipping on beans for dinner will prevent it from happening!). As we said, this occurs when air gets trapped in the vagina; so it could result from moving your lower body in unusual positions (think yoga or sitting cross-legged for a long time) or penetration (from sex toys, a penis, fingers).

Not much can be done to prevent queefing, as it’s just an instinctive response from your body. But don’t sweat it next time you let one rip, even during sex – it’s just a sign of a healthy vagina and a good opportunity for a bit of a laugh!


Hopefully, these sex and sexuality queries will have answered some of your lingering questions and clarified any doubts you may have had. At the end of the day, sex is supposed to be pleasurable and exciting –just remember to do your research and practise safe sex!

Fancy learning more about sexuality-related topics? Head to our pages on what is an orgasm and all you need to know about intimate fluids.

Medical disclaimer

The medical information in this article is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please consult your doctor for guidance about a specific medical condition.



[References]

[1]  https://www.getthefacts.health.wa.gov.au/faqs/do-condoms-protect-against-all-stis

[2]  http://www.clevelandclinicmeded.com/medicalpubs/diseasemanagement/allergy/latex-allergy/

[3]  https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hiv-and-aids/

[4]  https://www.avert.org/hiv-transmission-prevention/myths

[5]  https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/when-sex-is-painful

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