Its an important part of life.
Discovering and exploring our sexuality and becoming intimate with someone special.
Deciding whether or when to have sex with someone is a big decision which shouldn't be taken lightly. That doesn't mean that you need to stay celibate until marriage, just that its better to be cautious and to think about what it means to be intimate.
Intimacy with a special partner can be wonderful, and opens up a new and exciting part of our lives. Sex can make us feel closer, can help us soothe one another and can bring emotional depth to our relationship. But it can also be a source of fear, anxiety and sometimes pain. Will we perform? What will it feel like? Will it be like it seems to be in the movies?
With the prevalence and accessibility of porn, most young people are pretty well-informed about the act of sex and its many permutations. But porn is always a fantasy, a projection of fantasies onto real women (and men) and a misleading abstraction of our bodies, behaviours and desires. It is often designed to be consumed by men and is, to a large extent, skewed towards their interests.
It can be very disappointing for both sexes when sex turns out to be nowhere near as "perfect" or as exciting as it looks from the images we find on the net.
The emotional implications of becoming sexually intimate are also sidelined by pornographic imagery. Yet they are an inevitable part of every sexual encounter - even if we choose to "turn them off" or seek sexual experiences removed from emotional intimacy. For young women especially, the implications of becoming sexually intimate can be complex and its a good idea to understand yourself and what you want before you leap into something for which you might not be ready.
Making Healthy Sexual Decisions
You may be thinking about what it means to be involved in a sexual relationship. As a young adult, it’s normal to think about sex, have sexual feelings, and have a desire to learn more about your own body. Deciding to have a sexual relationship is an important decision since it involves both your body and your emotions. You need to make sure that it’s the right decision for you. It’s always good to have a trusted adult to talk to.
What should I think about before I decide to have sex?
There are many things that are important to think about before you decide to have sex, including whether this is what you want and whether this is the right time in your life. You should also think about how you will feel afterwards. It should be a decision made without any pressure from your partner or friends.
You should never let others pressure you into having sex if you don’t want to.
The decision to have sex for the first time (and every time after) is yours, not anyone else’s!
Remember that it’s completely appropriate to wait to have sex.
Young women choose to wait to have sex for many reasons, such as wanting to wait until they are older or married, being unsure about what they want, having certain religious beliefs, or wanting to avoid the possibility of getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or getting pregnant.
What do I need to know if I’m sexually active or I’m thinking about becoming sexually active?
Young women have to make lots of decisions about sex, including whether to abstain (not have sex), or be sexually active.
If you are sexually active, you’ll also need to think about the:
Gender of your sexual partner(s)
Kind of relationship you have with them
Type of contraception (if you have a male partner) and sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention methods you’ll use
Before you decide to have a sexual relationship, talk with your partner about whether having sex is what you both want.
Ask about his or her sexual history, including if he or she has had any STI’s.
Talk about what kinds of STI prevention methods you plan to use.
If you are in a heterosexual (straight) relationship, talk about birth control (condom, birth control pill, injection hormones, the “patch”, the “ring”, or IUD) and what you would do if it failed. If you feel that you can’t talk to your partner about these issues, then you should rethink whether or not you should be having a sexual relationship.
Be open and honest about whether you or your partner have been, or will be sexually involved with other people. Remember, the risk of getting an STI or a virus that can cause cancer or AIDS is increased if you or your partner(s) have sexual intercourse with other people. The more partners, the greater the risk!
Talk to your primary care provider about methods of birth control that are right for you, and about how to prevent STI’s.
Don’t forget that a female can get pregnant at ANY time if she has sex with a male without a condom, or if she is not using birth control correctly. To lessen the chance of pregnancy and STI’s, you should use a latex condom every time you have sex, from start to finish. The only way to absolutely prevent getting pregnant or an STI is to not have sex.
Who can I talk to about sex?
If you have questions about sex (whether or not you’re thinking about having a sexual relationship) you should talk to your parent(s)/guardian(s), a trusted adult such as a school counselor, someone from your religious center/youth group, or your health care provider. It’s a good idea to discuss all of your choices and any concerns you may have so that you can make healthy decisions. Deciding whether or not to have sex can be a difficult decision, so it’s always good to have someone to talk to.
How do I find a health care provider to discuss birth control and STI protection?
Many young women and men can talk to their parents or guardians about these issues, while others need confidential services. You can talk to your primary care provider (GP) about birth control or STI protection. You also have the option of talking to a gynecologist, a health care provider at a family planning clinic, or a health care provider at a student health center or school clinic or one of the GPs at a headspace clinic. You should feel comfortable with your provider, since it’s important to share personal information and any health problems with her/him. You need to find a provider who will listen to your concerns, answer your questions, and take the time to explain things clearly to you.
Ask your health care provider about the confidentiality policy. You should be able to talk privately about any health issues including your sexual choices and not feel judged.
Here are some sample questions you can ask your provider:
What if I want to be tested for STIs such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, or HIV?
Can you tell me what happens to my lab test results? Who do you call?
Will the bill be sent to my house?
If I’m covered by my parents’ insurance, will they find out about office visits and tests that are done on me?
What if I need birth control? Will my parents find out?
What if you find out that I have an STI? Who will you tell?
What if you find out that I’m pregnant?
Is there any information that you are required to tell my parents/guardians?
What happens if I have a big problem and need help telling my parents/guardians?
What should I know about emergency contraception?
What happens if I forget my birth control or the condom breaks?
If you forget your birth control or the condom breaks, you do have an option called emergency contraception, also known as the “morning-after pill”. Emergency contraception can prevent pregnancy up to 5 days after unprotected sex. The sooner you start the medicine after unprotected sex, the more effective the treatment is. Both females and males age 15 or older can buy it at a pharmacy without a prescription. Call ahead to make sure they carry it and ask about the cost. If you’re 16 years old or younger OR you don’t want to buy emergency contraception yourself, you may be able to get it from your health care provider or a family planning clinic at a low cost.
Where can I get ECP?
You can get the emergency pill (sometimes called the "morning after pill") from your local chemist or pharmacy. The pharmacist may ask you questions about your health to make sure the emergency pill is safe for you to take. If you are under 16 years old, the pharmacist (chemist) may also ask you some questions to make sure you understand the effects of taking the emergency pill.
What if I’m not sure whether I’m gay, straight, bisexual, or transgender?
You may also be trying to figure out your gender identity (whether you identify as a female or male) and your sexual orientation (who you are attracted to). If you feel like you want to talk to someone or you need more support, your health care provider can help you find a counselor or support group for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender teens. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your health care provider, you can speak with someone and get advice on where you can find a counselor or support group.
Reachout has some great resources for young people who are unsure about their gender or sexuality or just want to talk to someone. You can also call Swithcboard or visit MINDs Equality Centre located in Fitzroy.
It’s important that having sex is a positive experience and YOUR decision regardless of whether your partner(s) are male, female, or both. If sex is painful, not pleasurable, not your choice, or makes you feel that it is the wrong decision for you, you should talk with a trusted adult.
Ask yourself the following questions to see if you’re ready to have a sexual relationship:
Is your decision to have sex completely your own (you feel no pressure from others, including your partner)?
Is your decision to have sex based on the right reasons? (It shouldn’t be based on peer pressure, a need to fit in or make your partner happy, or a belief that sex is the only way to make your relationship with your partner better, or closer. If you decide to have sex, it should be because you feel emotionally and physically ready. Your partner should be someone you trust.)
Do you feel your partner would respect any decision you made about whether to have sex or not?
Are you able to comfortably talk to your partner about sex and your partner’s sexual history?
Have you and your partner talked about what both of you would do if you became pregnant or got an STI?
Do you know how to prevent pregnancy and STIs?
Are you and your partner willing to use contraception to prevent pregnancy and STIs?
Do you really feel ready and completely comfortable with yourself and your partner to have sex?
If you answered NO to any of these questions, you are probably not ready to have sex. If you think you should have sexual intercourse because others want you to or you feel like you should since everyone else is doing it, you should rethink your decision to be sexually active. You should only have sex because you: trust your partner, feel comfortable with yourself and your decision, know how to protect yourself against STIs and unplanned pregnancies, and most importantly because you want to and you know that you’re ready!
Resources for young women in Victoria
Family Planning Victoria
This organisation helps people make informed decisions about reproductive and sexual health and wellbeing. It has particular expertise in education, training and clinical services for young people.
Melbourne Sexual Health Centre
This is a free, walk-in clinic that provides testing and treatment for sexually transmissible infections.
Royal Children’s Hospital – Young People’s Health Service
This is a service for young people aged 12-24 years who are experiencing homelessness and/or marginalisation. It is based in Melbourne CBD providing primary health services, including sexual health services.
Royal Women’s Hospital – Unplanned pregnancy support
This service supports women who have an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy. It provides information, counselling, advocacy and referrals to help them make decisions about their pregnancy options.
Sexual Assault Crisis Line
This after-hours telephone service provides counselling for victims and survivors of past and recent sexual assault.
Youth Central – Relationships and sexual health
This webpage has lots of information and links related to sexual health and relationships.