Getting down and dirty?
OK, so you know the basics by now – this goes in there, etc. And you’ve probably worked out what feels good, even if you haven’t had sex with anyone else. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with a fumble, or a tumble between consenting adults, but it’s best to think before you act – especially since alcohol or drugs can make it hard to think clearly at the time.
If you jump into the sack without taking precautions, there can be pretty unsexy consequences – each time you have unprotected sex, you risk getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI), plus, let’s face it, no contraceptive is 100% fool-proof and if sperm meets egg, voila, possible pregnancy.
The naked truth
Lots of young people say they’ve had sex by the time they finish school, and many say they didn’t use protection against STIs or unplanned pregnancy.
Sadly, heaps (many, many thousands) of new STI cases are seen each year. And though the abortion rate isn’t high, it’s probably not a statistic you’d ideally choose to be part of.
Being informed and taking simple steps can mean the difference between a great sex life OR a lifetime of embarrassing or painful health problems, some of which can kill you or leave you unable to have children.
Sounds like a no-brainer, right?
It can be harder to get information or find other people going through the same things if you’re gay, lesbian or transgender.
It’s still fairly unusual to see gay relationships in mainstream movies or on the tv, for example, and, unfortunately, some people still have prejudices about homosexuality.
There are organisations that can help you get info and feel less isolated. See useful websites: sex for links to some in your local area.
While you wouldn’t know it from movies, it’s actually pretty rare for partners to orgasm together. If you can’t hold on, try pleasuring your partner first, or afterwards.
Sex surveys and research have now shown that most women can climax if the circumstances are right – usually with stimulation of the clitoris, plus feeling relaxed and turned on.
A good idea is to practise with masturbation so you can show your partner what to do. You could also try using a vibrator.
Of course, penetrative sex is not a couple’s only option, there’s also manual (with your hands, or feet, or whatever) or oral stimulation, such as:
- Cunnilingus – stimulation of a woman’s vagina and/or vulva and clitoris by the lips and tongue.
- Fellatio – stimulation of the penis by mouth (usually licking and sucking).
- Nippling – stimulation of the nipples by mouth (licking and biting).
- Anilingus/rimming – stimulation of the anus by mouth (as for cunnilingus).
A lick-job doesn’t have the same ring to it though…
The not-so-fun side
Even if you and your partner are clean and healthy-seeming, you don’t know the sexual history of your partner’s former partners, do you?
Whether you’re in a committed relationship or are shagging half the town, it only takes one shared drop of semen, vaginal fluid or blood to catch an STI.
Actual safe sex means no body fluids are shared – like touching, cuddling, massaging or mutual masturbation.
Safer sex minimises the sharing of fluids, and condoms or dams are the simplest way to do this.
If you’re worried about suggesting them, you can make it more spontaneous by keeping some close by – and more fun by trying different types or flavours.
Don’t do it! If things fall apart, do you want your flasher pics doing the rounds? What if someone forwards your sexts as a joke that goes viral?
Plus if either of you are under sixteen it’s classed as distribution of child pornography and you can be charged, even for sending a naked photo of yourself! Say “bye, bye” to careers like teaching or government jobs, plus expect fines or even jail time.
Bottom line? Don’t send or forward nude pictures of yourself or anyone else, or put them online.
At the end of the day, you’re responsible for your own health!
No matter how sexy and gorgeous, is your partner worth risking your life for? We all know about HIV/AIDS, but what about infertility from chlamydia; cervical cancer from genital warts or flare-ups of herpes for the rest of your life? What about unplanned pregnancy? How would you feel if it happened to you or your partner? Not excited?
Don’t risk it.
What kind of protection is best?
Extra sensitive, flavoured, ribbed, novelty shapes, even glow-in-the-dark – surely you can find one you like? Knowing you’re better protected from death and disease is waaay sexier than the alternative.
You can get condoms from heaps of places: pharmacies, servos, late-night traders, community health centres and some doctors, plus fancier models at sex shops or online (web-search it) or in some public toilet vending machines if you’re embarrassed. A good way to get them is to grab some from the supermarket when you’re doing your groceries.
Mind you, condoms won’t guarantee your safety. They can sometimes break or come off, plus they won’t cover all areas and so could still possibly expose you to genital warts or herpes. If one does break or come off don’t reuse it – get a new one. Using one with a water-based lubricant will reduce the chances of it tearing.
- Open packet carefully so you don’t tear the condom.
- Pinch tip before rolling it down.
- Use water-based lubricants not spit, Vaseline, baby oil or anything oil-based.
- Hold the base and withdraw it while penis still erect so it doesn’t fall off.
- Check expiry and store in cool, dry place (not wallet or glovebox).
These are small squares of rubber that can be used during cunnilingus or anilingus to protect against transmission of STIs. You can use a water-based lubricant with them, and can get various kinds, including coloured and flavoured, from the internet. You can also make them by cutting off the ends of a flavoured or unlubricated condom (lubricated would taste gross) and slicing it down the side.
The combined pill is sold under lots of different names, but basically gives you a dose of hormones (oestrogen and progesterone) to stop an egg being released (and make it harder for sperm to travel, and eggs to implant). A woman takes it for 21 days, then sugar pills for 7 so she gets a period (these can be skipped if you want to skip a period). It takes two weeks to work and needs to be taken within a 12-hour time window each day – antibiotics, vomiting and diarrhoea can stop it working. It isn’t suitable for everyone – especially if you smoke. If you’re considering it, discuss the pros and cons with your doctor. Apparently a male pill’s on the way, ladies…
This contains a form of progesterone – it is effective if taken at the same time each day (within a 3 hour window), but vomiting and diarrhoea can stop it working. Find out more from your doctor.
Vaginal ring (e.g. Nuva-Ring)
This flexible ring goes in the vagina for three weeks then is removed for a week. It gives out hormones and works like the combined pill, but can be quite expensive as it has to be replaced each time. It doesn’t need to be fitted by a doctor (‘one size fits all’) but, again, talk to the doc’ about pros and cons.
This is a rubber cap that sits over a woman’s cervix preventing semen from getting in. It needs to be fitted and ordered by a doctor, and works best with spermicide (to hit those little swimmers with a double whammy). You’ll need to remember to put it in about half an hour before sex, and to take it with you, so it’s not great for spontaneity.
This gel kills sperm, but it’s only useful with barrier-methods like condoms or a diaphragm.
Injection (e.g. Depo-Provera)
The progesterone injection is very effective and lasts for 3 months. It usually doesn’t have many side effects except reducing or stopping periods, but if you do get any unwanted ones like headaches or breast soreness, for example, they will take 3 months to go away. You’ll need one every 3 months on the dot – discuss pros and cons with your doctor.
Implant (e.g. Implanon)
A doctor can put a match stick-sized implant into the underside of a woman’s upper arm, which releases progesterone and lasts for three years. It’s very reliable but, again, may affect periods – discuss pros and cons first.
For serious long-term relationships only…
IUD (Intra-uterine device e.g. Mirena)
This is a small plastic device with a long, fishing-line-like string that is inserted by a doctor into a woman’s uterus. It emits hormones, is effective for five years and the main side-effect is that it usually reduces or stops periods. You’ll need to check the string’s still there every month or so, and see your doctor every year. Discuss it with your doctor if you’re interested.
The way this works is to figure out when a woman is fertile, and not have sex at this time. It requires intensive tracking of temperature changes, the consistency of vaginal mucous and the menstrual cycle – a mistake can mean a baby. It can work, but needs a good thermometer and a strong stomach. It’s not for most young people without a predictable routine.
Rhythm method (not recommended!)
You or your partner may think that pulling out at the last minute is an option, but it has a massive failure rate. Semen can leak out well before ejaculation and it only takes a drop to make a baby. You’ve been warned.
If you’ve had unprotected sex
The emergency contraceptive pill (morning after pill) can help prevent pregnancy if started less than 72 hours after unprotected sex.
You can get it from chemists without a script from your doctor. Your GP or sexual health clinic can help you to get informed about, and tested for, STIs.
If you’ve been exposed to HIV
You can reduce your chances of catching HIV with PEP (post exposure prophylaxis) within 72 hours – the sooner, the better.
Phone your local hospital and ask where the closest available place you can get it is.
Don’t put things in places they’re not meant to go
Doctors have had to remove all kinds of weird things from people’s orifices over the years.
If you want to avoid an embarrassing trip to the emergency room, don’t put objects (aerosol cans, for example) or creams, essential oils or lotions (that aren’t designed for it) in yourself or anybody else.
Stick to water-based lubricants or stuff you buy from a sex shop or online site.
Not in the mood? Ooops, maybe that’s a cold sore coming on, wink, wink?
Other stuff down there…
is an overgrowth of yeast. It can cause a white vaginal discharge (sometimes creamy or cottage-cheesy), stinging or burning and itching, but no long-term issues. It’s treated by over-the-counter creams, pessaries you insert or a tablet you take (all available from pharmacies) and doesn’t require your partner to be treated (unless it keeps coming back). You should get checked by a doctor though, to make sure it’s not something else.
Urinary tract infections are pretty common – especially if you’re sexually active – and can be extremely painful. You can feel like you constantly need to pee, plus have pain on urination and even blood in your urine and/or kidney pain if left untreated. See your doctor asap – you’ll need antibiotics.
is inflammation of the head of the penis, with possible pain, redness, swelling, rash, itching and/or a lumpy discharge under the foreskin. Avoid it by regular washing plus careful drying of the area. Sometimes it can be caused by reactions to chemicals or soaps. Symptoms are pretty similar to other STIs, so check it out with your doctor, just in case.
Pap tests or smears:
These are super-important for women – just do it. Once you’ve started to have sex, you need to see a doctor every two years to get one. It’s painless and over in minutes (ok, maybe a bit embarrassing since someone has to look at your vagina) and massively cuts the risk of cervical cancer. Even if you’ve been vaccinated against the worst HPV strains, you should keep up with these sexual health check-ups every two years.
The “A” word:
Everyone has a strong opinion on it, but this is not a debate about whether or not it’s ok to have an abortion. Depending where you live, laws differ, but, in most countries like Australia, the UK and the USA, most women can access early abortions (up to fourteen weeks), and possibly later pregnancy terminations, depending on circumstances. There are usually two options: a medical abortion (using the RU486 pill if it’s available) or a surgical abortion (where a doctor performs a curette in a day surgery under tranquilisers or anaesthetic). This is actually one of the safest and commonest surgical procedures, and when performed safely, without complications, won’t affect a woman’s future fertility. You can get more information from www.mariestopes.org which offers help, counselling and confidential medical services in many countries around the world, including Australia, the UK and the USA (click on the link to your country’s site). Organisations such as family planning centres can also help you get unbiased advice. Be wary of abortion information helplines as many are run by organisations with an anti-abortion agenda.
Whoa, baby. Becoming a parent is a whole other ballgame. If you’ve decided to go ahead with a pregnancy you’ll certainly need advice and help. Start with your GP and get a referral to a midwife, obstetrician or hospital clinic to monitor your pregnancy. Start taking pregnancy vitamins and especially folate (if you haven’t already) and give up smoking and drinking. Read up and settle in for the biggest change of your life. Believe me, labour is the easiest part!