Schoolies may be a time of newfound freedom - your first trip away with your friends and without your parents. You may be considering a whole lot of firsts, including sex. If you are having sex, whether it's for the first time or not, it's important to be aware of choices and safe sex practices to prevent an unwanted pregnancy or exposure to a sexually transmitted infection. This page looks at some of the common issues:
Arm yourself with information about sex
It's important to gather as much information about sex from reliable sources as you can so you can make informed decisions about whether you're ready and if it's what you want. (Use the information on this page as a starting point).
Sex should never be forced on you or become something you do because of peer pressure, or pressure from your boyfriend or girlfriend. Only you will know when you're ready to have sex.
Are you ready?
Sex is a physical way to express love and affection for someone. Being in a sexual relationship can be very rewarding and enjoyable. But it's important to remember:
- Both partners need to agree to have sex
- No one has the right to force you to have sex
- You always have the right to say 'no' (even if at first you thought it was what you wanted)
It's normal to feel excited or anxious when thinking about your first sexual experience. Just remember that there's no right or wrong time to become sexually active in a relationship - it varies for each person. It may take time to decide what, and when, is right for you.
Don't let anyone intimidate you into having sex. Some people wrongly think that they can demand that another person be sexual with them, or force them to have sex against their will. It's not uncommon to be unsure about having sex, especially for the first time. You can talk through your situation and your feelings with a counselling service such as Kids Help Line on 1800 55 1800.
It's also wrong to have sex with someone who is unable to make a conscious choice to have sex or not, either because they're under the influence of drugs or alcohol - or for some other reason. This is sexual assault.
Safe sex is always a good idea. The basic rule for safe sex is to avoid blood, semen or vaginal fluids from entering your body unless you know for sure that your partner is not carrying an STI. You cannot tell by looking at someone whether they have an STI or not. Be aware that you have a right to insist on safe sex.
Safe sex protects you or your partner from:
- Catching a sexually transmitted infection such as, herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhoea or HIV/AIDS - using condoms with water-based lubricants and dental dams is one way to protect yourself from some of these diseases
Different STIs are passed on in different ways. Check out the Better Health Channel (new window) website for further details.
Chlamydia is the most common STI in Australia, especially among young people. You may not know you have caught it, as it often has no symptoms. If left untreated chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women, which can lead to chronic pain and/or the inability to get pregnant.
A sexual health check-up will pick up chlamydia. A simple urine test is all that is needed. Treatment with antibiotics is very effective.
Safe oral sex practices
STIs can be transmitted during oral sex too. A common example is the transmission of the herpes virus via cold sores or genital lesions. To reduce your risk of contracting or transmitting an STI, use condoms or dental dams for oral sex. Dental dams are squares of ultra-thin latex that can be placed over the vulva or anal area during sex. They are a bit hard to get hold of as not a lot of chemists stock them.
There are a number of contraception choices available in Australia, including the contraceptive pill, condoms, diaphragms and IUDs. The method you choose will depend on your general health, lifestyle and relationship. You need to weigh up the benefits and possible negative effects of each method and look at how these methods fit in with your current and future needs.
Check out the Better Health Channel (new window) website for further details on contraception so you can make an informed decision about the method of contraception that's right for you.
Sometimes emergency contraception is needed to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex - for example, if the pill is missed, a condom breaks or in the case of being sexually assaulted. The emergency contraception pill is a form of contraception that must be started within 72 hours of having unprotected sex.
Emergency contraception is not an alternative to regular methods of birth control and does not provide any protection against HIV or other sexually transmitted infections.
See the Better Health Channel (new window) website for more information about emergency contraception (sometimes known as the morning after pill), how it prevents an unwanted pregnancy, where to get it and its possible side effects.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
Sex without a condom puts you at risk of getting an STI. The most common sexual activities that can spread an STI from one partner to another include:
- Vaginal sex - a penis in a vagina
- Anal sex - a penis in the partner's anus
- Oral sex- a penis in the partner's mouth, or the partner's mouth or tongue in a vagina
- Oral-anal sex - one partner's mouth or tongue on the other partner's anus
Condoms help prevent infection
It's not difficult to avoid catching STIs. You can prevent most STIs if you use condoms during vaginal or anal sex. Condoms will only protect against disease if they are used every time you have sex, and with every sexual partner. The best ways to use condoms include:
- Use well known brands and check the expiry date
- Pinch the tip to remove air and roll the condom down the erect penis
- Use water-based lubricants like KY (Vaseline and baby oil weaken rubber condoms)
- After ejaculation withdraw the penis while it's still erect so the condom doesn't slip off
- Use each condom only once
Remember, you can't necessarily tell if your partner has an STI, they might also not know that they have one. That's why it's better to play it safe to be safe. If both partners have had check-ups for STIs with a doctor, and neither has sex with anyone else, this will lower the risk of catching an STI.
There are many different STIs and there are many different signs that indicate you may have caught one. Sometimes STIs can go unnoticed, there may be no signs at all, which is why it's important to get a regular sexual health check up. Common symptoms include:
- Unusual discharge from the penis or vagina
- Pain during sex or urination
- Sores, blisters, ulcers, warts or rashes in the genital area
- Itchiness or irritation in the genital area
- Persistent diarrhoea
If you have any of these symptoms, or you just feel something isn't right, it's best to consult a doctor as soon as possible.
youthcentral - Sexuality & relationships
Sexuality and relationships are an important part of finding identity and enjoyment. Take a look at some of the common issues to do with puberty, sexuality, sexual health, relationships and commitment. Links will lead you to lots of helpful information and services.
Better Health Channel - Sex and sexuality
Find out about being gay, lesbian or bisexual and the needs of adolescents. Information is available about contraception, impotence and sexually transmitted infections, including AIDS, HIV, chlamydia and herpes.
Reach Out! - Sex and pregnancy
An excellent collection of resources that look at issues such as STIs, pregnancy, contraception, looking after your sexual health and having sex for the first time.