Sex is a small word, with a lot of different meanings. It often refers to pleasure that comes from the genitals, but it isn’t limited to that. Sex often involves our emotions and other body parts like our brain and skin. Some common forms of sex are vagina/penis sex, vagina/vagina sex, penis/anus sex, and oral sex (mouth on vagina, anus or penis). Sex can also involve a sex toy or finger.
Ultimately, people can decide for themselves what sex means to them. What we know is that if two people have decided that they are ready to have sex and have talked about consent, what they are comfortable with, what they are interested in and what their limits & boundaries are, then they can figure out what works best for them.
- Things to Talk About Before Sex
- Before sex happens, it’s a good idea to talk about a few things. The more comfortable we get having these conversations, the better equipped we’ll be. It doesn’t guarantee that our partners will always be a perfect match, but it can help us decide if we want to be sexually active with someone.
How do you know if someone wants to have sex? You ask! This is called getting consent.
It’s a voluntary agreement people make together around any sexual activity. Sexual activity does not just mean sex, it includes kissing, hugging, making out, cuddling, and touching someone’s body in a sexual way. With consent, only yes means yes. Anything else including a maybe, I don’t know, or No words at all count as a No.
If sex happens without consent it’s a sexual assault. Sexual assault is when there is unwanted sexual contact or sexual attention, this includes coercion and harassment. If you have ever dealt with or are dealing with sexual assault it is never your fault and it can be important to talk to someone. The Klinic Sexual Assault Crisis Line is a great resource that people can call if they need to talk. It is open 24/7 and free to call from anywhere in Manitoba. Their phone number is 1-888-292-7565 or (204) 786-8631.
2. Comforts and Boundaries
Sex can look a lot of different ways. What might by hot or interesting to one person may be a total turn off for another. Talk about your comforts and boundaries before sex happens. What are you/they into? What would you/they never be into? Talking about these things may help you decide if you are a good fit for each other, and can mean both people feel good about the type of sex that happens.
Remember, the conversation doesn’t end once sex starts. Checking in with partners during sex to see if things still feel good is also part of talking about comforts and boundaries (and consent!). Sometimes we may think we’d like a type of sex, but once we start we find it doesn’t feel the way we want it to. We all have the right to change our minds and stop sex at any point during an activity.
Sex can mean different things to different people. For some, having sex means being in a committed relationship. For others, sex is a more casual thing that doesn’t always mean having a romantic relationship. Talking about what your expectations are before sex happens may help avoid conflict or hurt feeling later. If people feel sex would mean different things, then they may decide that having sex isn’t right for them.
4. Birth control and Condoms
For any type of sex there is the possibility of an STI/HIV being transmitted from one partner to another. Condoms and sex dams are the only things that provide protection against STI/HIV. If you’re having penis-vagina sex, then there is also the possibility of creating a pregnancy. If you don’t want to create a pregnancy then it is important to talk about what birth control is being used.
Your local health centre or Teen Clinic can help with accessing birth control and condoms. At a Teen Clinic you can get free condoms and free or low cost birth control.
5. Sexually Transmitted Infections –> Testing
With any type of sex there it’s possible for an STI/HIV to be transmitted from one partner to another. You can’t tell just by looking at someone’s genitals if they have an STI/HIV and if we ask they may not know if they have one or not. The only way to know if you or someone else has an STI/HIV is through testing. Because of this, we’d say it’s a good idea to talk about testing. Ask non-judgmental questions like “When were you last tested” or “I haven’t been tested since my last partner, want to go together?”. You can both get tested at any health centre or Teen Clinic.
6. What if a pregnancy happens?
If you’re having penis-vagina sex, then there is a possibility of creating a pregnancy. If you don’t want to create a pregnancy, using birth control is very effective prevention tool, but sometimes it can fail. Only abstinence (not having sex) is guaranteed to work 100% of the time. Because of this, it can also be helpful to talk about what you would do if a pregnancy happens. In Canada, we have 3 legal pregnancy options: abortion, adoption and parenting. We all have our own values around these options. What is right for one person, may not be right for another. Talking about what option you would choose can be an easier conversation to have before a pregnancy happens. Sometimes if people find they wouldn’t choose the same option then decide not to have sex, have a different kind of sex or to be extra mindful in following directions for birth control and condoms. Ultimately, the choice of what to do with a pregnancy is always up to the girl, woman or person who is pregnant. This is because it is their body and their life that will be most affected.
- What are the Laws Around Sex?
- In Canada, there are some laws about how old you have to be before you can say “yes” to sex. It breaks down like this:
When someone is:
- 16 years old: They can say “yes” to sex with anyone.
- 14-15 years old: They can say “yes” to sex with someone less than five years older than them.
- 12-13 years old: They can say “yes” to sex with someone less than two years older than them.
Even at these ages, someone under 18 years old cannot have sex with someone in a position of authority, like a teacher, coach, babysitter or boss. The law is written so they don’t get taken advantage of or exploited.
The truth is that your age cannot determine if you are ready for sex or not.
Sometimes people think they should have sex because everyone is doing it. Well, a Manitoban study showed that by grade 12, 50% of teens have had sex and 50% haven’t. So just so you know, NOT everyone is doing it, half are and half aren’t and ultimately the decision is up to you!
- How Do You Know If You Are Ready For Sex?
There is a lot to think and talk about before a person has sex.
Feeling comfortable with the following will help you figure out if you both are really ready:
- learning about, going to get and using protection (like condoms and birth control pills, for example);
- figuring out what both of your values are concerning pregnancy (how do you feel about abortion, adoption, parenting if a pregnancy happens [if there is vaginal sex involved]);
- going to get tested for STI;
- talking about what both of you would like to do, try or not;
- understanding what each other’s expectations are from the experience;
- clarifying what sex could mean for your relationship;
- understanding and discussing what sex means to you and to your partner (what are your values around sex?).
Both of you should feel really ready in order for it to be a good experience for you and your partner.
- Why Do Teens Have Sex?
Some reasons why teens have sex:
- they want to and are ready
- it feels good
- to keep their partner
- peer pressure
- using drugs/alcohol
- to rebel against parents/authority
- want to have a baby
- are in love
- are horny
- to gain status
- to prove sexual orientation (that they’re straight)
When you look at that list, there are lots of reasons someone might choose to have sex. Some of the reasons are more straightforward than others. If people want to and they are ready, then that is a great reason to have sex. However, if someone feels like they have to have sex to keep their partner or friends, then that isn’t a healthy situation.
When someone is deciding to have sex, it’s important that they are making that decision for themselves and feel really ready.
To see reasons why teens might not have sex, click here.
- Why Don't Teens Have Sex?
Some reasons why teens don’t have sex:
- are too busy
- don’t want to
- not interested
- not ready
- worried about pregnancy and STI
- had a negative past experience
- poor body image
- against their values or beliefs
- future goals
- partner doesn’t want to
- don’t have a partner
- afraid of parents finding out
- worried about rumours being spread
There are lots of great reasons teens choose not to have sex, so teens might have sex or not have sex for lots of different reasons.
Whether someone is having sex or not, click here for some fun activities that have no risk of pregnancy or getting an STI.
- What Could You Do Instead of Having Sex?
- touch/hold hands
- give a massage
- hang out with friends
- watch movies
- go for coffee
- play pool
- go for walks (on a beach, of course!)
- play sports
- have phone sex/cyber sex
This list makes it pretty clear that there are lots of things people can do if they aren’t having sex. Cyber sex and phone sex involve people talking sexy to each other online or over the phone. Of course, both people need to be into it, (feel comfortable with it), and have the right to stop at any time.
Some people include oral sex on this list, and it’s important to keep in mind that there is still a risk of STI if people aren’t using condoms or sex dams.
- What's the Deal With Masturbation?
- Masturbation can be part of anyone’s healthy sexuality, as there is no risk of pregnancy or STIs.
We can’t really give “how-to” instructions, because things that may feel good to one person might not feel as good to another. One thing that we can say is that by touching your body and experimenting with what feels good or not, you can find out what you find enjoyable if you decide to have sex. You can then talk about what feels good with your partner. And it can be fun too!
Questions About Sex
- Why do people have sex?
- It’s a good question. Everyone’s different, but some common reasons people have sex are because they want to, they think it feels good, they like/love someone, they feel ready, they want a baby, or they’re curious. Some people end up having sex because they feel pressured by peers or friends or because they are trying to please their partner. There are also reasons why people choose to not have sex or wait to have sex. Some people are worried about STIs or HIV or pregnancy. Some people don’t have a partner, or time, or interest in sex. Ideally people have sex when they feel ready, instead of feeling like they have to. (Click here for more info on what we at Teen Talk think it means to be ready for sex.)
- What does being “horny” mean? Why does it happen?
- Usually the word “horny” means feeling sexually aroused or turned on. People usually start feeling horny during puberty, although some people notice feeling it more than others (in other words, some people might be really horny, and other people not so much). People can feel horny or sexual aroused for a bunch of reasons like thinking sexy thoughts, seeing someone they like, seeing a sexy picture, touching themselves/being touched by someone else, or just being awake. It happens to most of us and it’s totally normal.
- All my friends are having sex, I don’t want to. What should I do?
- It’s a good question. Hopefully you do what you feel comfortable with. If you don’t feel ready, that’s okay. Even if some of your friends are having sex you’re still not alone in wanting to wait. By grade 12, fewer than 50% of people have had sex. This means that 50% have not had sex, so whichever category you belong to there are lot’s of people doing (or not doing) the same. It’s tough feeling pressure to do something you aren’t sure about, but ultimately you’re the one that has to live with the decisions you make. Only you know for sure what is right for you, so hopefully you are the one calling the shots when it comes to your life. If you feel like you’re being pressured by your friends you may want to spend more time with people who respect the choices you make.
- I don’t want to have sex? Am I normal?
- You are normal if you don’t want to have sex. Everyone feels different about sex and it’s normal for people’s feelings about sex to change during puberty and throughout life. If you decide you never want to have sex it’s totally ok. If you decide to someday have sex, that’s ok too. You are the best person to decide what is right for you, even if it’s different from what others are doing.
If someone is trying to pressure you into having sex they are not respecting you. Pressuring or forcing someone to have sex is sexual assault and there is help for people who have been assaulted. The Sexual Assault Crisis Line has counsellours you can talk to 24/7, in Winnipeg call 204-786-8631 or toll-free from anywhere in Manitoba call 1-888-292-7565.
- How do I know if I’m ready to have sex?
- Whether you are ready for sex is a decision only you can make. The age of consent in Canada is 16 (with some exceptions), but not everyone feels ready at 16. Being ready for sex is less about a specific age and more about how you feel and what you are comfortable with. Being ready for sex can mean knowing where to get and how to use birth control (for penis-vagina sex if you want to avoid pregnancy), condoms/sex dams to prevent STI and HIV, going for STI/HIV testing, and being able to talk about these things with a partner. As always it’s important to get consent (permission) from your partner before any sexual activity.
Some things that show you might be ready are:
- You’ve thought about it, you know what sex means to you (and your partner), and what’s important to you.
- You’re comfortable with the idea of a sexual relationship.
- You know about STIs and HIV and how to use a condom or sex dam to keep you and your partner safer.
- You know when and where (teen clinics!) to go for STI/HIV testing.
- You know how pregnancy happens (from penis-vagina sex) and can get and use birth control (assuming you and your partner are trying to avoid a pregnancy).
- You have an idea of what you are comfortable with (or not comfortable with). Being able to talk with your partner about boundaries can also be a good thing.
In addition, you could ask yourself some questions:
- Why do I want to have sex now?
- Is this what I want or am I doing it to please someone else?
- Am I doing it because I think I’m the only one who hasn’t had sex yet?
- Can I talk to my partner about sex?
- Does my partner care what I think?
- Would I feel embarrassed or ashamed if other people knew I was having sex? Or if they knew I was having sex with this person?
- Do I know how to protect myself and my partner from STIs/HIV? From pregnancy?
- If I have sex, how will I feel about it afterwards?
It can seem like a lot of things to think about, but having sex can be a big deal. Ideally people have sex when they feel totally ready. If you want to read more about what it means to be ready for sex, check out the issues page for more info.
- How long should you know someone before having sex with them?
- This is a really individual decision, only you can decide what you are comfortable with. Some people need to know each other really well before having sex, for other people it might not be as important. There really is no right amount of time, it depends more on what you and the other person are comfortable with. Being ready for sex can mean knowing where to get and how to use birth control (for penis-vagina sex if you want to avoid pregnancy), condoms/sex dams to prevent STI and HIV, going for STI/HIV testing, and being able to talk about these things with a partner. As always it’s important to get consent (permission) from your partner before any sexual activity.
- How can you talk to your girlfriend/boyfriend about safer sex?
- It’s great that you want to keep yourself and your partner as safe as possible. The best advice that we can give you is to be yourself, be respectful, and that it’s never too late to start talking about making sex safer.
Some ideas are:
- Ask if they have ever been to the Teen Talk website or seen a condom demo from Teen Talk. Sometimes that’s helpful as a way of bringing up the topic.
- Tell them about the informative (and hilarious) condom demo you saw Teen Talk do and teach/show your partner how to do it.
- Going to a Teen Clinic together, to pick up free condoms or lube.
- Talking to your partner about STIs and HIV (and pregnancy if you’re having vaginal sex) and explain that you want to be sure you are both protected.
- Sometimes just spending more time with that person and doing things that you enjoy together can help with getting to know each other better and make conversations about sex less awkward.
- Does sex hurt?
- If people feel ready for sex, relaxed, and totally comfortable with their partner, sex doesn’t usually hurt. That said, it’s common for girls to feel some discomfort or pain the first few times they have vaginal sex. This is because the hymen might break a bit during sex. So it’s normal to see a bit of blood from the hymen after having sex for the first time. If sex is uncomfortable or painful after the first couple of times it could be because there isn’t enough lubrication (wetness). In this case you can add more water-based lubricant to a condom. If someone feels tense and nervous it’s normal for the vagina or anus (which are made up of muscle) to tense up also, this can make sex uncomfortable. Having good communication with your partner, being able to talk about any fears you have and feeling respected can also make sex feel better. If sex doesn’t feel good it’s ok to stop at any time.
- Do girls bleed the first time they sex?
- Most females are born with a thin membrane of skin called the hymen that partially covers the vagina. The first time someone has vaginal sex the hymen can stretch or break a bit during sex and you might see a bit of blood from the hymen. The amount or blood will be different for everyone, and for some people there is no noticeable blood. For many girls the hymen is broken before having sex. This can be from stretching, masturbation or putting a tampon in.
- Can you get pregnant without having sex? Like if you get semen in your vagina from someone’s fingers?
- Yes, it is possible to get pregnant (or get an STI/HIV) from semen ending up on or around the vulva or vagina, even if the penis doesn’t actually go inside the vagina. If someone has semen or pre-cum (pre-ejaculate) on their fingers and then was touching someone’s vulva or vagina they could spread the sex fluids from one person to another. If you are trying to avoid pregnancy and STI/HIV avoid getting sex fluids on, around, or in your genitals. Depending on the kind of sexual activity you are having this might mean washing your hands or using a condom or sex dam.
- Is it ok to have sex when you are pregnant?
- It’s ok to have sex while you are pregnant, unless there are complications with the pregnancy. You don’t have to worry about a penis, sex toy or fingers reaching or bumping the fetus. The cervix at the back of the vagina will stop anything from going into the uterus and the amniotic sac helps cushion the fetus from bumps or injury. The body and hormones are changing a lot during pregnancy, so it’s normal for people’s interest in sex to change. If you are pregnant and concerned about having sex your doctor is the best person to check with as they will have all the information about your situation.
- Is it ok to have sex if you have an STI?
- As a general rule most doctors will advise waiting until the STI is treated before having sex again. Many STIs are curable and once the treatment is done the STI is gone and not contagious anymore. Some STIs like HIV, genital warts, and herpes can’t be cured but can be treated so using a condom/sex dam can reduce the chances of passing them to a partner. At Teen Talk we recommend always using a condom or sex dam to prevent STIs/HIV. And Teen clinics always have free condoms for the taking as well as quick and easy testing for STI/HIV.
- What’s the deal with anal sex?
- Anal sex means when a penis or sex toy goes into someone’s anus (bum). Some people want to do it and other people don’t, it’s totally a personal choice. In other words, everyone gets to decide for themselves whether or not they want something in their bum. If you decide to put something in your bum it’s a good idea to use water based lube (and a condom if it’s a penis going into the anus). Though pregnancy can’t happen with anal sex, STI/HIV are easily spread by having unprotected anal sex. Use a condom for anal sex to prevent STI/HIV. If fingers, a penis, or a sex toy go into the anus they should be washed or have a new condom put on if they are also going to go into the vagina. This is so that bacteria from the bum doesn’t get into the vagina.
- Is there anything wrong with having sex when a girl is on her period?
- Having sex on your period or with someone on their period is a personal choice. Some people want do it and others don’t. Some people think you can’t get pregnant when you’re having your period, but it’s totally possible. Having unprotected sex when someone is on their period can spread STI/HIV and can also cause pregnancy. This is because the sperm in semen (or cum) can stay alive inside a partner’s body for up to five days. So basically the lingering sperm can fertilize and egg if one is released causing a pregnancy.
You and your partner get to decide if having sex when someone’s one their period is something you want to do. You can also get free condoms and birth control from a teen clinic, in case you are interested.
- What is a dildo?
- A “dildo” is slang word for a sex toy that is shaped more or less like an erect penis. Some people use sex toys to masturbate with or when having sex with a partner. There are lot’s of different kinds of sex toys, some are meant to be used on the outside of the genitals and some are designed to go into the vagina or anus (bum). Sharing sex toys can transmit and STI/HIV if sex fluids get on them. Washing sex toys well or using a new condom in between partners can make sharing sex toys safer.
- Is it weird to make noise during sex?
- It’s totally normal to make all kinds of noises during sex. Pretty much any noise you might hear when someone is exercising you might also hear during sex, plus a few more.
- What are “blue balls”?
- Blue balls refers to when a guy gets sexually excited and doesn’t ejaculate (or come), and the testicles feel uncomfortable. The good news is that it doesn’t happen to everyone, the testicles don’t actually turn blue, and the feeling will go away on its own without causing any damage. Unfortunately, having blue balls has been used as an excuse to pressure people into having sex. That would be sexual coercion, which is totally not ok. A person can cure themselves of blue balls by masturbating.
- What’s the deal with masturbation? Is it normal?
- Masturbation is when someone touches their genitals in a way that feels good and it is normal. Sometimes when people masturbate they have an orgasm or cum. Anyone can masturbate if they want to, some people do it and others don’t, it’s a personal choice. If people touch themselves and feel good, it’s a safe way to get sexual pleasure. (Masturbation is a safe activity because you can’t get yourself pregnant or give yourself an STI when you’re only touching yourself.) If you don’t like it, then you shouldn’t feel like you have to do it. Depending on preference, some people masturbate a lot, a bit or not at all. There is no maximum, but if masturbating is hurting your body or stopping you from doing other things, then you may want to consider slowing down a little!
- If I masturbate, will I go blind?
- No, masturbating or touching your genitals for pleasure is safe and healthy. It does not cause blindness or have any other negative side effects. It’s a safe way to get sexual pleasure without the risk of pregnancy and STI and HIV. It also helps us learn what feels good to our body and what feels bad.
- Is sex good for your health? What are the risks?
- At Teen Talk we look at it like this, it really depends on the person and how they feel about it. Some people find having an orgasm relaxing and both physically and emotionally. Having sex is just one way of having an orgasm; people can also masturbate and get the same effect. The risks from having unprotected sex (sex without a condom or sex dams) are STI and HIV, and if it’s penis-vagina sex pregnancy. Since you can’t get yourself pregnant or give yourself an STI or HIV, there are no risks with masturbation.
- How often should you have sex?
- Each person can decide with their partner how much sex they would like to have. There isn’t really a right or wrong amount. If sex begins to interfere with your other day-to-day activities like showing up for school or family dinners, it might be a problem worth addressing. And remember that it’s important to make sure to get the other person’s consent before doing any sexual activity.
- What is an orgy? Is it wrong?
- An orgy is when a group of people have sex. Whether it’s right or wrong for you depends on your own personal beliefs and values. When making any sexual decision, you should always be sure that you feel comfortable in the situation you are getting into. If you are not comfortable with something you have the right to not join in. You can also say no at any point in any sexual activity, even if you started out saying yes. Anytime people are having sex they need to think about birth control (if they are having penis-vagina sex), using condoms/sex dams to prevent STI/HIV, and consent (which means that everyone involved has voluntarily agree to participate).