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. Condoms and Sex Dams
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. Condoms can also work as birth control for people having penis-vagina sex.
At a Teen Clinic and many health centres you can get condoms for free. You can also buy them at a pharmacy and many corner stores or check at your school to see if the gym or guidance office hands them out.
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.
7. Birth Control
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. Some types of birth control need to be started a few weeks before sex happens in order to be affective.
Your local health centre or Teen Clinic can help with accessing birth control and figuring ou. At a Teen Clinic you can get free condoms and free or low cost birth control.
Check out our section on birth control to learn more.
- 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 may 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)
- If you are interested in penis-vagina sex, are you comfortable having a conversation about pregnancy? In Canada, we have 3 safe and legal pregnancy options (abortion, adoption and parenting) but we also know not everyone feels the same about each option.
- Going to get tested for STIs
- Talking about what both of you would like to do or try and what you would not be comfortable trying
- Understanding what each other’s expectations are from the experience. Is this a long term relationship? Something casual? Or somewhere in between?
- Understanding and discussing what sex means to you and to your partner (what are your values around sex?)
Both of you should feel comfortable and ready in order for it to be a good experience. You also always have to get consent before (and during!) sex happens.
- Why Do Teens Have Sex?
Some reasons why teens have sex:
- They want to and feel ready
- It feels good
- For fun
- Using drugs/alcohol
- Want to have a baby
- Are in love
- Are horny
- To gain status
- To keep their partner
- Peer pressure
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. If you are ever feeling pressure to have sex, know that it is not your fault, you are not doing anything wrong by not wanting to have sex and you deserve support. It’s important to talk to someone you trust about the situation. This could include a family member, teacher, school counsellor, someone at a Teen Clinic or you could call a phone line.
When someone is deciding to have sex, it’s important that they are making that decision for themselves about when/if they feel ready.
- 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/or STI
- Had a negative past experience
- Poor body image
- Against their values or beliefs
- Focused on other things/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.
- 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 while this has no chance of creating a pregnancy, it’s important to keep in mind that there is still a risk of STIs if people aren’t using condoms or sex dams.
- What's the Deal With Masturbation?
- Masturbation, aka touching yourself for sexy pleasure, can be a healthy part of someone’s sexuality. Some people choose to masturbate and some people choose not to. There is no chance of pregnancy or risk of STIs with masturbation.
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
- What is the safest sex?
Not having sex, or choosing activities that do not share sex fluids, is the “safest” kind of sex. However, all types of sex (oral, anal and vaginal) can be made safer using condoms, sex dams, birth control or other safer sex supplies. Condoms and sex dams are really effective at reducing the risk of STIs and HIV being passed. Check our sections on STIs and HIV to learn more about how to prevent them.
Another way to think of sex as safe is through the conversations we have with a partner. Talking openly about testing for STI/HIV, safer sex, what each person is ok/not ok with (clear boundaries), expectations, consent and pregnancy options (if there’s penis vagina sex in the plan) can help people feel safer, more respectful and respected.
- What is the best position?
Depends on who you ask! We can’t really say that one position for sex is better than another, because what feels good for one person, may not feel good for another. When it comes to sex, all of us have our own comfort levels and boundaries. We all have things we are into and things we might never want to try.
How do you figure out the right position(s) for you and your partner? Good communication! Talking openly and honestly with partners about what types of sex you and they are into (and not into) means both people are more likely to have sex that feels good for them. Check out our section on consent to learn more about talking about sex with partners.
- Is anal sex safe?
Yes, anal sex can be safe. Anal sex is when a penis, finger or sex toy goes into someone’s anus (aka bum). Some people are interested in anal sex and some people are not; it’s totally a personal choice. While a pregnancy is not possible with penis-anus sex, an STI/HIV can be transmitted. Using a condom helps reduce the risk of an STI/HIV being transmitted. To make anal sex safer and more comfortable it’s important to add lube to a penis or sex toy .Make sure to use a water based lube on latex condoms because oil can break down latex. You can get free condoms and free lube from a Teen Clinic.
If someone is using a sex toy with an anus, it is important that the toy has a wider base or handle because the anus connects to the rectum and internal digestive system. It’s possible for a sex toy to get stuck inside the body if it goes in to far without a way to pull it out.
Also, a sex toy, penis or finger(s) needs to be washed if it’s going from the anus to the vagina. This is because anuses have bacteria that naturally live in them; however other body parts like the vagina could be infected by these bacteria.
- Does a girl bleed the first time?
Some girls or other people who have a vagina may bleed the first time they have sex, but some people may not bleed at all. Most people with a vagina are born with a thin membrane of skin called the hymen around the opening of their vagina. Some people have more tissue there and some people have less or none. For some, the first time they have sex the hymen may stretch or be torn a little which may cause bleeding (usually a small amount). For others the hymen may not tear so there will be no bleeding. Hymens may also stretch or tear from masturbation, or non sexual activities like playing sports, riding a bike or using tampons.
- Will it hurt the first time I have sex?
The way sex feels depends on a lot of things, but usually how relaxed or tense people are and how slippery things are play a big part. Sex should never hurt, but it is possible for there to be some discomfort when someone has sex in either the vagina or anus. If someone feels tense and nervous, it’s normal for the vagina or anus (which are made of muscle) to tense up which may make sex uncomfortable. Someone with a vagina may feel some discomfort the first few times they have vaginal sex because the hymen might be stretched or be torn a little see the previous question for more information on the hymen.
Feeling comfortable, going slow (at least to start) and using lots of lube can help sex feel better, whether it’s the first or 50th time people are having sex. 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 at any point sex doesn’t feel good it’s ok to stop.
- Can a girl have sex when she has her period?
Having sex on your period or with someone on their period is a personal choice. Some people want to do it and others don’t. If period sex is unprotected, meaning no condom or sex dam is used, there’s still the risk of STI/HIV and the possibility of pregnancy depending on the type of sex. Sperm can live inside a partner’s body for up to five days, so if there’s penis-vagina sex during someone’s period a pregnancy is still possible if ovulation happens a few days after sex.
Check out your local health centre or Teen Clinic if you’d like to learn more about or get birth control, condoms or sex dams. At Teen Clinics, the condoms are always free and the birth control is offered at a low or free cost.
- What is cum? Do girls cum?
Cum can refer to a couple of different things and yes, girls and other people who have a vuvla/vagina can and do cum. Cum can mean when someone has an orgasm or ejaculates (sometimes this is called “cumming”).
Cum can also refer to sex fluids, like semen, vaginal fluids or what’s sometimes called “female ejaculate” (also called gushing or squirting). Cum, the sex fluid is usually white or clear and creamy. For bodies with penises, cum is also called ejaculate, pre-ejaculate or semen. For bodies with a vulva/vagina, cum is also called vaginal fluid or the above mentioned gush or spurt, which isn’t urine or pee, but may come out of small glands next to the urethra.
- Is sex bad for us? (Is sex good for us?)
At Teen Talk, we don’t really think of sex as being good or bad. Each of us can have a variety of experiences and gets to decide how we feel about sex. Sex can be a positive, healthy experience. Being ready for sex can help and has a number of things a person can think about, check out the section above on how to know if you’re ready for sex.
Sometimes people have negative feelings toward sex. Sometimes this is because of a past experience that someone didn’t feel good about including a sexual assault or abuse. If this has ever happened to you, know that it is not your fault and you deserve support. The Klinic Sexual Assault Crisis Line is open 24/7 and is free to call; 1-888-292-7565 or 204-786-8631. It has counsellors specially trained to support someone who has experienced a sexual assault.
- Is it ok to be/not be a virgin?
Having (or not) sex is a personal choice. Each of us has the right to decide if and when we are ready to have sex. For some people this may mean having sex in the teen years. For others it may mean waiting until you are older or the decision may be based on personal/spiritual values such as waiting until marriage. Other people may never feel ready for sex and that’s okay too. So the answer is, yes it’s totally ok to not be sexually active and yes, it’s totally okay to be sexually active. By grade 12, fewer than 50% of people have had sex, so whichever category you belong to there are lot’s of people doing (or not doing) the same.
We do think it is important to acknowledge that there can be a lot of pressure to have or not have sex. For girls and women the pressure tends to focus on this idea that “virginity=purity” while for boys and men the pressure can be around having lots of sex. Both of these pressures can set up unhealthy situations and feelings for people. Boys and men also tend to be celebrated for having sex, while girls and women tend to be shamed. This is an example of sexism and is a double standard.
The reality is that no one is better or worse for having had sex or not. The idea of virginity is a social construct, that is to say it is a made up idea in our society. Someone doesn’t change because they have had sex or not. Virginity is also often defined by the idea of a penis entering a vagina. However, we know sex can look many different ways and may not include a vagina at all, or may not include a penis at all. Basically, what we’re trying to say is no matter your gender it is okay for you to want to have sex, and it’s okay for you to not want to have sex.
If you are being sexually active it is important that you understand and use consent.
For more on what it means to be ready for sex click here.
- I’m not interested in having sex. Am I normal?
You are normal if you aren’t interested in having sex. Everyone feels different about sex and it’s normal for people’s feelings about sex to change throughout their life. Some people may not be interested because they don’t feel ready for sex or because of a past experience with sex. Sometimes people may not be interested in sex because they are focused on other things in their life, and that’s great too!
There are also people who are never interested in sex. This is also normal. Someone who has no or very little interest in sex or sexual attraction to other people may identify as asexual. Depending on the person, they may still have romantic attraction to other people.
You are the best person to decide what is right for you, even if it’s different from what others are doing.