Preparing young people for healthy sexually active lives

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Key messages for young people about sex

Informed decision making

Some young people have the skills and the expectation to form a connection with someone before they have sex.

These young people are more likely to have happier experiences if and when they have sex.

Others' experiences of first-time sex may be characterised by feelings of pressure, disappointment, regret and even necessity.

Young people receive so many messages about sex from the media, pornography, their friends and from the topics that are 'left unsaid' in school and home education.

They need opportunities to think about these messages so they can make informed decisions that will keep them safe, healthy and happy.

Make sure your teenager knows:

There are lots of ways to enjoy romantic feelings (feeling 'in love) - spending time with someone, holding hands, sending romantic messages, saying, "I love you".

Even if you are truly-madly-deeply in love, you don't have to have sex.

You have the right and the choice to take your time.

There are lots of different ways to enjoy sexual feelings. Lots of people masturbate.

Some people decide to engage in some sexual behaviours but not others.

Some people do nothing.

At different times of our lives (or even different times of the week) our levels of sexual interest change - sometimes we have very strong sexual desires, sometimes we have no sexual desires.

Sometimes people experience no sexual attraction at all. They might identify as asexual.

Sexual activity with others should always be mutually wanted, between equals, reciprocal, with a reasonable expectations of pleasure and with no-one being pressured, made to feel guilty or forced to do it.

There are a lot of messages suggesting everyone is having sex. This is not true.

About 50% of high school students have had sexual intercourse. This means about 50% have not.

People have sex for a range of reasons - to become closer, to feel loved, to feel good, to get it over and done with, to be popular, to fit in, to rebel.

Not all these reasons are ideal.

One reason that people enjoy sexual activity is because it feels nice, good, great.

You can feel excited, beautiful and powerful.

You can feel close, loved and loving.

Sex can also be uncomfortable, disappointing, boring, a chore.

At its worst it can make you feel lonely, sad, unloved and unvalued.

If getting someone to love you is your goal, then ask yourself whether you think that person likes you.

If you don't think they like you, then they are unlikely to fall in love with you just because you have sex with them.

Making considered sexual decisions can be nearly impossible if a person is drunk or high.

No-one ever 'owes' anyone else sex.

You have a right to choose not to have sex, or to wait until you feel really ready.

Before being sexual with someone, you need to know if they want to be sexual with you too.

It's important to be honest with your partner about what you want and don't want.

Both people must agree for it to be consensual.

Sexual activity without consent is sexual assault.

If there is any uncertainty about whether people want to have sex, then you have to check by asking questions. 

You have to know!

Even though asking someone if they are comfortable or want sex can be embarrassing (and might mean sex doesn't happen that time), asking is important to prevent sexual assault.

It is the responsibility of the person asking / wanting sex to make sure they know the other person wants it to.

If a person says "Yes" but they were too frightened to say "No", then it is not consent.

Doing any form of sexual activity once, does not mean you have to do it again.

Starting any kind of sexual activity does not mean it has to continue.

A person can change their mind at any point.

Everyone has the right to decide what sexual behaviours they are comfortable with, if any.

They can also expect their friends and sexual partners to respect those decisions.

Everyone, whatever gender or sexuality you identify with, married or not, can choose not to have sex at any time.

Sex can lead to getting or passing on an STI, or to getting pregnant.

It's important to protect yourself and your partner/s.

Oral sex won't cause pregnancy but it can still spread some STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea and herpes.

Using a condom for oral sex can help prevent giving or passing on STIs.

If a person has vaginal or anal sex, condoms will stop the spread of most STIs.

Some STIs are passed on by skin-to-skin contact, like herpes and genital warts, and condoms can only protect the skin that is covered.

What feels good to one person, might not feel good to someone else.

Mutual respect and pleasure are very important.