Your Sexual Health is YOUR Responsibility!
Although parents, teachers, and partners may play a role in looking after your sexual health, at the end of the day it really is up to you. Your sexual health is not just about avoiding STIs and pregnancy – it is so much more than that…
Sex should be something that people choose to do, when they are ready, and when they are aware of all the consequences (both physical and emotional). Sex, and sexual relationships should be positive parts of your life. We must remember that there are some people who will never feel sexually attracted to anyone and that is also completely fine (please see our section of the different types of sexuality). We are often asked, ‘when is the right time to have sex?’ There is no straightforward, single answer. It will be different for every person. No matter what type of sex you choose to have (oral sex, anal sex, vaginal sex) it is really important that you can tick these 5 boxes every time:
Consent is simply asking if the other person wants to do what you want to do. It doesn’t have to be formal, it can be ‘do you like that?’ or ‘will we try …’ so it won’t stop the flow of passion. Every time something you’re doing changes, get some feedback about if it’s okay and good, and give the feedback too. Be clear, because anything other than an obvious YES, is a NO!
Sometimes we feel pressured to have sex, whether by a partner, your friends, your age, or what other people are doing (or say they are doing). People aren’t always telling the truth when they talk about sex, so you make your choices for you, not for others. Remember, just because the legal age of consent is 17 this does not mean that you are ready to have sex at age 17. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to, no matter what other people say.
Knowing you’re both doing everything you can to avoid unwanted pregnancy and STI’s increases trust and relaxation, and that increases pleasure! Do you know you can’t tell by looking whether someone has an STI, and if they do and you don’t use protection then the chance of you catching it is high.
Using condoms properly will prevent STIs and pregnancy, so get familiar with them as part of a sexual relationship. Hormonal contraception (such as the pill or implants) is a great way to prevent pregnancy, but doesn’t prevent any STI’s or HIV, all of which are on the rise in Ireland.
Making sure that there won’t be any negative consequences from sexual activity is a really essential part of good sex!
Most people have sex for pleasure, and rightly so. It’s a great way to spend some fun time with someone you trust and want to be with. A great place to start is to figure out alone what feels good for you and what doesn’t – we learn lots about our own way to feel pleasure through masturbation. Knowing these things makes it easier to relax with a partner too.
When you’re with another person – asking before and during sex, listening to the noises being made, and understanding their bodily responses can ensure that everything feels good for you and your partner. That increases both pleasure and trust. The easiest way to know is just check in and ask – you don’t have to read their mind. Everybody’s body is different!
Talking and listening is actually the foundation of good sex, at any age! Talk about sex first – if you aren’t ready to talk about it, are you sure you’re ready to do it? It’s really important to be able to talk to the person you’re thinking of having sex with about consent, pleasure and protection.
Who you have sex with, where, when, how often, how it feels, protecting yourself, making good choices for you, these things are important because your sexual health matters as much as your physical and mental health – and the three are very closely linked. Good communication with your partner, your support people (like you parents or friends) and your health providers gives you the best chance of having great and healthy sexual experiences now and throughout your life.