As you develop and reach puberty, this can be a really confusing time for teenagers. During this time your body will be going through changes and you may feel differently about certain things, for example sex and relationships.
Consent and Safe Sex
Consent is another word for permission and when it applies to sex and relationships it means that you are agreeing to do something or for something to happen to you. Nobody else can consent for you and you cannot consent for anyone else. You can give and take back your consent at any time, even once you have started to have sex! If anyone doesn’t listen to you when you take back your consent then they are committing a sexual assault or rape (rape is defined as “Rape is when a person intentionally penetrates another’s vagina, anus or mouth with a penis, without the other person’s consent” by the Met Police).
In the UK the age of consent is 16. This means that it is illegal for someone to have sexual contact if they are aged below 16. If the age of consent didn’t exist a 100 year old would be able to have sex with a 10 year old and it would be perfectly legal, this is obviously not OK. This law is something that exists mainly to protect young people not to punish them so if you and your partner decide that you both want to have sex here are some Golden Rules to follow to keep yourself, and them, safe:
- Be Safe-Use a condom, it’s the only form of contraception that protects against STI’s and pregnancy. Condoms are made out of latex normally, but you can get latex free if you are allergic. They are free and easy to get hold of from most Youth Clubs and Sexual Health Services. Alternatively you can buy them from supermarkets and pharmacies as well as other shops.
- Get Tested- If you are ready to have sex then it is important you become familiar with the sexual health clinics in your area, see links at the bottom of the page. You can catch pretty much any STI in your mouth, and even your eyes! So even if you haven’t had penetrative sex there is still a chance you could have an STI. Tests are done either by taking urine or blood samples depending on what they are testing you for and you have to not have unprotected sex for at least 2 weeks for the test to be effective.
- Remember the age of consent- Legally you both have to be over 16 to consent to any form of sexual contact (oral, mutual masturbation, anal, vaginal and all the other “stuff” that you can do). Nobody under the age of 13 can ever legally consent to any form of sexual contact, it will be classed as statutory rape.
- Talk to Each other-It is important to discuss what you like, don’t like with your partner and to listen to their likes and dislikes as well. Keep in mind just because you want to do something does not mean that the other person does. Always check consent before trying anything new. If you don’t feel comfortable having conversations with your partner about sex how do you think you will feel having sex?
- Seriously, Talk to Each other-Just because someone has had sex with you before or performed sexual acts on you before does not mean that every time you have sex with them they are consenting. Consent is something that changes constantly and it is YOUR responsibility to check if they are consenting. You also have the right to say if you don’t like something YOU are the only person who can consent for you.
- Drugs and Alcohol- How many times have you or someone you know done something you regret while you have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol? Most of the time it will be something cringe worthy but not illegal e.g. singing on Karaoke or drunk texting someone you fancy. If you are drunk or under the influence of drugs legally you cannot consent for sex. This means that the other person can’t consent either and sex without consent is rape.
- You both have to be Awake- This one seems really obvious doesn’t it and that’s because it is. People have to be awake to be able to consent to sex. If someone is asleep and someone has sex with them they have been raped/sexually assaulted.
- There is only 1 reason to have sex- The only reason you should have sex is because you and your partner both want to have sex (and you have both followed the golden rules). If your reason is that your friends are all doing it, you don’t want to be a virgin anymore, you feel like you can’t say no…, the list goes on, then you are not having sex for the right reason.
Always remember that sex is supposed to be fun and feel good. You shouldn’t be scared, sad or anxious when you are having sex and if you are you need to ask yourself “Do I really want to do this? Do they?” Unless you can 100% answer yes to both of those questions than you aren’t consenting to have sex. Get in the habit of checking consent with your partner, nobody will ever be turned off by you caring about their wants and feelings. If you or the other person doesn’t want to then don’t do it.
‘Consent’ is your right to decide whether or not you have sex, where you have sex, how you have sex and who you have sex with. Consent is feeling in control and saying yes or doing something because you choose to, not because you feel pressured into it. The legal age for consent in the UK is 16.
The most important thing to remember is that if you are not ready then you do not need to have sex with somebody, even if they are trying to put pressure on you to do so. In fact, if someone is trying to persuade you to have sex with them when you have told them you are not ready, there’s a good chance that this is a sign of an unhealthy relationship. Other signs of an unhealthy relationship may include:
- Being made to feel stupid or bad for saying no.
- Being told, “you would do it if you loved me” or “if you don’t then I’m breaking up with you”.
- Threats of rumours being spread and being bullied into having sex.
- Being encouraged to drink a lot of alcohol or take drugs to make you more likely to have sex.
When someone is respectful of when you want to have sex and do not try and pressure you into anything, this could be a sign of a healthy relationship. Other signs of healthy relationships include both people feeling equal, having good communication that involves trust and honesty, and individuals are able to continue doing the things they enjoy and seeing their friends and family.
Remember, you can change your mind at any time and decide you no longer want to have sex. Just because you have said yes to doing something it does not mean you have to do other things, and just because you have said yes once it doesn’t mean you have to do it again if you don’t want to.
For an easy to understand video on consent, watch the “Tea Consent” video here:
I was really worried about going to a walk-in clinic for contraception after a condom split because I thought that I might be judged or feel embarrassed speaking to someone about this. The staff at the clinic made me feel really at ease and didn’t judge me at all. They also helped me to look into different options so that I don’t have to worry about this happening again, I now have the implant.
I started going out with a boy from school and I was really happy at first, but then he started asking me to have sex with him constantly. I knew I wasn’t ready and wanted to wait until I was, but I felt a lot of pressure because it felt like everyone else was doing it and he would get very annoyed. In the end I spoke to a teacher who I trusted about it and she helped me to get the support I needed. Now I feel I can have sex when I’m ready, not when someone else wants me to be.
As you develop and reach puberty, this can be a really confusing time for teenagers. During this time your body will be going through changes and you may feel differently about certain things, for example sex and relationships. It is important to know the facts and your rights so that you can make your own choices and decisions, at a time that is right for you. This page has been designed to help out with some questions you may have about sexual health, and also to provide some useful resources and contacts for when you need to speak to someone about this.
“Contraception” is a word used to describe anything that prevents a girl from becoming pregnant, and can also be used to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STI; see section below for more information on this). You can get contraception (including emergency contraception) from your GP or local walk-in sexual health clinic (in the East Riding this is Conifer Sexual Health Clinic, https://conifersexhealth.co.uk/). There are many different contraceptive options out there, and it is entirely your choice to decide which works or doesn’t work well for you personally.
A thin latex (rubber) covering for the penis which prevents sperm entering the vagina.
Condoms are easy to use, protect against STI’s and are hormone free, meaning using them won’t usually cause side-effects like other forms of contraception can.
Can split or break easily, and some people are allergic to the materials used in them.
There are two types of pill – one which you take every day with no break, and one which you take for three weeks, with a 7 day break each month.
The pill can help to make your period more regular and you may also have lighter/less painful periods. For some people the pill helps to improve acne.
You have to take it every day at around the same time and if you miss one you are not protected against pregnancy. If you are ill and have diarrhoea or sickness this may also mean you are not protected by the pill. The pill does not protect against STI’s. The pill can also cause some side effects in some people – like headaches, nausea, breast tenderness and mood swings.
A small, flexible piece of plastic (about the size of a matchstick) which is placed in the upper arm that slowly releases hormones which stop the ovaries from releasing an egg.
The implant is very safe and effective, does not need to be replaced for 3 years and you don’t have to remember to do anything to be protected (apart from getting it replaced at the right time).
Some girls experience irregular bleeding, and less common side effects can include weight gain and headaches. The implant does not protect against STI’s.
A small, flexible T-shaped device which is put in the uterus by a doctor. There are two different types, the copper coil and the hormonal coil. The copper coil has to be replaced every 10 years and the hormonal coil has to be replaced every 3-5 years.
The coil is very safe and effective, you don’t have to remember to do anything (apart from getting it replaced at the right time), and you can choose between the two different types depending on what is right for you. Some people get lighter periods and even stop having periods (with the hormonal coil).
Sometimes you might feel pain after the coil is inserted. This should stop soon after and can be helped with painkillers. There is also a small risk of infection. The copper coil can sometimes cause heavier periods. The coil does not protect against STI’s.
The Injection (Depo-Provera)
An injection which contains a hormone that stops the ovaries from releasing an egg. This lasts 3 months
The injection provides long-lasting protection against pregnancy and the only thing you have to remember is to go back for it redoing every 3 months (you could set a reminder on your phone). You may have lighter periods and even stop having them altogether, and the injection can protect against womb cancer.
Some people may experience weight gain, irregular bleeding, can increase your risk of osteoporosis (where bones become more fragile), and it can affect your fertility after you stop taking it, which means you may find it difficult to get pregnant for up to a year afterwards. It also does not protect against STI’s..
A small patch which is attached to the skin and needs to be replaced once a week for three weeks (with a 7 day break). The patch contains hormones which are absorbed through the skin.
Some people may get lighter periods and less cramps with the patch. For some girls, remembering to change a patch once a week is easier to remember than taking a pill every day.
Some girls find it difficult to remember to change the patch every week. The patch can increase the risk of blood clots in some people. Some people experience headaches, nausea and acne. The patch doesn’t protect against STI’s.
If you have had unprotected sex and don’t use any other form of contraception, you could choose to have emergency contraception. This can be used for up to five days after sex. Certain pills work as emergency contraception, or you can also choose to have the copper coil fitted up to 5 days after the unprotected sex.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s):
If you have sex with someone without using a condom you can put yourself not only at risk of pregnancy, but also of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI). You may be unaware that the person you have sex with has an STI as there are often no signs that you can see. This also means that you can get an STI without even knowing it!
- Genital Herpes
- Genital Warts
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Warning signs to look out for:
- An unusual discharge from the penis or vagina
- Pain in the genital area
- A burning sensation when you pass urine (pee) or have sex; and urinating (peeing) more than usual.
If you think you may have an STI it is important to get checked out at a sexual health clinic as soon as possible. The majority of STI’s need treatment to help get rid of them, and if you do not get treatment there can be long term health effects. For more information on STI testing you can contact Conifer Sexual Health Clinic on (01482) 247111, visit their website on https://conifersexhealth.co.uk/ or download the free app by searching “Conifer Sex Health” on the app or Google Play store.
Pornography, or porn, is something that pretty much every young person that I support has seen before. This is quite concerning when the youngest I work with is 10 years old and it is illegal to watch until you turn 18. The fact of the matter is that Porn is bad for you. It changes the way that you see other people and it changes the way you see yourself. It can really damage your relationships as what you expect from sex is based on porn and not reality. This is can cause relationships with people to break down as you can expect them to do something in the bedroom that they are not comfortable with.
It is really important to remember that porn isn’t real. It is a film. The sex in the film is performed by actors and it is not a real representation of what sex is really like. You wouldn’t watch The Avengers and then start to try to fly so why do we watch porn and think that is what we should do in sex. Actors in porn very rarely use protection and never ask for consent. This is a dangerous thing to do in the real world as you could end up with an STI, a child and a criminal record.
People’s bodies normally do not look like they do in pornography and this can have a really negative affect on how you view your body as well as how you view your partners. This can lead to poor self-esteem and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
If you, or someone you know, would like support around Pornography then contact Cornerhouse on 327044 or visit www.wearecornerhouse.org for more information.
Where to go for help…
Here you can get free advice and contraception (including free condoms), STI and pregnancy testing, sexual assault advice and attend a LGBT+ clinic (bookings only).
Yorkshire MESMAC – www.mesmac.co.uk
Stonewall – www.stonewall.org.uk
MESMAC- The BLAST project just for boys – mesmac.co.uk
CEOP – Think you Know – thinkuknow.co.uk