Quick Exit

Sex and sexual health

SEX

Sex is everywhere around us. On TV, in films, on the internet, in advertising, even on the radio . . . and many people also seem to spend a lot of time talking about it.

This can give you the impression that everyone is having sex and that everyone knows exactly what they’re doing when they do. This isn’t true. There are lots of myths around sex – here are just a few:

  • Everyone wants to have sex
  • Everyone knows how to have sex and what to do
  • You’re not really lesbian, gay, straight or bi until you’ve had sex
  • If there’s no penetration, then it’s not sex
  • It’s not sex unless you have an orgasm
  • Men are either ‘tops’ (insertive) or ‘bottoms’ (receptive)
  • Butch (‘masculine’) girls only have sex with femme (‘feminine’) girls
  • If you’re trans your sexuality must change when you begin living as your authentic self and begin transitioning
  • Sex between two men is always anal sex
  • Lesbians always use sex toys
  • Only gay men get HIV
  • Lesbians can’t get sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

None of these statements above are true. When it comes to sex, everyone is different, and it’s up to you and your partner/s to figure out what you like together. You might decide that sex isn’t for you right now, or you might define as asexual and not be interested in sex at all – only you know what you’re ready for and what you want.

You don’t have to find a label or decide if you are more ‘feminine’ or more ‘masculine’ – all you need to do is BE YOU. Remember that there’s no need to rush into sex. Take your time and wait until you feel ready.

If you’re worried about how to have sex with someone of the same gender, or you or your partner/s are non-binary or agender, take things slowly and experiment together. Sex education at school might only have covered sex between people of opposite genders, but don’t worry: sex between people of the same gender, of no gender or non-binary people isn’t really that different.

If you have met someone who’s older or more experienced than you, don’t rush into things just because they are ready. Take your time and only do things at your own pace. If you feel rushed or pressured to say ‘yes’ to something you’re not ready for, stand your ground and remember that there are plenty of other people out there who will respect your wishes and boundaries. You can give or take back your consent at any time as well: just because you said ‘yes’ to something once, doesn’t mean you’ve said ‘yes’ to it forever.

If someone gets angry with you for saying ‘no’ or for changing your mind, they are not the person for you! If someone has sex with you without your consent or violates you in any way, this is a crime which should be reported to the police. To get more advice about sexual violence and domestic abuse, you can contact Galop, the national LGBT+ anti-violence charity: www.galop.org.uk/domesticabuse

If you are not ready for sex, or not comfortable with doing something sexual, say ‘NO’.

Here’s a short and simple video about consent: youtu.be/u7Nii5w2FaI

SEXUAL HEALTH

There are some common misconceptions about LGBT+ sex that can be very dangerous: that only gay men get HIV, for example, or that lesbians can’t get sexually transmitted infections (STIs). These are absolutely not true, and it is important that you know how to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections, regardless of your gender or who you’re having sex with.

Looking after your health is so important, helping you to stay happy, confident and well. Your sexual health is a big part of this too.

But it can feel difficult to find reliable information about LGBT+ sex, so we’ve pulled together some resources that can help clear up some of the questions you may have:

Taking care of your sexual health isn’t just about preventing sexual infections, it’s also about feeling confident around your sexuality, knowing how to treat others with respect, being able to talk openly about your likes and dislikes, not having regrets and taking care of your personal safety.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

A STI is any kind of bacterial or viral infection which can be passed on through sexual contact. Sexual contact includes:

  • the use of sex toys
  • anal sex
  • vaginal sex
  • oral sex: kissing, sucking or licking a vagina/penis/anus or surrounding areas

How can you prevent STIs?

Using condoms: condoms come in various shapes, sizes, colours and types. They cover a penis or sex toy or, in the case of femidoms, line the vagina. Using condoms is the only way to reduce your risk of both pregnancy and getting a STI.

Using dental dams: a dental dam is a thin square of latex that can be placed over the penis, vagina or anus before you have oral sex. They are available from sexual health services or you can buy them online or from a pharmacy.

Remember: using any form of contraception other than condoms does not reduce your risk of contracting a STI. That doesn’t mean you should stop using other forms of contraception, but it’s very important to understand the difference.

Not all sexual infections have symptoms, so if you have had unprotected sex always get yourself tested afterwards (and don’t forget emergency contraception, to protect from pregnancy, if you need it). Most sexually transmitted infections are easy to treat and staff in the sexual health clinic have seen it all before and won’t judge you.

Anyone, of any age, can go to a sexual health clinic. Your results will always be treated confidentially.

If you’re 13 to 16 years old, nobody at home will be contacted without your permission. However, you may be encouraged to talk to your parents, guardian or another trusted adult.

If you’re under 13, things work a bit differently. This is because the law says that people of this age cannot consent (say ‘yes’) to sexual activity. Staff at the clinic might feel that telling someone – such as a social worker – that you’ve been sexually active and might be at risk of STIs is the best thing to do to make sure you’re safe.

Common infections

Some of the most important STIs to know about are:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhoea
  • Syphilis
  • HIV

You can get up-to-date information about how these STIs and others can be transmitted, tested for and treated on the NHS website. Not all of the language used by the NHS is LGBT+ inclusive, but they are a really reliable source of information available about prevention, testing and treatment.

Where to go in Kent for sexual health advice

You can test for sexual infections in different ways:

  • if you’re over 16 and don’t have any symptoms you can order a self-testing kit to be posted to your house
  • you can visit your nearest clinic for a blood test, and if you have a penis you will also be asked to provide a urine sample; if you have a vagina you will be asked to do a self-taken swab (this is like a cotton bud that is rubbed on the outside and inside of the vagina – a nurse or doctor can do this for you if you prefer)

You can find out more about sexual health services in Kent at www.kent.gov.uk/social-care-and-health/health/sexual-health; for services in Medway, visit www.cloverstreet.nhs.uk/

CHEMSEX

Chemsex is a term used to describe the use of specific drugs for sex by men who have sex with men.

If you find someone on a dating site or online forum/social media who wants you to take part, please remember that chemsex parties and meet-ups can be very risky. Lots of drugs are freely available and you may be given something that makes you behave differently to your normal self and do things you wouldn’t otherwise want to do.

There are many other, safer, ways to meet people. Don’t be pressured into taking part in chemsex because an older or more experienced person wants you to.

If you decide you do want to take part in a chemsex meet-up, always make sure you have a friend that you trust with you, a safe space to go to, that you use protection (condoms or dental dams) and that you are aware of the risks.

The drugs most commonly associated with chemsex are:

  • Crystal methamphetamine (also known as tina, meth, crystal)
  • Mephedrone (also known as meph, meow meow, M-CAT)
  • GHB/GBL (also known as G, GBH, gina, liquid ecstasy)

All three of these drugs can have very serious effects on your physical and mental health, particularly if you use them frequently. You can find out more about them, and other drugs, on the Frank website: www.talktofrank.com

In addition to these drugs – often referred to as ‘chems’ – others are often involved in chemsex, including Viagra, alcohol, ketamine, cocaine and amyl/akyl nitrates (known as ‘poppers’).

Remember that even if you are very informed about the drugs you might be given at a chemsex party, dosing can vary a lot – you might end up taking a lot more than you mean to, and you might also end up taking something that’s been cut with more dangerous or even poisonous substances.

Not everyone has problems with their use of drugs, but if you or someone you know does then you may need to seek help. You can find advice and treatment information on the Frank website or through Addaction: www.addaction.org.uk

PORN, SEXTING AND SEX ON THE INTERNET

As we’ve already said, it can be difficult to find out information about sex – especially LGBT+ sex – and some people choose to watch porn from the internet to get ideas.

There is nothing wrong with watching porn, but it’s really important to be aware that almost all of the sex scenes and porn that you can find online are not realistic. You are not expected to act, look or behave like the people you see in porn. Sex is very intimate and personal, and everyone does it differently. Not all bodies look the same or work the same, and sometimes porn can give the impression that they do.

Porn can also set up unrealistic expectations with your partner/s about what’s ‘normal’ and what you ‘should’ be willing to do. Remember, if someone asks or expects you to do something you’re not comfortable with, say ‘NO’.

Some people like to use chatrooms to find people to talk about sex with, or use ‘sexting’ (sending explicit images via text or WhatsApp). If you’re into sexting or using chatrooms, or if somebody asks you to send them sex-related images or messages, take a moment to think about how you would feel if they ended up in the wrong hands. Once an image has been sent you no longer have control over who can see it or who they could send it to.

For more advice about sexting, visit the Childline website: www.childline.org.uk/info-advice/bullying-abuse-safety/online-mobile-safety/sexting