What is sex?

The word sex is used to refer to a variety of sexual activities, and can mean different things to different people. When people talk about sex (sexual intercourse) they are usually referring to penetrative sex, where a man inserts his penis into the vagina or anus of a sexual partner.

However, there are many sexual activities that people enjoy doing which don't involve sexual intercourse, for example oral sex or mutual masturbation.

The act of sex is also not just physical; it can involve strong emotions and have a significant effect on people's feelings.

How do you have sex?

Sexual intercourse between a man and a woman is quite simple. When a man's penis becomes hard, he places it inside a woman's vagina, and moves it in and out. This creates friction, which can be pleasurable for both the man and woman. After a while, this friction will usually cause the man to have an orgasm and ejaculate. It may also cause the woman to have an orgasm, although it can take a bit of experimentation and practice to get it right!

You can have sex in lots of different positions, but one of the most common and intimate ways is for the man to lie on top of the woman, so that they can kiss and cuddle while having sex.

Anal sex (also known as anal intercourse) is when a man puts his penis into the anus and rectum of another man or woman.

What is safer sex?

Safer sex is taking precautions to reduce the risk of acquiring a sexually transmitted infection, including HIV, during sexual activities. It is wrong to assume this only applies to young people as STIs and HIV can affect anyone at any age.

To have safer sex it is important to either use a condom or to make sure you and your partner are not infected with an STI. Alternatively, as STIs and HIV can be transmitted through sexual fluids and blood, there is the option to perform sexual acts that do not involve any contact with these. Therefore safer sex can be non-penetrative sex and just foreplay.

Where can I get condoms from?

It will depend on which country you are in, but the best place to buy condoms is usually a chemist or supermarket. Condoms are often available from vending machines in public toilets and in some countries they are available for free or at low-cost from sexual health clinics. Condoms can also be bought from a number of suppliers on the internet.

Where is the clitoris and what is it?

The clitoris is a small pea-sized lump towards the top of the vaginal area above the urethra (urine hole) and the entrance to the vagina. It is very sensitive and when stimulated can lead to orgasm.

Does a broken hymen mean that a girl is no longer a virgin?

Many people believe that a girl is only a virgin if she still has an intact hymen. The hymen is a thin membrane of skin that partially covers the entrance to the vagina. This membrane can bleed when it is torn as a man’s penis enters the vagina.

Neither the presence of the hymen nor bleeding during intercourse can truly indicate virginity. Some girls are born without hymens, others will have hymens that stretch and don’t break during sex, and some will have torn their hymens during sport, inserting tampons or masturbation.

How do you masturbate?

Men usually masturbate by holding the penis and moving their hand up and down rapidly until they ejaculate ("come"). Women rub their clitoris and vulva and may move one or several fingers up and down inside their vagina until they orgasm. Everybody has their own way of masturbating that feels good for them.

Is too much masturbation bad for you?

Masturbation is a normal and natural activity and is not bad for you unless you masturbate so much that you make your genital area sore. Masturbation does not stunt your growth, damage your health or cause you to become physically or mentally weak. If it did, the vast majority of people in the world would be very short and unhealthy!

How often do people have sex?

Sexual appetite is entirely a matter of personal taste. Some people have sex once a day and some once a month. It probably varies for most people depending on whether they are in a relationship, how busy they are and how they feel. Most people think about sex far more often than they do it.

Is there a way of stopping premature ejaculation?

Many men find the best way to prevent premature ejaculation is to think about something dull to regain control over their time of ejaculation. When first starting a sexual relationship, some men find that the sexual excitement causes them to ejaculate before intercourse has even begun. With time most men learn how to control this. Wearing a condom can help as it can reduce sensitivity a little. Condoms containing a mild anaesthetic in the tip are also available in some countries to help further reduce sensation and delay ejaculation.

Circumcision can also help with premature ejaculation because the exposed glens losses sensitivity over time which leads to a man lasting longer.


Does sexual intercourse hurt? Is there a need for lubrication?

Sex can sometimes be painful for a woman if she is nervous or tense. Stress and fear can mean a woman does not get sexually excited enough to produce natural lubrication, or that she involuntarily tenses her vaginal muscles, making penetration difficult. Sex can also hurt the first time a woman does it as her hymen may be torn.

If sexual intercourse is painful, using a lubricant can help to make it more comfortable. When using a condom it is important that a water-based lubricant (such as KY Jelly) is used, as oil based lubricants (such as Vaseline or moisturising cream) can cause the condom to tear and break. Ensuring that the woman is as relaxed as possible, and that intercourse is initiated slowly, can also help to make things more comfortable.

If a woman experiences a deep internal or burning pain when she has sex, she should discuss this with her doctor, as it could be a sign that she has an infection or other medical problem.

Sex is not usually painful for a man (unless the penis is bent into an awkward position), so he should also check with his doctor if he experiences any pain during erection or intercourse.


If a woman experiences problems reaching orgasm with her partner can she do anything about it?

It is not always possible to achieve orgasm through vaginal penetration alone; it often needs more direct stimulation of the clitoris, which you could request from your partner orally or manually, before, after, during or instead of intercourse. Talking to your partner and exploring what stimulates you and what doesn't should help you to achieve orgasm during sex.

How do you French kiss?

French kissing, or making out, is kissing with open mouths and touching tongues.

What is oral sex?

Oral sex involves giving or receiving oral stimulation (i.e. sucking or licking) to the genitalia. Fellatio (also known as a ‘blow job’ or ‘giving head’) is the term used to describe oral sex given to a man. Cunnilingus (also called ‘giving head’, ‘going down on’ or ‘eating pussy’) is the term used to describe oral sex given to a woman. Analingus (sometimes called rimming) refers to oral stimulation of someone’s anus.

If two people have oral sex with each other at the same time it is sometimes called a 69 because of the shape their bodies make.

A woman cannot get pregnant from giving oral sex to a man, even if she swallows his sperm.

Which STIs are transmitted through oral sex?

You can only become infected with or pass on an STI if you or your partner is infected with an STI in the first place. The following sexually transmitted diseases or infections can be passed on through unprotected oral sex:

  • Hepatitis A, B and C
  • Herpes, especially if the sores are in the infectious stage
  • HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is fairly low risk in terms of transmission via oral sex
  • Gonorrhea
  • Syphilis
  • NSU (Non-specific urethritis)
  • Chlamydia
  • Yeast infections such as thrush are fairly low risk in terms of transmission via oral sex
  • Genital Warts

If you are concerned about becoming infected with an STI as a result of oral sex use a condom when giving oral sex on a man or a dental dam (latex square) or cut open condom when giving oral sex to a woman.

Is receiving oral sex with a condom safe?

As long as they are used properly i.e. they don't split or burst, condoms can be very effective in protecting against STIs when giving oral sex to a man. When giving oral sex to a woman a thin square of latex called a dental dam, or a cut-open condom can also be used to protect against possible transmission of any existing STDs. Flavoured condoms and dental dams are available to make using them more pleasant during oral sex.

Can you pass on or become infected with STIs as a result of kissing on the mouth?

No, you cannot pass on or become infected with an STI as a result of kissing on the mouth. However, you could pass on a cold sore (herpes simplex, HSV1) to your partner through kissing.

Do you need to use condoms during anal sex?

Yes, it is important to use condoms when having anal sex to reduce the risk of passing on or contracting an STI. If two people are considering having anal sex they should make sure they use a good quality condom and a water-based lubricant such as KY Jelly.

If my partner is using birth control, do we still need to use a condom?

Birth control, such as the contraceptive pill, or contraceptive injection, is extremely effective at preventing unwanted pregnancies. However, these do not offer any protection from sexually transmitted diseases or infections. Using a condom in addition to a form of birth control will protect both you and your partner from passing on or becoming infected with an STI and will also provide extra protection against pregnancy.

Is it safe to have sex when a woman is having her period?

Not all women feel comfortable having sex when they are menstruating and some men dislike the idea of blood being present during sexual intercourse. However, there is generally nothing wrong with having sex during a woman's period and it will not cause either partner any harm.

This said, it is worth remembering that HIV and a few other sexually transmitted infections may be passed on more easily during a woman's period (both from the woman to the man and from the man to the woman), so a condom should always be used if there is any doubt over either partner's sexual history and HIV status. HIV cannot be 'created' by having sex with a woman on her period if both partners are HIV negative however - it is only ever passed from one person to another.

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