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You may have had the sex ed classes at school, the ‘who’s done it?’ chats with friends and the lecture about the importance of contraception (thanks, parents). But whether you’ve done it or not, you’ll know that sex is about far more than the birds and the bees. Here we look at getting to know your body, virginity and sexuality.
We’ve written about why, during puberty, you tend to think more about sex here. It usually feels pretty good – from the flutter in your stomach when you spot someone hot, to the much deeper lust and longing you get when you think about getting close to another person.
Vajayjay, fanny, noonie, tuppence or honeypot – just as there are infinite nicknames for vaginas, there are infinite ways they can look, too. Half the population has one, and it’s the most intimate bit of our body. Which makes it surprising that in a survey, only 56% of women could find the vagina (see below) on a diagram.
There are many reasons why vaginas are important (sex, pleasure and making babies are the obvious ones). Don’t let yours be a stranger. Get to know how it looks, smells and feels. We talk about getting familiar with your bits in a mirror here.
Once you get to know your vagina in its day-to-day state you’ll be able to tell when something changes. A different smell at certain stages of your cycle is usually normal, but if this becomes stronger, or a rash appears, it’s a good idea to visit the doctor to check that everything’s okay. That might sound embarrassing, but remind yourself that doctors see bodies every day, so they’ll be really OK looking at your bits and bobs.
Yes! Though it’s certainly not talked about as much as guys doing it. This has a lot to do with taboo and the old-fashioned idea that girls don’t get the same strong sexual feelings that guys do.
Masturbating (or wanking/jerking off/tossing off) is a great way to get to know your body. And once you work out what you like, you can give yourself exactly what you want in terms of sexual satisfaction. Which is a pretty great realization.
Discovering what you enjoy on your own will improve your experiences with another person, so go explore. Things like stroking your nipples or tickling the backs of your knees (hell, even earlobes can be sexy) often give you surprisingly nice feelings.
Yes. But if you haven’t come yet then don’t feel like you’re getting something wrong. The most important thing is that you try to enjoy yourself, whatever you’re doing. Learning how to come can take time, practice and patience.
Treat getting to know your body (and the things you like) as similar to learning an instrument. Acing an entire piece straight away would be impossible.
And, if you’re with someone else, don’t ever feel under pressure to orgasm just to please them. Also, don’t feel that you’re the one who’s got to give the orgasm - you’re both supposed to enjoy sex. So if you’re not feeling it, don’t fake it.
Quite simply, when you’re ready. It would be helpful if we were all born with a manual that told us when to do all of life’s major things.
But, just as with anything that doesn’t have an obvious ‘right’ time, when you do it (and who you do it with) mostly comes down to how you feel. Friends can be a huge influence. If they’re all at it and you’re not, it’s easy to feel left out. But don’t ever go ahead with anything you’re not ready for.
Ask yourself: Do I want to do it, or just get it over with? Do I feel comfortable with this person? Does he/she respect me? And am I ready to share something really intimate? If you’re struggling to answer these questions, you’re probably not quite ready to have sex.
There are plenty of other things, including oral sex, that can feel incredible with a partner, so don’t treat intercourse as the main event. And remember that sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can still be spread, so use protection.
Trying to work out who you like can be a bit of a mindscrew.
You might know for certain, but you probably won’t. The good news is, nobody’s asking you to state your preference, and stick with it for the rest of your life. Especially when so many things in your body and mind are changing, and fast.
Talking to people, sharing your feelings and hearing their experiences will help you work out who you are, what you want and the things you enjoy. The more you do this, the more you’ll be practicing being honest with yourself, rather than always trying to please others. We have some great tips and advice on how to talk about your true feelings over here.
No is not an insult. It exists so that we can make decisions that are right for us. No is not always a negative word, either – it helps us to create positive boundaries for ourselves, and our bodies.
When it comes to sex (or anything else, for that matter) a ‘no’ might be harder to say – and take – than a ‘yes’. But your and others’ ‘nos’, should always be respected. It doesn’t matter if it’s been a ‘yes’ before. It doesn’t matter if someone changes their mind, and ‘yes’ suddenly becomes ‘no’. No means no.
It might help to practice saying ‘no’ to yourself in the mirror, so that if a tricky situation does come up, you’ll have had a go at saying it aloud. The word should roll off the tongue more easily once you’ve rehearsed it.
And if somebody says ‘no’ to you, try not to take it too much to heart (we know how that little word can sometimes feel as painful as a punch in the stomach). Everyone should have the confidence to be honest. A ‘no’ could mean the person you’re with isn’t ready to do something that you are. It’s not a rejection of you as a person.
Even if we’ve known someone for a while, doing intimate things together can feel difficult. It’s not just the getting-naked-bit that can be uncomfortable. Everyday things like eating or exercising in front of a person we fancy can cause us to feel anxious.
To have the most meaningful relationships with other people though, we have to be ourselves. Sometimes dancing with someone you like, or sitting next to them, or calling them up for a chat can help you to practice being more confident in your own skin, whatever the situation. If you make the first move, you might just be surprised by the confidence you have living inside you.
The best sex is always safe. Ahead of doing it, have you questioned whether you feel comfortable and ready? And have you thought about the best contraception so you can avoid sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or unwanted pregnancy? These are just a couple of signs that suggest you’re looking after your health and mental wellbeing.
Whatever you want to try, the most important thing is to be able to speak about it with the person you plan to have sex with. There’s no right or wrong way to have sex, but if you can’t have an honest discussion about the protection you’re going to use, then they’re probably not the right person.
There are sexual health clinics specifically set up for young adults to discuss all sorts of relationship issues, and the most suitable contraception for you to use – try googling for the nearest places to you. And of course, you can’t beat the advice that a parent, aunt, sister or more experienced friend can give you.