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Sex Education

This section will outline everything from sex to periods to STIs to masturbation. /help is completely non-judgemental and is here to give you advice and information on anything you’re unsure about.

Please note: This is not an exhaustive list, resources will be provided at the end of the page to go into further detail.

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Sex

What is sex?

Sex is a consensual act between two or more people involving pleasuring genitals. It can be between any genders and sexualities and is not limited by the old definition of penetration.

Virginity

Spoiler alert: virginity doesn’t exist. It was a way to describe people who hadn’t had penetrative sex, but that is inaccurate nowadays. Too much insecurity comes from the emphasis on virginity, whether it’s being shamed for losing it or shamed for not losing it. 

Staying safe while having sex

Below are a list of contraceptive methods available to protect against STIs and pregnancy:​​

  • Condom - Probably the most widely used form of contraceptive, the condom is worn over the penis to prevent skin to skin contact and to stop pregnancy

  • Femdoms - these are a variation of condoms that are for vaginas

  • Caps/diaphragms - These are for people with cervixes, the cap covers the cervix

  • Dental Dam - Used for mouth-to-genital and mouth-to-anus sex

  • Combined pill - Releases artificial oestrogen hormones into the body

  • Progestogen only pill - Releases artificial progestogen into the body

  • Implant - Implanted into the upper arm and releases hormones

  • Injection - Injected into your upper arm and releases hormones

  • Patch - Worn on your upper arm and releases hormones

  • IUD (copper coil) - Inserted into the uterus by a doctor

  • IUS (hormonal coil) - Inserted into the uterus by a doctor

  • Vaginal Ring - A ring sits inside of the vagina and releases hormones

 

If you do not want to have children or have any more children, these are a permanent solution. These procedures are generally irreversible. 

 

  • Steralisation - This is where the reproductive organs are blocked, sealed, or removed

    • Hysterectomy - For people with wombs

    • Vasectomy - For people with testicles

Safe words and communication

It is really important that you have good communication between all parties. Sex is quite an intimate act, so it’s important that everyone involved is comfortable.

 

Sometimes, saying a safe word is easier than saying stop or no. So make sure you’ve communicated to your partner what safe word you’d like to use.

 

Communication also makes sex more fun! Tell your partner what you like and it’ll be a much more enjoyable experience for everyone involved.

Hygiene

Cleanliness and good hygiene is really important to keep infections away. If you can, make sure you are clean before having sex, this will vastly improve the experience for you and your partner and you will lower the chances of infection. Basically, the less germs on you, the less germs you will transfer to your partner.

 

Once you have had sex, make sure to pee! This isn’t a well known fact but is the best way to fend off a UTI. As well as that, if you know you are currently suffering with a UTI, don’t have sex without protection.

Resources

STDs

What is an STD?

An STD is a sexually transmitted disease. Many can go undetected, so it's really important to get tested if you have multiple partners or have a new partner.

There is no shame surrounding STDs, sex is a fun part of life and sometimes STDs are a part of that. Getting one doesn't make you unclean. Most are easily treated and will leave no trace. Although they are generally easily treatable, it is really important to be treated as soon as possible because they can be serious if left. Treatment is available from your GP or local sexual health clinics.

 

Types of STDs

  • Chlamydia

    • Symptoms include - pain when peeing, unusual discharge from the vagina, penis or bottom, in women: pain in the tummy, bleeding after sex and bleeding between periods, in men: pain and swelling in the testicles

  • Gonorrhoea

    •  Symptoms include - a thick green or yellow discharge from the vagina or penis, pain when peeing and, in women, bleeding between periods.

  • Trichomoniasis

    • Symptoms in women - ​abnormal vaginal discharge that may be thick, thin or frothy and yellow-green in colour, producing more discharge than normal, which may also have an unpleasant fishy smell, soreness, swelling and itching around the vagina – sometimes the inner thighs also become itchy, pain or discomfort when passing urine or having sex

    • Symptoms in men - pain when peeing or during ejaculation, needing to pee more frequently than usual, thin, white discharge from the penis, soreness, swelling and redness around the head of the penis or foreskin

  • Genital warts​ ​​​​

    • Symptoms include - 1 or more painless growths or lumps around your vagina, penis or anus, itching or bleeding from your genitals or anus, a change to your normal flow of pee (for example, it's begun to flow sideways) that does not go away, 

  • Genital herpes

    • Symptoms include - small blisters that burst to leave red, open sores around your genitals, anus, thighs or bottom, tingling, burning or itching around your genitals, pain when you pee, in women, vaginal discharge that's not usual for you

  • Pubic lice

    • Symptoms include - itching, which is usually worse at night, small red or blue spots on your skin (lice bites), white/yellow dots attached to your hair (lice eggs), dark red or brown spots in your underwear (lice poo), crusted or sticky eyelashes, if they're affected

  • Scabies

    • Symptoms include - intense itching, especially at night, a raised rash or spot

  • Syphilis

    • Symptoms include - ​small sores (ulcers) on your penis, vagina, or around your bottom (anus) – these are usually painless and you may only have one of them, sores in other areas, including in your mouth or on your lips, hands or bottom, white or grey warty growths most commonly on your penis, vagina or around your anus, a rash on the palms of your hands and soles of your feet that can sometimes spread all over your body – this is not usually itchy, white patches in your mouth, flu-like symptoms, such as a high temperature, headaches and tiredness, swollen glands, patchy hair loss on the head, beard and eyebrows

  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)​​

    • HPV does not usually cause any symptoms, but sometimes the virus can cause painless growths or lumps around your vagina, penis or anus (genital warts).​

  • HIV/AIDS

    • Symptoms include - a short flu-like illness 2 to 6 weeks after HIV infection, which lasts for a week or 2

    • After these symptoms disappear, HIV may not cause any symptoms for many years, although the virus continues to damage your immune system.

    • This means many people with HIV do not know they're infected.

    • There is no cure for HIV, but there are treatments available to help manage and enable most people with the virus to live long and healthy lives

    • It is really important to be honest with your partner if you think/know you have HIV/AIDS and you should always use protection

Puberty and Periods

What is puberty and when does it happen?

Puberty is the name of the process where your body begins to develop and change, mostly to develop your sexual organs and get your body ready so it can reproduce. It can happen any time between ages 8 and 14, generally averaging around 11 or 12.

Puberty in masculine bodies

  • You get taller

  • You grow more hair

  • You may get more defined muscles 

  • Your voice will get deeper

  • You may experience more erections

  • You might sweat more 

  • Your genitals will grow

  • You may develop acne

Puberty in feminine bodies

  • You get taller

  • You grow more hair

  • You will begin to grow breast tissue and the area around your nipples (areola) will increase in size

  • You might sweat more 

  • Your genitals will grow

  • You will get your period

 

Periods

A period is vaginal bleeding during a person's menstrual cycle. Cycle lengths can vary, but most women on average have a cycle for 28 days. Bleeding also varies but generally lasts between 2 and 7 days.

Sanitary Products

  • Pads - There are many variations of pads, but the idea is the same for all of them. A pad sticks to the underwear so the soft part is against the vulva when the underwear is worn. Pads need to be changed a few times a day depending on how heavy your flow is. 

  • Tampons - There are also many variations of tampons, but the idea is the same for all of them too. A tampon is inserted into the vaginal canal using either an applicator or your finger. Once inside, the tampon will expand as it absorbs the blood. Make sure to change it at least every 6 hours (depending on flow). You take it out by pulling the string. 

  • Menstrual cups - Menstrual cups are a reusable variation of tampons. Generally made out of silicone, you fold the cup and insert it inside of the vaginal canal. Once it's inside, let go and it should make a seal as it expands. The cup then collects the blood and you can change it once or twice a day (maybe more, depending on flow). To reuse it, rinse out the cup and boil in hot water to sanitise it.

  • Period underwear - Similar to pads, period underwear absorbs period blood and doesn't go inside of the vagina. However, period underwear can be washed and reused.

Pain

Period pain is (unfortunately) a part of periods. It happens because as the uterine lining sheds, the uterus contracts to try and get rid of it. This causes some discomfort in the lower abdomen. For those of you who don't think period pain can be as painful as other things, know that it has be proven to sometimes be as/more painful that a heart attack!

 

Pain can be managed in many different ways:

  • Take medication - paracetamol or ibuprofen tend to work best

  • Applying heat to the abdomen - try using a hot water bottle or a heat pad

  • Exercise - we know exercise is the last thing you want to do when you're in pain, but try going for a walk or light yoga to help ease cramps

  • Avoid certain foods - look, we all want chocolate when we're on our period because something about it just makes you feel better. But it actually makes the pain worse... 

  • Get plenty of rest - your body is working hard right now, so take a day to relax and let it do its thing

Period pain is normal, but severe pain is not. If you're experiencing pain that debilitates you, you may have something called endometriosis. Endometriosis is when tissue (similar to uterine lining) grows outside of the womb. This makes the body want to try and get rid of it all, so you have contractions all over the body, in bad cases you can feel pain in your hands and feet. If you think you have endometriosis, make sure you see a doctor.

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Masturbation

It's very likely that this is the section you've never had a chat about. You might have read up about it, or you might have just experimented. But in any case, it's natural and is a necessary part of life.

What is masturbation?

Masturbation is the act of self gratification (stimulating your own sexual organs). It can be done in many different ways and for many different purposes. It should never be something you are ashamed of doing. Many people may feel shame when masturbating because of upbringing or being in certain social circles, but it is a natural thing that everyone does.

Why masturbate?

There are many reasons why you might masturbate, the main one being to feel pleasure. But there are other benefits too:

  • It can reduce stress

  • It helps you understand your body more and what you like

  • Being more familiar with your body also means you know when it has changed, meaning you can see a doctor about things you may not have picked up on if you hadn't masturbated

  • It's fun!

  • It can help with period cramps

  • Releases sexual tension

  • Improves your self esteem

  • Helps you sleep better

Did you know that women used to go to the doctor with 'female hysteria', a condition where a woman experienced anxiety, low mood, shortness of breath, and all sorts of other symptoms. The treatment for this was administer a pelvic massage (the fancy name for a hand job). The doctors had to use this treatment so often that they ended up inventing the vibrator so women could do it themselves!

 

How to masturbate with a vulva

There are many ways to masturbate and exploring them can be very fun. It's important that you practice safety and good hygiene when exploring though.

  • Fingers

  • Pillows

  • Vibrators

  • Dildos

  • Shower heads

  • Lots of different sex toys

 

The list is endless! Make sure to wash anything you may have used thoroughly and if you are using sex toys, make sure you've got the right kind of soap (some has to be water-based). We don't advise inserting anything that hasn't been specifically made for sex/masturbation, but if you choose to anyway, make sure the base is flared and the object is sterile. The vagina is a delicate environment and pH levels can be easily unbalanced.​

How to masturbate with a penis

Men often don't feel like there are that many different ways to masturbate other than the standard ways, but that's so untrue! There are equally as many toys out there and all of them are definitely worth a try. 

  • Fingers/hands

  • Pillows

  • Vibrators

  • Dildos

  • Shower heads

  • Fleshlights

  • Cock rings

  • Lots of different sex toys

 

Again, the list is endless! Make sure to wash anything you may have used thoroughly and if you are using sex toys, make sure you've got the right kind of soap (some has to be water-based). We don't advise inserting anything that hasn't been specifically made for sex/masturbation, but if you choose to anyway, make sure the base is flared and the object is sterile. The vagina is a delicate environment and pH levels can be easily unbalanced.

Remember to pee afterwards! Just like you would in sex, you can get a UTI if you don't flush out your system!

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