There’s a world of sex outside the bedroom… the people we chat to, the people we seek advice from, and the stories we hear.
(Oh, the stories we hear!)
We ask sex health educator Zoe Dee for some tips on how to talk ‘the talk’.
CW: this article discusses sex and mentions consent and reproductive abuse.
WinWin: It can be tricky to know who to talk to about sex. People can have pretty strong opinions about all sorts of things; from having sex for the first time, to types of sex, to potential partners. We can be worried about being judged, and there are big differences in generations about attitudes toward sex. Are there ways to know whether a particular friend or family member is the right person for an honest conversation, or to confide in? Any tips about guiding a convo?
Zoe: We often examine people’s reactions as a way to find out if they are a “safe” person to confide in. However many people – especially if you ask them a direct sex-related question – might appear a bit nervous or uncomfortable. That’s because in general, most people find it to be an uncomfortable topic.
They might be more than willing to talk with you, but just need a moment. Ease into the conversation and give them a chance to process their own reactions and thoughts.
Always keep in mind you might not be getting the most up-to-date or accurate advice from the people around you. Parents and adults had to learn all this sex stuff, just like you. Unlike you, they didn’t always have the Internet. If you get an answer that sounds like it may have been whispered during a sleepover in the 1970s, it probably was!
Give your adult some time to do some research and come back to you with an answer. Even better, both of you do a little research and then come back together and compare your answers.
Car-chats are the best. Go for a drive, or park somewhere to chat. It can be more comfortable because you don’t have to look at each other, it’s casual and you have their attention (no phone distractions, if they are driving).
WinWin: So aside from the ‘general’ chat about sex, there are also important convos to have around health and looking after ourselves; contraception, protection, vaginal health stuff. What is a good starting point for finding health providers? Should I be chatting to a GP?
Zoe: It depends on what you need as to who is the best person to talk to. A youth worker, counsellor or school nurse will help with most of the basics, like information about STI’s (sexually transmitted infections) and contraception (ways to prevent having a baby) and condoms.
A doctor can help with writing a prescription for contraception, or test for pregnancy or STIs. You can also talk to a doc about things like periods, pain during sex or mental health.
Your local Family Planning service, Women’s Health Service, LGBTQIA+ Health Clinic or Sexual Health Clinic can also help.
All these services are confidential and will keep your information private, even from your parents. It is your choice whether to go alone, or take someone with you. You don’t need to go with an adult or have their permission, and you are welcome to bring a support person like a friend, sibling or partner.
WinWin: If I’m sitting in a doctor’s / advisor’s room, and feeling like this was all a bad idea and I really DON’T want to talk about stuff with this particular person, what should I do?
Zoe: Trust your gut. If you have the luxury of seeing someone else, do it! This may not be an option if you live in a small town, or if you don’t have the ability to cover costs or have limited transport or access options.
You can leave any time you want if the person you are talking to is not meeting your needs, or their attitude towards you or your identity is disrespectful or harmful.
Sometimes you have to be assertive, know your rights and advocate for yourself. You are allowed to say “I am not comfortable” or “I would like the person who came with me to this appointment in the room” or “please stop what you are doing” or “please slow down” or “I don’t understand, please explain this to me more simply?”
WinWin: Here inlies the beauty of the internet! Do some research on the great healthcare providers near you. People are often discussing their preferred services in local Facebook groups. You can also ask your friends or family for a doctor or clinic where they have had a great experience. But where can I get good info if I really don’t want to talk to anyone I know?
Zoe: You can contact your local family planning service (Google: Family Planning + [insert your state]). They often have an advice phone line or email service to answer questions, as well as lots of fact sheets with all the basic information you need. To find out if you need to see a doctor you can contact healthdirect who will help guide you to a local service.
WinWin: Ok. Tell us. When it comes to sex, what are some of the myths we should be aware of?
Zoe: I’ve heard them all! There are SO many half-truths or straight up lies out there! Some are silly, some could be dangerous.
True or false?
Emergency contraception (Plan B, the morning after pill) is the same as an abortion.
The aim of emergency contraception is to stop the egg from being released so it can’t meet the sperm. It can be taken up to 5 days after sex. It can be accessed from a pharmacy, no prescription needed, and costs between $20-50.
This pill is not to be confused with the medical abortion pill, used once a pregnancy has been confirmed. For this, you have to see a doctor or an abortion service.
If a place doesn’t stock emergency contraception, or won’t supply it for ‘moral’ reasons, they have to tell you somewhere you can get it.
True or false?
You can’t get pregnant if you are on your period / if the girl is on top during sex / if it is the first time you have sex / if the penis is taken out before ejaculation (withdrawal method).
This is completely false!
Fact: Whenever there is a penis in a vagina, there is a chance of pregnancy.
It might be a 1 in 10 chance, but it is still possible. It is your body and your choice to use contraception or a condom and don’t let anyone try to talk you out of it, using one of these myths, or for any other reason! We have included some info about reproductive coercion, and a resource below if you need support.
True or false?
You can get pregnant from oral sex with a penis.
Nope. Not true!
The mouth is connected to the digestive system with the stomach, intestines and finally the rectum and anus. The reproductive system is separate and can only be accessed via the vulva and vagina. The reproductive and digestive system are not connected internally.
You can get STI’s in the throat from oral sex with a penis, so don’t forget to use condoms and dams for oral sex.
True or false?
You don’t need lube.
Nope. You definitely do!
Imagine trying to go down a water slide without the water! Lube makes every single way of having sex and masturbating better, easier, safer and more pleasurable. Vaginas do get wet and lubricate when aroused, but not everyone has an instant, natural or overwhelming supply. There are so many different types out there, but your local supermarket or pharmacy should have a choice of water-based and silicone.
Water-based or silicone lube can make having sex with condoms and dams more pleasurable (lots more sensations!) and helps to prevent condoms from breaking. BUT DO NOT use oils, including coconut oil, as a lube with latex condoms because this can cause breakages.
Finally and most importantly, you should never feel pressured to do something you are confused or unsure about.
Reproductive coercion, reproductive abuse and reproductive violence happen when you are stopped from making your own choices about your reproductive system. For example; someone trying to convince you not to use contraception or a condom, or removing a condom during sex without consent, or preventing you from accessing your contraception, for example hiding your pill, or flushing it down the toilet. If this has happened to you please reach out to 1800RESPECT for support.
An important note (with love) from WinWin
The more support the better, right? If you are having trouble, or if talking about your question or issue in this form raises any concerns for you, there are SO many excellent places you can go for free help.
For free and confidential info and advice:
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636
Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800
Butterfly Foundation: 1800 33 467
You are never alone!