Your sexuality is nothing to be ashamed of. It is a healthy and positive aspect of who you are! Sex and the urge to have it are a natural part of being human. And some people have no urge at all to have sex and this is normal too (check out the section on Gender and Sexuality to learn more about this).
People often define sex in different ways. There is no one definition of sex but there are different kinds of sex, which can include:
But first, let’s talk about consent!
Consent is defined as “a voluntary agreement between 2 or more people to engage in sexual activity. Consent must be clear, informed, voluntary, sober, act and person-specific, ongoing, mutual, active, and come directly from the individuals engaging in the sexual contact. It is impossible to get consent from children, though close-in-age and peer-experimentation exceptions exist for youth ages 12-15” (from the SACE website).
Practicing consent means talking to your partner(s) and checking in on a regular basis. This means being tuned-in to yourself, your physical body, as well as your partner(s), and asking questions and being respectful is encouraged.
Check out more good information on communicating consent here and/or read the section on Consent.
When the time comes and you decide to start becoming sexually active, it is important to first consider your comfort level with various activities and your expectations.
The decision to have sex should not be made lightly. Below is a checklist you can use to gauge whether or not you are ready to take the step:
Some people might choose to use sexting as a means of exploring personal boundaries, consent, trust and sexuality. If you choose to use sexting, it is important to know about safe sexting, the law and consent and sexting.
Sexting is sending and receiving sexual messages through technology like your phone, email, webcam or through an app. Not everyone chooses to sext, and this is totally OK. Those who do choose to use sexting, it can be a way to explore sexuality, intimacy and trust. However, sexting can also be used to bully, harm, and exploit.
It is important to remember that whether you share a photo or a video, it is impossible to know where it might end up or if the other person(s) might share it without your permission. And if you decide to sext, it is very important that you never share or forward a photo or video sent to you by someone else. The Kid’s Help Phone has some very helpful articles about sexting basics and sexting and consent, we encourage you to get informed before making a decision to sext. Stay safe and trust your gut!
If you feel that you are ready to have sex, it is important that you are aware of some of the risks and challenges that come with being sexually active. One risk of having sex is something called STIs or Sexually Transmitted Infections. STIs are infections that can be passed from one person to another through unprotected sex.
There are a lot of misconceptions about STIs such as:
There are different types of STIs. Some can be cured and some cannot be cured, but it is important to reach out to get support and treatment.
Information on some common types of STIs can be found in the table below:
What it is
Treatment or cure
Bacterial STI causes painful urination and discharge from the genitals
*Bacterial means it is caused by a bacteria
Unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with a person that has it
Cured with antibiotics
It can also infect the throat. Watch out for a type of gonorrhea that is antibiotic-resistant called “super gonorrhea”!
Bacterial STI that can cause painful discharge from the genitals
If left untreated Chlamydia can lead to infertility (not being able to have a baby). Many Koala bears also suffer from Chlamydia!
Bacterial STI that can cause a sore on the genitals, a rash, and even brain damage
If left untreated it can lead to mental illness and even death! Many famous historical figures died from it
Viral STI that attacks a person’s immune system
*Viral means it is caused by a virus.
Unprotected vaginal or anal sex with a person that has it who is not on their medication. Only blood, semen, vaginal fluids, rectal fluids, and breastmilk can transmit it
No cure, but it can be treated with medication. Most commonly 1 pill a day for the rest of the person’s life
If a person with HIV takes their medication everyday, they CANNOT pass HIV to another person even if they have unprotected sex with them!
Viral STI that most commonly causes genital warts
Vaginal, anal, or oral sex with a person that has it
No cure, but it is most commonly treated by removing the warts. There is a vaccine that can prevent a person from getting it
Untreated HPV can lead to cervical cancer in people with cervixes. It can be transmitted through skin-to-skin non-penetrative contact!
A virus that can cause sores around the mouth and genitals
Skin to skin contact with someone that has it. When your genitals or mouth touch their genitals or mouth.
No cure, but there are medications that can help treat the sores
Very common! When a person has a cold sore on their mouth, it does not mean that they have sores on their genitals.
A parasite that can cause intense itching
Sexual or non-sexual contact with someone that has them
The cure is a lice-killing lotion or shampoo
Commonly known as crabs. They can also be passed through clothing!
STI symptoms can look and feel like many other things such as yeast infections or Urinary Tract Infections. Only a medical test can tell you what you truly have! A lot of people with STIs do not show symptoms, but can still pass it on; this is why it’s important to get tested!
There are multiple methods you can use to protect yourself and your partners from getting an STI. Below are some of the methods.
Type of Method
How effective it is
Where to get it
External or Outside Condom
A barrier device that goes over the penis or sex toy before having sex to prevent STIs
80% to 99% effective at preventing STIs.
Can be found at most convenience or grocery stores. You can also get them for free at sexual health clinics and organizations (link to clinics)
Never use two condoms at the same time, and never reuse them.
Size should never be an issue; there is one for everyone! Did you know there are glow in the dark external condoms?
Internal or Inside Condom
A barrier device that can be used inside a vagina or an anus to prevent STIs
79% to 95% effective at preventing STIs and pregnancy*** (need to double check this)
Can be bought at pharmacies without a prescription, or you can get them for free at sexual health clinics and organizations
Never use these at the same time as external condoms. They can be put inside the vagina for up to 8 hours before sex!
A piece of latex or polyutherine that can go between the mouth and vagina or anus during oral sex
Can be bought at pharmacies or you can get them for free at sexual health clinics and organizations
Some dental dams are flavoured (eg. strawberry).
If you do not have a dental dam handy, you can create one by cutting open an external condom!
PrEP (Pre- Exposure Prophylaxis)
A medication taken once daily that can prevent a person from getting HIV
99% effective when taken properly
PrEP is currently available via prescription for free in Alberta. Checkout https://www.prepalberta.ca/ for more information!
It does not protect against other STIs!! You can now get it delivered straight to your door! Check out https://www.gofreddie.com/
It is important to use lube when having sex, especially anal sex because it can prevent tears in the rectum, and tears can make it easier for someone to get an STI. You should use “water-based” lube as that decreases the chance of the condom breaking!
People with STIs are not dirty, slutty, or irresponsible. STIs are very common, and anyone can get one, and if you do happen to get one, there is no need to be afraid or to feel ashamed, you are still you, and with help, you can get through it.
Getting tested is important to prevent the further spread of STIs. You can go to any family doctor and request an STI test, but if you are not comfortable with that, you can access testing at a sexual health clinic. Testing at these centres is usually free and confidential; they will not tell your parents or guardians. Below are some sexual health clinics in Alberta where you can go for testing or for sexual health resources (eg. condoms).
Getting tested for STIs is important for your health and for the safety of your partners. Getting tested early can also prevent long-term complications. For example, untreated Chlamydia can lead to infertility. If you are sexually active, it is recommended that you get tested every 6 months, or every time you feel like you might have been potentially exposed. For example, if a condom breaks if you don’t know the status of your partner, or if your sexual partner gets a new partner.
Do not wait to get symptoms to get tested; the majority of people show no symptoms!
If you have questions or concerns about your sexual health call 811, or check out the Centre for Sexuality for more information and sexual health resources.
Sometimes, having vaginal sex (penis in vagina) can lead to pregnancy. Even trans and non-binary and gender diverse people who are taking gender-affirming hormone therapy can get pregnant (or get their partner pregnant). If you are not ready or do not want to have a baby, there are steps you can take to prevent pregnancy. The tools and methods used to prevent this from happening are called contraceptives or birth control.
There are many different forms of birth control, and each method has its advantages and disadvantages. When choosing a form of birth control to use, you should first:
There are hormonal birth control methods and non-hormonal methods, and methods that rely on behavior. Below is a list of some birth control methods and how you can access them.
Birth Control method
Where/how to get it
Birth control pill
A type of medicine with hormones taken once daily to prevent pregnancy
91% effective at preventing pregnancy. It does not protect against STIs
By prescription only at the pharmacy or clinic
A small device placed in your uterus to prevent pregnancy. It can have hormones in it or not
99% effective at preventing pregnancy. It does not protect against STIs
Inserted by a doctor or a nurse at a clinic. Can last for as long as 5 years, some types can last for 12 years
A small patch that you can put on your belly, upper arm, butt, or back that contains hormones that prevent pregnancy
By prescription only – at a pharmacy or clinic. Patch needs to be changed once a week. One pack has 3 patches which lasts for 1 month
A small, flexible ring that you insert inside your vagina that prevents pregnancy by releasing hormones
By prescription only at the pharmacy or clinic. Needs to be changed every 3 to 5 weeks
A hormone injection that prevents pregnancy
94% effective at preventing pregnancy. It does not protect against STIs
Has to be administered by a healthcare provider at a clinic once every 3 months
A small rod, the size of matchstick, that is placed inside your arm which contains hormones that prevent pregnancy
Has to be inserted by a Doctor or a nurse at a clinic. Replaced every 5 years
A small cup-like device put inside the vagina to cover the cervix and prevent pregnancy
88% effective at preventing pregnancy. It does not protect against STIs
A prescription is required but it can be inserted without the help of a medical professional. Put in right before sex
Condoms (external and internal)
A thin stretchy pouch that is placed on the penis, or inside the vagina during sex
85% effective at preventing pregnancy. Can also help prevent STIs (Link to STIs)
No prescription needed. You can get them at any grocery and convenience store, or pharmacy or get them for free at sexual health clinics/organizations
Emergency Contraception Pill
Medication that can lower chance of pregnancy if taken within 3 days after unprotected sex
75-89% effective at preventing pregnancy. It does not protect against STIs
Available at pharmacies without prescription
The process of pulling the penis out of the vagina before ejaculation to avoid semen from entering the vagina
78% effective at preventing pregnancy. It does not protect against STIs
Requires practice, skill, and trust. Semen might still be present before ejaculation
Keeping track of your menstruation/ovulation and avoiding sex during fertile days
76% effective at preventing pregnancy. It does not protect against STIs
Need supplies such as a thermometer and a calendar
For a full list of methods and their side effects check out:
Looking for someone to talk to? Check out Kickstand Connect to sign-up for private, free virtual appointments with our Mental Health Therapists and Peer Support Worker.
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All information on this site is intended to provide assistance and guidance but cannot replace the care of a medical professional.