It’s time to talk about the ‘S’ Word. So, let’s do it!
In the olden days (as in, the ’90s and forever before that), young people were expected to figure out sex and all it entails without ever talking about it. This meant that they had all sorts of assumptions and expectations that weren’t particularly healthy. Those days are gone, and sex is no longer considered a deep dark secret that we should all be ashamed about.
** Please Note: The legal age for sexual activity in Ireland is 17, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. It is important that you know this!
Sex is nothing to be afraid of. In fact, when sexual relationships are done right, with open communication and loads of respect, they can be amazing, but it has to happen in your own time, and only when you are both ready. For sex to be awesome, it needs to be safe, consensual, and with someone you think is amazing and who thinks you’re amazing too.
Whatever you do, please don’t rush into anything, just to ‘get it out of the way’ or to keep up with your friends. Whether it’s kissing or canoodling or going the whole way, here’s what you need to think about before you say yes.
Is it the right partner? Do you trust them? You need to know that you can say ‘stop’ at any time and that they will respect your wishes, and not hold them against you. You should never feel like you have to see it through or they’ll be annoyed or angry at you. You don’t owe anyone anything.
Can you talk about it? The general rule of thumb is, if you’re not comfortable talking about it, you’re probably not ready to do it. You should be able to discuss what’s about to happen, what is happening, and what just happened.
Are you safe? This may involve a combination of contraception such as condoms, the pill, IUDs, etc. Having a sexual relationship comes with a responsibility to educate yourself on safety. Go talk to your GP, or find out more on mycontraception.ie
At the end of the day, no one can tell you when you’re ready – It’s entirely up to you and you alone. Be safe, be informed, be comfortable and be ready.
Finally, don’t think that you will learn much about real sex from porn because it’s not very realistic.
Let’s go back to that word consensual for a sec. What does that mean?
When, how, and with whom you have sex is up to you and you alone.You need to do it at your own pace and on your own terms. No matter what you’ve seen on TV or what you hear from your friends, you have to be ready. Sex isn’t just physical, it’s emotional too, so your comfort is key.
We can overcomplicate conversations around consent, but really it just comes down to making sure that every sexual experience you have is based on mutual respect.
When you respect someone, you care about their feelings, you try to understand their needs and you make sure that you don’t cross their boundaries or make them uncomfortable. It’s very simple. You wouldn’t help yourself to someone’s food or take something from their bag without asking first if they’re okay with it. If they weren’t comfortable with it, you would accept their wishes.
And that, my friends, is Consent 101.
Asking someone if they’re okay and checking in with them is in no way a turn-off. Both people feeling seen and appreciated will actually add an extra level of trust, connection, and communication to the experience.
There is loads of pressure as a teenager to keep up with what you imagine everyone else to be doing. But please take your time. All your sexual experiences, and especially your first, should be at your own pace and with a person you feel comfortable with. Your relationship with sex is yours and yours alone. Don’t worry if the rest of the world appears to be having a great time, it’s all smoke and mirrors really. You’ll often hear from others how ‘amazing’ their sex lives are, but they might have the same concerns and worries that you have.
Just like when buying knickers in Penneys, comfort is key. Try not to agree to do anything you’re not comfortable with, just because you don’t want to make them uncomfortable. If they’re the right person, they wouldn’t want that – and your comfort should be key for them too.
Trust is also really important. Ideally, when you look back on your first time, you will remember it as a positive experience, one that you were ready for and one that was pleasurable for you – apart from those first-time nerves.
- Positive: A clear and spoken “Yes”, not just the absence of a no.
- Active: Silence is not consent; participation is not consent.
- Freely given: “No” does not mean “ask me until it turns into a ‘yes’ “. Consent isn’t something you can be pressured into. You also have the right to change your mind at any time. Consent cannot be given if you are incapacitated by drugs or alcohol.
- Ongoing: Just because you agree to one behaviour doesn’t mean you agree to another; just because you agree at one time does not mean you agree at another time.
Consent is ALL of these things, and it is also ENTHUSIASTIC!
If you would like to find out more information on sexual health and consent, you can visit Sexualwellbeing.ie
This is an excerpt from Tammy’s new book – You’ve Got This! It is important to know that this piece was written in conjunction with experts.
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