Talking about sex to someone might be difficult. Your body may be going through many changes at the moment that are unfamiliar to you. You may also be thinking about what your friends are doing and wondering about what feels ‘normal’ for you.

There may be signs that your body is getting ready for sex. That doesn’t don’t mean you have to have sex straight away though. The legal age for having sex is 16, so having sex under this age is illegal.

When’s the right time?

You should decide to have sex when it feels like the right time for you and when you feel safe enough with someone to take this step. This is at different times and stages for different people and that’s OK.

Some people boast about having sex and you might feel that you need to lose your virginity as soon as possible to keep up with your friends. All this talk about sex is often just that though – talk. A lot of people feel pressure from their friends and exaggerate their sex lives.

So just because your friends say they are having sex, doesn’t mean that you have to. Sometimes people can say they’re having sex, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are.

Everyone was a virgin at one point and many of those boasting people probably still are. It’s nothing to be ashamed of and it’s not always such a great thing to lose your virginity as soon as possible. Your first sexual experience could be a disappointing one if you rush into it. It might be more rewarding to build up to it with someone you trust and like. After all, you’re only going to lose your virginity once – so you might want to make it a happy memory.

What if they say they love me?

Often it is not our friends who pressure us into having sex, but our boyfriend or girlfriend. Remember, it is your body and your life and you should not feel pressured into doing anything you don’t want to do.

Not having sex before you are ready does not mean that you are selfish, frigid or that you don’t love or care for your boyfriend or girlfriend. If your partner cares about you and your feelings then they will respect your decision and will not try to make you do something that you feel uncomfortable with.

If someone’s pressuring you to have sex with them and you don’t feel ready then you should tell them how you feel, and then you should really tell someone else. If that person really cared about you they wouldn’t be trying to make you have sex with them if you didn’t want to. If they’re older than 16 it’s even more important to tell somebody.

The Law

Remember the law says that people shouldn’t have sex if they are under 16 – and it’s supposed to help stop young people from getting abused.

For those over 16:

‘Foreplay’ is the word we use to describe the kissing and sexual touching in the lead up to having penetrative sex, and can involve all kinds of sexual contact. It’s a really good way of getting to know each other’s likes and dislikes, and is a big part of getting in the mood physically and emotionally. It can also be about building trust with your partner.

These things can cause you to feel sexually aroused, which will be different for boys and girls. Boys will get an erection when they’re aroused. This means their penis will get hard. For girls it’s a bit different – their vagina will feel wet.

When we get aroused sexually it’s often very difficult not to move on to having penetrative sex – all kinds of reactions in your body have been set in motion and sometimes they are hard to resist. It might be better to make the choice to have sex when you’re ready rather than just let it happen though.

How do I make decisions around sex?

The most important thing about decisions around sex and relationships is that you remember to respect yourself and your partner, then you will keep yourself and each other safe and still have fun! Whether you are looking for that special someone or a passionate one-nighter, be clear with yourself and your partner about your intentions, then you’re both less likely to get hurt.

It is also important to keep in mind what the laws are around the age of consent for sex. Normally this is 16, but it also depends on the age of your partner.

How do I make sure I have the sort of sex I’m happy with?

Make sure that you think about what feels OK for you. There’s no rush! It’s really important that you and your partner check out with each other what feels OK and that you feel comfortable enough to say ‘no’ at any point. Keep talking.

Sexual acts

There are far too many sexual activities for us to list them all here. However most sexual acts fall into a few broad categories and it’s worth us talking through them.

You’ll often find that people use lots of slang words to talk about sex and it might seem that everyone knows what they mean but you. Don’t worry, in most cases these words will probably turn out to mean one of the activities listed below.

If it says `Risky’ next to any of them – it means doing them could put you at risk of catching a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

It is also important to know how to protect yourself from unwanted pregnancy. Condoms are the only form of contraception that prevent pregnancy and STIs, but other forms of contraception are available.


Also known as french kissing and snogging.

When people talk about kissing, they don’t generally mean the peck on the cheek they get from their mum. Instead they mean kissing using tongues, where your mouth is open and your tongue meets with the other person’s. Kissing can feel really good and, as with most things, practice makes perfect, so don’t worry if you don’t get it exactly right first time.

Mutual masturbation

Also known as tossing off and fingering.

A big part of having sex is exploring each other’s bodies, and in particular each other’s genitals. Mutual masturbation is where your partner stimulates your genitals with their hands, sometimes to the point of orgasm. For a man this would involve his partner touching his testicles (balls) and stroking his penis. For a woman this could involve her partner touching the vulva, clitoris or inserting fingers inside the vagina. Lots of people also enjoy their partner touching or inserting fingers inside their anus (bum), as there are lots of nerve endings in this area.


Also known as a blow job, oral sex or giving head. – Slightly risky
Going down on a man involves licking and sucking the penis and testicles, usually with the man’s penis penetrating his partner’s mouth.


Also known as rimming. – Slightly risky
Rimming is kissing, licking and exploring your partner’s anus (bum) with your mouth and tongue. Lots of people enjoy rimming because there are lots of sensitive nerve-endings around the anus.


Also known as oral sex, or giving head. – Slightly risky
Going down on a woman involves licking and sucking the vulva, clitoris and vagina, sometimes to the point of orgasm.

Vaginal sex

Also known as fucking or shagging. – Risky
When we talk about vaginal sex, we usually mean sex where a man puts his erect penis inside a woman’s vagina, but it can also refer to a woman being penetrated with a dildo or vibrator (sex toy). Vaginal sex is the way to become pregnant.

Anal sex

Also known as fucking, buggery and sodomy. – Risky
When we talk about anal sex, we usually mean sex where a man puts his erect penis inside a woman or a man’s anus (bum), but it can also refer to a person being penetrated anally with a dildo (sex toy).

Sexual health quiz

We have designed a quiz to help you understand a little bit more about sex and how to do it safely.

If you have a question or you are unsure about anything then ask a Talksafe Counsellor or Peer Mentor.

Do you feel better informed on the issues that concern you after reading this information?

1=Not at all informed
2=Barely informed
3=Kind of informed
4=Informed/More knowledgeable
5=Extremely informed/More knowledgable

NHS: Ready to go all the way?
Young People Friendly: Are You Ready?
NHS: Sex activities and risk
Young Adult Health: Safer sex

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Last review: 29/09/14 – Next review: 29/09/17