Healthy living

Relationships, sex and other stuff – sex


One way that people may express and explore their sexual feelings is by masturbation. Girls may touch their clitoris. Boys may touch their penis. Some people don’t masturbate at all, or hardly ever. Other people masturbate more often.

When a person is masturbating, they become more and more sexually excited. They may then reach a peak of sexual excitement which is called having an orgasm, or ‘coming’. In this moment, all the tension and excitement that has built up is suddenly released. Boys ejaculate when they have an orgasm and their penis then goes limp.

For many people, masturbation is often their first sexual experience. So long as it does not hurt you or anyone else, and is done in private, masturbation is normal and healthy.

Sexual feelings in relationships

When you are sexually attracted to someone else, and they are attracted to you, you will usually reach a point where this attraction is expressed physically. For example, you may kiss and cuddle and hold hands, or you may feel each other’s bodies through or beneath your clothes, or stroke or touch each other’s genitals. People who are physically attracted may eventually decide to have sexual intercourse. However, there are lots of ways to be sexual together that do not involve sexual intercourse. It is wise to develop a long-term trusting relationship and abstain from (not have) sex until you are both sure you are ready for it.

How do I learn how to kiss?

When you are with someone you like a lot, kissing is fun. You may wonder how you are going to know what to do, but don’t worry – you will work it out together, and improve with practice.

Keep the lines of communication open

Sex and love are not the same thing. It is possible to have strong feelings of love and affection for someone and not want to get sexually involved with them. And the opposite is also true: it is possible to be physically involved with someone in a sexual way, without love being a part of it at all. You may be sexually involved with someone out of curiosity, or because you think it will make you feel good, or bring you closer to the other person.

When you are physically sexually involved with someone, it is important that you talk to the other person about what you are doing together. Sexual involvement with someone else can change how you feel about them and about yourself. Make sure that they feel happy and comfortable, and that you tell them if you feel uncomfortable or unhappy with the level of physical involvement. If you feel under any sort of pressure, then it is important to stop what you are doing.

Sexual intercourse

During heterosexual intercourse, a male’s erect penis goes inside a female’s vagina. This is often called having sex or making love. For many people, making love can be enjoyable and fulfilling. For some people, it may be the way they can most show their love for each other.

Sex may be enjoyable but there can be serious, life-altering consequences if you do not have safe sex.

What is safe sex?

Safe sex means having sexual contact in ways that reduce the chances of becoming pregnant or catching a sexually transmitted infection. For example not having sexual intercourse and only kissing, cuddling, massaging and rubbing each other’s bodies is completely safe.

Some people think having oral sex is safe sex but it's not. Infections can be passed on through mouth to genital contact.

Safer sex means using a condom during sexual intercourse. A condom is a tube of very thin rubber that covers the penis. Condoms are effective if used correctly but are not absolutely safe since they can sometimes break. Using a condom during intercourse is called ‘protected’ sex. Condoms can be bought from chemists and supermarkets.

The dangers of unsafe sex

  • A girl can become pregnant from having unprotected sex.
  • Both boys and girls can catch serious sexually transmitted infections (diseases) if they have unsafe sexual intercourse with a person who already has an infection. These infections include:

Asking someone if they are free from infection is not enough. The person carrying the infection cannot always tell if they have got it.

Sex and the law

Just because you want to have sex does not mean you can. In Australia, it is against the law to have sex – either heterosexual or homosexual – if either partner is under 16. This is the case regardless of whether both of you consent.

For further information about what is legal and what is not, see the ‘Important things to know about sex’ section below.

Decisions about sex

Is sex right for you?

Sex may not be right for you just because everyone around you is doing it, or because you think you should. If you have sex because you are pressured, drunk, or curious, you may regret it later.

It is good to have a clear sense of what you want before you go beyond your comfort zone. When to have sex is one of the very important decisions in your life. Don’t be in a hurry to make this decision. There is nothing wrong with taking your time and saying no to things that make you feel uncomfortable or unsure. You may find it helps to talk with a parent or a trusted adult.

You may feel happy expressing your affection for someone just by kissing, cuddling and caressing. It is quite normal for couples to enjoy this kind of closeness and affection long before they are ready for intercourse.

Remember, life is long! The best sex will be the sex where both partners are equally ready.

Some things to think about if you are considering having sex:

  • Am I doing this because it’s what I want? If your partner is constantly trying to encourage you to have sex, you need to think about whether he or she really cares for, or is truly listening to you.
  • The risk of sexually transmitted infections. Is sex going to be safe? Have you got condoms?
  • The risk of pregnancy. Is sex going to be safe? Have you got condoms? Do you need to use other forms of contraception? (Find out more at Sex, relationships and other stuff – getting pregnant).

Important things to know about sex

Remember, in Australia it is against the law to have sex – either heterosexual or homosexual – if either person is under 16.

It is against the law to force anyone to have sex against their wishes. This includes any kind of sexual touching, or looking at sexual pictures.

It is against the law to give people alcohol or drugs to get them drunk or drugged so they have sex.

People have every right to change their mind about sex halfway through and choose not to continue even though they agreed at the start.

Forcing someone to have sex or to do sexual things against their will is called sexual abuse or sexual assault. If this happens to you, tell a parent, teacher, counsellor, school nurse or other trusted adult.

Where to get help

  • If you have any sort of problem you want to talk about confidentially with a trained counsellor, call Kids Help Line (24 hours) on 1800 551 800 (free from a land line only).
  • Visit The Hormone Factory (external site), a great site with lots of answers for 10 to 12 year olds, especially about puberty.
  • Other good sites for teenagers include Get the facts (external site) and I stay safe (external site).
  • Read the section for young people on Avert (external site). This section is good for sexuality education.
  • For general health information call healthdirect Australia on 1800 022 222.
  • For information about sexual health and contraception:
  • For help with sexual abuse or assault, phone the Sexual Assault Resource Centre (24 hour emergency line) on 9340 1828 for metro callers or 1800 199 888 for country callers (free from land line only).
  • Young people who are questioning their sexuality can call the Freedom Centre on 9228 0354.

Last reviewed: 07-12-2018
Public Health

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

Text: Let's talk about sex. Information about safe sex, STI, relationships and more.