Sex can mean different things to different people. There’s no single ‘right’ way to have sex – everyone has their own likes and dislikes.

Check out the sections below, where you can find out about different kinds of sex, explore what pleasure means to you and think about whether you’re ready.

Are you ready?

The only person who can decide whether you are ready to start having sex is you, and there is no right or wrong answer.

It’s ultimately down to what you feel comfortable doing with your partner.

There can be lots of peer pressure around having sex, but try not to compare yourself to others. Not everyone tells the entire truth when it comes to how experienced they are.

Trust your own instincts - just because your feelings aren’t the same as other people’s, or your experiences happen at different times does not make them wrong.

We know it can be awkward, but it’s important to talk to your partner about how you are feeling and what you are comfortable with. If you’re not ready, this can help your partner to understand why, and if you are, it can help make sex more pleasurable.

Your partner should always listen and respect you and your feelings, and should never make you feel pressured into having any kind of sexual activity if you do not feel ready.

When it comes to having sex for the first time, it is natural to feel anxious or worried but there are things you can do to make the situation as enjoyable as possible.

  • Stay safe – think about contraception and protection from STIs in advance so you don’t have to worry about them in the heat of the moment.
  • Communicate – talk to your partner beforehand and let them know how you feel and what you are comfortable with. Remember, it is OK to change your mind about what you want to do at any time.
  • Take your time – sex is more enjoyable if you are relaxed while stress can stop you getting turned on. Spend time with your partner getting in the mood with foreplay (see below). This will help you to relax and to allow both your mind and body to get ready for sex.

A lot of people worry about sex being painful, and the first time can be uncomfortable. This is normally because of pressure and your body being tense. Before having sex, make sure you have some lube handy just in case – lube can be used to aid a body’s natural lubrication and reduce friction.

Foreplay

Foreplay is the term that includes everything leading up to actual sex and includes kissing, hugging and touching your partner.

Foreplay’s important because it helps you relax, gets you ‘turned on’ and can make sex more pleasurable.

Foreplay can also be a good opportunity to experiment and tell your partner exactly what you like and don’t like. Setting your boundaries early can make it less likely there is any confusion later on.

Remember, you can say no at any point, and shouldn’t ever feel pressured into doing something you don’t want to do.

For lots of people foreplay is sex and they don’t feel the need to move on to other types of sexual activity. Check out this great article for ideas to make foreplay more enjoyable.

Oral sex

Oral sex is the term for sexual contact between a mouth and genitals – including the vagina, the penis and the anus.

It’s sometimes known as ‘giving head’, ‘going down on’, ‘ licking out’, ‘sucking off’ or ‘giving a blow job’.

Not everyone wants to have oral sex, or enjoys performing it on their partner. And even for those who do like it, there are dos and don’ts. It’s all about personal preference so make sure your partner knows how you feel about it and respect their feelings too.

You can catch some STIs from having or giving oral sex and some STIs can survive in the back of your throat. Therefore, it’s important to use protection such as condoms and dental dams – visit our contraception page for more info.

Vaginal sex

Vaginal sex is penetration of the vagina with a penis or a sex toy.

Vaginal sex can sometimes be uncomfortable, especially if you're tense or stressed. If you’re relaxed and turned on, your vagina will naturally lubricate itself, sometimes known as being ‘wet’, which makes sex more comfortable. Some vaginas don’t produce enough of this natural lubricant but you can use lube to help. If you are using condoms, remember to use water based lube so you don’t damage the latex.

You can also try different positions to make sex easier or more pleasurable for you and your partner. Different positions work better for different people.

Like all types of sex, not everyone has or enjoys vaginal sex, and it is important to communicate with your partner about what you do and don’t like. Likewise, you need to respect your partner’s feelings.

Unprotected vaginal sex can lead to pregnancy if contraception isn’t used and can also lead to an STI. Visit the contraception page for more info on how to avoid unwanted pregnancy and STIs.

Anal sex

Anal sex involves inserting a penis or sex toy into the anus (or bum!)

Like all types of sex, some people enjoy anal sex and others don’t. Respect your partner’s feelings about anal sex and never feel pressured into doing something you don’t want to do.

Anal sex can be painful if you aren’t careful and is definitely something that should not be rushed. Unlike the vagina, the anus does not naturally lubricate itself, so it is important to use plenty of lube and go slowly. However, if done right, anal sex can be enjoyable for a lot of people.

STIs can be caught through having anal sex so always use condoms and femidoms. Visit our contraception page for more info on how to stay safe.

Masturbation

Masturbation, ‘solo sex’, ‘having a wank’, ‘rubbing one out’ and ‘playing with yourself’ are all terms to describe sexually touching yourself for pleasure.

Masturbating is completely normal and many young people will have experimented with it. It’s not something to feel guilty or embarrassed about and is a great way for you to explore and learn about your body.

Masturbation can feel great, and is a good way to get to know what you like and don’t like. Not only that, but it is also a good way of checking that things are normal down below and that no unusual lumps or bumps have appeared that you might need to get checked out.

Masturbation is harmless and you will know yourself what is OK for you. If you are hurting yourself or causing yourself discomfort, stop. Take your time, use lube if you want to and remember there is no right or wrong way to masturbate.

Pleasure

Sex should be fun and pleasurable – otherwise why would so many people do it?!

However, it is important to remember that we’re all different, and have our own likes and dislikes. Just because you like to be touched in a certain way or to have a certain kind of sex doesn’t mean all your partners will like doing it!

Talking to your partner and being clear about what you like and what you don’t like to do beforehand can mean that you don’t have to worry about pressure during sex. If you feel pressured and anxious during sex, you may not relax and enjoy it.

Also, the more relaxed you are, the more likely your body will respond to being ‘turned on’ and prepare itself for sex. This includes vaginas ‘getting wet’ and penises ‘getting hard’. Sex is much easier if your mind and body are on the same page.

There are other reasons to make sure you and your partner are on the same page. If you have a bad experience of sex with your partner, that could impact on your future sex life together and your relationship.

How you feel about the appearance of your body can sometimes make you anxious or tense during sex. If you are in a happy relationship and your partner wants to have sex with you it can be a clear indication that they are attracted to you and your body. However, it is important to trust your partner and feel able to talk about how you feel with them so they can help you to be comfortable and enjoy sex.

Sexual pleasure can sometimes be thought of as orgasms and orgasms alone. According to the Oxford Dictionary, an orgasm is 'the climax of sexual excitement, characterized by intensely pleasurable feelings centred in the genitals and (in men) experienced as an accompaniment to ejaculation.'

Having sex does not always result iB1509372837077]=Foreplay

Porn

Porn, or pornography, is the name for sexual images or videos, whether in magazines or online.

Porn isn’t necessarily ‘bad’ if you’re watching it for pleasure, but it isn’t a great way to learn about sex as it gives an unrealistic expectation of what sex is and what it should be like.

Sex should be fun, pleasurable and a way of feeling close to your partner, but sex in porn isn’t always like that. Porn is basically acting and sometimes shows violence or humiliation for one of the people involved. This can be upsetting to watch or make you feel anxious about sex, but real sex should not make you feel like that.

It is completely normal for you to watch porn if you find it gives you pleasure and porn can be a good aid to masturbation. Some people watch lots of porn and others don’t watch any at all – like everything, it is completely up to you.

However, porn usually only tells us about ‘perfect’ sex and can portray the idea that things have to happen in a certain order - first kissing, then fingering, then oral sex, then vaginal or anal sex. Sex between you and your partner should be more relaxed and you should do what feels right when it feels right. You should not feel like what you are doing is not normal just because it doesn’t happen that way in porn.

Porn also doesn’t tell us about what can go wrong during sex or the funny moments. Things like funny or embarrassing noises, premature ejaculation, not being able to maintain an erection – all these things are normal. Your body doesn’t just respond to sex but to all the other pressures and influences in your life and these can have an impact on how well your body performs during sex too. This is not shown in porn.

A lot of porn actors and actresses have had surgery to enhance certain body parts, as well as sometimes being digitally enhanced too. Porn shows us a stereotypical image of how our bodies should look, which doesn’t reflect the fact that we are all different and unique. Different people are attracted to different body shapes and sizes, so the fact that you may not look like a porn star does not mean that your partner doesn’t find you as attractive or that you will have bad sex.

So, the moral of the story is porn isn’t bad if you watch it for pleasure, but it is not a good way to learn about what sex should be like.

Remember, porn is illegal to buy or watch if you are under 18 but you can still get support if you are worried about watching porn or if it upsets or distresses you. Try to speak to a friend, someone at home or a teacher at school to support you.