Writing by Liza Cole // Photograph by Aleksandra Wiktoria
Choosing to have sex for the first time can be a big deal, but it doesn’t have to be. I like to think of it as similar to driving: a lot of preparation, education, and practice goes into making it a safe, responsible, everyday experience.
Like taking your driving test, becoming sexually active isn’t something you should go into blind. I’m not trying to tell you not to have sex, but when you decide you want to, it’s in your and your partner’s best interests to have the following down pat.
Get a reliable source of birth control.
And no, pulling out doesn’t count. Having birth control is a MUST for anyone at risk of getting pregnant from sexual activity. There are plenty of options out there with different costs, risks, and maintenance. All it takes is a bit of research and judgement on what suits you and your body. Planned Parenthood has a great quick quiz that will recommend some of the best options for you, and here’s a detailed run through of contraception methods by Brisbane-based organisation, Children by Choice. You may have to give it a few tries, but settling on a reliable, manageable method of birth control will give you the peace of mind you need to have as much worry-free sex as you want.
Finding a source of birth control also means finding a doctor you can trust to provide recommendations, advice, and potentially a prescription. Finding a knowledgable doctor you’re comfortable with is invaluable in your sex journey, especially where pap tests are involved.
Know how to put on a condom.
This is essential knowledge for anyone who doesn’t want an STI (read: everyone). As cringy as that banana demonstration was in high school, you’d do well to give it another look. Even if you’re not the one wearing the condom, it’s important you know how to put one on — if you have sex with someone who does have the anatomical parts to wear a condom, you can never assume someone is as informed as you. Especially if you don’t know them.
And if someone makes an excuse to try to get out of wearing a condom (eg: it’s uncomfortable! sex doesn’t feel as good! I don’t have an STI!), walk away. One Google search of pictures of condoms fitting over feet is enough to dispel complaints about size, and anyone audacious enough to put their pleasure over your safety isn’t worth your time. Sex is meant to be a cooperative, mutually beneficial act. If your partner isn’t willing to accommodate your safety, they are not going to be an accommodating sexual partner.
Know your shit.
Knowing where all your resources are is imperative to being a responsible sex-haver. This includes knowing where to find your sexual health clinics, your abortion clinics, and any resources your education institution or workplace may have in place. There is a world of knowledge and help out there, and knowing where to look reassures you that there are many safety nets in place.
It’s also worth being aware of laws in your local area, such as those surrounding abortion and age of consent so you don’t find yourself in hot water later.
Further, brush up on any health care schemes in your area. If you live in a place that doesn’t cover sexual health, it’s probably a good idea to have some emergency money put aside. You can never be too careful.
If you’re sleeping with multiple genders, make sure you’re aware of the risks with any and all equipment you’ll be working with. Just because you can’t get pregnant in all instances doesn’t meant there’s no risks involved.
Being aware of your options can help you calculate what risks you’re willing to take, and what avenues you have at your disposal in case anything goes wrong.
Before you can be intimate with someone else, it’s worth becoming intimate with yourself. Masturbation is a great first foray into sexual pleasure, and the best way to explore what works for you without judgement, and at your own pace. Plus, if you can’t make yourself orgasm, how do you expect someone else to be able to? Sex is not as easy as they make it out to be in movies or porn — we’re all built a little bit differently.
Confirm consent and that your intents align.
So, you’ve done the prep; now it’s time to find your lucky partner (or partners). Before you proceed to begin the sexy times, it’s important to make sure two things align with your partner/s: consent and intent.
Consent is obvious, but it bears repeating: if there is no enthusiastic “yes”, it’s a “no.” If you can’t tell, ASK—and even if you think you can tell without asking, ask anyways, because that’s the only way to know for sure. Use your words so nothing gets lost in translation. Do not have sex with anyone unless they also unequivocally want to. And remember people can change their mind, so it’s important to confirm at multiple points that everyone is on the same page. If there isn’t a yes, it’s rape.
While consent is important, intent is also just as crucial in having a healthy sexual experience. As clinical sexologist Shan Boody says, content and intent must align before you have sex with someone for there to be a healthy, responsible sexual experience. By intent, she means what you hope to get out of the sex.
If you want to use sex to foster a deeper emotional connection, or lay the foundation for a relationship, make that intention known and have it mirrored. Intending to have sex purely for physical pleasure isn’t bad, as long as your partner is on the same page. Unbalanced intent will only lead to heartbreak for one or both of you.
A lot of preparation and knowledge goes into have safe, consensual, responsible sex, but it’s 100% worth it. If you build these habits young, you’re on track to have a really healthy and pleasurable sex life.