Why are we having sex?
Flashback to the good ol’ school days where we learnt how a baby was made – through sex. But do people only have sex to make babies? No! Reproduction is only one reason for having sex, with a definite ‘baby’ goal in mind. But what if you don’t want a baby? Are there other motivations for having sex?
Sex is fun! Sex feels good! Sex makes you feel sexyyyy! And you can be as adventurous with your partner as you please. You can even have fun with foreplay to help increase sexual arousal. Drive your partner wild with sexual role-playing, sex games, dirty-talking and teasing that helps stimulate that mind-blowing orgasm you always wanted! You’ll be having your own pleasure party for sure.
Sex is Good Exercise (“sexercise”)
Not keen on hitting the treadmill this weekend? But still need to do exercise? Put away your running shoes and try “sexercise” instead! Research has revealed that sex uses up to 4.2 calories/minute in men and 3.1 calories/minute in women. It won’t completely replace your workout sessions, but it is a great way to get your blood pumping, calories burning and muscles stretching and strengthening!
Stress Less with Sex
Need some stress relief? Having sex with your partner has proven to soothe stress and anxiety. Particularly after reaching the Big “O”, a flood of endorphins and other “feel-good” hormones are released, which gives you tingling feelings of happiness and relaxation that help you to de-stress.
Does losing your virginity to the ‘right’ person mean something to you? Sex can be a huge stepping stone in your relationship, and form an intimate bond and connection with your partner. There is no pressure to have sex straight away, but make sure to choose the right time for you. You need to feel comfortable with the decision you’re making.
Sex as a Symbol of Love
Partners may have sex to express their love and commitment for each other through a sexual union. It can be a meaningful symbol of affection when you want to show your ‘better half’ how much you truly love them. Sex can even make your emotional bond with your partner stronger!
Are you a curious person, wanting to explore different aspects of sexual activity? Are you keen to let your imagination run wild, and see if your fantastical ideas could play out in sex? It is completely fine to be curious about sex! Trying new things and exploring yourself and your partner can be a great form of sexual development and learning.
Gender and Sexuality
by Cameron Cripps-Kennedy
“Gay, straight or bi?” is more of a greeting than a question at Sydney’s Gay Lesbian Mardi Gras. As a naïve 18-year-old I responded with “I don’t know…” A chuckle of knowing laughter came from the older—presumably wiser—inquisitor.
With an ever-expanding acronym the LGBTQIA+ community keeps you on your toes. There are so many different labels and identities it’s hard to pin down definitions. If you are wondering about your sexual identity, or had a friend recently come out to you, here’s a handy guide to some of the terms you might come across.
|Sex||Biological sex is classified as male, female or intersex. Usually determined by ones biological characteristics like genitalia and secondary pubescent characteristics (e.g. facial hair, breast). Most people don’t know the make up of their chromosomes, hormones or internal reproductive organs although these also determine biological sex.|
|Gender||Gender refers to the attitudes, feelings, and behaviours that a given culture associates with a person’s biological sex.|
|Gender Identity||Gender identity is the internal sense of gender someone experiences.|
|Gender Expression||Gender expression is the external presentation of gender and is defined by the cultural expectations of gender. Each individual’s gender expression may or may not align with the social expectations of gender and may or may not reflect ones gender identity.|
|Sexual Orientation||Sexual orientation, or sexuality, refers to someone’s sexual and often romantic attraction.|
Common Sexual Orientations
These lists are nowhere near exhaustive! There are plenty of useful websites that cover many more labels and identities. You can find them here:
It Starts At Home
By Darshi Niranjan
Coming from a migrant family, my brother and I often sit and discuss about how much our parents have done for us. Coming to an unknown country, they adapted to the culture and always provided us the best opportunity to feel well integrated into society. But we wonder, why have they never talked to us about “the birds and the bees”? Why the channel is always changed when a sex scene appears on TV? Why have we always just known not to ask questions around this topic?
Maybe it all has to do with the idea of no sex before marriage, partly from a cultural perspective partly for religious reasons. But we could never understand how it was brought up so naturally in popular culture, in TVs and movies. Often we learnt things through friends, school or through mediums like TV, movies and the internet.
Parents are often the most influential people in our lives and even though they don’t express their views, will still influence how you think and talk (or don’t talk) about sex.
Take the movie Juno for example. The high school student breaks the news of her pregnancy to her parents, but instead of unleashing verbal or physical reprimands, they accept the shocking news openly and think of ways to support their daughter in this taxing time.
Would that be the same for all parents? From my perspective it would be far more likely their first course of action would be disownment. That might be an exaggeration, especially in this day and age, but endless verbal admonishments of how stupid their offspring are to do something so shameful and irresponsible would ensue.
To those brought up within a culture that doesn’t fit the expectations you might have come to expect from Western cinema and media, it can often be awkward to talk about sex with anyone, even your closest friend, family or even partner.
Talking about sex is never going to be easy when you have grown up not being comfortable with the topic, but living in Australia, you’ll find that many find freely talking about sex is the norm. But it’s time to slowly remove the taboo around sex, learn more about the ins and outs (pun intended) of issues surrounding sex, and how to stay safe and informed.
What Contraception Method is right for me?
Choosing the method of contraception that is best suited for you will depend on a range of factors, such as your medical and family history, age, lifestyle and relationships. Consider talking about your options with a doctor to understand how each method can meet your current or future needs. You may be curious to ask:
- How well does each method work?
- What are the possible side effects?
- How easy is it to use?
- What are the costs?
Barrier Methods of Contraception
Looking for contraception that is… easily accessible? Low cost? Reduces risk of pregnancy and STIs? Check out these easy, common options below!
1. Male Condom – Effectiveness: 82-98%
A latex covering put over the erect penis, stopping sperm from entering the vagina. It is easily available from pharmacies or supermarkets without a doctor’s prescription. It can be used during penetrative sex (vaginal or anal) and oral sex to protect against STIs.
2. Female Condom – Effectiveness: 79-95%
A loose polyurethane pouch with a flexible ring at each end that sits in the vagina, stopping sperm from entering the uterus. It can be put in several hours before having sex and is stronger than the male latex condom (but using this method may take some practice!)
3. Diaphragm – Effectiveness: 88%-94%
A soft, shallow, silicone dome that fits in the vagina. It covers the opening to the uterus, stopping sperm from getting through.
Contraceptive Pills (“the pill”) – Effectiveness:
Are you a forgetful person? Can’t remember things without an alarm? Make sure you have enough alerts for this one, because you won’t want to miss taking the pill! It is more effective to be consistent – taking it once per day at the same time.
The pill is usually taken to prevent pregnancy, but it can also be used to treat:
- Painful periods
- Heavy periods
NB : It does not protect against STIs
There are many types of combined pills with different doses and hormones. It is best to consult a doctor, who can recommend a suitable pill option for you.
Contraceptive Implants and Injections – Effectiveness:
Attention girls! Are you seeking a long-term, effective method for contraception? Consider implants and injections, which stop ovulation and make the fluid at the opening of your uterus thicker, preventing sperm from entering.
- Contraceptive implant (Implanon NXTTM)
A hormonal, rod-shaped device inserted under the skin at the inner side of the upper arm.
The implant lasts for 3 years and is put in by a doctor under local anesthetic.
- Contraceptive injection (Depo-ProveraTM or Depo-RaloveraTM)
A hormonal injection that is given every 12-14 weeks.
Intrauterine Devices (IUDs) – Effectiveness:
Do you want a long-term, effective method of contraception? Consider the IUD – a small plastic device (copper or hormonal) that is put into the uterus by a doctor. It can stay in place for up to 10 years, depending on the type used. It works by changing the lining and environment of the uterus so sperm cannot survive, preventing a pregnancy. However, if you later want to get pregnant or are having problems, the IUD can easily be taken out earlier.
Emergency Contraception – Effectiveness:
Are you worried that the condom slipped off or broke during sex, or you missed a contraceptive pill? Not sure how to avoid an unwanted pregnancy in this emergency situation? Consider the following methods:
- Emergency contraceptive pill (“the morning after pill”). This is the most common emergency contraception method used. It can be prescribed by a doctor or you can buy it from most pharmacies without a doctor’s prescription. It is best to take this pill as soon as possible, ideally within 24 hours of having sex, but it can still be taken within the first 5 days after sex.
- Intrauterine Devices (IUDs) – see section above
Permanent Methods of Contraception – Effectiveness:
Want an effective and permanent method of contraception that involves surgical procedure? It will be a huge decision to make, as it will permanently prevent pregnancy. We advise that you discuss the available options with your doctor before proceeding.
Only Yes Means Yes
By Demi Mulder
What’s the deal with sexual consent? It seems there are a lot of people who don’t understand how sexual consent works, which is actually really scary. If you’re sexually active or wanting to become sexually active you need to know how consent works, because consent is everything.
Some key things about sexual consent:
- All parties are responsible for sexual consent. You’re responsible for giving consent, and for being 100% sure that everyone else has given their consent.
- You have the right to say no. You have the power to say no to anything you’re not comfortable with. You can say no when someone asks you to have sex. You can change your mind and say no if you’re both already naked and hooking up. You can even say no if you’re already having sex and you feel uncomfortable with how the sexual acts are progressing. You have control over your body and you can say no when you’re not comfortable.
- An unconscious person CANNOT give consent for sexual activity, and any consent they had given before falling unconscious becomes void as soon as they have lost consciousness.
- The way someone is dressed is not a cue for sexual activity and does not grant sexual consent.
- Just because you’ve engage in sexual activity with someone before does not mean you have the right to do so again.
Remember: if someone hasn’t given their consent for any sexual activity it’s not sex. It’s rape.
Relationships & Emotional Manipulation
Sex, relationships and emotional manipulation are a dangerous combination which can lead to a destructive situation especially if you don’t realise before it’s too late. The following are 7 signs of emotional manipulation:
1. They lie about their sexual expectations or change their expectations to something that may be unrealistic to you.
2. Guilt tripping you for not meeting their sexual needs
3. They play the victim when you refuse or cannot meet their expectations without taking responsibility for their inappropriate behavior, choices or demands.
4. They highlight your weaknesses making you feel insecure, resulting in a loss of self-esteem.
5. They only do something sweet and thoughtful when they want something in return.
6. Are you tossing and turning at 3am racking your brain and constantly wondering, “Was I not good enough for him”? “Did I fulfill his expectations”? It’s a sign you’re not having sex for the right reasons.
7. They don’t trust you. They question your decisions and choices or they might limit the time you spend with your friends without you even noticing it.
Take the time not only to be protected physically but also mentally and have a conversation with your partner. If you ever feel uncomfortable, say no. It’s your life, your body, your choice. Sometimes it is all about overcoming the doubts.
Sex, Study & Stress
There’s no bone(r)s about it: Life is stressful.
Sex is a great way to relieve stress, and there is a heap of research proving that sex is great for your mind and body.
The benefits include release of endorphins and other hormones that elevate mood, and exercise, which itself is an effective stress reliever. Whilst partaking in sexy times you are practising mindfulness (a similar state is reached in Yoga, and high levels on Candy Crush Saga).
Plus, it turns out that sex might actually make you smarter. Researchers in Maryland and South Korea recently found that sexual activity in mice and rats improves mental performance and increases neurogenesis (the production of new neurons) in the hippocampus (not like the giant animal at the zoo), where long-term memories are formed.
Along those lines, another study looked at women’s heart rate and cortisol levels as a measure of stress response, and found that women exhibited less of a stress response after ‘positive physical contact’ with a partner. Emotional support alone didn’t have the same effect.
Touching and hugging can release your body's natural “feel-good hormone.” Sexual arousal releases a brain chemical that revs up your brain’s pleasure and reward system. Sex and intimacy can boost your self-esteem and happiness, too. It’s not only a prescription for a healthy life, but a happy one.
Bottom line: Sexy times are good for stressed times, for more ways to de-stress check out our Wellness page.
By Demi Mulder
Sex can and should be a lot of fun, but sometimes we get so caught up in the fun that we lose sight of the responsibilities that come with having sex. Yes, I’m sorry to say, sex can have some baggage, and by baggage I mean Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). So when should you be concerned, and how and when should you get tested?
What is an STI?
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are spread through sexual contact or through the exchange of bodily fluids such as blood, vaginal fluids, or semen. This means that anyone partaking in unsafe sex is at risk of contracting an infection from an infected partner, no matter what type of sex you’re having - vaginal, anal or oral sex. Scary right?
What is unsafe sex?
Unsafe sex means that you’re having sex without taking precautions to prevent the spreading of STIs and/or HIV. This may be by not using a condom or dental dam during (vaginal, anal or oral) sex, as well as not knowing whether you or your partner have an STI. The scariest thing is that sometimes people don’t even know they have an STI, because so many people don’t show physical symptoms to alert you. Therefore, it’s always safest to get tested, and to ensure that you always partake in safe sex.
Types of STIs
Chlamydia is one of the most common STIs reported in Australia and affects both males and females. In 2014, it was reported that people aged 15-24 years had the largest percentage of positive cases of Chlamydia in the Australian population .
Identifying the symptoms
The majority of people with Chlamydia don’t know they have it because they don’t show immediate symptoms. Therefore, if you’ve had unprotected sex recently, make an appointment with your doctor to get tested.
Things to look out for:
Male: pain while urinating, clear discharge from your penis
Female: pain while urinating, pelvic pain, bleeding after sex, bleeding between periods
Chlamydia is easily treated with a course of antibiotics, so give your doctor a visit and get tested.
Gonorrhoea is the second most frequently reported STI in Australia, and affects both males and females. There was an enormous increase (67%) in the rate of diagnosis for gonorrhoea from 2008 to 2012 .
Identifying the symptoms
The majority of people with Gonorrhoea don’t know they have it because they don’t show immediate symptoms. Therefore, if you’ve had unprotected sex recently, make an appointment with your doctor to get tested.
Things to look out for:
Male: swollen testicles, smelly fluid from your penis
Female: pain when urinating, vaginal fluid discharge
Gonorrhoea is easily treated with a course of antibiotics, so give your doctor a visit and get tested.
Syphilis affects both men and women. If left untreated Syphilis can cause heart failure, dementia, blindness, and even brain damage - how scary is that?!
Identifying the symptoms
The majority of people with Syphilis don’t know they have it because they don’t show immediate symptoms. Therefore, if you’ve had unprotected sex recently, make an appointment with your doctor to get tested.
Things to look out for:
Male: a painless ulcer that may develop into a rash across your entire body, swollen glands, flu-like symptoms
Female: a painless ulcer that may develop into a rash across your entire body, swollen glands, flu-like symptoms
Syphilis is treated with penicillin, so give your doctor a visit and get tested.
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is not transmitted through insect bites, toilet seats, touching, sharing cutlery, or kissing. It is spread, however, through unsafe sex. HIV causes AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome), and damages your immune system. In 2014 70% of HIV transmissions in Australia occurred among men who have sex with men. That does not mean HIV is only a risk for some groups of people - everyone who participates in unsafe sex is at risk.
Identifying the symptoms
Some people are unaware that they have HIV because they don’t show any symptoms until it develops into AIDS. Therefore, if you’ve had unprotected sex recently, make an appointment with your doctor to get tested.
Things to look out for:
Male: weight loss, mouth ulcers, flu-like symptoms, extreme fatigue
Female: weight loss, mouth ulcers, flu-like symptoms, extreme fatigue
Early diagnosis is key in order to prevent HIV progressing into AIDS. If you get HIV infected blood into your body you may be able to take post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), which prevents the virus from developing into an infection. PEP is not available everywhere, however, and for it to be effective it needs to be taken within 72 hours of exposure.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
[hyoo-muh n pap-uh-loh-muh-vahy-ruh s]
HPV is one of the most common STIs in Australia that affects both men and women. It consists of over 100 viruses that cause skin warts, as well as genital warts. If left untreated high-risk HPVs can cause cancer, including cervical cancer .
Identifying the symptoms
Even if you can’t see any visible warts, the virus can still spread. Therefore, if you’ve had unprotected sex see your doctor and get tested.
Things to look out for:
Male: skin or genital warts (single or multiple) that have a cauliflower-like appearance, itching in the genital area
Female: skin or genital warts (single or multiple) that have a cauliflower-like appearance, itching in the genital area
Your doctor will be able to provide a vaccine for HPV. Warts that don’t go away by themselves can be treated with creams or can be frozen off. Unfortunately, some warts can come back and will require further treatment.
Herpes is a virus that causes small, painful blisters. There are two types of Herpes: Herpes Simplex Virus 1 (HSV-1), which causes cold sores and is spread through kissing, and Herpes Simplex Virus 2 (HSV-2), which causes sores on the genitals and anus that is spread mainly through sexual contact. It is also possible to get genital Herpes through HSV-1, meaning that if you receive oral sex from someone with a cold sore, the virus can be transferred to you.
Note: having a cold sore does not mean you have an STI. What it does mean, however, is that if you wish to give oral sex when you have an outbreak of cold sores you need to make use of condoms or dental dams in order to prevent spreading HSV-1 to your partner/s.
Identifying the symptoms
Many people with Herpes don’t know they have it, because they don’t show signs of infection. Therefore, if you’ve had unprotected sex recently, make an appointment with your doctor to get tested.
Things to look out for:
Male: painful blisters around the anus and genitals, pain when urinating, swollen glands, fever, headaches
Female: painful blisters around the anus and genitals, pain when urinating, swollen glands, fever, headaches
Unfortunately Herpes is like glitter - once you have it on you you’re stuck with it forever. The good news it that there are medications that can help you manage it.
There are many other less common STIs and sexual health conditions, such as:
- AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome)
- Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
- Thrush (Candidiasis)
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
- LGV (Lymphogranuloma Venereum)
- MC (Molluscum Contagiosum)
- PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease)
- Crabs (Pubic lice)
- UTI’s (Urinary Tract Infections)
It’s important that you are aware of these sexual health conditions in order to prevent the spread of infections that can cause pain, serious illness and even life threatening diseases. For information about these, visit the Australian Government Department of Health’s website: http://www.sti.health.gov.au/internet/sti/publishing.nsf/Content/othersti
When should I get tested?
- In order to keep on top of your sexual health, it’s always good to have regular sexual health check-ups
- Get tested especially when you change sexual partners or start a new relationship
- You and your partner/s should get tested before you stop using condoms or dental dams
- Get tested if you’ve had unsafe sex (vaginal, anal, oral)
- See your doctor if you have symptoms such as itching of your genitals, pain or discharge.
Where can I get tested?
Your doctor, family planning clinic or sexual health clinic can offer STI testing. You can also get tested at the UNSW Health Service on Campus: http://www.healthservices.unsw.edu.au/
Uncle Ben so famously said, ‘With great power comes great responsibility’. What are my responsibilities in order to have safe sex?
- Use a condom or dental dam
- Get tested before you stop using condoms/dental dams, and ensure your partner/s have recently been tested
- If you have an STI, make sure you tell all partners who you’ve had sex with in at least the last 6 months so that they can get tested as well
And now to wrap it all up (pun intended):
Don’t be a loner; cover your boner.
It will be sweeter if you wrap your Peter
Sex is cleaner with a packaged wiener.
Don’t be a fool, cover your tool.
Got no protection? Can't use your erection.
Just cover your willy, silly!
 HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia –Annual Surveillance Report 2015
 HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia –Annual Surveillance Report 2013.
 WHO (2014) ‘Guidelines on post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV and the use of co-trimoxazole prophylaxis for HIV-related infections among adults, adolescents and children: recommendations for a public health approach: December 2014 supplement’
 Division of STD Prevention (1999). Prevention of genital HPV infection and sequelae: report of an external consultants' meeting. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
I might’ve exposed myself to HIV. Omg help?
Step 1: Don’t freak out! First step is to not freak out and remember that thousands of people feel the same. Having unprotected sex is not a guarantee that you will contract HIV or any STD, but its best to get a check as soon as possible to make sure.
Step 2: Check whether your sex activity was one where you could’ve contracted HIV.
It’s best to get checked anyway
- No risk for HIV transmission: Kissing, mutual masturbation, massage, bondage, spanking, handjobs.
- Very low/low risk for HIV transmission: Blow jobs (receiving is less risky, extremely unlikely this causes HIV), rimming, anal sex top/bottom with a condom, whipping/etc. Remember that condoms can break and are not always 100% effective.
- Medium risk for HIV transmission: Anal sex top without a condom, bottom without a condom but the top pulls out before finishing, acts involving blood/piercing/cutting
- High risk for HIV transmission: Anal sex bottom without a condom, sharing needles or similar during intravenous drug use.
If you’re in the bottom two categories, absolutely go and check out one of the centres listed below for a super quick test with trained counsellors. If in the second category and you’re performing the acts regularly or want peace of mind, it is best to get a test! J
Step 3: Ok so I might be at risk, what should I do?
The first thing to do if you think you are at medium/high risk, is consider getting Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) medication. It is a 4 week course of HIV treatment, that may stop HIV from ever developing, provided it starts as soon as possible; it is not likely to work more than 72 hours after
If that isn’t appropriate (the time period has passed, different risk level, etc) it’s best to locate one of the places below and find a free, confidential HIV test as soon as possible. A trained counsellor will talk you through the procedure, and your risk levels. It might sound intimidating, but the staff are lovely and extremely well trained in dealing with newbies to the whole process!
A test taken at 12 weeks (3 months) after exposure to the virus provides highly accurate results however its best to see someone as soon as possible, and be referred back. Usually the process only takes 30 mins – catch up on the new ep of Game of Thrones on the bus!
Step 4: I’m going to go get a test. Where should I go?
There are two different types of tests:
- Rapid test: These tests that use a finger-prick blood sample and find a result within 30 minutes whilst you’re still at the clinic! They’re offered at many places in Sydney which you can find here.
- Standard HIV test: These are usually a follow up diagnostic test that uses a normal blood test, where results will be emailed to you in a couple of days. Often you’ll do both of these tests to make sure, and a rapid test that turns up positive will always be followed by a standard HIV diagnostic blood test to ensure the positive result.
If you would like a list of LGBT-friendly GP’s to discuss HIV testing or other issues, you can access a list here.
Step 5: I might have other STIs besides HIV. What do I do?
Your HIV rapid/regular tests will not test for these necessarily (however many clinics would ask if you would like to test for other STIs). Here is a list of NSW Sexual Health clinics that can help, or you can ask your local GP who can request pathology services to test for you.
Step 6: So my result was…
- Positive: View our step by step guide on what to do if you’ve received a HIV positive test
- Negative: Sign up for regular reminders to test! Sexually active men who have sex with men (MSM) should get tested anywhere between every 3 and 6 months. You can do that here.