Sex is a funny ol' topic where it's a vital part of life (literally) yet for some it is a bit of an awkward subject to talk about. Well we're not going to shy away from sex at all in this article. Nope, we're going to get right up in this topic and tell you everything you need to know about sex, sexual health checks, and birth control.
So sex, what is it?
You know what sex is.
What about consent?
Consent is super important and is all about making sure you and your partner both mutually agree to have sex of any kind. This isn't just a simple "yes" or "no" situation, it's an ongoing line of communication where you and your partner are checking in on each other to make sure you're both comfortable with what you're doing. Some very very important things to remember about consent:
Consent must be explicit and you can always change your mind. You and your partner must give a clear and explicit "yes" before engaging in any sex, so don't assume anything. Equally important is that you and/or your partner can always change your mind and stop whatever it is you're doing. Respect each other's feelings and decisions and make sure to check in with each other.
Drugs and drinking affect consent. Consent has to be given freely and a person's decision-making is impaired if they're intoxicated so doing anything sexual without them not knowing what is going on is a massive no no - and a crime - since they can't give informed consent.
The state of Victoria has passed affirmative consent laws, which introduces changes including:
Additional language to the section of the legislation dealing with consent in order to align it more closely with the affirmative consent model, which puts the onus on the accused person to confirm they have received consent, rather than scrutinising the behaviour of the victim-survivor.
Outlining that 'stealthing' - removing or not wearing a condom without a partner's knowledge - is a breach of consent.
Altering sexual offending laws related to intimate images - which includes distributing or threatening to distribute these images - and penalties for breaking these laws have been increased.
What about the age of consent?
Age of consent is the age where a person is considered legally competent to agree to sexual activity with another person. If someone engages in sex with someone under the age of consent it is illegal. In Australia, the age of consent varies depending on the state or territory:
ACT - 16 years
NSW - 16 years
NT - 16 years
QLD - 16 years
SA - 17 years
Tasmania - 17 years
Victoria - 16 years
WA - 16 years
Tell me about sexual health checks
If you're someone who is having sex then it's important to keep tabs on your sexual health by visiting a doctor every six months or so. It's doubly important to get a check up if you tick any of the following boxes:
You think you might have a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
You recently had unprotected sex of any kind, or if a condom broke or fell off partway (it happens)
You or your partner has more than one sexual partner
You're starting a new sexual relationship
You've shared injecting equipment such as needles
So to sum up, if you're sexually active then it's important to go & get regular sexual health check ups with your doctor/GP or a sexual health clinic. This will help keep yourself and your partner (or partners) safe from any potential STIs or health issues.
If you're on the lookout for a sexual health clinic, head over to the Family Planning Alliance Australia website.
Right, so what happens at these sexual health checks?
The doctor or nurse will ask a bunch of questions about your sex life, such as number of sexual partners, what kind of sexual stuff you're into, any health problems, and any potential symptoms of an STI. Next up is a physical examination and the doctor or nurse will ask you permission to do things that may include:
Providing a urine sample or swabs of bodily fluids for examination.
Do a blood test.
Examine your genital area, which includes vaginal examinations such as pap smears.
We get that it may be a bit weird to be speaking to a stranger about your sex life, however it is reassuring to know that they talk about this stuff all the time. Remember that they're medical professionals which means what you tell them is confidential by law, plus a good doctor or nurse will never judge you on anything you tell them - they just want to help you and to make sure you're practising safe sex.
That's nice of them. What about contraceptives?
Contraception is all about preventing pregnancy. We had so much to say about it that we couldn't fit it here and ended up dedicating an entire article about it right here.
An entire article on contraceptives?!
Yeah, well, contraception is important.
Okay, what's PrEP then and why is it important?
PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis and is an oral medication for HIV-negative people who are at risk of HIV infection. These people include:
Men who have sex with men without using a condom.
Having a sexual partner who is HIV-positive and not on treatment or they are at high risk of getting HIV.
Sexually active people who inconsistently use condoms.
PrEP is prescribed by a doctor (so you'll need to chat to your GP about this) and is up to 99% effective at preventing HIV when prescribed correctly. It's very important to note that PrEP is only for HIV prevention, it does not protect against any other STIs. For other STI protection methods and forms of contraception, head over to our handy contraception article right here.
Now PrEP may not be for everyone and your circumstances and/or health may play a role in deciding whether this method of HIV prevention is for you. If you're not entirely sure or need some extra information, chat to a GP.
So if you're about to have sex, please stay safe, use protection, make sure everyone has given the okay, and remember to get regular checks.
We have a team of nurses who can help you find your nearest sexual health clinic if you don’t want to talk to your family GP about contraception or anything related to sexual health. Don't worry, conversations are confidential so you don't need to stress about anyone else finding out.
If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app.
Information sourced from: Australian Institute of Family Studies, Better Health, Health Direct, The Womens, NSW Health, Reach Out, and Youth Legal Service.
Image credit: Sex Education
All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.