Your Questions, Answered: Sex and Consent
This month, we teamed up with Brook - the UK’s leading sexual health and wellbeing charity for under 25s - to answer all of your questions on sex and consent. Your questions have been answered honestly and frankly by experts in the field and are intended for those above the age of consent (that’s 16 in the UK!). Here’s what they had to say...
If I have sex without a condom and I got my penis out before cumming, is there a chance they could get pregnant?
The ‘pull out’ method is risky and is not a form of contraception. You have no control over preejaculate (precum) which may contain sperm from the previous ejaculation. For less stress, it’s better to use condoms. They also protect you against STIs.
How would you go about trying to get over fears and anxieties surrounding sex?
Education is key to making informed choices surrounding sex! When you make fully informed choices this can help you to feel empowered. Communication with the right partner should also help to reduce any worries you may have regarding sex. You should never feel fearful with regards to the sex you are having and if you do, this could be a sign that something is not right.
What does sex feel like and how old do you have to be?
Sex is different for everyone but it should feel enjoyable and pleasurable! The age of consent in the UK is 16.
Sometimes it feels like my body is ready for sex, but my mind isn’t always. But does that mean I’m giving consent? Because like, it feels like I want it but kind of doesn’t?
Sometimes people’s bodies will be turned on even though they do not want to engage in sexual activity. Even if your penis is erect or your vulva is wet - you do not have to have sex if you do not want to. Physical changes in the body can be a sign that someone is aroused, but this is not always the case. Also, someone might be feeling aroused but still not want to take part in a sexual activity, and this is fine. Physical arousal is not an invitation to have sex or a sign that someone gives their consent.
Is there an age restriction on contraception and pregnancy tests?
There is not! You can access free contraception and pregnancy tests from your local sexual health clinic.
How do you have safe lesbian sex? Can you get STDs? How?
You can get an STI if you are having lesbian sex. Remember to have regular STI testing even if you are not showing any signs or symptoms. If you use sex toys keep them clean and use condoms on sex toys that they will fit onto.
If you have only ever had lesbian sex are you a virgin?
Great question! Traditionally, ‘virginity’ was defined in a narrow and limiting way. Now, you can decide what it means to you (if anything at all). There are so many different ways of engaging in sex, and they are all valid. Often, when people talk about having sex for the first time they mean having penetrative sex. At Brook, when we talk about sex, we are usually talking about all forms of sexual contact between two or more people. This could include penetrative sex, oral sex, fingering, and using sex toys amongst other things.
What does consent actually mean?
To consent means to agree to something, and the word can be used in lots of different situations. When it comes to sex specifically, to consent means to agree to have sex or engage in sexual activity. To consent to sexual activity means agreeing freely and with full capacity to engage in that activity. This means that someone has to be able to agree to sexual activity with full understanding of what they are agreeing to, and no pressure to say ‘yes’.
How do you tell your partner you feel ready for sex?
You could say something like “I’m very attracted to you and I would love to explore sexual stuff with you - but only if you’re ready. Let’s have a conversation about what we find exciting and comfortable."
How often (like times per week for example) is sex acceptable for a 16 year old?
There are no norms when it comes to frequency of sex. Do whatever feels right for you!
How do you know when you’re ready to have sex?
You may be ready when you’re more excited than scared about the idea of having sex. You should know how to protect yourself, and be ready to have conversations to ensure you’re protected from pregnancy or STIs. You may really want to be close to someone because you’re very attracted to them. It’s important that you feel you can talk about sex with your partner and your needs and boundaries will be respected.
What if I’ve said yes to sex but then half way through change my mind. Because haven’t I already consented?
Really good question. It’s important that everyone involved in sexual activity is consenting at all times - no one should ever feel they have to do something they are not comfortable with or don’t want to do. Just because you have consented to one thing doesn’t mean you have consented to something else, and it’s completely okay to say no or stop at any point if you don’t want to continue. It doesn’t matter what your relationship with someone is, how far into a sexual situation you get or how far you’ve gone with them before, you always have the right to change your mind and stop at any time. The other person must respect your decision.
How can I not be scared of doing anything sexual?
Feeling scared might be an indication that you’re not ready to do anything sexual yet, and that is absolutely okay! There’s no rush to explore your sexuality with a partner. For the moment, you might feel more comfortable exploring sexual things on your own through touch and masturbation. Then in the future, if you feel more excited and ready to try things with another person, you’ll be able to communicate what you like.
What is the average age of losing virginity in the UK?
The age of someone’s ‘sexual debut’ is different for everyone. We would say that it doesn’t matter about the average age, because when it comes to sex you should listen to your body and whether or not you feel ready. Some people might never want to engage in sex, and that’s okay too - it’s everyone’s right to make their own choices.
I’m a male, should I shave down there?
Regardless of what gender you are or what genitals you have, it’s entirely up to you what you do with your pubic hair. Some people prefer it shaven, some people like waxing, and others prefer to keep it natural - just remember, it’s your choice! Just like haircuts, everyone’s pubes are different and unique to them.
Doesn’t asking someone for consent kind of ruin the mood?
Absolutely not. Practicing consent doesn’t have to interrupt the flow of sex. It means paying attention to your partner’s actions, words and sounds every time you have sex and throughout each sexual encounter. Take a moment to ask your partner if sexual activity is what they want and if it feels good, listen to what they say, and read your partner’s body language. You could ask things like ‘What would you like to happen next?’, ‘How are you doing? Do you want to carry on?’, ‘I’d like to try _____, what do you think?’. And remember, the absence of no doesn’t equal consent. Sometimes ‘no’ is hard to say. Pay attention to your partner and pick up on what they might be trying to say. If you aren’t sure, double check and keep communicating. Never assume!
In the UK is it illegal for a 20 year old to have sex with a 16 year old?
The age of consent in the UK is 16, so it would not be illegal for a 20 year old and a 16 year old to have consensual sex, unless the 20 year old was in a position of trust such as being the 16 year old’s teacher or youth worker.
My partner put me in a position they knew I wasn’t comfortable with, they were extremely apologetic and haven’t done it since, should I be concerned?
The answer to this very much depends on what kind of uncomfortable situation we’re talking about. If the issue is that they pressured you into karaoke, then maybe that conversation and apology might suffice. If they put you in an uncomfortable position with regards to doing something sexual with them that you didn’t want to do, then this could be cause for concern, yes. If it was the latter, then we would encourage you to speak to a trusted adult about this. Remember, it wasn’t your fault, and you’re not alone. There’s loads of support available to you.
What is the difference between a female condom and a male condom?
Great question! You are right, there are two different types of condom. Sometimes people call them the male/female condom, however at Brook we call them the external condom and the internal condom because it's more inclusive! This is because not all men have penises and not all women have vaginas. The external condom is 98% effective when used correctly, and can be used to cover the penis before sex, or if you have with toys it can be used to cover them too! The internal condom is 95% effective when used correctly and can be inserted into the vagina before sex. Both help to protect against STIs and/or pregnancies, but make sure you know how to use them correctly before you start having sex. If the condom tears or falls off during sex make sure you and your partner get tested for STIs, and if either of you are worried about pregnancy, make sure to get emergency contraception - you have up to 72 hours to access this, but the sooner you take it the more effective it is.
If you have any questions about sex, sexual health, relationships, gender or more, Brook are here to help. Find answers and more services available to you by heading to their website.