So, what IS sex?

‘Honest’ - Milly Evans

In really basic terms, sex is something that involves one or more sets of genitals (of any variety) being touched or made to feel good.

Traditional ideas around sex focus on the act of a penis penetrating a vagina (‘PIV’ sex) – but sex comes in so many more forms than this! Every consenting adult should be able to enjoy sex if they want to, without their experiences being invalidated or not seen as “normal.” There are actually lots of different ways to have sex. Whatever works for you could be down to a number of things: being part of the LGBTQIA+ community, having a health condition or disability, or simply because one particular way just feels great! Sex should be pleasurable, positive, and fun. Your sexual wellbeing is all about that. It’s always good to make sure any sexual activity you take part in is something you enjoy and want to do.

Sex and Pleasure

We always talk (quite rightly) about the importance of sexual consent, whether it’s before or even during sex. What we talk less about, however, is the importance of sexual pleasure - let’s take a minute to think about how little sense that makes! How (and why) would you truly consent to something that doesn’t feel pleasurable to you? Sex is meant to feel good. Whether you are having sex for the first or hundredth time, it is important to always listen to your body and get a better understanding of what you enjoy. This doesn’t have to be exclusively through partnered sex. Getting to know yourself and what turns you on through masturbation (solo sex) or experimenting safely with sex toys are also perfectly healthy, natural options that anyone can choose.

Did you know? You can get a student discount on sex toys from reputable retailors like LoveHoney.

Did you know? If you’re a person with a disability and are worried or wondering if toys are an accessible option for you, charity Enhance The UK runs The Love Lounge, providing advice and support with all things love, sex and relationships with a disability – including info on adapted sex toys.

Sex and Communication

When choosing to have sex with one or more partners, be it for one time only, the first time, or as part of an ongoing relationship, good communication is the key to making sure that the sex is both consensual and pleasurable for everyone involved. This could feel awkward, particularly if you really want to please others or sex is not something you are used to talking about. But you don’t have to broadcast your preferences to the world! A private, gentle, honest conversation with the one(s) you are choosing to be intimate with is all part of establishing a healthy relationship or simply just making sure all parties have a great time. There is a lot of good advice out there about communicating during sex. Some of our top tips include:

  1. Talking together beforehand about what you like, don’t like, or would like to try.
  2. Checking in with each other throughout sex, be that through asking questions, guiding each other’s hands, or reading each other’s body language.
  3. Making sure you are able to say ‘stop’ (either verbally or with a physical signal, such as tapping someone’s arm) if you are feeling pain, discomfort, or anything else that means you are no longer enjoying yourself.
  4. Knowing you have the right to stop having any form of sex at any time, for any reason.

Always remember: respecting people’s boundaries involves so much more than getting a simple “yes” or “no”. Even if you got a “yes” when you first started having sex, if during sex your partner is tensing up, turning their face or body away from you, staying silent, flinching or laying completely still…it’s likely that they are no longer consenting and you need to stop and check in with them.

Is it OK if I don’t want to have sex at all?

It absolutely is! This can be hard to remember when you are surrounded by a society where sex seems to be everywhere and ‘everyone must be doing it!’. But the main thing about being sex-positive is you as an individual being able to embrace and enjoy your own choices. Despite how it may seem, you will not be alone in your decisions. Some people choose to wait until they’re older or married before they have sex. Some people are guided by religion or culture when it comes to making decisions about sex. It’s up to you.

Some people may also identify as asexual – a sexual orientation within the LGBTQ+ community where people can feel little or no sexual attraction to others.

Always remember: You have the right to choose, the right to say no and the right to NEVER feel pressurised into doing something you don’t want to do.

Support With Sex and Wellbeing:

Fumble - a handy and inclusive guide to sex, sexuality, and relationships.

Brook - specific advice and real-life stories around sex, relationships and mental health.

MindOut - mental health and peer support for the LGBTQ+ community.

Enhance the UK - a charity that aims to change societies view on disability, including support, confidential advice and real-life stories from The Love Lounge.

AVEN (The Asexual Visibility and Education Network) - a website/online forum with extensive information about asexuality and other similar sexual or romantic orientations and peer support from its large, friendly community.

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