No one would be on the planet right now if it weren’t for sex. It’s a crucial and integral part of the human lifecycle, but most people find it taboo and don’t talk about it. This leads to many questions and tons of confusion.
It takes time to learn how to have sex because you must determine what your preferences are and what works for your own body. That’s okay! Each person is on their own timeline, so their sexual needs are much different than yours. However, you need proper sex education to understand how to make your partner orgasm and avoid unplanned pregnancies.
Here are the basics to having great sex that’s safe and enjoyable for everyone!
Top Things to Know
Here are a few pointers to keep in mind:
- Sexual pleasure means different things for everyone.
- You don’t just have sex to make babies (procreate). Sexual activities should be fun for everyone.
- Consent is crucial because this means you’ve made sure everyone involved wants to participate in the act. They feel safe and are enjoying sex the entire time.
- STIs are quite common, and you shouldn’t be ashamed. Your reproductive health is more important, and STIs are treatable, with many being curable!
- Understanding the anatomy of you and your partner can help you experience pleasure, which makes sex great!
Let’s dive in deeper!
What Are Sex and Sexual Intercourse?
Sex is an activity for one, two, or multiple people to participate in where they feel sexually aroused (excited). It could involve words, touch, or both and often includes touching the genitals, but that’s not always the case.
When most people talk about sex, they focus on sexual intercourse, which is often referred to as penetrative sex. However, this doesn’t always happen. In fact, you don’t have to experience vaginal fluids at all!
Everyone involved should enjoy sex, and each person should give consent before and during the event. That means everyone must discuss what they’re comfortable with in the beginning. Likewise, they may change their minds at any time and ask to stop. You should respect their decision so that it’s a pleasurable experience for both or all.
Most sex education in schools teaches this, but some don’t offer much. They may focus on safe sex or only include abstinence-only information. Regardless of what you were taught, you must ensure that you’re not having unsafe sex and are always listening to your partner.
What Is Consent?
Before we jump too far into sex and what it is, you should focus on ensuring that all parties involved are ready and willing. The legal definition can change based on your location, but the general principle is the same. Technically, sexual consent is the agreement between people to engage in sexual activities together.
You always have the right to choose what you’ll do, how, and who to do it with. However, giving consent requires you to communicate your boundaries, preferences, and expectations to all sexual partners while also acknowledging and understanding their requirements. It should be:
- Mutual – Make sure you are ready and that your partner also wants it.
- Enthusiastic – A mumbled “yes” isn’t the same as being excited and relaxed about the situation. Consider saying, “let’s try that,” “I want to,” or “I’m ready for that.”
- Ongoing – Blanket consent is not a thing. Even if you’ve had sex with someone before, you must ask if it’s okay before each activity session or within the session. Get permission every time and for every activity! When you’re in the moment, consent can be an affirmative phrase, such as “keep going” or “I like that.”
- Informed – You know the boundaries and terms you’ve set for sex, and so does your partner. However, if those terms change, the original consent is now invalid. For example, your partner removed the condom without your knowledge.
- Voluntary – You’ve chosen to have sex with no guilt, expectation, or external pressure. Likewise, you know your surroundings and aren’t incapacitated by drugs and alcohol.
It’s always best to use your words when consenting or not consenting to sex. Physical cues, such as nodding your head or pushing their hands away, can be ignored or misunderstood.
Some partners and couples like to use a specific word or short phrase to indicate “stop” or “no.” This can be helpful in the heat of the moment or when you’re trying an activity where your arms cannot move, or you can’t speak. However, it’s wise to be completely comfortable with the person before you consider this.
The older generation often feels odd or strange asking if their partner wants to have sex. However, young people understand the need for consent. In fact, asking is now sexy.
As you grow and learn about your partner’s mood, body language, and needs, you will have no issues comprehending when they’ve consented. However, communication is easier when you know the other person well. Therefore, when you’re with a new partner, it’s better to ask than have a poor experience.
Different Types of Sex
Most people think good sex comes from penetration, but there are many forms of sex to be aware of. These include:
- Vaginal Sex – This is when the penis enters (vaginal penetration) or rubs against the vagina or when two vaginas touch. There are various sex positions involved, and you can have an amazing sex life with just this option.
- Mouth-to-Genitals – Oral sex is when one person uses their mouth to pleasure or stimulate the genitals by sucking, kissing, or licking.
- Erogenous Touching – This is when hands and other body parts get used to cause a sexual sensation or feeling. It includes cuddling, nipple stimulation, kissing, rubbing, or caressing the genitals and other areas of the body.
- Anal Sex – A sex toy or the penis is inserted into the person’s anus (butt hole). There’s no natural lubrication in this part of the body, so water-based lubrication is crucial here. Otherwise, you could experience pain and tiny tears in the area.
- Phone and Video Sex – You can achieve sexual arousal and excitement by talking, sharing images, and flirting with someone on the phone or online.
- Masturbation – Touching your own body can lead to sexual pleasure and help you achieve orgasm. You can do it alone or with someone else. Often, sex toys are used here, which include anal toys, dildos, vibrators, and more.
A Note About Sex Toys
Many people have a misconception about sex, believing that all women can orgasm from penetration alone. This is significantly damaging to everyone and can lead to feelings of inadequacy. Intercourse is a great thing, but there are other methods. In some cases, it’s psychological, but other times, it’s a physical issue.
It’s wise to talk to your partner about what feels great. If it’s the first time you’re with that person, you may have to masturbate afterward if you don’t achieve satisfaction from penetration alone. As you grow more comfortable with that person, you can introduce sex toys into the mix.
You want to ensure that your partner is getting satisfaction, and they should do the same for you. However, no one should make others feel uncomfortable about their needs or preferences. Toys are an excellent way to improve your chance of orgasm and stimulate the clitoris, but they can be intimidating.
Many men feel inadequate if they can’t make their partner orgasm with penetration alone. However, the sign of a good relationship comes when both parties get satisfaction, regardless of how it happens.
There are many sex toys on the market, which can make it difficult to know what to get. Typically, a clitoral vibrator is an excellent first choice because it’s easy to use alone or with someone else.
People often get into a “rut,” which is where they do the same things over and over. There’s nothing wrong with that, but a relationship is also about growing, learning, and trying new things.
Humans like variety; you don’t eat the same thing for dinner each night because it gets boring quickly. Sex isn’t any different! While a routine can be nice, it removes that “special something” you look forward to.
You can mix things up in many ways. For example, have sex in a different room than the bedroom, have morning sex, or use a sex toy! You don’t have to break up the monotony each time, but doing that periodically can increase everyone’s satisfaction!
What Is a Sex Drive, and Where in the Body Does It Come From?
Libido is your desire to have sex, and it’s often referred to as your sex drive. Many things affect this, including stress levels, hormones, physical health, and your mental health. Sometimes, your family, romantic partners, friends, faith/religion, and community can influence your feelings about sexual intercourse and pleasure, and they might vary throughout your life.
Medications can also affect your sexual desire by delaying an orgasm, decreasing your libido, or even changing your preferred sexual behavior. These include:
- Hormonal therapy
- Anticholinergics (used to treat various conditions relating to the bladder, lungs, intestines, dizziness, or vomiting/nausea)
- Mental health medications, including SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors)
- Medications used to treat high blood pressure
Sex research doesn’t show any direct connection between your sex drive and hormonal birth control. However, it’s important to know that sexual health is very complex.
If you believe a medication you’re taking is leading to sexual dissatisfaction, speak to your healthcare provider. Consider tracking your experiences with an app to determine if birth control might be having adverse effects on your libido and body.
Orgasm and Sexual Pleasure
Sexual pleasure isn’t defined in one specific way. In fact, many things could bring you satisfaction and enjoyment. An orgasm is the most intense sexual excitement available, but that’s only one option.
Those with penises can experience orgasm when the penis gets enlarged and hard. They wish to have sex and get a release of hormones throughout the body. Typically, ejaculation happens during this time.
People with vulvas will experience an orgasm when their clitoris (and possibly the outer and inner labia) gets stimulated and swollen. As with the penis, the clitoris has many nerve endings within. When those areas are massaged or touched, signals within the body flood those nerves. This sends pleasurable feelings throughout the body.
It’s crucial to understand the anatomy of you and your sexual partner so that you can both achieve the best sex possible.
Communication is critical here. Your sexual behavior preferences might be different than your partner’s, so what feels good for you might not be for them. Talk to your sex partner and discuss what you like/dislike.
While it’s often fun to experiment with each other’s bodies, you should always get permission first. If they aren’t enjoying it or say no and you continue, this is a sexual assault. That’s never sexy. Communication can lead to increased intimacy because you each care about the other.
Sometimes, masturbation is important in a sexual relationship because it helps you each understand your own bodies and what works for you.
Ways to Have Safer Sex
Safer sex can help in preventing pregnancy and reduce your risk of STIs. Typically, penis-in-vagina sexual intercourse is the main way to get pregnant. Still, pregnancy can happen if the semen gets to the vagina when performing other forms of sex. However, anyone can get STIs when body fluids and bodies come into contact with each other (anal, vaginal, and oral sex).
The risk of STI is significantly lower when people masturbate alone. However, it’s crucial to clean any toys used before and after the fun.
Top Methods of Protecting from STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections)
There are various contraceptive methods available to protect from STIs. These include birth control and barrier methods.
It’s crucial to use barrier methods properly each time you have sex. They can be utilized on toys for oral, anal, and vaginal intercourse or on body parts. These include:
- External condoms (often called latex condoms for men)
- Internal condoms (often called female condoms)
- Nitrile or latex gloves
- Dental dams
Here are a few other tips to ensure that you’re as safe as possible, regardless of your sexual history:
- Use condom-safe lubrication
- Use a fresh condom on sex toys or clean and sterilize them when sharing
- Change condoms before you switch between various types of sex
- Change condoms for each sexual partner
- Test for STIs frequently, encouraging your partner to do so, as well
Barrier methods can significantly reduce your risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection. They prevent each person’s bodily fluids and genitals from coming into direct contact with the other partner.
The Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends using them correctly each time you have sex. When you do so, you can prevent pregnancy roughly 98 percent of the time (perfect use) and 87 percent of the time with normal use.
It’s always wise to use a barrier method unless:
- Everyone has recently received a negative result for all STIs/
- All parties are sure the others haven’t had sex with anyone else (monogamous relationships with full trust).
- You are planning to get pregnant.
What to Do If Your Partner Doesn’t Like Condom Use
You have the right to feel comfortable and protect your health during any sexual activity. Therefore, it’s important to be honest and have open communication with all partners. If they’re pressuring you to have unsafe sex, you may decide that you don’t want them around. Plus, you can have a great sex life alone until you find someone worthy!
STDs and STIs: Symptoms, Prevention, and Treatment
Every day, about one million people get sexually transmitted infections, according to the World Health Organization. Likewise, the Centers for Disease Control claim that one in five people had one or more sexually transmitted diseases in 2018.
Though STIs are quite common, most people don’t know much about them. For example, did you know about the preventative steps you have available to you to keep from contracting one? Likewise, most STIs have mild or no symptoms at all!
It’s crucial to know basic information about STIs because that could change the precautions you take in your sex life. Likewise, it might prevent sexual problems and makes sex safer and better for everyone!
Chlamydia is typically asymptomatic, so you may not even know you’ve got it. The symptoms can include:
- Rectal pain
- Spotting after sex or between periods
- Painful or frequent urination
- Pus-like yellow discharge
If left untreated, Chlamydia could lead to infertility in women, ectopic pregnancy, chronic pelvic pain, and pelvic inflammatory disease.
Did you know that genital herpes is one of the most common STIs in the United States? Those who get it might not have symptoms, so they can spread the disease without knowing it. Others get recurrent ulcers and blisters on the genital area.
When performing any sexual activity, it’s crucial to be aware that there’s no cure for it, but you can manage symptoms and outbreaks.
Gonorrhea is another STI that’s often asymptomatic, which means people don’t even realize they have it. If you don’t treat it, you could end up with female infertility, ectopic pregnancy, pelvic inflammatory disease, or chronic pelvic pain. However, it’s easily curable with two specific antibiotic medications.
Trichomoniasis is typically asymptomatic, as well. People often experience these symptoms:
- Painful sexual intercourse or urination
- Vulvar itchiness and pain
- Malodorous and colored vaginal discharge
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is often transmitted by exchanging certain bodily fluids, such as vaginal fluids, breast milk, semen, and blood. However, normal physical contact, sneezing, tears, and salvia cannot lead to HIV transmission, according to the World Health Organization.
It’s possible to get HIV from any unprotected sexual activity. This includes oral, penis-in-vagina, and anal sex. Currently, there’s no cure for the disease, but certain medications can reduce the risk of contracting or transmitting it and keep its viral load down.
What Types of Sex Transmit STIs?
STIs are usually transferred through feces, saliva, blood, skin-to-skin contact, vaginal fluids, and semen. It’s hard to determine which sex act might be responsible for transmission because people usually engage in more than one sexual activity at a time. For example, they might perform oral sex and penetrative sex in the same session.
- HSV-1 (oral herpes)
Oral Sex STIs
- Herpes (HSV-2 and HSV-1)
Fisting and Fingering (Anal or Vaginal Intercourse) STIs
Anything that might lead to tears or cuts of the genitals or anus, such as rings and fingernails, could increase the risk of transmitting blood-borne STIs, such as hepatitis B and C or HIV.
If your fingers touch another person’s genitals and then yours, those genital secretions can lead to STIs. Therefore, it’s best to wash your hands after handling your partner’s genitals or wear gloves to be even safer.
Vaginal Sex (Vulva-to-Vulva and Penis-in-Vagina) STIs
Sexual intercourse that involves the vagina can lead to issues with your sexual health. You could be at risk for:
- Genital warts
- Hepatitis C and B
- Herpes (HSV-2 and HSV-1)
Anal Sex STIs
Anal sexual intercourse could lead to these STIs if you don’t take precautions:
- Genital warts
- Herpes (HSV-2 and HSV-1)
- Hepatitis C and B
- Diseases often transmitted through fecal microorganisms (Shigella, Giardia, Campylobacter, E. coli, and Salmonella)
There’s no shame in having an STI, but sex education is crucial to understand the risks of unprotected sex. It’s best to discuss things openly in your sexual relationships so that everyone knows where you stand. This leads to the best sex life possible because everyone involved is safe and cares about the other person.
Learning how to have sex is something most people find out on their own. Your sexual experience can be heightened when you are informed, safe, and comfortable with what’s happening.
Overall, sex is highly enjoyable when you take the right precautions. Use a tracking app to know when you have sex, whether it’s protected/unprotected, and set specific reminders to get STI tests done for the best results.