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Info For Teens

What is Sex?

When it comes to sex, you’ve probably got a lot of questions. Here are some answers to some of the most common questions we’re asked.

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    What is sex?

    People define “sex” in different ways. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “sexually motivated behavior.” This sounds right to us. But not everyone agrees with the dictionary or with us. People all have their own definitions of what “sex” and “having sex” means.

    For some people it’s only penis-in-vagina intercourse. For some people, it’s only penis-in-anus intercourse (anal sex). For some people, it’s genital rubbing without intercourse. For some people, it includes oral / genital contact. For some, it includes masturbation. The possibilities are many. For most experts (like Merriam-Webster and us), it includes all of the above.

    However you define it, being sexual with another person — whether that means kissing, touching, or intercourse — involves a lot of responsibility.  It’s very important to protect yourself against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. And you need to make decisions about protection before you engage in vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

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    When do people start having sex?

    It depends. The average age when people start having sex is about 17. Only about half of high school students have ever had intercourse and even once they start having sex, most teens don't have sex frequently.

    Choosing to have sex is a big decision. It's important to wait until you're ready to have sex.

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    What’s an orgasm? How can I tell if I've had one?

    An orgasm is the release of built-up muscle tension resulting from sexual activity. It produces rapid muscle contractions usually in the genital and anal area, but these contractions can also be throughout the whole body. Most people find these muscular contractions very pleasant. At the same time, painkilling chemicals called endorphins are released into the bloodstream, causing intense pleasure and relaxation.

    You may feel flushed or warm, your heartbeat will race, you will breathe harder, and you'll experience rapid muscle spasms mainly concentrated in the genital and anal areas.

    In both men and some women, an orgasm is often accompanied with the release of ejaculatory fluid. Ejaculation is much more usual in men than it is in women. Only about 10 percent of women report ejaculating during orgasm.

    Orgasms can be reached through many different types of sexual activity. Most women are more likely to reach orgasm through clitoral stimulation rather than stimulation of only the vagina. Men tend to reach orgasm more quickly than women, just as men tend to become sexually aroused more quickly than women. On the other hand, women are more likely to have more than one or multiple orgasms during sexual activity than men are.

    Women’s experience with orgasm is more varied than men’s, and not all women experience orgasm in the same way. There are also many women and men who get great pleasure from sex, whether or not they have orgasms.

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    Is it possible for a penis to go too far into a vagina?

    No. Most women's vaginas are between three and seven inches long. This usually depends on a woman's general body stature. However, the vagina can stretch much longer and wider during sexual intercourse or childbirth. It is true, however, that some penises are too big to fit comfortably in some vaginas. This is one of the disadvantages of having a very big penis.

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    What is oral sex?

    Oral sex is using one's mouth to stimulate a partner's genitals.

    Just as with any kind of sex, everybody is different — with various likes and dislikes, so communication is the key. In order to make sex more satisfying, it's important to be clear with yourself and your partner about what kinds of sex you want to do and don't want to do.

    Learning how to give oral sex is usually done by letting each other know what feels good and what doesn't — so both partners can learn what’s pleasurable.

    Although there is no chance for pregnancy to happen from oral sex, unprotected oral sex puts both partners at risk for a number of sexually transmitted infections, whether they are giving or receiving genital stimulation. Although the risks of infection are generally quite a bit lower with unprotected oral sex than they are with unprotected vaginal or anal intercourse, using a barrier during oral sex can further decrease those risks. For safer oral sex, use a condom to cover the penis, or a Sheer Glyde dam, cut-open condom, or plastic wrap to cover the vulva or anus.

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    Can I get pregnant from oral sex?

    No, it's not possible to become pregnant from oral sex whether ejaculate is swallowed or not. But pregnancy can occur if sperm are spilled into the vagina or on the vulva during any kind of sex.

    However, unprotected oral sex — on a woman or on a man — puts both partners at risk for a number of sexually transmitted infections, whether they are giving or receiving genital stimulation. For safer oral sex, use a condom to cover the penis, or a Sheer Glyde dam or plastic wrap to cover the vulva or anus.

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    How safe is anal sex? Can I get pregnant from anal sex?

    It’s not possible to become pregnant from anal sex (inserting the penis into the anus). But pregnancy can occur if semen is spilled into the vagina or on the vulva during any kind of sex.

    Like unprotected vaginal intercourse, unprotected anal intercourse is high-risk for many sexually transmitted infections. Use condoms during anal sex to decrease the risk of sexually transmitted infections.

    Some men and women enjoy anal sex, and others do not.

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    Does anal sex hurt?

    Anal sex can hurt if partners do not take certain steps. The anus does not usually produce enough lubrication for comfortable anal sex, so it is important to use an artificial water-based lubricant — like K-Y jelly or Astroglide — for anal sex. (Using an oil-based lubricant, like Vaseline, can damage latex condoms.)

    It’s also important to stop doing it if anything hurts and communicate with your partner about how you feel — sex that’s painful or uncomfortable should not continue.

    Not all people enjoy anal intercourse. Those who don't enjoy it should not be embarrassed into it and should not force themselves to accept it.

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    What if I don’t want to have sex with anyone, ever?

    Many people feel this way at various times in their lives. It’s perfectly normal. People have different levels of sexual desire — some have more and some have less. Some people would be happy to have sex every day, and some people would be happy to have sex once a month, or less often, or not at all. 

    Many things can affect our desire for sex. They include stress, hormones, how comfortable we are with our partners, past sexual experiences, if we feel safe, how much we’re attracted to someone, illness, medication, and many other factors in our lives.



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