Healthy living

Relationships, sex and other stuff

Relationships, sex and other stuff booklet
Department of Health 'Relationships, sex & other stuff' booklet

From the moment you are born, you have different kinds of relationships and connections with those around you – parents, siblings, friends, aunts, uncles, grandparents, teachers and role models to name a few. As you get older, the kinds of relationships you have may include romantic and sexual partners. The level of connection you have in all relationships is different and can change over time, but the one thing that remains constant is the need for respect – both giving respect and being respected.

It’s also really helpful to have an adult to talk to about this information too. So, think of some of the adults in your life that you can trust and feel comfortable with – this might be a parent, a family member, a teacher, a school nurse or your doctor. They can help answer questions you might have, point you in the direction for reliable information and services, be a listening ear and support you along the way.

Download the Relationships, sex and other stuff booklet (PDF 2.6KB).

(This booklet includes a heap of information so that teenagers can read up on the important stuff as they navigate the road to becoming an adult.)

If you would like to order a hard copy booklet please email gdhr@health.wa.gov.au (Growing and Developing Healthy Relationships).

Communication

With all the changes taking place in your life, you are bound to experience a full range of moods – confidence, excitement, loneliness, frustration, love, anger, appreciation, and more. This is a totally normal part of being a teenager. Although all of these changes and emotions can be challenging at times, there are usually wonderful freedoms that come with greater independence as you get older. There are many amazing things to discover and learn before having to take on all the responsibilities of adulthood.

It is important to spend time with and talk to the people around you and who care about you. Talking helps people to process thoughts, communicate needs and work towards resolutions to problems. You may not find it easy to talk about some things. You may find that different people will be able to help you with different things. Try talking to someone who cares about you and who can support you to help you become the person you want to be. This might be a trusted and respected adult or friend, your doctor, or a school counsellor.

You can always call the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, especially if you are having problems talking to your family.

Friendships

During puberty you experience lots of changes. Some of these are physical, some are social and some are emotional. Everyone changes at a different rate along the road to adulthood. You may find that the interests of your friends start to vary too. Someone you have been close to for all your primary school life may become more of a distant friend. You may find that things that never used to interest you, now matter to you a lot. Everyone around you may start to have strong opinions about clothes, music, hobbies, who they like what they’re good at, what they think is cool and what’s not. These opinions may not always match your own – and that is OK.

In the end, the friends you stay close to will probably be those with whom you share the same values, interests and concerns, and the same ways of enjoying your time. Remember, the one thing that remains constant is respect – both giving respect and being respected.

Romantic relationships

Just as our bodies grow as we get older, so do our feelings.

Relationships, sex and other stuff booklet (PDF 2.6KB) provides answers to questions many teenagers may have including:

  • If I have a crush, what should I do?
  • What if they don’t feel the same way?
  • What if it’s more than a crush?
  • Will someone ever fall in love with me?
  • Is it love? How will I know?
  • What if my heart gets broken?

Remember that getting to know yourself and the things that are important to you can help you to figure out what kinds of qualities you may want in a partner. If you need to talk to someone, a parent or trusted adult can be a good choice. They were young once too and they will probably remember all the exciting, giddy, shy, wonderful or scary feelings that you may be feeling during this time.

Technology and relationships

Technology plays a big part in how we communicate with each other and gives us lots of wonderful ways to connect with friends, family and loved ones. It is important that we are just as respectful online as we are in person. It’s also important that you understand some of the laws around online behaviour.

Cyberbullying

Relationships, sex and other stuff booklet (PDF 2.6KB) helps you to better understand what cyberbullying is and what you can do if you experience cyberbullying or know someone else who is.

Sexting

Sexting is sharing sexual images, messages and videos with another person. Some people who are in trusting adult relationships sometimes send sexts as an expression of their feelings and desires, and these usually remain private because they are respectful of one another’s privacy. Things can go wrong when people are pressured into sending images or when images are shared without consent. There are also laws about sexting that are important to know. For example, in Australia, it is against the law to take, send, receive or store a sexual picture of a person who is under the age of 18, even if it was taken with the other person’s consent or taken by the person themselves. Even if you are also under the age of 18, it is still against the law. These laws are designed to help protect people from harm.

Pornography (porn)

Pornography (porn) is sexually explicit material that aims to arouse (turn on) people who are looking at it. It is very easy to come across porn accidentally online through pop-ups and links. If you come across sexual images or videos that are surprising or shocking, you don’t have to view them! Stop watching, close the page and tell an adult. Don’t show others.

It is not unusual to be curious about porn and to watch it, but it is not a reliable or trustworthy source of information to base views and choices about sex. If you have questions about what real sex is like, it is best to ask a trusted adult or learn about it from reliable sources like Get the Facts (external site).

For more information read Relationships, sex and other stuff booklet (PDF 2.6KB) and, remember, there is always something that can be done to help you if you are feeling worried. Speak to a trusted adult or call the Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 if you are concerned about any of these issues.

Sexuality

Your sexuality is a central part of what makes you uniquely who you are. Like all other parts of your life, understanding your sexuality can take time for you to figure out… and that’s OK.

Sexual identity is about who you find attractive – physically, emotionally, romantically and sexually… and the way these feelings are expressed. Everyone’s sexuality is different. These differences are normal and form part of the broad range of human relationships and experiences.

Relationships, sex and other stuff booklet (PDF 2.6KB) to learn more about the words that people may choose to use to describe their sexuality. Individuals may find the word or words they choose to describe their sexuality changes over time or they might not wish to put a label on their sexuality at all.

For some young people, getting to know their sexuality is an exciting and celebrated part of growing up. For others it can be a lonely and confusing experience, especially if they experience bullying and discrimination or lack support from family, friends and school.

It may be helpful to know that there are other people going through the same thing and lots of people and places can offer information and support. See Relationships, sex and other stuff booklet (PDF 2.6KB) (page 40) or see the Where to get help section below for further information.

Sexual relationships

Sexual feelings

As people grow up, their romantic and sexual feelings can get even stronger and sometimes they want to share those feelings with someone else. Spending quality time with someone, doing activities you both enjoy, talking about your experiences, sending romantic messages, discussing your likes and dislikes and sharing hopes and future dreams are all ways that you may like to get closer to someone that you are attracted to. When you are sexually attracted to someone and they are sexually attracted to you, you may reach a point when you want to express this physically. Just as every person likes different levels of non-sexual touch (e.g. hugs, tickles, personal space), they also like different levels of sexual touch.

Consent

Remember, before being sexual with someone, you need to know if they want to be sexual with you too. Without consent, sexual activities is sexual assault.

Read more about consent to sexual activity.

Sexual activities and sex

There are lots of things to consider when you are working out if you are ready to begin to have sex. Some people may be ready for some kinds of sexual activities and not others at various times of their lives. Some people may not want to have some kinds of sex or any sex at all. This can change at different times of life.

The word sex also means different things to different people. It is more than just penises and vaginas – it is hugging, kissing and touching genitals, and can include oral and anal sex too. When most people talk about ‘having sex’ they are usually referring to sexual intercourse or penetrative sex. Sexual intercourse involves an erect penis entering a vagina or anus (sometimes called penis-in-vagina or penis-in-anus sex). Keep in mind that it’s possible to be sexual without having intercourse. Things like kissing, touching, rubbing and stroking are all things that can feel good too. Knowing about all of these options can help you make informed choices that are best and safest for you and your partner.

Consequences of unsafe sex

Sex can be enjoyable and fulfilling but can involve risks. It is important to know about these risks so that you can make informed choices and help to reduce risks and unwanted consequences.

Pregnancy

Part of deciding if you are ready to have sex is understanding that penis-in-vagina sex can result in pregnancy and knowing how to prevent unintended pregnancies. A person with a uterus can get pregnant the first time they have sex and even before they have had their first period (because they may have already started releasing eggs). It is possible for a person with a uterus to get pregnant at any time in their menstrual cycle (even when they have their period or has just finished it). Not having sexual activity where sperm can come in contact with the vagina (abstinence) is the only 100% effective method of preventing pregnancy.

Contraception (birth control)

Contraception is something you do or use to prevent pregnancy. If two people decide to have penis-in-vagina sex, it is important for both partners to talk about ways to prevent pregnancy and STIs before having sex. The responsibility for contraception should be shared equally. Condoms are the only form of contraception that also protect against sexually transmissible infections (STIs). For other common contraceptive options see Relationships, sex and other stuff booklet (PDF 2.6KB).

Contraceptives are highly effective when used correctly but no contraception is 100% effective. Knowing about a pregnancy early is vital to make sure the person gets the help they need. For information on how you would know if you are pregnant see Relationships, sex and other stuff booklet (PDF 2.6KB). Or, if you or someone you know thinks or knows they are pregnant and needs support, they can get non-judgemental support from the Sexual Health Helpline (08) 9227 6178 (Metro) or 1800 198 205 (Country). Remember, if you or someone you know thinks they may be pregnant, it is really important to talk to a trusted adult.

Safer sex

Safer sex means protecting the health of both you and your partner by having sexual contact in ways that reduce the chances of unintended pregnancy or STIs. Some sexual activities have less risk than others. For example, not having penis-in-vagina sex means that there is no risk of pregnancy. And only kissing, cuddling, massaging and rubbing each other’s bodies reduces the risk of STIs.

For penis-in-vagina, penis-in-anus and, and oral sex, the best way to prevent STIs is to use condoms and dams (this is sometimes called having ‘protected sex’).

Read Relationships, sex and other stuff booklet (PDF 2.6KB), visit Get the Facts (external site) for more information (including places that offer condoms for free), and free STI testing in Western Australia at healthysexual.com.au by taking an online quiz, downloading a form, and taking it to a testing clinic.

Youth Law Australia (external site) is also a great website if you would like more information about sex, sexual relationships, and laws that relate to you.

Sexual assault

If you know someone who has been sexually assaulted, The Sexual Assault Resource Centre has a 24 hour emergency helpline 1800 199 888 for people 13 years and older. In cases of recent sexual assault, go to the nearest hospital or doctor.

Pregnancy

When a penis enters a vagina during sexual intercourse, it is possible for conception to occur, resulting in pregnancy. This is the case even if:

  • the girl has not had her first period (menstruation)
  • the boy withdraws his penis from her vagina before ejaculating
  • the girl is having her period
  • it is the first time she has had sexual intercourse.

Missed periods

The first sign that a girl may be pregnant is when her period doesn’t come when expected. If this occurs, it is vital to talk to a trusted adult and/or see a doctor as soon as possible.

Contraception (birth control)

Obviously the most effective means of preventing an unplanned pregnancy is to abstain from sexual intercourse. However, for those who choose otherwise the safest and surest way is to use contraception. Some forms of contraception such as condoms also protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Planning to become sexually active is a major decision that should be discussed with parents or another trusted adult before having sex.

If two people decide to have sex, it is important for both partners to talk about contraception options and to consistently use contraception whenever having sex. The responsibility for contraception should be shared equally.

There are many different types of contraception and it can be confusing deciding which method is right. No contraceptive method can be 100% guaranteed so it is important to be informed about the range of contraception available and to weigh up the risks and benefits of each. School nurses and doctors can provide information about these issues and options.

The most common contraceptive option for boys and men are condoms, which help prevent both unplanned pregnancy and STIs.

Common contraceptive options for girls and women also include condoms and:

  • a contraceptive pill, which must be taken at the same time every day
  • Implanon®, a small plastic rod implanted under the skin of the arm that slowly releases hormones.

The human body is sophisticated, and geared towards reproduction, so contraception must be used as advised in order to be effective.

Read more about contraception on the Get the Facts website (external site).

Conception (becoming pregnant)

Around 14 days before a girl’s period is due, her ovaries release at least one egg. This stage of the menstrual cycle is called ovulation. Ovulation is the optimum time for a pregnancy to occur if a male and female have unprotected penis-to-vagina intercourse.

When a man ejaculates (comes, reaches climax, orgasms) inside a woman’s vagina, about one teaspoon of semen – containing millions of sperm – is released into the vagina. The sperm swim into the uterus and fallopian tubes. If just one sperm implants itself into the released egg, fertilisation occurs. If the fertilised egg implants in the wall of the uterus, conception occurs and a new human life begins.

These are the ideal conditions for conception to occur, however, it is also possible to fall pregnant even if:

  • sex occurs at any other time in the menstrual cycle
  • the male man does not ejaculate. Conception is still possible because sperm are also present in the clear fluid released from the penis prior to ejaculation (pre-cum)
  • any semen, including pre-cum, is deposited in or just outside the vagina
  • the woman does not orgasm during intercourse.

Being pregnant

How would you know if you are pregnant?

An egg successfully fertilised by a sperm will remain in the lining of the uterus so that, rather than being shed, the lining stays intact to be able to nourish the egg. This means the girl will not get her usual period. A missed period can be the first sign of pregnancy. A pregnancy dates from the time of the last period, so a girl could be 4, 5, 6 or more weeks pregnant before realising it. In addition, the other physical symptoms of pregnancy (such as fatigue, nausea and breast tenderness) might not be experienced until later.

For more information see How do I know if I am pregnant?

Decisions about pregnancy

Making the decision to get pregnant is massively important. An unplanned pregnancy places enormous pressure on all those involved. If someone discovers they are unexpectedly pregnant, it is critical to seek help as quickly as possible. They need to talk to people close to them and/or health professionals who can advise them of the full range of options, considerations and choices.

What happens during a pregnancy?

It takes 40 weeks (9 months) for a baby to be ready to leave its mother’s womb (uterus). During this time it remains in the uterus, protected by a watery sac and nourished by the placenta. In the first 8 weeks the baby is called an embryo and, after that, it is called a foetus.

The placenta is attached to the inner wall of the uterus and to the foetus by the umbilical cord. It develops and grows with the baby and provides total nourishment and all the oxygen the foetus needs through the cord. The umbilical cord also removes waste products from the foetus by returning them to the mother’s circulatory system, and then out through her lungs and kidneys as part of her normal body functions.

During the pregnancy, everything the mother does has a direct impact on the wellbeing of the baby so it is important that the mother eats healthy food, and does not use alcohol or drugs.

Birth

A baby is born about 40 weeks after the mother’s last period. The average newborn baby is about 45–50cm long and weighs between 3 and 4 kilograms.

When the baby is born, the doctor or midwife ties or clamps the umbilical cord, cutting it about 5cm from the baby’s tummy. The short piece left attached to the baby dries up and usually drops off within a few days. The place where it was attached heals and becomes the navel (umbilicus, or bellybutton).

Parenthood

A newborn baby is utterly helpless and dependent on those responsible for it, all day, and every day. It needs parents and carers who will love it and put its needs before their own for the long term.

See more information about having a baby and parenting.

You can also find more information about pregnancy on the Get the Facts website (external site).

Where to get help


Last reviewed: 11-08-2022
Acknowledgements

Public Health


This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.