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Sexual health: Let’s talk about it

Healthy relationships

Talking with your partner about sexual health and contraception may seem difficult, but it’s an important part of forming a healthy relationship.

It’s important to discuss if either of you has had a sexually transmissible infection (STI) in the past (your sexual history) and it‘s a good idea for you both to have a sexual health check. This is also the time to talk about practising safe sex to reduce your chance of STIs and unintended pregnancy.

This is part of staying in control of your sex life. It doesn’t mean you don’t trust your partner, or that you are hiding anything. In a healthy relationship, your partner will respect you for taking care of your health and theirs.

Anyone can get an STI; they are most common in young people aged 15-29 and often have no symptoms.

What does ‘sexually active’ mean?

‘Sexually active’ refers to a number of intimate activities that someone may do with their partner. If a doctor or nurse asks if you’re ‘sexually active’, they want to know if you have ever done any of these activities. This is so they can provide you with the right information and appropriate checkups when they see you. If you’re unsure, you can ask them what they mean by ‘sexually active’, so you know what you need to tell them.

These activities include:

  • vaginal sex (penis in vagina)
  • anal sex (penis in anus)
  • oral sex / ‘blow job’/ ‘going down’ (licking, sucking, kissing partner’s penis or vulva)
  • oral-anal sex / ‘rimming’ (licking, kissing partner’s anus)

Condoms (male/external and female/internal) are the only form of contraception that also protect against STIs.

  • manual sex / mutual masturbation / ‘hand job’ (touching/fingering your partner’s penis, vulva or anus)
  • naked dry sex / ‘humping’ (rubbing bodies together without clothes on, but no penetration)
  • using and sharing sex toys with your partner (e.g. dildos, vibrators etc)

Some of these activities may put you at risk of STIs and/or unintended pregnancy, so make sure you check out our sections on Your best defence and Contraception so you can enjoy these activities safely.

The activities that a person chooses to do and enjoy will be different for everyone. A person may be willing to try one activity, but not another; or they might like some activities and find them pleasurable, but not like or find other activities pleasurable. That’s why communication with your partner is so important, to make sure you both feel comfortable and are consenting to the sexual activities you do together.


Remember to always gain consent from your partner before any sexual activity.

Consent means that both people want, agree, and feel comfortable with the type of sexual activity they are about to do together.

However, anyone may decide at any time that they want to stop that activity and take away their consent.

If you or your partner says ‘no’, the other person must respect that decision.

Non-consensual sexual activity is against the law and is classified as sexual assault.

If you have experienced sexual assault it’s important to tell someone. In an emergency situation call 000. To talk to someone about it call 1800 RESPECT 24 hours a day.

Safe sex and contraception

Condoms provide protection from STIs and pregnancy when used correctly; however girls might like to consider using another form of contraception as well – such as the contraceptive implant (‘the rod’) or ‘the pill’- to further reduce the chance of pregnancy.

Did you know pre-cum fluid has sperm in it and can also contain STIs!

You don’t have to have sex to be intimate with your partner

There are many ways to be physically intimate with your partner without having vaginal, anal or oral sex.
If you don’t want to have sex, or don’t have any condoms with you, there are safer sexual activities you can do together that have no risk or low risk of STIs and pregnancy.

Always gain consent from your partner before any sexual activity.

Low risk sexual activities

  • Kissing, cuddling
  • Deep kissing
  • Massage
  • Stroking, rubbing, touching
  • Mutual masturbation (when touching your own genitals in front of your partner, and your partner touching their own genitals at the same time)
  • Dry sex with clothes on (sometimes called ‘dry humping’)