Fun with less risk

You can be intimate without going all the way or putting yourself at risk of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Having sex doesn't always involve penetration. Kissing, touching and holding each other can give you a lot of pleasure, and you won’t have to worry about pregnancy and STIs.

Doing anything sexual with your partner doesn't guarantee a long or happy relationship. Don’t feel pressured into doing things you’re not ready for. It's OK to wait.

Kissing

Kissing can be one of the best things about a relationship. Once you’ve had that first awkward kiss, you can take your time and enjoy kissing.

Everyone kisses differently, and there are different ways of doing it (with lips only, with tongues, or kissing the cheeks and neck). Getting used to kissing each other can be exciting. Touching and stroking each other’s skin can feel good too.

Be honest with each other. Tell your partner if you don't like their kissing technique, but tell them gently. And be aware that your kissing might not work for them. Try saying something like, "I really like kissing you, but could we do it a bit more gently?" You’ll only know what the other person likes if you tell each other.

You can't get an STI from kissing, but you can get or pass on a cold sore, so avoid kissing if either of you has one.

Going further, or not

Kissing can lead to more serious stuff, such as touching each other’s vagina or penis, or having oral sex (using your mouth on your partner’s genitals). But it doesn’t have to. If things are moving too fast for you, say so. It’s up to you what you do with your body, so don’t let someone do more than you want.

You could say something like:

  • "Wait, this is too fast for me, we need to slow down", or
  • "No, I don’t want to do that".

It’s OK to tell them that you don’t want to do certain things, even if you've done them before.

Building up to sex

If you're close and both feel ready, you can get used to each other’s bodies and discover what you like and don’t like.

Enjoying sex without penetration gives you time to decide if you want to go all the way with this person. A good relationship is about being friends, trusting and respecting each other, and never having to pretend.

Touching

Mutual masturbation is when you touch each other’s genitals. This can feel good if you're both ready. But be gentle, because the clitoris and penis can be very sensitive.

There's a risk of pregnancy if sperm is transferred to the vagina on your or your partner’s fingers, so make sure that this doesn’t happen. You can put a condom on the penis as soon as it becomes erect. Find out about putting on a condom properly.

Bear in mind that STIs can be passed on through oral sex. So if you have oral sex use a condom or dam (thin, soft plastic that covers the vagina). Avoid oral sex if either of you has sores around your mouth, vagina or penis. Sores could be a sign of an infection, so get them checked out by a GP or at a sexual health or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic. Find sexual health services, including GUM clinics, near you.

You can also find a clinic by calling THT Direct on 0845 122 1200.

When do you start having sex?

Some couples kiss and cuddle for months before having sex. Other couples wait for years. Once you feel relaxed and comfortable with each other, sex is more likely to be fun and enjoyable.

If you decide to have sex, discuss which contraception is best to use – there are 15 methods of contraception to choose from. Always use condoms to protect against pregnancy and STIs. Choose condoms that carry the European CE mark, a recognised safety standard. Don’t use novelty condoms unless they carry the European CE mark.

Remember that infections can pass from woman to woman, and from man to man, so you need to know about (and practise) safer sex, whoever you're having sex with. Find out more about sexual health for women who have sex with women, and men who have sex with men.

Further information

Teenagers in love

In this video, teenagers describe their experience of being in love and how their feelings are often confusing.

Media last reviewed: 07/01/2013

Next review due: 07/01/2015

Page last reviewed: 22/10/2013

Next review due: 22/10/2015

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The 2 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

spicylamb said on 15 April 2011

What poor advice. Sex is nothing to do with 'mastering a technique.' And why is a supposedly medical site giving advice based on how much 'fun' an activity is? Sex is much more than just an act we do for a cheap thrill. I take the act of sex so seriously that I'm waiting until marriage to do it. It's terrible advice like this from 'professionals' that is giving rise to the problems so prevalent amongst teens these days. Without realising it, this article authoritatively condones casual sexual behaviour and reduces a sacred and emotionally complicated issue to something as simple as a penis entering a vagina. It is not and dont let this article fool you into thinking that. You can throw so much of yourself away by adopting this 'experimental' attitude and its only as you get older and mature that you realise its the worst way to find out about sex. People who have multiple partners at a young age are always the ones who experience relationship breakdowns as the norm later in life. This article should be addressing and challenging the incorrect mindsets that young people have adopted towards sex, not justifying what is already an out of control issue. You dont teach people who cant drive how to speed safely on the roads. What happened to responsible, mature advice? Young people dont need adults to come down to their level and pretend to be pals so as to show them the safest way to perform sex. We need to start being brave and stop pandering to youth's flighty immature emotions and begin telling them to put off sex entirely until they are of a mature age to see the negatives of rushing in at 16, 17 ,18 and end up living a life of regrets when you find the person you truly fall in love with and you've wasted all your intimate 'sex credits' on other people. (*gasp! Shock horror! Young people waiting?!) Yes it is possible and will address all the other issues of STI's and pregnancy's. They get enough bad advice in the playgrounds, colleges and social scenes already.

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Wet_n_Wild said on 07 November 2010

What strange advice. "Enjoying sex without penetration gives you time to decide" - nonsense.

Oral sex is sex. It just a question of how you define penetration. Oral sex is for me a much bigger commitment than just vaginal sex or many other things in between. I find oral sex very intimate and availalbe to close partners only. Sex cannot be graded like this. Who writes this advice? Asking young people to pause before full 'sex' by mutual touching and oral sex is hardly a pause. If you are not ready for regular sex then you are probably not ready for oral sex. There is no pathway to sex and sexuality. You have to find what is right for you. Never accept advice as right for you.

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