Are You Ready?

Consensual Sex

Don’t ever let yourself be pressured into doing something you don’t want to. Stay clear-headed and firm in your decisions.

Consensual sex basically means two people agreeing to have sex without any pressure and while having the mental capacity to give consent — having sex with someone who is too drunk or high to make a sound decision for themselves would NOT be considered consensual. Still, sometimes you may find yourself agreeing to sex when you really don’t want to. Technically, this is consensual but it may leave you feeling bad about yourself and having regrets.

That’s why it is so important to be clear about the reasons you want to have sex and to stick to your guns if you don’t want to, whatever your reasons. Never let anyone make you feel bad or embarrassed about this. If anyone does and continues to pressure you to have sex, walk away.

Keep in mind that it’s much harder to make safer sexual choices when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This can put you at greater risk for pregnancy or STIs.

Never EVER take advantage of the situation and force yourself upon anyone who is under the influence. Not only is this a lousy thing to do, if the person decides once sober that they were forced into something they didn’t have the mental capacity to object to, you could be criminally charged.

Be the One to Say No

If someone else is drunk and feeling frisky, be the one to step up and make the decision for you both – you’ll each appreciate it later.

If you recognize that someone you’re interested in is too drunk to make sound decisions, they are too drunk to decide if they really want to have sex or not. Make a decision on their behalf and stop. Just as you would take their keys away if they wanted to drive, stop them from making a mistake you both may regret.

Never ever take advantage of the situation and force yourself upon anyone. The other person will appreciate the fact that you stopped them from doing something they might regret once they are sober.

Beyond the First Time

You were careful the first time, but what about every time after that? If you’re not consistent in your behaviour, you’re putting yourself at risk.

Many of us use condoms when we first become sexually active, but tend to stop using them as we become more secure in our relationships. This can be a mistake.

Don’t become a statistic later in life. Get used to using condoms now every time you have sex and continue to do so and you stand the best chance of protecting yourself against STIs and/or pregnancy.

With so many condoms on the market, there is one to suit every preference, size and shape so you have no excuse not to use them.

Talking About Sex

Discussing Pleasure

In life, if you don’t ask for what you want, you won’t get it. Same with sex. Effective communication will make sex more enjoyable for both of you.

As much as you wish they could, your partner can’t read your mind. In order to have your sexual needs met, you need to learn to communicate them. Because sex makes you feel vulnerable and exposed, literally and emotionally, it can be hard to speak up. Plus, you don’t want to hurt your partner. Here are some effective, yet kind ways to communicate what you want in bed:

Speak up:

  • “I loved that swirly thing you did with your tongue. Can I have more of that, plus this?”
  • “You know that thing I do to you? I’d love if you did it to me!”

Try a hands-on approach:

  • Place your hand over your partner’s and gently guide it where you want it to go. Keep your hand over theirs and use it to indicate how much pressure you’d like and how fast or slow you’d like them to touch you.
  • Use your own hand on yourself to show them how you like to be touched.

Ask questions:

  • When pleasuring your partner, ask what they’d like you to do. Instead of a vague question like “What do you like?” be specific, “Would you like me to be firmer/softer/slower/faster?”
  • Asking “Do you like this?” every two minutes is annoying but checking in once in a while is a good idea.
  • If your partner asks if you like something, instead of answering “yes,” use the opportunity to direct them: “I love what you’re doing with your fingers, especially when you do ‘x’.”

If you’re too afraid to speak up, ask yourself why. If something doesn’t come out quite right you can do a lot with a heart-felt apology and some explanation. If you’re afraid you might freak your partner out, you might need to have a discussion outside of bed about being more open-minded. It’s more likely that they’ll appreciate the guidance, and maybe see it as an invitation to offer you some insight.

The worst your partner can say is no. If you’re honest and loving hopefully your partner will be willing to try new things. But remember, we all have different degrees of comfort when it comes to exploring and experimenting. This doesn’t make us better or worse, it’s just who we are. Don’t judge it. And pushing someone too far before they’re ready will only succeed in pushing them away.

Getting Informed

The more informed you are about STIs and safer sex, the more you’ll know how to protect yourself.

According to the a condom survey 94% of Canadian condom users aged 18-34 consider themselves informed about STIs and 95% agree that sexual health contributes to their overall health. Still, only 62% said they use condoms regularly and of these, 83% were not in a monogamous relationship.1

Something doesn’t add up.

If you consider yourself informed about STIs, you should be using a condom every time you have sex, even if you’re in a monogamous relationship. Read about the risks associated with monogamy and serial monogamy.

Being fully informed about STIs and about any you might have specifically will not only allow you to better reduce your own risks but will also allow you to put your partner at ease, answer any questions and dispel any myths, misconceptions and misinformation.

11 Leger Marketing Condom Study, 2007.

Assessing Risk

You can’t properly assess risk based on what you think you know. For comprehensive information on STIs, risk and how to reduce your risk, see Am I At Risk?

You Need to Talk

Talking about STIs can be difficult but not talking about them is worse. Have a strategy for how to talk about them. It will be easier and you’ll feel better.

Obviously you don’t want to bring up each other’s sexual health in the heat of the moment, but letting someone know that you care and want to be safe should be a positive, natural thing. Don’t let fear of judgment hold you back.

It only takes one unprotected encounter to contract an infection. Disclosing an STI or insisting on a condom doesn’t make your sexual history questionable. Be open about your sexual past and expect the same in return. Besides, if someone is going to judge you for being honest and wanting you both to be safe, what are you doing with them?

Unless you and your partner has never kissed or been with anyone naked from the waist down, you’re at risk. So yeah, that’s pretty much all of us.

Getting tested and using condoms is your best protection. Even if you’ve been with your partner for along time, don’t assume they are STI-free. They may be infected and not know it. Some STIs show little or no symptoms and others, such as HIV, can take up to 15 years for symptoms to appear. Certain STIs, like HPV and Herpes, can be transmitted through skin-skin-to contact from areas not covered by condoms.

Left untreated, STIs can have long-term consequences, especially for women. Plus HIV can kill you. Luckily many STIs are easy to treat and control and some can be cured if caught early. There are now vaccines to help prevent certain STIs like Hepatitis B and certain strains of HPV (Human Papillomavirus).

Condoms offer the best protection against STIs, but again, even condoms don’t provide 100% protection. You need to talk openly and make informed decisions. This will not only keep you safe, it will build trust.

How to Bring It Up

So you want to discuss STIs with your partner – but how? There are ways to make the conversation less uncomfortable.

Talking about STIs is easier said than done. Think about what you’re going to say. Write it down. Practice in front of a mirror. You’ll want to talk in a place that is private, where you both feel at ease. Don’t discuss it after a fight – pick a time when you’re both feeling positive and willing to listen.

When it comes to talking about STIs:

  • Don’t respond to defensive comments by getting more defensive or angry. Help your partner understand that you’re not there to judge but to take responsibility of your sexual health.
  • Take your time. You’ll probably want to bombard your partner with information to get it over with. Instead, give your partner a chance to take things in.
  • If you’re telling your partner that you have an STI, don’t expect them to jump for joy and thank you for your honesty. Their immediate reaction may be fear or anger, which is normal. Don’t get angry back. By understanding, staying calm, and giving your partner time, you can keep the discussion going.
  • Do your research beforehand. Come into the conversation with any books, articles, or online resources that they can use when they’re on their own and have time to take it all in.
Disclosing an STI can be difficult. Try:

“I feel our relationship getting serious. And because I care about you so much, there’s something I need you to know…”

“I want to make sure that we have an open and honest relationship. I hope you feel the same way and know that I am telling you this because I care. I found out some time ago that my ex-partner gave me (whatever STI you’re disclosing) and I don’t want to do the same to you…”

If you’d like to get tested together, you could say:

“I really care about you, and it would mean a lot to me if we could go forward with a better idea of what our risks are. How would you feel about going for STI-testing together.”

Learn more about STI testing

Negotiating Condom Use

When you’re using condoms, there are a few things you can do to make the process seamless, effective, and hassle-free.

Even if you’ve talked about it beforehand, it can still be awkward in the heat of the moment to stop and put on a condom. Some suggestions to make it easier:

  • Make sure condoms are within lunging distance. Having them available and accessible just makes it that much easier to use them without spoiling the moment.
  • Carry your own condoms. According to condom survey1, many women said that because she takes care of the contraception, it’s up to him to buy condoms. It is important to share the responsibilities when it comes to sexual health but by relying on him, you’re putting your sexual health into his hands. Having your own condoms means you’ll never be without, even if he is.
  • Get him to put it on. He’s familiar with the equipment and there will be less fumbling.
  • Make sure the condom is put on correctly. This step often gets overlooked because you don’t want to spoil the moment by stopping and checking.
  • Make sure it stays on. Check from time to time during intercourse to make sure the condom hasn’t slid off or broken.
  • Finally, if you make a hard and fast rule in your own mind that you simply will not have sex without a condom, it will make it easier not to cave or get talked out of it using it in the heat of the moment. If necessary, put a sign above your bed just like they do in fancy restaurants: No Jacket, No Service.

Here are some excuses you might get and good responses you can give:

“Don’t worry, I’m definitely clean”

“That’s good! I probably am too. Lots of people have STIs and don’t know it. So I use condoms. That way I don’t have to worry about anything except having a good time.”

“I love you! It’s just you and me now. I don’t want anything to come between us”

“I feel the same way. I feel so close when we’re making love – it’s amazing! Part of us being a couple is taking care of each other and, at least for me, that means using condoms. I feel like we’re in a good place right now. Let’s not mess with that and just stick with condoms.”

“It’s starting to sound like you don’t trust me”

“It’s not about trust. I want to feel relaxed and secure when we’re doing it. I’m used to using condoms and I don’t want to stop.”

“Condoms take the fun out of sex. It doesn’t feel as good”

“Don’t worry, we’re going to have some fun! I’ll make you feel good.”

“Condoms ruin the mood”

“Not for me. I feel more relaxed when I’m using condoms. They put me in the mood – and when I’m in the mood it’s better for both of us”.

“As soon as I put that thing on, I’ll lose my hard-on”

“Let’s use extra lube on you first – I’ll get you good and hard. We can try different condoms and try different positions to see which we like best.”

Tip: If you’re worried about losing an erection, don’t put the condom on while lying on your back – it’s easier for the blood to flow out of the penis. Put the condom on while kneeling or standing up. For more tips on negotiating condom use, click here.

1Leger Marketing Condom Study, 2007.

Having Sex

What You Can Do

The term “sex” covers a variety of activities. Knowing the basics will make it less of a mystery for both of you.

In many ways, your sexual experiences are only limited by your imagination. But it helps to start with some basics. Here are some of the most common sexual acts.

  • Masturbation. Contrary to popular belief, masturbation doesn’t have to be a solo activity. Masturbating in front of your partner or masturbating each other can be a huge turn on. It’s a great way to get a hands-on demonstration of how your partner likes to be touched. And bonus, it’s safe. Of course masturbating alone is also pretty fun. It’s a great way to get to know your own body and what turns you on and gets you off.
  • Manual stimulation. This can include everything from massage to giving your partner a hand job (using your hands to stimulate their genitals and possibly even bring them to orgasm).
  • Oral stimulation. Using your tongue and mouth on your partner’s breasts, or genitals. Mouth to female genital contact is called cunnilingus or oral sex while mouth to male genital stimulation is called fellatio or oral sex.
  • Vaginal penetration. Penetration of the vagina using a finger or fingers, a penis (commonly referred to as intercourse), a dildo or vibrator or another phallic shaped object.
  • Anal penetration. Also referred to as anal sex, the anus can be penetrated using fingers, a penis or a dildo (make sure the end is flared so it can’t disappear into the rectum), anal beads or a butt plug (a dildo designed specifically for anal penetration).


Getting turned on isn’t something that starts in your body; it’s something that starts in your head. Once your brain is in to it, the rest of you will follow suit.

Usually when we think about the term Sexual Response we think about what’s going on with our genitals as we get sexually turned on. But before that happens, a person has to want to have sex or want to increase the intimacy they have with their partner. This is the desire phase of sexual response. Without some level of sexual desire or a desire for intimacy with a partner, it’s unlikely that a satisfactory sexual experience can happen.

Whether you are in a casual or on-going relationship, it’s important to recognize that the level of sexual desire that each partner feels will not always match up exactly with the level of desire felt by the other partner. Sometimes feelings get hurt because of this. That’s a reality that we all have to deal with so it’s important to communicate with your partner to make sure you know how each other feels.


Being aroused isn’t just a figure of speech. At this stage your body is actually showing physical signs of excitement.

When we talk about sexual arousal, we are referring to physiological changes, including increased heart rate and blood pressure and more rapid breathing. Men and women both experience increased blood flow to the genitals and, for some people, hardening of the nipples. Some also experience flushing on their upper abdomen and chest – sometimes called the “sex blush”.

Arousal: Men

For men, the most obvious physical sign of arousal is erection of the penis. Essentially, the brain sends a signal that passes through the lower spinal cord that causes muscle relaxation and artery expansion, which increases blood flow into the cylinders of the penis.

Because the veins in the penis are compressed by the swelling of the surrounding tissue, blood is prevented from flowing out of the penis. Once the penis is erect, a clear fluid (often referred to as “pre-come”) comes out of the urethra.

As arousal increases the penis stiffens a little more. The head of the penis becomes a bit larger and may darken in colour. The testicles move noticeably closer toward the body. At this point the man is ready to orgasm and ejaculate.

Arousal: Women

For women, several things occur during the arousal phase. Blood flow to the genital area increases as muscles relax and arteries enlarge. The upper part of the vagina expands and the cervix and uterus elevate.

One of the most noticeable signs of arousal in women is lubrication within the vagina as fluid seeps through the vaginal walls. The clitoris swells with blood and hardens in a process very similar to erection of the penis. The clitoral hood pulls back somewhat making the clitoris more visible. At this point the clitoris is very sensitive to touch – some women prefer to be caressed in the area surrounding the clitoris rather than directly on it.

As arousal increases, the outer third of the vagina tightens and the opening becomes smaller. The clitoris retracts within the clitoral hood and becomes a little smaller. Although the clitoris is retreating, the woman’s level of arousal is not decreasing; at this point it’s actually signaling that the woman is close to having an orgasm.


The experience of having an orgasm is something that’s hard to pinpoint, but the physiology of an orgasm? That’s something we can explain quite well.

An orgasm provides an intense pleasurable sensation that represents the peak of the sexual response cycle followed by a feeling of release.

Orgasm: Men

In men, orgasm consists of two stages. In the first stage, seminal fluid flows into something called the urethral bulb at the base of the urethra. Once this happens, the man feels a sensation that ejaculation is about to occur. Then, in the second stage, the urethral bulb and the pelvic muscles go through a series of contractions that result in semen (come) being ejected out of the penis. In most cases, male orgasm consists of 5 to 8 contractions with the first couple of contractions being stronger and closer together (about 0.8 seconds apart) followed by a couple of weaker ones farther apart. In general, the stronger the contractions, the more intense the orgasm.

For some men the body and muscles tense up as orgasm starts and mild muscle spasms can occur throughout the body. As the contractions finish, the body relaxes as blood pressure and pulse rate decrease.

Orgasm: Women

In women, an orgasm consists of 3 to 15 contractions of the muscles that surround the vaginal canal. The first contractions are the strongest and are usually about 0.8 seconds apart with the following contractions getting gradually weaker and farther apart. The stronger the contractions are, the more intense the orgasm. The uterus and anus also rhythmically contract. An orgasm provides an intense sensation that spreads from the clitoris outward through the pelvic area.

Vaginal or Clitoral Orgasm?

You may have heard that there are two types of orgasms that women have: vaginal and clitoral. You might think that this means that in one case the vagina has an orgasm and in the other case the clitoris has an orgasm. That’s not really accurate. All orgasms consist of the contractions of the muscles surrounding the vagina. The difference is that some orgasms are triggered primarily by stimulation of the clitoris (this is the case for most orgasms) and some are triggered primarily by stimulation of the vagina. For most women, some type of clitoral stimulation is required for an orgasm to occur.

Multiple Orgasms

Male and female bodies act very differently after orgasm. Men can only have one before starting over again but women can keep on going.

You may have heard that some women have multiple orgasms. Men usually have what’s called a refractory period after an orgasm in which their body returns to normal and they have to start the sexual response cycle all over again before having another orgasm.

Women on the other hand don’t necessarily need to go through a refractory period before having another orgasm. So, with continued sexual stimulation (usually of the clitoris), a woman may be able to have another orgasm seconds or a few minutes after the first one.

Some women have multiple orgasms and some women don’t. Some women don’t want more than one. Multiple orgasms are nice if you enjoy them but they are by no means necessary to have an enjoyable sexual experience.

Common Sexual Problems

Women – Lack of Desire

There are many reasons you may find yourself not wanting to have sex. By understanding what those reasons could be, you’re already closer to resolving the issue.

There are many things that can affect a woman’s sexual response – from everyday stresses and pressures to several other factors, including:

  • Relationship issues. If you are not happy with your partner or the relationship you’re in then it’s not surprising that you might not be enthused with the idea of having sex. Sometimes people think that having sex will make a lousy relationship better, but more often than not, it’s the other way around. Successfully working through the issues that are causing problems in the relationship is what may lead to the desire for sex to return.
  • Personal beliefs. Some women feel that sex goes against their personal beliefs and may feel guilty about their desires.
  • Physical reasons. Many women find that their sexual desire fluctuates considerably during their menstrual cycle. Also any medications, particularly antidepressants, can have an effect on your desire for sexual activity. If you think that a medication you are taking might be affecting you, ask your doctor about going on an alternative medication without sexual side effects or adjusting your dosage. Never discontinue a prescribed medication without talking to your doctor first.
  • Sexual abuse/assault. Some people have experienced sexual abuse or assault, which quite naturally may result in negative feelings about sex. If you have been abused or assaulted and you feel that it is affecting your sex life, you might want to discuss this with a sexual health counselor or therapist.

We’re all different. Some women masturbate every day, some once a week, some once a month, and some don’t masturbate at all. There’s no set standard of how often a normal person has the desire for sex. What’s important is that you are ok with your own level of desire.

If you think that there is something that may be causing your desire to decrease or you are unhappy with your level, talk to your doctor or gynecologist.

Women – Trouble Having an Orgasm

Having trouble reaching orgasm is a common issue for many women. Don’t give up. There are several things you can do to help you figure out how your body works.

It is not unusual for women, particularly younger women who have less experience with sexuality and relationships, to not have an orgasm (come) when having sex with a partner.

Often, the woman is able to have an orgasm when she is masturbating alone but not while with her partner, especially if the relationship is new. If that’s the case for you, don’t worry. Once you are more comfortable with your partner and able to tell them what feels good to you, it may become easier to reach orgasm. And don’t hesitate to tell your partner what you like – in most cases they will be happy to learn.

If you’re not sure what feels good for you, experiment with touching yourself to see what brings you to orgasm. Then teach your partner how to touch you. Visit your bookstore and look for books on sexuality and pleasuring or a store that sells vibrators. Some women find that using a vibrator makes it easier to have an orgasm.

Sometimes, partners in a male-female relationship think that the woman should be able to have an orgasm just by having intercourse. Usually it doesn’t work that way; most women need to have some direct stimulation of the clitoris to have an orgasm. Talk to your male partner about it. Keep in mind that maybe it’s not so important that you come every time you have sex. Many women come some of the time, but not every time, and both partners are ok with that.

If you find that nothing works and that having an orgasm is very difficult, talk with your doctor or gynecologist. Gynecologists specialize in women’s reproductive system and are experienced in talking about sexuality and sexual response issues with their patients. Asking questions about sexual response problems is a normal thing to do and there is a good chance they will be able to help. If you don’t have a gynecologist you see regularly, ask your doctor for a referral.

Women – Pain During Sex

If you’re experiencing pain during sex, or persistently in your genitals, don’t ignore it. It could be from something you’re doing – or not doing, but make the effort to find out.

Some women experience pain in the genital area during sexual activity. There can me many causes, some of which include:

  • A lack of lubrication in the vagina or on the clitoris. Sometimes this happens because things are moving too fast and a woman has not become aroused enough yet for her vagina to lubricate. Slow things down. For most women, sexual arousal doesn’t happen in seconds, like it does with some men. Don’t hesitate to experiment with lube that you can buy at the drug store in the condom aisle. In many cases, using lube will make vaginal penetration much more comfortable. Always follow the product direction copy and if using a condom, be sure to use a lubricant that is compatible with your condom.
  • Rough play. Sometimes your partner may be over-eager and thrusting his penis into your vagina too quickly, or too roughly, or rubbing your clitoris too hard. Don’t be afraid tell your partner to slow down and take it easy. Most partners will be glad to know how to give you pleasure.
  • Vaginismus. Another type of pain that women can experience is called vaginismus, which is when your pelvic muscles cause a reflex tightening of the outer third of the vagina whenever anything (e.g., penis, finger, tampon) is inserted. The tightening of the vagina is a reflex spasm that the woman is usually not able to control. If you think you might have vaginismus you should arrange to see a gynecologist.
  • Latex allergy. Some people develop an allergy to latex, including latex condoms, which causes itching, pain, or discomfort in the genitals. Switch from latex condoms to polyurethane condoms. You can find polyurethane condoms in the same section of the store as where the latex condoms are kept.

If you experience persistent any issue in the genital area, whether you’re having sex or not, you should see a doctor. In some cases the pain is caused by a sexually transmitted infection, a yeast infection, or something else entirely. Find out what’s causing the pain so you can get it taken care of.

Men – Erection Trouble

Sometimes the trick to getting and keeping an erection is just a change in focus. Other times, you need to do more in order to solve the problem.

Not getting an erection when you want one is something that happens to every man sooner or later, regardless of age or what you see in porn videos.

Sex therapists have a term called “spectatoring”, which is when a person is monitoring their own sexual response so closely that they are hurting rather than helping the situation. If you’re constantly focusing on how hard your penis is, you’re not very focused on enjoying the experience with your partner, making an erection difficult to achieve. Some men find that when they stop thinking about their erection, they actually start to get one. Focus on your partner not your penis.

If you can get an erection while masturbating alone but have trouble getting one while with a partner, that’s a sign that the problem may be nervousness. Many men will be a little anxious or nervous about having sex, especially when with a new partner. As a result, the erection doesn’t happen. As you gradually become more comfortable with your partner, you may find that erections come more easily. Focus on kissing and caressing your partner including giving them oral sex. You may become so absorbed and turned on by pleasuring your partner that you won’t even notice that you’re getting an erection.

Drinking a lot of alcohol and smoking of cigarettes doesn’t help the situation either. If you’re having problems and you usually drink and smoke a lot beforehand, try limiting yourself to one drink at most and laying off the smokes.

If you are concerned about your erection troubles, talk to your doctor. In some cases not being able to get an erection could be a symptom of an underlying medical condition. Many men discuss erection problems with their doctor so there is no need to feel nervous.

Men – Coming Too Quickly

Coming too soon is an issue many men face at some point. The good news is that once you’re past being embarrassed, there are a few things you can do.

Having an orgasm and ejaculating sooner than you’d like (This is called “Premature Ejaculation” when it persists for a long time) is a very common problem, especially for younger men.

Many men have unrealistic expectations about how long sex should last. Most men ejaculate within 4-8 minutes after penetration or even sooner. Usually it’s the man who thinks he ejaculates too quickly, not his partner. Ask your partner what they think. You may be relieved to hear the answer.

If you feel that you’re coming too quickly and are worried about not satisfying your partner, focus on pleasuring her in other ways like stroking her clitoris with your hand or giving her oral sex so that she orgasms before intercourse. Then when you do have intercourse, it may not be as important that you last so long.

Or try experimenting with different positions. Some men find that they don’t come as quickly if their partner is on top.

Learn to recognize when your orgasm is approaching and slow down or stop until that feeling goes away. Then start up again. Most partners won’t mind resting for a minute. Also, when you feel like you’re about to come, contract your Kegel muscles as if you’re trying to prevent urination. Strengthening your Kegel muscles may help you gain some control. For these techniques to be helpful you’ll need to practice when you’re alone masturbating. It will take time. Most men don’t come as quickly as they get older, so sometimes, time will take care of it.

If you still come too soon after getting an erection or immediately after any sexual stimulation and you don’t feel there is anything you can do to slow things down, tell a doctor. Unfortunately many men with a serious problem are too embarrassed to ask for help.