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Guidelines for Teens: Thinking About Sexuality and Sexual Activity

  1. All teens have sexual lives, whether with others or through fantasies. An important part of adolescence is thinking about and experimenting with aspects of your sexuality. This will help you to grow and discover who you are.
  2. An important part of your sexuality is physical changes your body goes through, for example, puberty, which includes the onset of the first menstrual period for girls, and the first emission of semen for boys. Because of changes in nutrition, these changes in your bodies occur at earlier ages than they did for your parents.
  3. Many teens are physically ready for sexual activity before they are emotionally ready. It is important to think, learn, and plan for sexual activity.
  4. There are many risks connected with sexual activity, including healthy ones -- for example, feeling close to another person, enjoying physical pleasure, and learning about yourself; and unhealthy ones -- for example, becoming pregnant or getting someone else pregnant; or catching a sexually transmitted disease such as herpes, venereal warts, or HIV, among others.
  5. Sexual intercourse of any type -- vaginal, anal, or even oral -- can transmit disease. It is important to learn the rules for safer sex and to be able to talk and negotiate with your sex partner in order to protect yourself.
  6. Some of the red flags that indicate that you are involved in dangerous sexual risk-taking include participating in unprotected intercourse or having sexual relationships in which you do not trust your partner, or feel victimized or abused, or feel that you are abusing or victimizing someone else. If you are in any of these situations, it is important to ask for help.
  7. Try to speak directly with your parents or other adults about sex, using simple language to describe both your feelings and activities. Remember that most adults, including your parents, are often more embarrassed than you are.
  8. Sexuality is confusing for children, teens, and adults alike. There are extremes in our culture, with some believing that teens should not be feeling or acting sexually, and others projecting images of teen sexuality in ways that make you think all teens are sexually active. It is important to think about sex carefully, and develop your own ideas.
  9. Before you become sexually active, it is important to prepare by learning about your own body, committing to safer sex, and maybe even role-playing tough situations so that you are ready to protect yourself when the time comes. "Sexual readiness" means more than whether your body is physically ready or able to have sex. Please see the questions about sexual readiness in this Appendix.
  10. Respect your body and the bodies of others. Do not force yourself or others into any sexual activity, not matter what you may already have experienced with that person. Learn about what it really means to give consent for sexual activity, and think about it both for yourself and any potential partner. It is important to think carefully about how you treat yourself and others in any form of sexual activity.