“Respect for Knowledge & Wisdom from Life Experiences.”– Athabascan Cultural Value 
This topic can be challenging for some, especially for people with relevant experiences. Remember to take care of yourself, and be aware of your mental, emotional, spiritual and physical status. Be sure to take breaks, if needed.
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Last updated April 2021
What is Sex?
Sex can have many definitions. For some people, ‘sex’ might mean a way to express gender identity, some might define ‘sex’ as a way to determine if a person was assigned male or female at birth, and others might define ‘sex’ only as a way to become pregnant. For this webpage, we will explore the term ‘sex’ as being sexually active with yourself or others by having penetrative, manual stimulation, or other forms of genital-to-genital contact.
Sex is a complex topic. Other items to consider include:
- Different types of sex
- Side effects or risks of sex
- Safe-sex practices
- Reasons people have sex
- Deciding on whether you’re ready for sex
Consent: Your Body, Your Choice
Healthy sexual relationships require a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sex. This means having consenting, pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free from discrimination, peer pressure and violence . Good communication with your partner(s) and consent, no matter what type of sex is involved, is necessary. Without these requirements of communication and consent between all people involved, any sexual activities performed are not sex and may be considered to be illegal actions. Before we move on, let’s explore a few terms to help define what sex does NOT include:
How to Get Help
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual abuse, there are resources available to help.
STAR (Standing Together Against Rape, Inc.) aims at preventing sexual trauma and to provide comprehensive, collaborative crisis intervention, advocacy, and support to victims/survivors, their families and communities. All of their services are free for survivors. STAR has a 24-hour, free, confidential crisis line. In Anchorage they can be reached at (907) 276-7273 or toll free at (800) 478-8999.
National Sexual Assault Hotline is a confidential 24/7 crisis support resource. They offer support, information, advice, and referrals by trained support specialists. They are available through an online chat hotline, a telephone hotline available at (800) 656-HOPE (4673), and through a mobile app available in the Apple App Store or on Google Play.
AWAIC (Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis) is a domestic violence safe shelter located in Anchorage, but may be able to help find victims a safe home or shelter based in their area. They provide emergency support services to women, men, and their children. Not only do they provide services to victims of violence, but they are also committed to prevention through education and outreach efforts. Call their 24-hour Crisis and Support Hotline at (907) 272-0100.
Are There Different Kinds of Sex?
Sex involves a range of physical activities, some include penetration, others don’t. Some types of sex involve two or more people, and some only require one. It’s important to remember certain sexual activities may put you at risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy . It is important to get tested and use condoms correctly and consistently if you become sexually active. Types of sex include:
Are There Side Effects or Risks to Sex?
Whether you are sexually active or not, it is important to know about safe sex and how it affects your health. Before deciding if you are ready to have sex, consider the risks:
The most effective way to prevent an unplanned pregnancy is abstinence, the decision to not have sex. However, if a person does decide to have sex, using safer sex supplies, like condoms and birth control, are recommended.
Everyone who is sexually active is at risk of being exposed to an STI or sexually transmitted diease (STD). Vaginal or anal penetration by a partner, who is infected with an STI and does not wear a condom, significantly increases the risk of getting an STI. Having multiple partners, a history of STIs or substance misuse can also increase the risk of STIs. The most effective way to avoid STIs is to abstain from sex. If you choose to have sex, you can protect yourself by using condoms correctly and consistently, limiting the number of partners, communicate with your partner, get tested for STIs regularly and get vaccinated for human papillomavirus, hepatitis A and hepatitis B.
There is a higher risk of certain cancers in people who did not receive the HPV vaccine as a preteen. While there is a screening for cervical cancer that can help detect it early, there is not screening tests for other cancers caused by HPV infection. This includes cancers of the back of the throat, anus, penis, vagina and vulva.
How Can I Protect Myself Against the Risks of Sex?
The only way to completely protect yourself is not to have sex. If you do choose to have sexual contact, protect yourself from an unplanned pregnancy or STIs and other health concerns with these methods :
- Use condoms regularly.
Condoms are the best protection against STIs. The female condom and dental dams can also help reduce the risk of STIs.
- Use an effective method of birth control.
Work with your health care provider to find a method of birth control that works best for you to help prevent an unplanned pregnancy. Some forms of birth control also help reduce the risk of transmitting or contracting STIs.
- Reduce the number of sexual partners.
Agree to only have sex with one person who agrees to only have sex with you.
- Get tested.
Many STIs don’t have symptoms, but can still cause health problems. Testing is the only way to know for sure that you do not have an STI. Be sure to ask your health care provider which STIs they test for – not all tests are comprehensive.
Why Would Someone Want to Have Sex?
Love, affection and intimacy all play a role in healthy relationships throughout every stage of life. Physical, mental and spiritual health are important aspects of overall health, as well as feeling confident about your sexuality. There are several reason people decide to have sex:
How Do I Know if I Am Ready for Sex?
There is not an exact time when everyone is ready to have sex. Each person is unique and will be ready for sex at different points in their lives. As your body matures, it may seem like it is giving you signals to make you feel like you are ready to have sex. In addition to listening to your body, your beliefs, values and emotions are also important to consider . In this situation, it’s best to wait to figure out what exactly what your priorities are and what you want to do before engaging in the action. To narrow down what you want to consent to, try asking your head, heart and body a few questions:
If your head, heart, and body aren’t in agreement with what you want, it’s likely not a good time to engage in the activity. It is always ok to say ‘no’ and set firm boundaries.
In addition to asking yourself these questions, reaching out to a trusted adult or your health care provider for advice may also be beneficial. Having an open line of communication with your partner can also help ensure your feelings and thoughts about when and how to have sex are respected within your relationship.