Remember to protect your sexual health this summer – learn more about contraception, consent and keeping yourself safe from STIs here…
If you’re over 16 and planning on having sex this summer, it’s important to keep yourself safe and protect yourself from STIs and unwanted pregnancies. It’s also important to make sure you have consent and both you and your partner feel comfortable and safe. Let’s look at consent, what it means, and why it’s so important:
The age of consent in the UK is 16, meaning that you can legally give consent to have sexual activity or intercourse with another consenting male or female who is 16 or over. Sexual activity between someone aged 16 or over and someone aged between 13 and 15 is illegal.
Discover more about consent here.
It’s important to get – and give – consent before you and your partner engage in sexual behaviour. It’s never OK to pressure someone else into doing something they don’t feel comfortable with.
Remember that not all contraceptives protect you from both pregnancy and catching an STI – you can get free contraception and advice from your local sexual health clinic or GP. Asking your partner to wear protection can feel awkward, but it’s important to look after your sexual health. It’s wrong for someone to pressure you into having sex without using contraception. If you’re having lesbian, gay or bisexual sex, you should also use contraceptives to protect yourself and your partner from STIs.
Dr Dawn says, “Condoms are often the first form of contraception used by a couple. They are most commonly made of latex, but some people are allergic to latex and thankfully you can get alternatives made of substances like silicone or polyurethane.”
Another popular option is the Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill (COCP) or Mini Pill. The pill will protect you from pregnancy but not STIs so it’s important to use condoms, too. Remember, if you have vomited or had diarrhoea then your contraceptive pill may not be 100% effective which is why it’s important to also use condoms. If you’ve had unprotected safe and are worried about pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, it’s important to seek support. Dr Dawn says:
“You can access free emergency contraception from Family Planning Clinics, GP surgeries, Sexual Health Clinics, Walk-in Centres, Minor Injuries Units, A&E and pharmacies although not all of these will offer the IUD option.”
The two types of emergency contraception are:
The Emergency Contraceptive Pill (“Morning After Pill)
There are two types of emergency contraceptive pill. Levonelle can be used any time up to three days after unprotected sex and EllaOne can be used up to five days after unprotected sex.
The IUD can be inserted up to five days after unprotected sex.
If you are still struggling to decide what contraception to use then speak to your GP. The Brook Contraception Tool can also help you work out the best method for you.
For more information on the different types of contraception available, click here.
As the drinks flow, inhibitions can loosen. Protect yourself from making any decisions you might later regret by limiting how much you drink. It’s also important to be aware of your surroundings – keep an eye on your drinks and never leave them unattended. Use anti-spiking drinks covers if they’re available or take your own along with you. Spiking can cause a range of symptoms, from feeling sleepy and confused to vomiting and loss of balance. If you suspect your drink has been spiked, tell someone immediately and seek medical help. Read more about drink spiking and its effects here.
Remember, any sexual behaviour that makes you feel uncomfortable, intimidated or discriminated against is counted as sexual harassment. Unwanted sexual attention such as inappropriate comments, behaviour and touching are all examples of sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment is never OK. If someone refuses to leave you alone or tries to grope or kiss you against your will, report it to the bar or club’s management, security team or police. It’s never OK to touch someone against their will and being drunk is no excuse.
If you’ve been a victim of sexual abuse or sexual violence, it’s vital to understand that it was not your fault. It doesn’t matter what you were wearing, what you were drinking, who you were with, what you said or what you did – you are not to blame. There is NO excuse for sexual abuse and sexual violence.
If you have been sexually assaulted it’s important to seek medical assistance immediately for any injuries you may have and because you may be at risk of pregnancy or STIs. It can feel scary to talk to medical staff about what you’ve experienced but rest assured that you will be in safe hands and looked after in a professional, sensitive way. Try not to wash or throw away any clothing you were wearing at the time of the assault as this can destroy important forensic evidence that can help find and punish the person who committed this terrible crime against you.
Remember: this is not your fault. Please seek support to help you process and deal with the trauma you’ve experienced. You can find your nearest sexual assault referral centre here.