Questions students ask

Can tampons break a hymen?

It is a myth that the hymen is a membrane covering the entrance to the vagina that will be ‘broken’ by a tampon or first sex.

The hymen is made up of thin elastic folds of tissue just inside the entrance to the vagina. Hymens come in different shapes and sizes and cover varying amounts of the vaginal opening. A common shape is like a ring or crescent shape around the edges of the vagina, so these days it is often called the vaginal ‘corona’, meaning ‘crown’.

The hymen stretches and the opening usually gets larger as a young person matures.

The opening may be big enough for a tampon to go in easily. If the tampon (or anything else that is put in the vagina) is bigger than the opening, the hymen will stretch. Sometimes when it stretches there may be some small tears. Going slowly and using lubricant may help.

 

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Can young people be prescribed the contraceptive pill by a doctor without parents knowing?

A young woman is only able to see a doctor to obtain a prescription for the contraceptive pill if they have their own Medicare card. In WA this requires that they are 15 years or older. Without a personal Medicare card, the young person needs to ask their parent for the family card. 

If a person under the age of 18 is seen by a doctor they will likely encourage them to talk to their parents about going on the pill. However, although this is sound advice, it is not compulsory. The doctor cannot tell a parent about their daughter asking to go on the pill unless they have the patient's permission to do so. Doctors can only break such confidentiality if there is a very serious risk to the young woman's health or wellbeing or if there is a risk to someone else. 

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Could I get pregnant straight after my period?

Pregnancy is less likely if sexual intercourse happens immediately after the end of a period, however it is possible.

The best way to avoid an unintended pregnancy is to use contraception. A condom is the only form of contraception that will also help prevent sexually transmitted infections. 

Additional information:

The ovaries usually release an ovum (egg) about 14 days before a period is due. A pregnancy is most likely to happen when penis-in-vagina sex happens around ovulation. However, penis-in-vagina sex at other times in the menstrual cycle can still result in pregnancy. Some people may have a short menstrual cycle or have a cycle that varies in length which can make the time of ovulation difficult to predict. Even within a regular cycle, the times of ovulation may vary. Sperm can stay alive (in the cervix) for up to 5 days after sex.

 

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Do girls have to take part in sport if they have a period?

Even though it may feel uncomfortable for a girl to exercise or take part in sport and physical education classes when they have a period, it's best to maintain normal routine. Exercise can also help ease period cramps. Participation will be dependent on each girl's monthly cycle, situation and activities (e.g. more likely to use tampons if they are swiming or going to the beach).

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How common is HIV?

In Australia, HIV is not as prevalent as other sexually transmissible infections (STIs) or blood-borne viruses (BBVs). It is more common in other parts of the world, in particular Asia and Africa.

However it is still important to be aware of the risks and to remember that HIV can be transmitted both sexually and via blood to blood contact.

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How does a young person know if they have been vaccinated for hepatitis?

Most young people will be vaccinated for hepatitis A and B when they are quite young or as part of the School Vaccination Program. Some may receive the hepatitis A vaccine as a baby and then again at 2-3 years of age. Hepatitis A vaccine is also given to people travelling to countries that have higher rates of hepatitis A, such as some parts of Asia.  Hepatitis B vaccines are also usually given as a series of injections in early childhood.

Parents should be able to advise their child of their vaccination status. If they don’t know, the student’s GP or doctor can advise if they have kept a record. Check with the school/previous schools if a student thinks they were vaccinated at school.

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How old do I need to be to buy condoms?

You can buy condoms at any age, there is no legal age requirement so you will not be asked to provide ID to buy condoms. 

Additional information

You can buy condoms at supermarkets, chemists, petrol stations and online. Some shops place condoms behind the counter or have security tags attached to avoid people stealing the condoms or damaging them.

Sexual health services  often have bowls of free condoms in their waiting rooms. Some doctors and other medical services offer free condoms as well. Use the 'find free condoms' function on Get the Facts to find free condoms near you.

The legal age for sexual consent is 16 in Western Australia. 

 

 

 

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How would a person know if they are gay?

It can take some time for young people to work out whom they are and who they are sexually attracted to, including if their orientation is towards same sex attraction. The key is for the individual to feel comfortable and to take the time to come to terms with their own feelings about personal sexual identity, regardless of what others think and say about them.

Adults can sometimes say that they still haven’t worked out who they are. Identities commonly change as new things are experienced, there is no rush. Working out your sexual orientation may be an ongoing process throughout a person’s life.

If a young person thinks they know that they are same sex attracted, they might consider approaching the subject with a trusted friend or family member with whom they feel comfortable. Gaining help and support can assist through the process of telling others if that is what they decide to do. If there is no one they feel comfortable to talk to, there are services in WA such as the Freedom Centre which offer telephone support and counselling.

If I use a tampon, will it take away my virginity?

No. Using tampons does not affect someone’s virginity. 

There are many beliefs about what virginity means and what ‘losing’ one’s virginity means which are often based on religion, culture, media and society. A virgin is often described as someone who has not had sex; but the first time we have sex, we do not actually ‘lose’ anything and sex means different things to different people. Using a tampon is not the same thing as having sex.

Some people think that when the hymen is ‘broken’ that virginity is lost but having a hymen and being a virgin is not the same thing. It is a myth that the hymen is a membrane covering the entrance to the vagina that will be ‘broken’ by a tampon or first sex.

Additional information:

The hymen is made up of thin elastic folds of tissue just inside the entrance to the vagina. Hymens come in different shapes and sizes and cover varying amounts of the vaginal opening. A common shape is like a ring or crescent shape around the edges of the vagina, so these days it is often called the vaginal ‘corona’, meaning ‘crown’. The hymen stretches and the opening usually gets larger as a young person matures.

The opening may be big enough for a tampon to go in easily. If the tampon (or anything else that is put in the vagina) is bigger than the opening, the hymen will stretch. Sometimes when it stretches there may be some small tears. Going slowly and using lubricant may help.

Additional information:

Some people believe that virginity is ‘lost’ the first time they have sex. Some people believe that virginity is ‘lost’ the first time they have penis-in-vagina sex. Some people believe that virginity is ‘lost’ through oral or anal sex. Some people believe that if sex was forced or pressured (sexual assault) that it does not affect their virginity. Some people do not believe in the concept of virginity or ‘losing’ virginity at all. The definition of virginity is not as important as making sure that both partners are ready and consenting to any sexual activity.

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Is it normal for people to shave/wax their pubic hair?

Pubic hair is completely natural and normal and serves a number of healthy body functions. It helps to protect the genitals, reduces friction during sex, can help with temperature control, and may help trap pheromones (which are scents our body secretes that can aid in sexual attraction).

Some people choose to remove some or all of their pubic hair (and/or hair that grows on other places of the body that is unwanted - under the arms, on the face, arms, legs, chest, stomach, back, hands, feet, etc). Hair can be removed using a number of methods such as: shaving, waxing, hair removal creams, plucking, trimming, threading and lasering.

There are some risks associated with removing pubic hair (and other body hair) - cuts, ingrown hairs, infections, rashes and burns. It is also important to know that razors should not be shared with other people as they can pass on blood-borne viruses such as hepatits C.

There are various reasons people choose to remove body hair such as: they think it looks more visually appealing; they think sexual partners will find it more appealing; for cultural reasons; and for sporting reasons (e.g. some cyclists choose to remove leg hair to help make treating potential wounds easier). Beauty trends, the media and social norms often 'tell' us the way that our body hair should look - the hair on our heads, facial hair, body hair and pubic hair. Some people also link pubic hair trends to porn, where the current norm is to be hairless. Just as clothes fashions change, so do body hair trends and these social norms often hold different expectations for women and men. 

Essentially it should always be a personal choice. Young people might like to talk to a parent or a trusted adult before they make any decisions about hair removal.

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Is my penis a normal size?

During puberty most penises get longer and thicker. Usually by the age of 17 or 18, the penis will reach its full adult size. There is a wide range of normal penis sizes and shapes. The size of a penis when it is soft does not necessarily relate to the size it will be when it is hard (erect). There is a lot less difference in penis size from person to person when the penis is hard (erect) than when their penis is soft.

Additional information:

People may compare their bodies to those seen in pornography. It is important to know that porn has been made, and just like all movies, it often shows things that we don't see in real life. 

Additional information:

Research that gives average penis length and circumference (girth) varies greatly and the internet and magazines are not always accurate sources of information.

A 2015 study of 15,521 men reports the following measurements:

soft (flaccid): length 7.59cm - 10.73 (average 9.16cm); circumference 8.41cm - 10.21 (average 9.31cm) 

hard (erect): length 11.46cm - 14.78cm (average 13.12cm); circumference 10.06cm - 12.76cm (average 11.66cm)

(Reference: Veale, Miles, Bramley, Muir and Hodsoll. Am I normal? A systematic review and construction of nomograms for flaccid and erect penis length and circumference in up to 15,521. BJU Int. 2015 Jun;115(6):978-86. doi: 10.1111/bju.13010. Epub 2015 Mar 2.)

Is pornography real or fake?

Pornography is defined as being printed or visual material, which contains a display of sex or sexual activities designed to provide sexual excitement. Pornography is almost always fictional and not ‘real’. It does not convey an accurate representation of adult sexual behaviours and desires. Most porn films are made in the same way as mainstream movies with scripts, actors, directors and are filmed over the course of days. Hours of footage are edited down by producers to be completely unrelated to real sexual experiences.

There are some people who make 'personal' porn movies or images which are not scripted but just 'played out'.  

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Is sexting a bad thing?

Sexting isn’t a ‘bad’ thing of itself. In fact, using technology to negotiate and develop sexual relationships has become a regular part of many teenagers' lives.

However, it can be harmful if a sext message is forwarded on to others not intended by the sender. In some instances sexting can be dangerous and illegal. For example, it is a crime to take a sexual photo or image of a person under the age of 16 and/or to encourage someone to take a sexual photo or image of themselves, even if the person is a boyfriend/girlfriend.

Students need to be aware of the risks and implications of sexting and know what to do if they receive one.  The key message is to remember that once an image is sent to someone else, you can’t be sure where it may end up!

See the esafety.gov.au website for more information. 

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What does ‘drink spiking’ mean?

A drink being ‘spiked’ means that a drug or a combination of drugs has been added to a person’s drink without them knowing.

Drink spiking may have been done as a practical joke but it can lead to sexual assault, robbery and/or violence. People often do not realise that something has been added to their drink until it is too late.

Some tips to avoid having a drink spiked is to only accept drinks from people you know and trust, always keep your drink with you, don’t share drinks and if you start to feel dizzy or you think your drink may have been spiked, get to a safe place with people you know and trust.

See the Get the Facts website for more information.
 

What is an internal condom (female condom)?

An internal condom (sometimes referred to as a female condom) is a thin plastic pouch that is inserted into the vagina before sex. It has two flexible rings to keep it in place. It stops semen from entering the vagina to prevent pregnancy. It also helps protect both partners from STIs.

See Get the Facts - Female condoms for further information.

 

What is hepatitis?

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. In most cases it’s caused by a virus, but it may also be caused by alcohol, drugs, or other medical conditions.

The three most common types of viral hepatitis are hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

 

Hepatitis A

  • Hepatitis A is an acute infection of the liver and is found in the faeces (poo) of people with the infection. It is usually spread by eating or drinking contaminated (dirty) food or water.
  • It can also be spread by close personal contact with an infected person (including sexual contact).
  • Hepatitis A can be prevented with a vaccine.
  • Deaths from hepatitis A are rare, but some people get very sick.

Hepatitis B

  • Hepatitis B is mainly passed on by blood-to-blood contact - when infected blood enters another person's blood stream.
  • It can also be passed on through sexual contact.
  • Hepatitis B can be prevented with a vaccine. 
  • Most adults recover completely from hepatitis B, and can't get it again. Some people go on to develop a lifelong infection and this can lead to scarring of the liver, liver cancer and liver failure. 

Hepatitis C

  • Hepatitis C is only transmitted through blood-to-blood contact with an infected person.
  • In Australia, most infections are caused by sharing drug injecting equipment like needles and syringes.
  • Most hepatitis C infections develop into a lifelong infection and can lead to scarring of the liver, liver cancer and liver failure if left untreated.
  • New hepatitis C treatments have a cure rate of 95% or higher. For most people the treatment course is only 8-12 weeks, with only mild or no side effects. General practitioners (GPs) can prescribe hepatitis C treatment.
  • However, even if a person is cured of hepatitis C, they can be re-infected with the virus again, so it is important to practice safe behaviours. 

 

Testing for viral hepatitis is via a few simple blood tests.

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What is the best type of feminine hygiene sanitary product to use? How does a tampon fit in and out?

There are many different types of pads and tampons, and girls need to find the type they are most comfortable using. It's best to talk it over with a parent, older sister or cousin, school nurse or a trusted adult.

It is important to change sanitary products frequently - every 3 or 4 hours during the day. Menstrual fluid has no odour until it meets the air, however a pad or tampon left in place for too long can begin to smell and it can lead to infection.

Tampon packets contain Instructions (and pictures) for insertion. There is a large range of different types to choose from, including 'slim’ versions and some with applicators which will be best to use when a girl is just starting to use them for the first time. When a tampon is properly inserted it can't be felt at all.

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What is the legal age for getting a tattoo or piercing and do parents need to know?

In Western Australia, it is illegal to tattoo or brand a person under 18 years of age without the written consent of a parent of legal guardian. This law also applies to the execution of intimate and non-intimate body piercings.  

It is also illegal for someone under 16 years to have their ears pierced without parent or guardian consent.

Where a person under the age of 18 has written parent or legal guardian consent to be tattooed, the tattoo artist has the right to refuse the service, and choose not do the tattoo.

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What is the ‘morning after pill’ (emergency contraceptive pill) and how does it work?

What is the ‘morning after pill’ (emergency contraception) and how does it work?

A better name for the ‘morning after pill’ is the emergency contraceptive pill. Calling it the 'morning after pill' can be confusing as some people think that it can ONLY be taken the morning after sexual intercourse.

Emergency contraceptive pills are used to reduce the risk of pregnancy after unprotected sex. They can be taken up to five days (120 hours) after unprotected sex. The sooner they are taken the more effective they are.

There are two types of emergency contraceptive pills. They both work by preventing or delaying the release of an egg from the ovaries. They do not cause an abortion or harm a developing pregnancy.

Emergency contraception pills are available over the counter at most pharmacies. They do not need a prescription. The pharmacist may ask some questions which may seem personal, but they are only asking to check on medical history and the risk of pregnancy. This will help them choose the most appropriate type of emergency pill.

It is recommended to do a home pregnancy test 3-4 weeks after taking an emergency contraceptive pill to make sure it has been effective. See a doctor if the test is positive.

If the next period is more than a week late or different in any way, it is essential to do a home pregnancy test.

Emergency contraception does not protect against sexually transmissible infections (STIs). If someone has had unprotected sex they may want to get an STI test.

 

 

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What should you do if you know someone is being bullied online?

If someone is being bullied online, the first action to take is not to join in!  Don’t comment on posts or images because it can hurt other people. Leave negative groups or conversations where the bullying may be occurring.

Bullying should be reported to someone who can help such as a parent or teacher. If a young person feels confident, they can ask the person to stop their bullying behaviour. Make sure that the person being bullied knows they have support and are not alone. Giving support can sometimes make a big difference to someone. Nobody deserves to be bullied.

More information can be found on the esafety.gov.au website.