Questions students ask about relationships and sexual health education
Questions students ask
Can a girl get pregnant straight after her period?
It is less likely that a girl will become pregnant if she has sexual intercourse immediately after the end of her period, however it is possible.
The ovaries usually release an ovum (egg) about 14 days before a period is due. The ideal time for conception (pregnancy) to take place is when sexual intercourse happens during ovulation. However, sexual intercourse at other times in the menstrual cycle can still result in pregnancy. The times of ovulation may vary in the menstrual cycle and sperm can stay alive and be present in the vagina or uterus for 3-5 days after sex. Avoiding an unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections is best achieved by using contraception and/or a condom during sexual intercourse.
Can condoms be given out to high school students?
The Growing and Developing Healthy Relationships curriculum support material reflects a philosophy where abstinence from sexual activity for school-aged students is the key focus. It also emphasises a positive preventative approach, harm reduction and safer sex strategies without necessarily normalising sexual activity for school-aged students. Where appropriate, condoms may be used during a health education lesson on contraception. It is not, however, the school's role to distribute condoms to students.
The Department of Education does not support the installation of condom vending machines in secondary schools.
Secondary school students have access to school health nurses who can provide developmentally appropriate information on sexual health, including contraception. If appropriate, students may be referred to relevant health services.
Health and Physical Education provides students with the skills and knowledge required to develop and maintain positive healthy relationships. It develops students' abilities to make informed and responsible decisions about health and well-being for themselves and others; and develops the skills needed to make informed decisions in a range of contexts, including healthy relationships and sexual health.
Can tampons break a hymen?
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 the 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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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 a girl uses a tampon, will it take away her virginity?
No. Virginity is not a tangible item to be 'lost' (like a mobile phone). A virgin is someone who has not engaged in sexual activity such as penetrative intercourse. Using a tampon is not the same as having sex.
Is it normal for girls to shave/wax their pubic hair?
Pubic hair is completely natural and normal and does serve a healthy body function. Some women, however, choose to have some or all of it removed for various reasons including social, visual, cosmetic or cultural. Deciding to have this procedure is not something to be taken lightly and best left until adulthood.
The presence of pubic hair on the body serves both a health as well as a biological function. Pubic hair provides an air pocket between the skin and underwear assisting circulation. It also helps reduce friction experienced during sexual intercourse. In biological terms, pubic hair helps trap pheromones (scents) which have the purpose of communicating genetic information to others, including potential 'mates'.
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'.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
When is an image classed as being sexually explicit?
Knowing when an image is defined as being sexually explicit is not a clear cut matter. Some representations are obviously sexually explicit; for example pictures of sexual activity or of a naked person displaying their genitals, buttocks or breasts. An image leaving little to the imagination can generally be defined as sexually explicit!
However there are varying ideas about what is considered to be sexual and what images are sexually arousing. It is therefore important that young people know not to send images to anyone who is not trustworthy. Even when someone is thought to be trusted, there is still a risk that it could be shared without consent. A good rule of thumb is - if a young person wouldn’t want their parents to see it, they should think about not sending it.
See the esafety.gov.au website for more information.
When is the right age to be in a sexual relationship?
There is no legal age defining when someone is able to have a relationship, however if a young person is thinking of having a sexual relationship, or a relationship with sexual activities, there are important legal factors to consider.
In Western Australia, the legal age for sexual intercourse is 16 years and older. This applies to males and females and is regardless of sexual orientation. Legal sex also means those involved must always give consent - given without coercion, force, pressure or being under the influence of alcohol and other drugs. A person over 16 years is legally viewed as being able to give consent and able to have a sexual partner of the same age or older.
The following questions are aimed to assist a young person to determine if they are ready for a relationship and/or a sexual relationship:
Do we trust each other?
Do we respect each other?
Do they like me for who I am?
Do I feel comfortable in what I'm about to do?
Will we respect each other's privacy by not telling our friends/mates?
Have we planned how to keep safe by using condoms and contraception?
Where can I find more information on sexual health?
The Get the Facts website provides advice and accurate information on relationships and safer sex to young people in WA.
The site includes information pages, animations, games, true stories, and your questions can be answered confidentially by a health professional.