Published: 1 November 2022 | Updated: 1 December 2023

Having sex is a big decision, you have to feel comfortable and feel ready to have sex or engage in sexual activities. You should not feel pressured into doing anything until you are ready.

The only person who can know and decide if you’re ready is you. When you decide you are ready it is important to think about things such as contraception, feeling comfortable and feeling supported by your partner.

Not everybody is ready to have sex at the same age and just because your friends may be ready does not mean you have to be ready too!

There can be a lot of pressure to have sex, but this should not be a reason to start having sex, everyone is different and should only have sex when they want to and feel ready.


The Sexual Offences Act 2003 for England states that a person consents to something if that person agrees by choice and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice.

However, some circumstances may affect a person’s capacity to consent, being asleep, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or if they have been subject to threats or violence etc.

The age of consent for any form of sexual activity is 16 for both men and women, regardless of gender or sexual orientation of a person. It is an offence for anyone to have any sexual activity with a person under the age of 16 and there are laws in place to protect children under the age of 13 who cannot legally give their consent.

It is an offence for a person aged 18 or over to have any sexual activity with a person under the age of 18 if the older person holds a position of trust (for example a teacher or social worker) as such sexual activity is an abuse of the position of trust.

Consent can be stopped at any time and sex is only ever okay if both people involved want to have sex. If someone has not given their consent, this is illegal and is called rape.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

What are STIs?

STIs are bacterial or viral infections that are passed on by sexual contact, this can include vaginal, anal, or oral sex, genital contact, or sharing sex toys.

The risk of spreading an infection can be reduced by using a condom every time you have sex.

How do I know if I have an STI?

Many people do not have any signs that they have an STI, and it may take a long time for symptoms to develop, so they can be easily spread without knowing.

It is therefore important to complete sexual health screening regularly as it is the only way you can be sure you do not have an infection.

If you do have any symptoms, they may include:

  • lumps, bumps, blisters, or sores on or around your genital area
  • vaginal discharge which is different for you
  • irregular vaginal bleeding
  • bleeding after sex
  • pain during or after sex
  • pain when you wee
  • pain in your lower tummy
  • pain in your testicles
  • discharge from your penis

How do I get tested?

It will depend on whether you have any symptoms and what infections we need to test you for, but screening may include:

  • a swab that you take yourself from your vagina, throat, or anus
  • a urine sample
  • a blood sample
  • the need to examine you by looking at your genitals and taking a swab, this may have to be an internal swab

We can test for the following STIs.

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhoea
  • Herpes
  • HIV
  • Syphilis
  • Hepatitis B and C
  • Candida (thrush)
  • Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

If we think that you may have a different infection that we are not able to test or treat you for, then we will support you to access the specialist Genito-Urinary Medicine (GU Med) service who can complete further tests.

If you want to complete screening for chlamydia and gonorrhoea then you can even request a testing kit by post, you can then complete this at home and return it in a free discreet package.

We can send you your results by text, email or letter.