Sex education in schools tends to focus on pregnancy and
reproduction, and sometimes looks at HIV and STD prevention.
Information about being gay doesn’t seem to be very common in sex
education classes, which leads to misunderstandings rather than
knowledge. Ignorance can end up as fear, prejudice and risky behaviour.
A recent survey in the UK found that 40% of young people between the
ages of 11 and 18 thought the sex education they received was either
poor or very poor, with a further 33% thinking it was only average. 1
This page is here to provide the information that is missing in sex-ed
What makes a person gay?
No-one knows for sure what makes someone gay or bisexual. People often
realise that they’re gay when they’re very young, while for other
people this may happen later in life. Many people ask themselves at
some point during their teenage years: am I gay? For those who decide
that they are, it can sometimes be hard to tell other people.
If you’re gay and you want to have an active sex-life, then sooner or
later you’re going to have to come out to someone. But coming out can
be hard to do and it can be difficult to know when to do it.
Coming out to your parents can be
intimidating. It’s natural to want your parents to know what’s going on
Being comfortable with your sexuality isn’t always easy, and going
public with the information can be really difficult. When you’ve
accepted your sexuality, it’s natural to want the rest of the world to
be happy for you. But you can decide for yourself when and who you want
But it’s not always that easy. If other
people are out at your school, that can make it a bit easier. Or do gay
people get tormented by their classmates? In lots of places, the words
‘gay’ or ‘queer’ are often used to describe something negative. This is
an example of prejudice, and it’s natural to want to fit in. Coming out
in the wrong place or at the wrong time can have a negative result, but
most gay people say that coming out on their own terms at the right
time was a good thing to do.
parents and family. Coming out to your parents can be intimidating.
It’s natural to want your parents to know what’s going on with you, but
it helps if you know that at least one family-member will be
Remember – you get to choose the time and who you tell.
What are gay relationships like?
“There was the idea that relationships just don’t happen – gay men want
sex, not relationships… But then you find out there are people who
have been going out with people for years. It seems exactly the same as
everywhere else.” – Adam
There are sometimes perceptions that gay relationships are just about
sex, but there’s much more to it that that. Gay relationships can be
just as loving, just as difficult, just as fulfilling and last just as
long as any other relationship.
What about being bisexual?
people are attracted to both genders – men and women. Some people say
that everyone is a little bit bisexual. If you’re bisexual, you might
have relationships with men and be attracted to women. Or the other way
round. It’s not true that bisexual people fancy everyone – they fall
for people as individuals, just like gay or straight people do.
“He’s the best
looking guy in my year, and he’s also dating the best looking girl in
my year. She too is gorgeous. It’s like I fancy them both. It’s really
weird. . . sometimes when she is talking to me its like ‘I wonder what
she would do if she knew I fancied her and her
boyfriend?” – Steve
What do gay men do in bed?
“I thought that all that men did in bed together was anal sex and that
was disgusting… and then you find men who aren’t bothered about doing
that at all and no-one has ever tried to force me to have penetrative
sex. It’s much more of a loving, caring thing than I thought, too.” -
men do what straight people do in bed. They do what they feel
comfortable with and enjoy doing. This can be non-penetrative sex, oral
sex, or simply kissing and touching each other.
Often, people think that sex between men is all about anal sex – it
isn’t, but anal sex carries the greatest risk in terms of contracting
or transmitting HIV. You can’t ‘create’ HIV or an STD by having anal
sex, but it is a high-risk activity. You can reduce the risks by using
a condom properly. Some men prefer to use female condoms when having
sex with other guys.
Using lube will make
things go more smoothly and help to prevent damage to the inside of the
anus – and don’t use your partner’s come as a lubricant. The best
lubricants are water-based – oil-based lubricants can weaken a condom
and make it more likely to break. Try not to tear or damage the inside
of the anus – this will increase the chances of HIV being transmitted
when having anal sex or when licking or touching the anus.
But gay or bisexual, before you can legally have sex with anyone you must be over the age of consent.
Isn’t sex between men dangerous?
it doesn’t have to be. HIV was once thought of as a ‘gay disease’, but
it’s certainly not only gay men who are affected by HIV, and sex
between men can be safe.
In fact anyone can get
HIV, though in some countries more gay men than straight men or women
have HIV. This means that if you decide to have sex with another man,
that there may be a higher risk of being infected with (or passing on)
HIV. But only if you have sex that isn’t safe.
What is ‘safer sex’?
Safer sex is anything that reduces your chances of
getting or transmitting a STI. It’s not difficult and it doesn’t have
to reduce your pleasure.
if you want to have sex with someone,
you should have enough respect for them to protect them.
such as HIV are transmitted by body fluids, so to protect yourself, you
need to keep your partner’s body-fluids from getting inside your body -
this means in your mouth, anus or in any cuts you may have on you. Body
fluids include blood, semen (come or pre-come) and saliva (to a lesser
extent). You can’t transmit HIV by things like kissing or holding
Safer sex also
means not exposing your partner to any danger of infection. If you feel
that you may have been exposed to STDs in the past, even if you don’t
have any symptoms, you should be tested to make sure you’re not
infectious before having sex with anyone else. And the precautions you
would take to look after yourself will also protect your partner – if
you want to have sex with someone, you should have enough respect for
them to protect them. AVERT.org has more information about sexually
Okay, so having
safer sex means keeping your partner’s body fluids
out of your body. But this doesn’t have to mean you can’t have fun.
There’s still lots of things you can do. Kissing, cuddling, massage and
rubbing each other, and penetrating each other with fingers are all
fine, and masturbating alone or with your partner is safe too, as long
as you don’t have any cuts or sores on your hands – if you do, cover
them with a plaster or band-aid.
anal sex, oral is much less risky, but there are a number of STDs that
can be transmitted when giving or receiving oral sex. The general
advice is that you should avoid oral sex if you’ve got cuts or sores in
your mouth. The risks of this can be reduced by using condoms – and if
you don’t like the taste of latex, you can get flavoured ones.
I’ll be okay the first time, won’t I?
you have sex with a partner who has HIV, you can be infected with it,
whether it’s your first time or not. If it’s the first time you have
sex or the first time with a new partner, it can be scary enough
without having to worry about condoms. But using condoms can be quite
sexy – try getting your partner to unroll it for you.
between men is only risky if you have risky sex, and the more men you
sleep with, the more likely you are to come into contact with someone
who has HIV.
Some people choose to be celibate,
some like to have many different partners, and others prefer to have
one steady boyfriend – there’s no one ‘gay lifestyle’. A monogamous
relationship is a type of relationship where neither partner has sex
with anyone else. If you have a monogamous relationship with someone
who knows that they aren’t infected with anything you are at less risk
of coming into contact with HIV than if you have lots of different
partners. Whatever your personal life and whether or not you’re in a
relationship, being careful can be fun, and safe sex doesn’t have to
mean boring sex.