Teens in Canada: Sex, contraception, pregnancy and STDs
Are Canadian teens having sex?
Of course they are!
The latest available StatsCan report about sex, condom-use and STDs among young people in Canada was published in 2005. The study looked at youth aged 15 to 25, finding that about 62% of young people in this age category had had sex at least once in their lives. The proportion was the same among males and females, and once they began sexual activity most remained sexually active.
Of course, the older the young people were the more likely they were to have had sex: 28% of 15-17 year-olds stated they were sexually active, compared to 65% of 18-19 year-olds and 80% of 20-24 year olds. The average age at first sexual intercourse for both males and females was 16.5 years. The survey found that older people were more likely to have long-term, monogamous relationships and that youth aged 15 to 19 were more likely to have had multiple partners in the past year.
"Age at first sexual experience was related to the likelihood of having more than one partner. Those who had had intercourse by age 13 were generally significantly more likely to have had two or more sexual partners during the past year than those who had had their first experience when they were older." (source)
What concerns does this raise?
Everyone knows by now (we hope!) that unless certain precautions are taken, sex can lead to pregnancy or to a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Did you know:
- you can also get a sexually transmitted disease just by kissing?
- teenage girls are most at risk of getting a sexually-tranmitted disease?
When you are having intercourse with your partner, aside from abstinence (choosing to not have sex), "barrier methods" (condoms) of contraception are the most effective means of preventing STIs (also called STDs, sexually transmitted diseases). Condoms, when used correctly, can be very effective at preventing both pregnancy and STIs.
- how to use a condom (demonstration)
- how to use a female condom (demonstration) (illustration)
- how to make a dental dam
- how to recognise a sexually transmitted disease (STD)
- how to avoid STDs
Afraid to talk about sex?
Before you have sex, you owe it to yourself to talk about sex
- with your partner: fears, feelings, protection.
Open, honest communication is essential to a good sexual relationship. If you are too embarrassed to talk about it, it might not be the right time to start having sex.
- with your parents: questions, morals, emotions, consequences
They won't have all the answers, but they may know more than you think (and be just as embarrassed as you are!)
- with your healthcare provider: sex involves a lot of health risks, and you should ask all your birth control questions. Your annual physical exam is a good time to bring these topics up!
Parties, bars and sexual predators
Young women have to be especially vigilant to make sure they do not become victims of sexual predators or contract sexually-transmitted diseases when they get drunk or high. Remember your judgement is impaired and you may be extra vulnerable. Remember that your safety is your responsibility: never go to bars alone, and watch out for your friends. If they get too intoxicated, get them to leave (and ask them to do the same for you).
Date rape drugs are also a danger: never leave your drink unattended, even for a moment. These drugs are clear, odourless and tasteless — and they are becoming more common. What's more, they are usually not administered by strangers. When mixed with alcohol, some of these drugs can be fatal. This link provides more safety tips.
Donna MacLeod, for Consumer Health Information Service (CHIS) at Toronto Public Library.
With thanks to Dr Carol Clark, a sex therapist and licensed mental health counsellor in Miami, Florida, who has posted a number of short YouTube clips on a variety of topic, many of which are linked to in this post.
Sex info for teens:
- RAMP Life Stuff (Toronto Public Library)
- Sexuality and U (Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada) (multimedia section)
- Spiderbytes (a website on sexual health for teens, Planned Parenthood of Canada)
- Young and Healthy (a Canadian website for young adults): play games, watch videos, enter contests
- Teen health: Sex, sexuality and relationships (Nova Scotia)
Girl's Health (an American interactive website for young women)
- Pressurepoint Cyber Youth Clinic (an Australian youth site)
- Canadian Federation for Sexual Health (a website)
Contraceptive methods (Sexuality and U)
Safer sex blog (Mayo Clinic)
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
- What are they? (Sexuality and U)
- What do they look like? (Pressurepoint Cyber Youth Clinic)
- What are the symptoms? (STDresource.com)
- Are you at risk? (Sexuality and U)
- Glossary (STDresource.com)
Getting tested for STDs
- Toronto's Hassle-free clilnic
- RAMP list of sexual-health clinics in Toronto (includes places that offer free condoms)
- Canada-wide clinic locator (Sexuality and U)