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“Does sex hurt?


Your 11-year-old comes home from their first sex ed lesson at school

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Expert Response #1


Sex should not hurt. It is something that happens between people who are close. They may love each other and know each other well enough to communicate, for instance, about what feels comfortable for them both and what does not

Janey Downshire, qualified counsellor and co-founder of Teenagers Translated

Expert Response #2


Sex does not hurt when people are ready to have it.  Women’s vaginas become lubricated when they are excited and ready to have sex. It is very important that you feel ready, because if lubrication is not there it can sometimes make it uncomfortable

Dr Naomi Sutton, sexual-health consultant physician on E4’s The Sex Clinic and at Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust

Expert Response #3

Good intention

People have sex in lots of different ways. What matters is that they respect each other and only do things that everyone is OK with. Sex should not hurt (unless that is the intention). If it does, people can go to the doctor to find out why

Josie Rayner-Wells, national PSHE/RSE adviser

Whatever you say next, keep these things in mind…

  • Talk about sex in the context of love, intimacy, consent and healthy relationships. (As Boys & Sex author Peggy Orenstein emphasises, casual hookups don’t create emotional connection.) Make nothing taboo if you want a repeat conversation about sex. What you say is far less important than how your child feels as they hear the answer. Make sure your child knows that no question can be bad or wrong

  • Early adolescence can be an age of mass hysteria about puberty at school. Your child might need more reassurance than you know. Adopt a gentle – perhaps carefree – tone. If you’re relaxed and down to earth with them, they’ll pick up on your matter-of-factness and confidence 

  • This question is a gift for parents who want to raise their child with a shame-free attitude towards sex – because it’s a chance to let their child know that sex should be enjoyable. This is often missed out in relationship & sex education (RSE) lessons, which often focus more on safe sex. But it’s important for children to know so they can stand up for themselves later in life if something feels wrong. Consent and pleasure – knowing what feels good and being able to say what you like – are connected…


More help with sex questions…


SCARLETEEN  |  For parents and guardians 

Scarleteen’s Heather Corinna “prattles on about the bigger picture”, reveals some recommended reads and offers some sage advice  Go to Scarleteen >

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AMAZE & AMAZE JR  |  Video advice for parents & cartoons for kids

Amaze Jr brings parents age-appropriate sex ed resources about talking to kids ages 4-9. Check out Amaze content for older kids – “More info, less weird”  Go to Amaze >

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EVERY BODY CURIOUS  |  Watch & learn

Fill the gaps in your 9- to 12-year-old’s sex ed with this series set in a real classroom hosted by the friendly Nadine Thornhill & Eva Bloom   Go to Every Body Curious > 

More Outspoken advice on #Sex&Relationships

The full guide

Skater Girl

Tips for this age


Taking the plunge

Remember: every child is different. Adjust these suggestions for the age and stage of your child. Children with special educational needs and disabilities, looked-after children and children who have experienced abuse may all need different support.


If you’re in doubt about your child’s emotional, physical or psychological development, please seek the advice of a professional

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