I guess lately I’ve been drinking a bit more…maybe too much. I usually have a drink or two to loosen up at parties, especially if I don’t have any weed around. Sometimes I get a bit out of control when I drink. I’m so shy around girls and booze helps me make people laugh. Last week I blacked out though. I’ve never done that before, and when I woke up, I was with a girl I’d been drinking with. I know she sleeps around, but I don’t know for sure if we had sex. I have no idea if she’s on birth control. This feels really gross. I kinda think she took advantage of me. Does that count as a sexual assault? What if she’s pregnant? Do you think I caught something?
I’m getting pretty stressed cuz I think Taylor is going to break up with me. Taylor says we’ve been together long enough. I think Taylor is sick of waiting for me to have sex. What bothers me the most is being reminded that I did it with Jae so why not with Taylor too? I guess that’s a fair point. But that was a long time ago and I didn’t really like it. Everyone keeps telling me that if Taylor really loved me, they’d wait. But what if time’s up and Taylor does break up with me? Maybe I should just do it and get it over with. Besides, I’m older now and should probably like it, right? I don’t know why I’m waiting anyway.
According to the 2012 Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey (Health Canada, 2014):
drank alcohol in the past year
drank alcohol in the past 30 days
used marijuana in the past year
used an illicit drug other than marijuana in the past year
Substance use is even more common among street-involved youth. In a 2010 Edmonton study of street-involved youth ages 15-24:
reported alcohol use in the past 3 months
reported alcohol use every day
reported use of non-injection drugs at least one time
reported use of injection drugs at least once
- Reduced communication skills which impacts the ability to set and understand sexual boundaries.
- Decreased fine motor skills and coordination which may impact correct condom use.
- Poor memory which may impact the ability to take the birth control pill at the right time.
- Sex at an early age and/or unprotected sex.
- Multiple sexual partners.
- Increased sexual desire but problems with arousal, lubrication, erection, ejaculation and orgasm.
- Lower sexual desire (McKay, 2005).
- Reproduction problems such as changes in ovulation, irregular menstrual cycles and early menopause.
- Impotence (inability to have or maintain an erection), atrophy (shrinking) of the testicles, decreased sperm count and enlarged breasts in males (Alberta Health Services, 2010).
- Painful sex (McKay, 2005).
- Because they had sex with that person before and believe that they have to.
- To feel safe.
- To avoid conflict.
- To keep a relationship.
- For money, drugs or a place to sleep.
- Have sex or not.
- Set personal boundaries and limits.
- Make sexual decisions sober.
- Talk to a partner about limits and safety.
- Protect each other with a condom and safer sex practices.
Social media is any online, digital or mobile communication platform where users communicate with other users.
According to American research, 92% of all teens access the internet daily with 24% on “almost constantly,” 89% of teens use at least one social media site, and teens send an average of 67 texts/day (Lenhart, 2015).
According to a British Columbia study of street involved youth, 95% accessed the internet (Smith et al., 2015).
Sexting is when people send or receive sexual pictures, messages or videos by cell phone or mobile device.
About 24% of Canadian teens in grades 7-11 have received a sext (defined as sexy, nude or partly nude photos). Around 30% of grade 11 students report to have seen a sext intended for someone else (Steeves, 2014).
Pornography is sexually explicit media showing genitals or sexual activity with the purpose of sexually arousing the viewer.
Around 23% of Canadian students in grades 7-11 have accessed pornography at some time, with males (40%) being more likely to access than females (7%) (Steeves, 2014).
Pornography may be linked to:
- Lower self-image.
- Increase in risky sexual behaviors.
- Seeing females as sex objects and males as sexual aggressors.
- Unrealistic or unhealthy attitudes and expectations about sex, relationships, bodies and gender roles.
- Negative impacts on adolescent brain development (Owens et al., 2012).
- When people under 18 take or send nude pictures of themselves, it can be considered creating and/or distributing child pornography.
- If the person they send it to is also under the age of 18, it can be considered as providing pornography to children.
- Police may lay charges for cyberbullying.
- Needed for every sexual activity, every time.
- Understanding what is being consented to.
- Asking partners if they understand what they are saying yes to.
- Checking in with the partner and accepting that either partner can change their mind at any time.
- High or drunk.
- Forced, threatened, bribed, intimidated or offered rewards to do something sexual.
The age of consent is the age at which a person is considered to be able to legally consent to sex. In Canada, it is 16 years old, except if the:
- Other person is in a position of authority (e.g., teacher, coach, or employer).
- Sexual activity is exploitative (e.g., pornography, prostitution, or trading sex for safety).
There are “close in age” exceptions to this law.
- 14 and 15 year olds may consent to sex if the partner is less than 5 years older.
- 12 and 13 year olds may consent to sex if the partner is less than 2 years older.
- Children younger than 12 cannot consent to any type of sexual activity. Having sex with a child younger than 12 is against the law.
Other important things to know about consent:
- People cannot legally consent to sexual activity if they are drunk or high.
- One person cannot give consent on behalf of another person.
- Just because someone did the activity before doesn’t mean they consent to do it again.
- People who are married, common-law or are in other long term committed relationships still need to have consent before sex.
- Consent cannot be implied by body language, appearance or flirty/sexual behavior.
- Consent can be withdrawn at any time during the activity.
- Consequences of treatment.
- Consequences of not having the treatment.
- Aggressive communication: loud volume, angry tone, name-calling, “you” statements and profanity, threatening gestures and glaring eye contact are used to intimidate the other person. Some aggressive communicators use stillness and low volume to intimidate or threaten. This may lead the other person to feel unsafe and often results in escalating conflict.
- Passive communication: quiet volume, weak tone, saying “I’m sorry,” shrinking body language and minimal eye contact is used to avoid or escape the conflict. This often happens if the person is feeling unsafe but may escalate conflict.
- Passive-aggressive communication: sarcastic tone, exaggerated gestures and facial expressions and saying one thing (such as an apology) and clearly meaning another are used to manipulate the other person. This is often used when the person is frustrated or angry but doesn’t know how to express it and often escalates conflict.
- Assertive communication: volume is even, calm tone may reveal underlying emotions consistent with discussion, “I” statements are spoken, confident body language and even eye contact are used to describe the situation and state feelings and needs, expectations or limits.
Delaying gives the person time to think about other ways to respond to the situation (e.g., “I see my brother over there. He’s my ride, so I’ll let you know later”).
Negotiating is when alternatives are provided to change the situation for the better (e.g., “How about we go to laser tag instead, my treat”).
Refusing is when assertive communication is used to clearly set boundaries (e.g., “You are asking me to do something that I feel is not safe. I am not going to do that today”).
(Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 2015)
For more information on substance use, please visit:
For more information about sexual decision making, see:
For more information on consent and support, see:
Alberta Health Services. (2010). Beyond the ABCs information for professionals: Alcohol. Retrieved from http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/assets/healthinfo/AddictionsSubstanceAbuse/hi-asa-beyond-abcs-alcohol.pdf
Alberta Health Services, Sexual & Reproductive Health. (2015). Sexting, Social media & pornography: Impacts on youth health. Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. (2015). Grade 9 physical and health education. Retrieved from https://youthrelationships.org/gr9-health
Government of Alberta. (1995-2015). Am I ready for sex? Retrieved from, http://www.health.alberta.ca/health-info/sex-am-I-ready.html
Health Canada. (2014). Canadian alcohol and drug use monitoring survey. Retrieved from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hc-ps/drugs-drogues/stat/_2012/summary-sommaire-eng.php
Lenhart, A. (2015). Teens, social media & technology: Overview 2015. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/09/teens-social-media-technology-2015/
Ottawa Public Health. (2011). Enhanced street youth surveillance in Ottawa 2011. Retrieved from http://canadianharmreduction.com/node/2017
McKay, A. (2005). Sexuality and substance use: The impact of tobacco, alcohol and selected recreational drugs on sexual function. The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality 14(1/2), 47.
Mediasmarts.ca. (2013). Impacts on Young People. Retrieved from http://mediasmarts.ca/digital-media-literacy/digital-issues/pornography/impacts-young-people
Owens, E. W., Behun, R. J., Manning, J. C., & Reid, R. C. (2012). The impact of internet pornography on adolescents: a review of the research. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 19(1-2), 99-122.
Pfizer. (2015). How does Viagra work? Retrieved from https://www.viagra.com/learning/how-does-viagra-work
Smith, A., Stewart, D., Poon, C., Peled, M., Saewyc, E., and McCreary Centre Society. (2015). Our communities, our youth: The health of homeless and street-involved youth in BC. Vancouver, BC: McCreary Centre Society.
Steeves, V. (2014). Young Canadians in a wired world, Phase III: Sexuality and romantic relationships in the digital age. Ottawa: MediaSmarts.