Human sexuality is a natural part of our interaction with others. Society has placed many hang-ups on human sexuality, some based on myth (masturbation causes hairy palms and loss of eyesight); others on religion (sex outside of marriage); and others on the mores of the times (in the Victorian era, for example, oral sex was not practised by “normal” people).

With research came understanding and currently society is more open about sexuality. Young people today have more access to factual information and should be better informed about their bodies, their sexual desires and reactions to these desires.

Yet in this country most young people still exist in a sexual dark age. Yes, we know what sex is, we have been bombarded with information regarding the misfortunes related to sex (like sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies), but very few people have taken the time to disseminate information regarding alternative sexual lifestyles or even simple information on how to have mutually gratifying sexual encounters with your partner.

Most young people today approach intercourse in a hit-or-miss manner, with many young men believing that the high point of intercourse is penetration and ejaculation and many young women believing that if they enjoy sex they are sluttish and loose. Television is a powerful learning medium for sex, but the lessons it teaches can be misleading and shallow and it can ignore certain fundamental truths about sex.

The first lesson we need to learn is that sex is not a bad thing. In fact, it is one of the greatest things two people can share.

The second lesson is to differentiate between love and sex. You can be in love without deciding to have sex. Similarly, love is a major plus in a sexual partnership, but it is not a prerequisite, although sex without love may become mundane and unenjoyable after a time (sometimes almost immediately).

The third point is probably the most vital: trust is the most important factor in a sexual relationship. Let me define the trust I’m talking about. It’s not the “I believe what you tell me” trust but an ability to share openly and be absolutely comfortable with one’s partner. If the person with whom you are sleeping or intend to sleep doesn’t meet this criterion, then you’re wasting time and effort and could get yourself hurt in the bargain.

Another important guide is that sex is a shared encounter. There is no room for selfishness in a sexual relationship (Guys read: Your penis is not your whole existence. Don’t whip it out and expect instant gratification. Ladies read: Guys have needs, too; talk to them, show some interest, tell them what you like and would like to do with them). Experiment and learn; sexual encounters are not fixed in stone.

Your entire body is an erogenous zone. Spend some time with your partner finding less than obvious areas that can be exciting to explore. Penetrative intercourse is not the be-all and end-all of all sexual encounters and once you are familiar with your partner’s body you can spend many pleasurable and gratifying hours caressing each other. If you must have gratification try mutual masturbation or even bringing each other to orgasm without touching the obvious sexual organs. Make a game of it. Remember sex is supposed to be fun even without the orgasm, yours or theirs.

If even after all this you resort to the mundane thrill of actual intercourse, be safe. If you choose to perform oral sex, use a condom or a dental dam (if you can’t get a dental dam you can use regular plastic food wrap as a barrier to prevent the transmission of HIV while performing oral sex on women. Don’t use it on guys; it’s not a good condom substitute).

Finally, it is good to discover the joys of your own body before you rush into any kind of sexual encounter. This is a blatant plug for self-exploration. You can’t share yourself and your body if you are unaware of its full potential. Once you’ve discovered the joys of your own body you will find yourself a lot more comfortable in the presence of another person.