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An agony aunt writes...

THE sexual health expert for Sugar magazine, Laura Johnson, explains how she answers readers' questions . Sugar is aimed at girls aged 13 to 17.

"I see my role as giving readers the information they need to make safe, responsible choices about sex and the confidence to say no and resist being pressured into things they're not ready for.

"This means reinforcing the safe sex message (in particular the importance of condoms), highlighting the fact that sex is illegal under the age of 16 and promoting the idea that it should only be considered in a loving, trusting relationship. It also means that while I can give information about sex, I can't tell girls how to do it or give them sex tips.

"My role is also to give our readers a forum for asking questions that they might be embarrassed to ask anyone else. A lot of the girls who write to me say they cannot discuss sex with their parents, feel embarrassed by school sex education and are scared to ask their friends in case it makes them look 'silly'.

"In my answers, I give explanations, plus a reminder that readers should not do these things until they are legally old enough and emotionally ready - and that they should use condoms. For example, in March's Sugar a 15-year-old reader said one of her older friends had said she had 'wanked'

a boy. She wanted to know what it meant and whether it was the same as a blow job. I explained what each term meant, but said the acts must only be done in a loving, trusting relationship and said a condom must be used in oral sex.

"Another typical letter would say: 'My boyfriend wants to sleep with me but I'm not ready.' With these, I give reassurance where appropriate and emphasise the fact that sex is a personal choice and no one should feel pressured into anything they're not ready for.

"Unfortunately, the letters I get show that many teenage girls lack the information and the confidence they need to protect themselves from pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and peer pressure.

"Sugar, as a magazine they enjoy and trust, is an effective medium for giving them the information they need in a format they want."

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