How Do I Know I’m Ready For Sex?
Figuring Out Whether You’re Ready
This is a question only you can answer. Deciding when to have sex for the first time can be tough, but ultimately it’s your own choice to make. It can be helpful to talk about it with someone you trust—this person might be a parent or other family member, a mentor, a healthcare provider, or someone else who cares about you.
There can be risks associated with having sex, such as sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy. If you do decide to be sexually active, there are ways to reduce your risk of STIs and pregnancy. Sometimes sex in certain situations, like if you don’t feel ready, can cause feelings of stress. Ideally, a healthy sex life shouldn’t be stressful. You might want to consider how becoming sexually active will fit in with your life, such as:
- your goals: both in school and your future career
- your personal values
- whether it’s something you want to do or are feeling pressured to do
- what kind of relationship you want to be in before you have sex
- What kind of relationship you want to have with the person you have sex with, and if they want the same relationship with you
- What you feel comfortable doing and not doing
- Whether important people in your life, such as friends and family, will be supportive, and if that matters to you
Ultimately, the decision is yours to make.
There are things you want to think about before you have sex, including:
- Do you know how to reduce your risk of STIs?
- Do you know where to get condoms- and how to use them properly?
- Do you know how to reduce the risk of pregnancy?
- What would you do if you found out you had an STI?
- What would you do if you found out you or the person you’re having sex with was pregnant?
- Are you ready to get tested for STIs and find a birth control method that’s right for you?
- Have you talked about these things with the person you’re thinking about having sex with?
- Is this your own decision, or do you want to have sex because you think everyone else is doing it?
Having sex should ALWAYS be a choice. If you decide to become sexually active with someone, make sure you both give consent, meaning you both want to be sexually active with each other. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a relationship, if you’ve had sex with someone before, or what someone is wearing. No one ever owes anyone else sex. Having sex with someone without their consent is sexual assault. If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you’re not alone. You can get help. You can reach Resilience (formerly Rape Victim Advocates) online, or 24/7 by calling the Chicago Rape Crisis Hotline 888-293-2080
So you’ve decided to have sex…now what?
Do you know how to protect yourself and the person you’re having sex with?
The only 100% effective method to prevent STIs and pregnancy is to not be sexually active. However, if you do decide to become sexually active, there are ways you can reduce your risk. Vaginal, oral, and anal sex, as well as genital touching are all considered sexual activity and can lead to STIs. If you are having vaginal sex, you might be at risk for pregnancy. Birth control reduces the risk of pregnancy, and condoms reduce the risk of STIs and pregnancy. To reduce the risk of STIs, make sure you’re using latex or polyurethane condoms. Natural membrane (lambskin) condoms do NOT protect against STIs. The best way to reduce your risk of BOTH pregnancy and STIs is to use condoms PLUS another, more effective form of birth control (like an IUD) every time you have sex. Learn more at chataboutit.org/pregnancy.
It might seem like everyone your age is having sex, but that may not actually be the case. Only about half of Chicago high school students say they have ever had sex. Even after people become sexually active, many of them don’t have sex very often. Everyone’s sex life is different.
Your friends might be having sex, and they might not be. It’s each person’s own decision to make, including your own. You might be feeling pressured. You might think you want to have sex because you’re the only “virgin” in your friends group, you want to “get it over with,” that your boyfriend or girlfriend will break up with you if you don’t have sex, that it will make you popular, or somehow you’ll feel older if you have sex. Facing these pressures can be tough, but ultimately, it’s ALWAYS your decision whether or not you want to have sex.
Talking about it
Are you ready to communicate honestly and clearly about what you want and need?
Before you have sex, it’s important to feel comfortable communicating with the person you’re having sex with about what you need and what you’re comfortable with. It’s not always easy to talk about sex, but communication is super important.
- Do I have a healthy relationship with the person I’m having sex with?
- Can I talk with the person I’m having sex with about things that are bothering me?
- Do I listen to the person I’m having sex with and share my own feelings about things respectfully?
- Do I feel comfortable saying “no” and “stop” to the person I’m having sex with? Will they listen?
- Can I talk with the person I’m having sex with about using condoms, and birth control, and STI testing?
- I’ve thought about all of this and I think I’m ready to have sex. What do should I do now?
- Both of you want to have sex without pressure from each other or anyone else. Consent from both you and the person you’re having sex with is super important.
- Both you and the person you’re having sex with are being honest about your feelings.
- You and the person you’re having sex with will do what you need to do, like using condoms, dental dams, and getting tested to reduce your risk of getting an STI. Learn more at www.chataboutit.org/STI
- If you have vaginal sex, use birth control and condoms every single time you have sex to reduce the risk of pregnancy. (You should also use condoms every time you have sex to reduce your risk of STIs. Note: Most condoms are made of a rubber material called latex. For people who are allergic to latex, there are other materials like polyurethane that protect against STIs. You may have heard of natural membrane condoms like lambskin – those do not protect against STIs)
- Both of you are comfortable communicating with each other, for example, saying “stop” and “no” in any situation.
What if I don’t ever want to have sex with anyone?
Some people aren’t ever interested in having sex, and that’s okay. These people may identify themselves as “asexual.” You can learn more about asexuality and other sexual orientations at www.chataboutit.org/identity
You might not feel ready for sex right now, but you might want to have sex someday in the future when things are different. For example, when you’re older, with a different person, or when you’re in a different kind of relationship. Everyone has a different sex drive, and sometimes they change with time— so don’t worry. Sex drives can be affected by lots of different things. Things like stress, life experiences, hormones, illness, medicine, how attracted you are to someone, and the type of relationship you have with that person.