How to Know When You’re Ready to Become Sexually Active
Sex is everywhere. Pop stars sing about it, magazines write about it, movies sell it. But where does that leave teens? We know what it is, we may have learned a thing or two in school, but how do we know when we’re ready to take the next step with a partner? The truth is, it’s different for everybody. Some people feel comfortable with their first partner, and some want to hold off until later: both options are perfectly fine. What’s most important is that whenever you do decide to have sex, everyone involved is excited about it and really wants to do it. Your first sexual experience shouldn’t be the result of any peer or outside pressure. And trust is key. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re deciding if you’re ready to have sex with a partner:
Reflect on it
Take some time away from social media or friends and think about how you feel about sex and sexual activity. Don’t let anyone else influence your decisions. Questions you could consider: Why do you want to have sex? Is it because it’s something you want to do or are you feeling pressured by someone? Do you want to be in a relationship with the person you’re having sex with? Or keep it casual? If you’re currently in a relationship, how will you feel if you break up after having sex? Thinking things through without any distractions can allow you to think more clearly and possibly come to a decision, so as silly as it may sound, take some time for yourself and just think. Even a basic pro and con list can help you process everything you’re pondering.
If you have a partner, let them know how you’re feeling and be honest. If they make you feel uncomfortable or try to shame you in any way, that’s a telltale sign they’re probably not the right person to partake in any sexual activities with (whether it’s your first or thousandth time). Your partner should support you and be able to voice their own thoughts and feelings in a respectful manner as well.
If you decide to take things further, don’t stress. Nerves are normal, but remember that you’re in control of the situation and if you want to stop at any moment, you have the right to do so, no matter how “far” you’ve already gone. And if you don’t choose to have sex right now, there’s no need to stress about that either. Wait until you feel more comfortable, whether it’s with the same partner or perhaps someone different. Don’t let anyone force you to do something you don’t want to.
Get on Birth Control (If you’re not already)
Before you start becoming sexual with a partner, talk to your health care provider or a trusted adult about getting on birth control. Don’t let embarrassment stop you from talking about sex or birth control—protecting yourself is way too important. If you choose not to talk to a parent or guardian, you have the right to talk to your provider alone and ask about the information they are required to disclose to your legal guardians. If you want to do a little research on your own, here’s a birth control method explorer here.
Everyone’s journey with sex is unique and perfectly valid. At the end of the day, what you do with your body is up to YOU. Have open conversations with your partner(s) and stay true to yourself. The power is in YOUR hands.
Anna Labarca is a senior at Walt Whitman High School in Maryland. She writes for the student newspaper, The Black and White. She plans to study journalism in college and is interning at Power to Decide to learn more about the role communications has in campaigns.