Being in a relationship can be an exciting and special time. It can be enjoyable spending time with your partner, getting to know them, and experiencing new feelings. However, having a good relationship doesn’t mean you have to have sex. There are many other ways to have a good time, and show your partner that you care about them.
Whatever you choose to do together, whether it is kissing, touching or having sex, it should always be something that you both want to do. No one should force you into any sexual contact.
Both you and your partner need to feel emotionally and physically ready and sure about your decision to have sex.
Am I ready?
Having sex for the first time (or with a new partner) is a big decision and may make you feel nervous, anxious, excited or confused.
Sex can also mean different things for different people. For some people it can be an extremely personal and intimate experience and for others it might just be about the physical experience. Your views on sex could also be influenced by your personal and/or family values, beliefs or religion.
Whatever sex means to you, there are a few things you need to consider before you start having sex:
- Is this something YOU want to do? Do you feel excited or more anxious about it?
- Are you emotionally ready to have sex and how you may feel afterwards?
- Do you feel safe with the person you’re thinking about having sex with?
- Consent – is sex something you and your partner have discussed and do you both feel comfortable and ready for it? Are you both the legal age to consent to sexual activity? (see Relationships and consent for more info)
- Safe sex – do you know how to protect yourself from sexually transmissible infections (STIs)?
- Contraception – do you know how to prevent unintended (unplanned) pregnancy?
Having a good relationship doesn’t mean you have to have sex.
It’s probably not a good idea to have sex if your reasons for wanting to do it include:
- Thinking it will prove to someone that you love them
- Thinking it will make someone like or love you, go out with you, or not break up with you
- Feeling pressured or forced by your partner or friends
- Thinking ‘everyone else is doing it’
- Believing it will make you more ‘popular’ or more ‘grown up’
The National Schools Survey found that 34% of those under 18 had ever had sex – meaning 66% are not having sex – so actually not everyone is doing it, even if they say they are.
Negotiating safe sex
If you have decided that you are ready, it’s important to discuss safe sex with your partner. It might feel awkward having this conversation but, in most cases, your partner is probably wondering how to bring it up with you too! It may feel weird or uncomfortable at first, but it will get easier. In a healthy relationship your partner will respect you for taking care of your health and theirs. You may be surprised by how much both the emotional and physical parts of your relationship will benefit.
- First of all – talk about sex and gain consent. Make sure you and your partner agree and feel comfortable about what you are going to do together.
- Then, talk about how you are going to prevent STIs – using condoms and/or dams, and STI testing (see Your best defence for more info).
- And, if you are in a heterosexual relationship (girl and guy), talk about what contraception you will use to prevent unintended pregnancy.
The more prepared and comfortable you are about safe sex methods and the benefits of safe sex, the easier it will be to discuss it with your partner. Things like having condoms/dams already with you, and knowing how to use them, can make you feel more confident about having safe sex and talking about it with your partner.
How to start the conversation
Here are some statements you could make, or questions you could ask, to get the conversation started:
- ‘If we are going to have sex, let’s talk about contraception and safe sex.’
- ‘I want to enjoy sex without worrying about getting pregnant.’
- ‘To avoid getting an infection – I always use condoms / I would like us to always use condoms.’
- ‘How do you feel about us using condoms/dams?’
Check out How to use a condom for more information.
More information about sex and relationships can be found at Reachout.com.