You should only have sex when you're sure you're ready. But how do you know when you're ready?

Don't follow the herd - it's your body and your decision

What does it mean to be ready?

Being ready is understanding what sex means and what the consequences of having sex can be - physically and emotionally. This means you're less likely to have problems or regret it afterwards.

For many people the event, particularly for the first time, is disappointing - a rather painful fumble that has potentially been rushed into. This will likely leave you feeling lousy the next day, and potentially worried about pregnancy and/or STIs.

Don't forget, it's against the law to have sex if you're under the age of consent (16 in the UK) - no matter how ready you feel.

Whether you're in a loving relationship or looking for a bit of fun, having sex is a very personal decision and one that only you can make. Talk to others and get advice by all means, but ultimately you need to feel happy and comfortable in the situation.

Being ready also means feeling comfortable about discussing sex, not just about having sex. It's an emotional act as well as a physical one, and that involves a level of trust between you and your partner. If you're both clear about your feelings and expectations, you're less likely to end up feeling in any way negative afterwards.

How will I know when I'm ready?

Ask yourself:

  • Am I being pressured by what my friends or partner think?
  • How will I make sure me or my partner don't get pregnant?
  • How will I stop myself getting an STI?
  • Will I regret it next day?
  • Are they worth it?
  • Does the thought of it make me feel good, or terrified?

You know the answers. Think about how you might feel after it's happened.

What if I decide I am definitely ready?

Be sure that your partner wants to. They may not be ready, which is fair enough and you must respect that.

Make sure the condoms are packed and practice putting one on with a choice vegetable beforehand if you're nervous. It sounds cringy, but it beats the first night nerves. You shouldn't rely on anyone else to provide protection - our bodies are our responsibility.

If you have second thoughts at any point, stop. Just because you've had sex once doesn't mean you have to keep on having it. You are completely entitled to shelve it for a while until you're ready again.

What if I don't think I'm ready?

Then don't do it. You have the right to say no.

Many people have sex because they think everyone else is, or that they should do it because they've got a boyfriend or girlfriend - so they'll expect it. Or that if you don't, it makes you a prude. A prick tease. A baby.

Don't follow the herd - it's your body and your decision. It's how you feel about yourself after that counts.

If your partner breaks up with you because you won't have sex, that is not the person you want to be with. Don't sacrifice what you believe in for someone else - anyone worth being with won't pressure you into it.

BBC Advice factfiles are here to help young people with a broad range of issues. They're based on advice from medical professionals, government bodies, charities and other relevant groups. Follow the links for more advice from these organisations.


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