C'MON — EVERYBODY'S DOING IT!

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NOT TRUE. That old line is a trick. Don't let yourself be fooled by it. It's true that about half of all young people have had sexual intercourse. It's also true that ABOUT HALF HAVE NOT. And many of those who've done "it" didn't really want to — they let themselves get talked into it.

Maybe your friends are trying to push you into having intercourse. They may tell you, "It will prove you're a man," or "It will make you feel like a real woman."

Or you may feel that "having sex" is the only way to keep someone interested in you. The person you're going with may even try to pressure you with lines like, "If you really love me, you'll prove it," or "If you don't do it with me, someone else will."

THE REAL QUESTION IS: WHAT'S RIGHT FOR YOU?

YOU DECIDE! You may wonder, "Why am I so eager and, at the same time, I want to hold back?" Maybe it's because you feel what millions of young people feel — sexual intercourse can be a big mistake when you're not ready. You can't just borrow someone else's decision. It might not work for you. You are a one-of-a-kind person who needs a one-of-a-kind decision. You have to make your own choice — the one that's best for you.

DECIDING IS EASY —
SAYING 'NO' ISN'T.

BUT IT CAN BE DONE. We are all sexual and want to love and to be loved. So we all have to make decisions about being sexual. Because we are all different, we make different decisions.

Your friends have different looks and personalities. Their needs and what's important to them also vary. Each wants something different from life. Sometimes, your lifestyle harmonizes with theirs. Other times, it conflicts. Dealing with conflict is part of growing up and becoming independent. You have to make a lot of decisions. Handling relationships, shaping plans for the future, and making healthy, responsible choices along the way — including decisions about sex — that's what growing up is all about!

It can feel like an emotional roller coaster. But EVERYONE goes through it. Even your parents went through it. That's why talking with them may help you sort out your own thoughts and feelings. They may be more understanding than you may think.

WHAT TO DO?

BE HONEST. Say what you really feel when you and your friends talk about sex. Your friends may be too shy. Or feel that they have to pretend to be "cool." It may be hardest to be "real" with someone you especially like. Difficult as it may be, if you're "real" with your friends, they may be "real" with you.

Being "real" can help us understand why some people have sexual intercourse before they're ready. Many of these reasons aren't very sexy. They include

  • trying to cure loneliness or unhappiness
  • wanting to be more popular
  • using physical sex to avoid close, caring relationships
  • wanting to "prove" you're not gay or lesbian
  • hoping to discover the "fireworks" that go with sex on TV and CDs and in movies, magazines, and books
  • believing "the first time" is not important so just get it over with
  • getting back at parents
  • not using good judgment because you're high on alcohol or other drugs

SEXUAL INTERCOURSE for these reasons may not be rewarding. And there's always the risk of pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection. But no matter what the reason, intercourse involves two people with individual thoughts and feelings. You have to live with yours.

So it's okay to say "no." You don't have to explain, but you can give your reasons if you want to — "I've made up my mind to wait," or, "I'm not ready to get involved" — say whatever makes you most comfortable. It may help to practice saying it to yourself before you need to say it to someone else.

 

MAKING YOUR DECISION means getting to know yourself. Try to think about what sort of person you are and want to be. What kind of life do you want? What work will you do? What training will you need? The more you are sure of yourself, the less likely you are to be flattered or frightened into doing something before you're ready.

Sex is an important part of life. It is not separate from everything else. Respect for ourselves and others is essential in all parts of life — including our sex life. Respect allows us to accept and appreciate each other. It helps us to be thoughtful and trusting of each other. It's not always easy. But it's always important.

IF YOU NEED HELP —

TALK TO PEOPLE you trust and respect — at home, school, temple, church, mosque, or club.

What if your parents have never talked with you about sex? They may be waiting for you to ask. Go ahead and risk it.

Maybe your place of worship has family life courses or discussion groups.

Some communities and schools have hotlines or peer counselors. Ask if your sexuality education program includes discussions of sexuality AND relationships.

Most Planned Parenthood health centers have counseling programs that you can attend with your parents, or confidential programs that you can go to alone. You can talk with counselors or other teens there. You'll probably meet other young people who've decided that it's cool to say "NO."

To talk with someone at the Planned Parenthood health center nearest you, call toll-free 1-800-230-PLAN.

In the meantime, you may want to check out the Planned Parenthood website that's especially for teens — www.teenwire.com.

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