Am I ready at a glance:
- You — and only you — get to decide when you're ready to have sex.
- It's helpful to talk about your decision with your parents or an adult you trust.
- It's important to think about how having sex fits in with your health, values, school and career goals, relationships with others, and your feelings about yourself.
Questions about birth control? We've got answers.
How do I know when I’m ready?
Only you can know the answer to that question. Deciding when to have sex for the first time is a big deal, and it can be a tough decision. It's really helpful to talk it out with someone you trust — a parent, a friend, a health care provider, or someone else who cares about you.
Sex can be risky for your body — STDs and unintended pregnancy are no joke. But sex can also have emotional risks. Sex before you're ready for it, sex with someone you don't trust or respect (or who doesn't trust or respect you), or sex that doesn't feel good can lead to some really stressful feelings. And a healthy sex life shouldn't be stressful.
We usually make better decisions when we think through all the good things and bad things. A great sex life is one that fits in with everything you're about, including:
- your personal values
- your school and career goals
- the emotional and physical risks you're willing to take
- if it's something you really want to do, or something your partner is pressuring you to do
- what sort of relationship you want to have with the person you have sex with (and how well that matches the relationship they want with you)
- whether family and friends will support your decision (and how important that is to you)
- your feelings about who you are and what you're comfortable doing
- whether you want to be in a committed relationship before you have sex
Do I know how to protect myself and my partner?
Vaginal, oral, and anal sex, as well as genital touching, can lead to STDs. Vaginal sex can cause pregnancy. Birth control protects against pregnancy, and condoms protect against STDs AND pregnancy.
- Before deciding to have sex, ask yourself:
- Do I know how to protect myself from STDs?
- Do I have condoms — and know how to use them?
- Do I know how to prevent pregnancy?
- How would I deal with an STD or an unintended pregnancy?
- Am I ready to go to the doctor for STD testing/birth control?
- Have I talked about these things with my boyfriend/girlfriend?
Do I want to have sex because everyone else is doing it?
Even if it seems like everyone your age is having sex, it’s probably not true. Only about half of high school students have ever had sex, and the average age when people start having sex is 17. But even once they have had sex, most teens don't have it very often.
Don’t let what you think your friends are doing affect such an important decision. You’re not ready if the reason you want to have sex sounds anything like:
- I’m the only “virgin” in my group of friends.
- I want to “get it over with.”
- My boyfriend or girlfriend will break up with me if I don’t have sex.
- Having sex will make me popular.
- I’ll feel older if I have sex.
Am I ready to be honest and clear about what I want?
Before you have sex, it's important to feel comfortable telling your partner what you need and what you're comfortable with. It's not always easy to talk about sex, but no one can read your thoughts.
A good rule is: if you're not ready to talk openly with your partner about sex, you're not ready to have sex. Ask yourself:
- Do I have a healthy relationship?
- Can I talk with my partner about things that are bothering me?
- Do I listen to my partner and share my own feelings about things respectfully?
- Do I feel comfortable saying "no" and "stop" to my partner? Will they listen?
- Can I talk with my partner about using condoms and birth control?
I think I’m ready to have sex. What do I do now?
1. Both of you want to have sex without pressure from each other or anyone else.
2. You’re being honest about your feelings. Your partner should be honest, too.
3. You and your partner will do what you need to do, like using condoms, dams, and getting tested, to prevent STDs.
4. If you have vaginal sex, use birth control and condoms to protect against pregnancy. (You should also use condoms to protect against STDs.)
5. Both of you feel comfortable 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. This is called asexuality. But just because you're not ready for sex right now doesn't mean you won't be ready someday — maybe with a different person, when you're older, or when you're in a more committed relationship.
People have different sex drives and they can change over time — so don't worry. Lots of things affect sex drives, like stress, hormones, life experiences, illness, medicines, how comfortable you are in a relationship, how safe you feel, and how attracted you are to someone.