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How do you know when you’re ready for sex? How do you know what sexual activities you’re comfortable with? How will you know what your boundaries are?
The answer to these questions is different for each person. There’s no magical age when a person is ready to have sex, and it’s a question that may come up repeatedly throughout your life. Deciding what you feel comfortable doing or “how far” you want to go is a personal choice that you have to make every time you become physically or emotionally involved with another person. Having a physical desire to enjoy sexual pleasure is not the same as being emotionally prepared for sex with another person.
There is no universal rule about how long people should know each other, date, or be married before getting sexually involved. Just because a person has had sex in the past doesn’t mean they’re ready for sex now. As a rule, if you’re having doubts, then you’re probably not ready for sex with that person at that time.
How to decide when to have sex
In an ideal world, sex would always be pleasurable and enjoyable. Don’t let anyone pressure you into doing anything you don’t want to. The right partner will respect your decision.
One of the most common questions we hear is about how to decide when to have sex. At Centre for Sexuality we never tell people what to think, or do, so we came up with a decision-making tool each individual can use on their own. Making the decision to have sex for the first time, in a new relationship, or after a long break can feel complicated.
Head, Heart, Body
We call this tool “Head, Heart, Body” to describe the parts of ourselves we can reflect on when making a decision. In the head, reflect on your values and knowledge. In the heart, consider your feelings. In the body, take note of the signals you are physically experiencing and feeling.
Head – reflect on your values and knowledge:
Why am I doing this? Do I agree with what is going on? Does this fit with my values? How will I feel about this decision tomorrow?
Heart – consider your feelings:
Do I feel safe and comfortable with this person? Does this feel right to me? Do I like this person? Can I trust them?
Body – take note of the signals you are physically experiencing and feeling:
What does my body want to do? Is my body excited, nervous or scared? Do I like what’s happening? Am I, and is my partner protected from STIs or pregnancy?
If you answer these questions with positive responses that feel right for you, then you can put a check mark beside a symbol. If you find you still have unanswered questions, discomfort, or doubts you can put an X next to a symbol.
If you place an X next to any of the symbols, this means you need to take more time to make the decision, get more information, or that this decision may not be right for you. Three check marks means you are ready to make this decision. Your partner also needs to make their own decision and will need to ensure they have three checks as well. Check in with them about how they are feeling! You can still decide not to have sex at any time – the decision is completely up to you!
Here are some other questions to consider if you’re deciding when to have sex:
- Am I feeling pressured to have sex by my partner, friends, or peers?
- Will having sex fit with my religious and moral beliefs?
- Will I feel guilty if I have sex? Why?
- Do I want to have sex to get love, affection or attention?
- Do I want to have sex to prove that I am sexually attractive?
- Am I afraid that my reputation will be hurt if I have sex?
- Do I think sex will bring my partner and me closer together, both emotionally and physically?
- Do my partner and I want the same things from sex?
- Can I talk to my partner about sexually transmitted infections, and can we share responsibility for safer sex?
- Can I talk to my partner about birth control, and can we share responsibility for birth control?
- If birth control fails, are we ready to deal with an unplanned pregnancy?