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Do I Have To Do That?

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The first time a boy said he wanted to have sex with me it terrified me.

I was a freshman in high school and he was too. I was a virgin and I’m pretty sure he had never had sex either. At the time, I wasn’t even thinking about sex. I was very focused on writing my own little fantasy romance novels, drawing cartoons, and listening to music. Plus, the boy? He was not cute. At all. And his overtures seemed more creepy than exciting. Sex? With him? Ha. I stopped talking to him even though he kept calling my house for at least a week.

A few years later, when I was 17, a guy working in the mall started flirting with me all the time. He was in college. Unlike the freshman boy, I did not find him creepy at all. He was dreamy and handsome. He worked in this African bookstore I loved going into. He knew a lot about what was in the books, more than my peers did. And I was very attracted to him. But he said he was 23 (although I’m convinced now he was probably much older, which is a whole other issue). He never said—outright—that he wanted to have sex, but he hinted around it a lot. He never would ask me out on a proper date though; instead he wanted me to come over to his place and “hang out.” I really wanted him to like me. He seemed so smart and cute. We had kissed a few times and I wondered, if I did go to his house, would he expect me to do more than that.

And if he expected it (ie, sex), did I have to?

About 31% of girls start having sex with partners who are three (or more) years older than them.  This makes sense, because the guys who were the most aggressive about going out with me were also ones who were much older than I was. Complicating it even further was that I was so desperate for a boyfriend. I’d never had one and I was lonely. If the guy was cute and he really wanted me, shouldn’t I feel fortunate? Wasn’t I lucky and shouldn’t I try to hold on to him?

But the sex part! I knew he wanted to have sex and as a teenager you’re bombarded with it. People want you to take sexy pictures of yourself and share them. People want you to say sexy things or dress provocatively. Other teenagers talk about how they’re dating older guys—and how much better it is—and they’re having sex with them. Or at least they’re making it sound like they’re having sex with them. You don’t want to be the odd person out. But something just didn’t feel right to me with this guy.

I was very attracted to that 23+ year old. I’d never had a boyfriend before and I found the boys my own age who tried to date me immature. I really wanted a boyfriend. But I also didn’t want to have sex; I wasn’t ready. Plus I was worried about pregnancies and STIs. I had so many plans for myself; I wanted to go to college and move to California…I wanted to have all these adventures. Was I willing to risk my future to please the guy who smelled like incense at the African bookstore? Did he even really like me?

Ultimately, I chose not to go to his house. I also gradually stopped talking him because I realized that no matter how much I liked him, I had to protect myself. If he wasn’t willing to date me on my terms— as in “go on actual dates” and meet up with me in public places during the daytime—then he didn’t really “like” me. When someone cares about you, they care about your safety and making sure you feel safe with them. When someone doesn’t care, they try to make it seem like you have the problem. That you’re being “uptight” or “lame” for having boundaries and wanting to control what you are and aren’t willing to do sexually.

Never let someone else make you do things you wouldn’t normally do. If you know you don’t want to have sex, don’t. If you do want to have sex, but you want to use condoms? Insist on using condoms. If a guy ever tries to convince you to engage in things that feel risky or unsafe, don’t be afraid to speak up and say, “That’s not right.” You have a say in this. It’s your body. You choose what you will and will not do with it. Not him.

No matter how cute he is.

Teenagers sitting on a tree limb

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