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Dealing With the Pressure to Have Sex

Prom season...graduation season. Spring is all about special occasions, and sometimes that means added pressure to have sex. We're here to help. Ask Us Anything!

How do I bring up the topic of sex with my girlfriend without feeling like I'm pressuring her?

Let your girlfriend know that you want to talk to her about your relationship, but that there’s no pressure or expectation attached to the conversation. Tell her where you’re at and let her be open and honest with you. Make sure she knows that you’re not trying to pressure her, but that you want to make sure that you’re both on the same page. Communication is really important in any relationship, so it’s important that you two have this talk. If you’re uncomfortable bringing it up out of the blue, you might want to use a TV show or movie that you’ve both seen that relates to the topic as an opener. Any way you bring it up, remember that it’s important you both feel completely ready and comfortable before things heat up.  
If you do decide that you’re ready for sex, it’s really important that you use protection. To see what options are available to you, check out our Birth Control Explorer, or have a chat with your doctor. 

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How do I tell someone no when they ask for sex?

Sex should never feel like an obligation. If you’re being pressured to have sex, that’s not a healthy relationship. If you’re not ready or don’t want to have sex, all you should have to say is no. If you’re not being pressured but don’t know how to respond, you might want to have a conversation about what you’re both ready for and comfortable with in terms of getting physical to make sure you’re on the same page. Bottom line: it’s your body, so it’s your choice. If you don’t want to have sex, say no. If you’re being pressured by someone to do anything you’re uncomfortable with, tell a trusted adult or check out the resources at LoveIsRespect.Org

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I'm going off to college in the fall and I will be living 3 hours away from my boyfriend. We've been talking about sex for a few months, and I'm not sure if we should have sex before I go away or if that will just make me miss him more. What should I do?

Deciding whether or not you’re ready for sex is a really personal decision, and there’s no specific time in a relationship when you’re supposed to start having sex. It’s something you’re going to have to think about really carefully. Where do you see the relationship going forward? It’s awesome that you guys have already talked about sex, and it might be time to have another conversation. Let him know your concerns and give him the chance to respond. It’s really important that you both feel ready and comfortable before you have sex. Make sure that you’re on the same page about next year, because long distance can be really hard.  

Once you and this guy talk about your expectations for next year, if you both feel ready and comfortable with the idea of having sex, there’s no reason not to go for it. If you decide that you’re ready for sex, use protection. To see what options are available to you, check out our Birth Control Explorer, or have a chat with your health care provider. 

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Lately, my boyfriend has been wanting to get physical, not sex but other stuff. We've been dating for 6 months and I'm afraid it will ruin our relationship. How do you know it's the right time to get physical? How do I know he's not just using me?

There’s no set time in a relationship when you’re supposed to start getting physical; the most important thing is that you and your partner both feel ready and comfortable. If you’re worried, the best thing you can do is just to talk to him! Open and honest communication is really important in a healthy relationship. Tell him why you’re concerned and let him respond. It’s important that you guys are on the same page to avoid pressure or miscommunication. If you’re not ready to get physical, that’s perfectly fine! It’s your body, and you should never feel pressured into a situation that makes you uncomfortable. If you feel like he's using you, that might be a sign your relationship isn't in a good place to move forward physically. To learn more about helathy relationships check out LoveIsRespect.org

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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.

Guys often get a bad rap for being the ones who pressure their girlfriends into having sex. So it may surprise you to know that a lot of guys (8 out of 10 if you want to get exact) say that they feel pressured by their friends, the media, even girls, to get busy doing “it”.

While there are a few guys who don’t think they need to be in a relationship to have sex, almost twice as many guys say they would rather be in a relationship without sex than have sex but no real girlfriend.

It’s also important to remember that real intimacy and sex aren’t the same things. Being close to a person means really getting to know all about them, developing a deep level of trust, learning to rely on that person, sharing mutual goals for the future, respecting each other’s differences, and so much more.  Here’s the secret—intimacy is way more than just physical stuff. And it’s nice to know that guys think this is important, too.

Why do you think guys feel pressure to have sex before they’re ready? Is it the media’s portrayal of boys as sexual aggressors? Is it their friends, who judge them on how many girls they’ve gotten (or said they’ve gotten, as the case most often is)? Do you think girls pressure guys to have sex? Do you know anyone who was turned down by a guy who wanted to get to know her better

Funding for this project was provided by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Grant Number: 90-FE-0024. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.

Author: Michelle H.

“Waiting” is a word that most teenagers despise. By definition the word means to hold back or delay action for a specific amount of time. I can speak for myself and other males in saying that “waiting” isn’t the easiest thing to do at our age, especially because hormones are raging and our bodies are drastically changing. Despite the impulsiveness of the teenage male, it's difficult but important to wait to have sex.

Sex is romanticized and displayed all around our society. From Bud Light commercials to Jersey Shore to Victoria’s Secret...temptations surround our everyday life. Beautiful women constantly surround male teenagers lives’ whether it be on magazine covers, buses, or even at school. With all this pressure and eye candy, one would ask…how do we resist the temptation?

Resisting temptations is never an easy thing to do. Though, it might be difficult and stressful, waiting to have sex is an important thing to do. Saying “no” to having sex is more than bold. First you are not succumbing to pure pressure and second, you are able to control your emotions and temptations. Knowing and controlling your own body is one of the most important lessons we can learn as human beings.

So now, you ask me. ”Why should I wait to have sex?” The most important thing to think about when discussing this with a partner or friend is “do I feel ready, safe, and comfortable?” The time will come when you feel ready. One should not rush because his or her friends are all doing it. One should make a decision without any pure pressure or force.

Here are the 5 most important reasons to wait to have sex:

  1. Resist Peer Pressure. Sex will not be fun or safe if you are forced into it. Everyone has his or her time, and one should not have sex because everyone else is doing it.
  2. It’s Better When You Love Them. Finding someone you trust and feel comfortable with is VERY important. It will be a regretful experience if you choose to have a one-night stand with a random girl/guy. And believe me, everything is more fun when you truly care about the person.
  3. There Is Plenty More To Do Than Sex. Most guys will think I’m crazy but sometimes I’m just DTC (Down To Cuddle). To me, there is nothing better than finding a good movie and snuggling. Having fun with a partner does not only mean having intercourse. There are plenty of things one can do that don’t have to do with sex. Take my advice though, snuggling is amazing.
  4. Know Yourself. Fighting an urge is very difficult but rewarding when accomplished. Ignoring the temptation will not only make you stronger, but will help you get to know yourself and your limits. Resisting certain temptations is an important lesson to learn…so why not start with sex?

    Before number 5, I want everyone reading to understand that I am not against sex. I will not put down those of you who have had sex and I respect whatever you believe is right for you. I am writing as a teenage boy who knows what I, as a teen, am dealing with. The pressure that we live with everyday is very difficult but overcoming it is even more wonderful. They say, “the steeper the mountain, the better view from the top”.
  5. Have Something to Look Forward to and Not Expect. Don’t be entranced by the idea of sex so early. Have something to look forward to and value instead of making it a hobby. Sex is an intimate connection between two partners and one should not write that off. When something becomes more common, people tend to take it for granted, and that should not happen with something as important as sex

What are your reasons to wait? Do you agree with Yoni? Tell us in the comments!

Author: Yoni K.

High school is a volatile world of constantly trying to impress those around you. It sometimes feels like anything you do or say is criticized by your peers. That criticism even affects you when it comes to personal decision such as when you are ready for sex. As a guy I know the stereotypes that say “everyone is doing it” and “all guys want in a relationship is sex.” But those stereotypes are not necessarily true. Even if they appear to be true does not mean you have to buy into them.

Choosing when you’re ready to have sex is a significant decision. Never let others make that kind of personal choice for you. Never forget: it’s your life and your choice. I believe it’s smart to make this decision before these pressures confront you. You want to be ready to answer the question if it’s ever proposed. Plus those who make their decision ahead of time are more likely to stick with it when confronted with sexual situations. My choice, like many others, was to wait. I can attest that sometimes high school did not make that decision easy. The unavoidable truth is you may take some heat from your decision to wait. So I  came up with some ways to avoid or combat that pressure:

  1. Find the reason you’re truly choosing to wait and become passionate about it. Whether that reason is religious beliefs, personal morals, avoiding emotional consequences, or avoiding unwanted pregnancy, you need becoming passionate about your reason because that passion will make any flack you get easier to take. If you believe in your reasoning you’re less likely to waver from that decision.
  2. Be proud of your decision. Know that this is your decision and no one can tell you different. Know that you made a smart decision that has your future in mind. People won’t tell you to your face but deep down they may respect you for your decision. In some cases that person or friend may have made the choice to have sex in their past but has changed their minds and is now choosing to wait. You never know whose role model you could be.
  3. Don’t advertise it. Again, be proud in your decision but don’t wave it in others’ faces. Not only can you take more heat from it, you could also be making your situation worse. Some people may see you as a challenge and try to “pursue” you. With that being said if someone asks you what your opinion is, by all means proudly inform them of your choice. Don’t ever be ashamed of the decision you made.
  4. Have fun in a relationship without sex. You may find it embarrassing or may feel like you’re missing out when your peers talk about their experience with sex. But remember you can have plenty of fun within a relationship without sex. In a recent survey of guys ages 15-18, 66% said they would rather "have a girlfriend but NOT have sex."
  5. Understand you are not alone. In fact less than half of teens in high school have had sex. That means that more than half of all high school students are virgins. There is power in numbers and you speaking out may actually be supportive to those of your friends who cannot speak out.

Want more info on waiting? Check out our waiting page here.

Have you decided to wait to have sex? Has it been an empowering decision or one that you've taken some flak for? Tell us about your choice, how you made your decision, and if you experienced any negative consequences for it in the comments!


Author: Ryan F.
Teenagers sitting on a tree limb

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