Let me just be clear from the beginning—this is not just an article about deciding to lose your virginity. Sex is a big deal whether you’re a teen or adult, and regardless of the number of people you’ve had sex with. Along with the physical risks of having sex (STIs or an unplanned pregnancy), sex can bring up a lot emotionally, or change the way you feel in a relationship—as well as the dynamic. This is all to say that having sex for the right reasons and in the right situation is always a good idea. Here’s how to identify that you’re about to have sex for the wrong reasons and that it may be wise to reconsider.
You’re really nervous, in a bad way. Especially if you’re not too experienced (but even when you are) it’s natural to be nervous with a new partner. But if you’re feeling REALLY nervous—like facing one of your worst fears nervous—pay attention to that feeling. Sometimes nerves are a sign that you’re acting out of line with what you really know is the right choice. There’s excited nervous, like being at the top of a roller coaster, and that’s okay to feel before you sleep with someone. That kind of nervous feels happy and safe. The bad nerves are the ones that feel closer to fear, the sorts of nerves you might feel if you were doing something you knew was dangerous or a bad idea.
You have a pit in your stomach. Related to feeling really nervous, when you’re going forward with something that doesn’t feel right it will probably give you a pit in your stomach. That can also feel like dread, doom, sadness or even disgust. There’s the expression “go with your gut,” and to me what that really means is that sometimes your feelings about a situation are more telling than your thoughts. Your head may be able to reason that sleeping with someone won’t be a big deal, but your body may know that it’s not the best choice. Your uneasy gut feeling is your body’s way of waving a red flag.
You just want to get it over with. Sex should be enjoyable, not something you’re just trying to get through. If you’re making out with someone and you’re thinking anything along the lines of “We started down this path so I should just take their pants off, have sex, and get this over with,” it’s probably a sign you don’t want to be doing it. Sex is not something to go to on autopilot once you start kissing someone. There are many places to stop along the way, and it’s even okay reverse course if you’ve gotten to the point that you’re naked.
It seems like “the thing to do.” Our minds can be tricky and talk us into things that aren’t always the best decisions. If you find yourself rationalizing—talking yourself into an idea or explaining away problems with a decision—then you might want to think twice. If you’re telling yourself, “this will help our relationship,” “she probably expects sex at this point,” or “everyone else is doing it, why not,” then you likely don’t really want to be having sex. Have sex with someone because YOU really want to, not because it seems like something you “should” do.
Remember, no one should ever pressure you into having sex. Check out LoveIsRespect.org for more information about sex, consent, and healthy relationships. If you do decide you're ready for sex, make sure to use birth control—our Birth Control Explorer is a great way to learn about the methods available to you.