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Am I ready for sex?

Whether it’s your first time or you’ve had sex before, sex is a very personal thing, and only you can decide if and when it’s the right time for you.  

There are no set rules on the answer to this but you should never feel pressured into doing anything you don’t feel comfortable with either by your partner or because friends are doing it. 

Sex should, and can be, a positive and pleasurable experience – this is impossible if you or your partner feel like you’re not ready, or are forced into having sex. 

If you know you’re ready, make sure you protect yourself and your partner against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV and unwanted pregnancy. 

Here are answers to some common questions you might have before you decide to have sex. 

I’m not sure I want sex, but my partner does – am I being selfish?

Whether you have sex is not something to compromise on – it has to be a joint agreement that you’re both into equally and enthusiastically. You should never feel pressured or pressure anyone else into having sex. 

If you aren’t interested or ready, your partner should understand and respect that. It’s important to talk about it openly so you both know where you stand.  

No one has a right to your body, just like you don’t have any rights to anyone else’s body. If you don’t want to take part in sexual activities, it’s your right to say no. Sexual consent is a must-have, every time you have sex. 

I want to have sex but I’m scared it’s going to hurt – will it?

This is a really common question. It’s normal for vaginal or anal penetration to feel a little uncomfortable at first, especially if you’re new to it or nervous about it.  

Two things can help the physical side of this: the first is to make sure that you and your partner are using foreplay to ensure you’re turned on and fully in the mood before getting to penetration, and the second is lube. This is especially helpful for anal sex.  

Penetration is more likely to hurt if you’re feeling tense about it too. Making sure you’ve thought about whether you’re actually ready for sex with your partner can help. 

It seems like everyone else is having sex – maybe I should too?

This situation can make you feel like the odd one out, especially if you’re young and still figuring out your own sexual desires but it’s important to know that there is no deadline for having sex!  

Others around you might say that they’re having sex all the time, but they could be exaggerating. It’s understandable, really – peer pressure can be a difficult thing to deal with, especially when you’re new to sex and relationships.  

In any case, it’s best that you’re only having sex on your own terms. It’s far better to wait until you’re sure it’s right for you than to rush into sex because of what other people might be doing.  

I’ve had sex before, so I must be ready this time too – right?

Let’s be clear – just because you’ve had sex before, it doesn’t mean you’ve signed up to it at any and every opportunity in the future. Your feelings about sex might change as you grow and get to know yourself better. Your feelings about your partner could change. Your feelings about sex can change depending on the partner you’re with, too. Plus, you might have had one kind of sex before – but that doesn’t mean you’re automatically into every other kind of sex! So go easy on yourself, take your time and think about what feels right for you. 

Should I be worried about unplanned pregnancy and STIs?

This is a common concern and it’s totally normal to worry about it. Luckily you can do something about it. Using a condom is the best way to protect yourself and your partner from STIs and prevent unplanned pregnancy. You also have a few options to prevent pregnancy. You can find out more on our preventing pregnancy section.  

If you are having sex, it’s a good idea to get tested for HIV and other STIs regularly. This will help keep you and any partner you have to stay healthy. 

Let's talk about whether you're ready for sex!

Here is a question to help kick-off discussions on the issues you need to talk about! You can share it on social, on WhatsApp or just get talking.

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How can I help someone who is trying to decide if they are ready for sex?

If someone is trying to decide whether they are ready to have sex or not, there’s a few helpful things to remember. 

Let them talk and listen carefully to understand their concerns and desires. Ask helpful questions and try to understand if this is their decision, or something they’re considering only to please their partner. You could try asking them what conversations they’ve had around the topic.  

If any of these phrases come up, then it’s worth talking to them about the possibility that they’re being pressured to have sex: 

  • “You would if you loved me” 
  • “Everyone else is doing it!” 
  • “It will make our relationship stronger” 
  • “You’ll have to do it sometime – why not now, with me?” 
  • “You’ll like it once we do it.” 

It’s worth remembering that it’s not just partners that can create pressure to have sex – friends can do this too, without realising how damaging it can be. Ask the person if they’ve felt pressured by friends or if any of the following phrases seem familiar. 

  • “You mean you’ve never done it?” 
  • “I lost it when I was 12… ” 
  • “Yeah, I’ve had sex loads of times” 
  • “You’re a virgin, you wouldn’t understand.” 

It might be helpful to remind them that their friends may be saying these things because they want to sound more experienced than they really are. The best thing they can do is what feels right for them and their situation. 

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Next: How to have great sex on your first time

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  • Last updated: 18 March 2022
  • Last full review: 01 March 2022
  • Next full review: 01 March 2025
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