When we reach puberty, it can sometimes feel like everyone around us is in a race to have sex and see what all the fuss is about.
The most important thing to remember is that there is no specific time or date by which you need to have had sex in order to feel ‘normal’ or ‘accepted’. It is entirely your decision and if anyone makes you feel embarrassed or ashamed of it, they are not people you need in your life.
Knowing that you’re ready to have sex will feel different for everybody. However, the following list will give you a good indication of your readiness:
- You feel completely comfortable with the person
- You feel loved and respected by them
- You can have a laugh with them – sex doesn’t always look like it does in the movies so having a sense of humour is essential!
- You are in agreement about using protection to prevent STIs or unplanned pregnancy
- You know that you both consent to having sex with each other
However, if you decide to have sex before you feel ready, there are several things to consider:
Your reasons for having sex
Are you doing it simply to tick it off your list? Because you think you’re the last of your friends to do it? Or because you want to impress a certain person or friend group? While sex can be a wonderful experience that you grow to love, if you do it before you are ready or fully prepared, you could encounter the following:
- STI – Sexually Transmitted Infection
- Unplanned pregnancy
- Painful sex due to feeling uneasy, uncomfortable or worried
Just because you are legally of age to have sex, doesn’t mean you are physically and/or emotionally ready. In society today, there can be enormous pressure on young people to be mature and to grow up very quickly; this may cause people to feel either directly or indirectly pressured into engaging in an activity that makes them seem ‘older’ or more mature.
Unfortunately, succumbing to this pressure may result in you feeling even worse than you did if the experience was underwhelming or left you feeling used.
No one should make you feel like you have to have sex before you are ready. You are in charge of what happens to your body. Even if you are in a relationship with someone, they have no right to pressure you into any sexual activity.
You have the right to change your mind at any point and say that you are not ready for things to go any further, even after you’ve said yes. You can simply say, ‘I’m sorry, I thought I was ready to do this but I’m not.’ If the person accuses you of ‘leading them on’ or calls you insulting names, do not listen to them and leave the room.
Equally, consent should be ongoing. Just because you’ve agreed to one thing doesn’t mean you’re agreeing to everything. You and your partner should check in with each other regularly to make sure you’re both on the same page during sexual activity.
You have the right to feel safe at all times. If this has happened to you or if you’re feeling unsure about consent and your own experiences, the following pages may give you some clarity around this: www.consenthub.ie/consent/ or www.childline.ie/sex-and-consent/
It may seem strange to you but it is important to be aware of the legalities around sex for young people, as it may not be something that everyone knows.
The legal age of consent in Ireland is 17, this means that even if you feel you “want to” engage in sexual acts with someone, legally you cannot consent to this until the age of 17 or over. This is vital to know, as everyone should feel comfortable, safe and respected when engaging in any form of sexual act. You can learn more about this by visiting www.sexualwellbeing.ie.
Take your time
It is okay not to feel ready to have sex. If you have a trusted adult in your life, it’s worth having a chat with them about it if you feel comfortable doing so.
Deciding to have sex is a big decision, that is very personal. It is important that you think it through and wait until you feel ready and give consent.
It is natural for you to question whether you are ready to have sex or not. There are some great articles on our Childline website about sexuality and relationships which you may find helpful: https://www.childline.ie/sexuality-and-relationships/.
Other great websites for advice include: https://spunout.ie/category/sex-relationships and www.b4udecide.ie.