Sometimes, it seems that everywhere you look, young people are having sex. In the movies, on television, in songs; love and sex are all the thing. Are you the only one resisting? Are you the last virgin on the planet? Should you say yes to sex?
First, let me reassure you not all teens are engaged in sexual relationships. Even if many of your peers seem to be talking casually about sex, that doesn’t mean they are actually having sex! The latest surveys have shown that fewer than half of high school teens, 47 percent, have ever had sex. The average age for teens to first have sexual intercourse is 17 years old. And many teens are waiting even longer.
Saying no can be hard, but liberating at the same time.
Sex is one of the most wonderful and intimate experiences you can have with another person. But there is so much to consider before you let your emotional feelings lead you to do something you are not ready for emotionally or physically. Feeling pressured into sex or having a sexual encounter too early can make someone feel uncomfortable, upset, and maybe even regretful or sad. Peer pressure can be strong, especially if you think all your friends are doing it, or if your boyfriend or girlfriend is urging you without listening to your side.
Sex is a very personal decision and each person must think very carefully about when it’s the right time for them. This is different for each person. There are health risks with each sexual encounter. You could get a sexually transmitted infection. Pregnancy is always a risk with heterosexual sex, even if you’re careful. There are emotional risks as well if you or your partner have different ideas about what sex means in your relationship or if you have expectations that are unrealistic. Just having sex with someone will not make them fall in love with you or make you more popular. And if you go against your personal, family, or religious values, having sex may cause you emotional pain.
If you decide now is not the time, saying no is OK. Abstinence is the choice not to have sex. Abstinence doesn’t need to be forever, but it can be the decision you choose for now. Abstinence is available for anyone, even if they have said yes in the past. You don’t need to see a health care provider, it’s non-hormonal, and it’s absolutely 100 percent effective as birth control. Saying no can be hard, but liberating at the same time. You can concentrate on other things in your life until you are sure you are ready for sex.
But how do you deal with pressure from others? Practice saying no and plan what you will say or do if you are in a difficult situation. Talk to your parents and introduce them to your friends. Hang out with friends who feel the same as you and go out together in groups. Stay away from drugs and alcohol because they can affect your brain’s ability to make wise decisions. To say no is not an insult, and you are never obligated to thank someone for a date or gift by having sex. In a healthy relationship, partners should not threaten to hurt themselves or you if you do not have sex.
If you think you are ready for sex, you and your partner should be tested for sexually transmitted infections first. Someone may not always have symptoms and then could pass an infection on to their partner. Even intimate encounters with same-gender couples or oral sex with anyone can pass on these type of infections.
If you and your partner cannot talk honestly about birth control, you are probably not ready for a sexual relationship. American teens have sex as often as European teens, but their rates of teenage pregnancy are much higher because European teens know about and use the most effective methods of contraception.
You may think discussing these issues together is embarrassing or isn’t as romantic as the movies, but honestly, you’re the one who could become pregnant or get herpes, not the actor or actress pretending up there on the big screen!
So, find a health care provider you can talk to honestly about sex issues and contraception before you have sex. Planned Parenthood has many services especially for teens, including issues relating to personal relationships, health care, and contraception. If you have questions, make an appointment with us. Planned Parenthood is here for you.
Check out other installments of our Teen Talk series here!