Deciding when to have sex
Your choice, when you're ready. Don't ever feel pressured
As young people we all have to make decisions about important issues in our lives. Things like should you go out with someone, how far to go with someone, whether to let them touch you or when to have sex.
When you consent to have sex is your choice. You should never feel pressured into doing it before you're ready. If you feel you aren't ready, it is absolutely fine and normal to decide not to have sex. Even if you've had sex once or many times before, it is absolutely fine to decide not have have sex, whenever you chose.
You should always feel confident and comfortable about your choices and never allow someone to pressure or bully you into an uncomfortable situation. Trust your instincts, your feelings and if you aren't sure what to do talk to a friend or adult that you trust.
Questions to ask yourself on whether you feel ready for sex
- Do I feel ready and comfortable about having sex?
- Does my partner respect me?
- Do I respect my partner?
- Am I using someone for sex?
- Why do I want to have sex?
- Have we talked about contraception?
- Do I trust my partner and does my partner feel the same trust?
How far should I go?
This is a very personal decision and should be decided by how comfortable you feel with the other person, how comfortable the other person feels with you, and your own beliefs about relationships and sex. Everybody talks about kissing, pulling and sex but not everyone is doing it. When you are making the decision about having sex think about it very seriously:
- You should feel ready to have sex and not feel pressured by friends or a partner.
- You need to read up about safer sex and contraception. It's extremely important!
- Wait until you feel safe in the company of your partner and be sure that you want to go further in your relationship.
- Respect your own feelings and beliefs. If you’re not ready to have sex, that's absolutely fine.
- Talk to an adult you trust or contact a helpline from our Help Section.
- Don’t have sex because your friends think it’s cool.
- Don’t think that love and sex are the same thing.
- Don’t get carried away with romance. Remember the risk of unwanted pregnancy and STIs.
- If you've taken alcohol or drugs, your ability to give consent is impaired. Try to remember this - if you're drunk or on drugs, you're better off holding off on having sex.
- If you are pressured into sex that you didn't really want it is NOT your fault. Don’t feel guilty. If you need help contact a helpline or talk to someone you trust.
The WRONG reasons to have sex
- Jumping into bed because everyone else says they are doing it. They're not!
- Your boyfriend or girlfriend wants you to sleep with them. If they respect you they won't have a problem waiting until you're ready for sex.
- You think it will make you more mature, cooler or changed for the better. Sex isn't going to make you look more sophisticated or cooler than before.
What if I don't want to have sex?
Abstinence is a totally valid choice that people make for numerous reasons. Some people will chose it because they want to be 100% sure they won’t get pregnant or get an STI. Other people decide on abstinence for emotional reasons of their own, and others will be abstinent for social and cultural reasons. No-one should criticise you for choosing abstinence and everyone should respect your choice. You should never feel coerced into any sexual contact that you don’t want to do. If anyone ever tries to pressure you into having sex, you’re better off not having that person in your life.
However, even if you choose abstinence, you should still educate yourself on other elements of sexual health too, including safe sex, condom use, and consent. Just because you are abstinent now, you may chose another method of contraception eventually, and it’s good to be prepared for those situations!
It’s also worth noting that just because you choose abstinence, doesn’t mean there is anything wrong or immoral about people who chose to have sex instead. Everyone has the right to a safe, consensual sex life that is free of judgement, and you should respect their choices, just like everyone else should respect yours!
Remember: The age of sexual consent in Ireland is 17. If you're over 16, you can consent to medical treatment including any treatment or tests needed.