Saying no to sex

There are a number of reasons why you might want to say no to sex

Written by spunout


Sex for some people is a big part of life and for others it is less important. If you do not want to have sex or are not ready to have sex, it can be easy to feel there is something wrong with you but there isn’t.

Sex should be enjoyed and whether you are considering having it for the first time or the hundredth time it should be something you want to do and not under obligation or because of pressure. Sexual consent is needed for every sexual interaction and this means enthusiastically and freely agreeing to having sex with someone. We should never feel we have to have sex for any other reason than we want to.

Why would you say no to having sex?

There are a number of reasons why you might want to say no to sex, and you do not have to justify what your reasons are. If you are seeing someone and do not want to have sex, you need to voice these feelings so they know how you feel.

You do not feel ready to have sex

There are many factors which make a person feel ready to have sex, either for the first time in general or the first time with a new partner. It is normal not to want to rush into taking that step. You are the only person that will know when you are ready to have sex, trust your instinct and do not rush into anything you feel uncertain about. 

You’re not in the mood for sex

It is perfectly normal not to feel like having sex all the time. Stress, tiredness and our hormones can all affect our sex drive and you shouldn’t feel bad for not being in the mood. If you are worried about your lack of interest in sex and feel like there could be a larger issue, it is important to talk to someone about it and consider visiting your GP.

You want to wait to have sex

Some people want to abstain from sex, or are waiting to be in a committed relationship before taking that step. Having sex for the first time can be an important experience in a persons life, and it is important not to rush into it, especially if you feel pressured into doing so. Take your time and have sex whenever you feel ready.

You are not interested in sex 

People can go through their whole lives and periods of their lives where they do not want to have sex. Some people who do not want to have sex will identify as asexual. Being asexual does not mean that a person does not experience romantic feelings and emotions, but for the most part they do not have sexual desires for others. Everyone experiences sexuality in a different way and this is no different for those who identify as asexual. 

Whatever your reason for not wanting to have sex, it is perfectly valid and ok to have made that decision. Even if you have had sex before, you always have the right to say no.

What’s your comfort zone?

In the heat of the moment, it can sometimes be difficult to stop something from going further than you want it to. To understand what you want it is a good idea to have thought about what you’re comfortable with before a situation arises.

You may feel like you are ready for kissing and touching with clothes on, but not for touching under clothes. Or you may be ok with touching under clothes, but you’re not ready for oral sex or penetrative sex.

Whatever your comfort zone, it’s important that you don’t feel pressured into have sex, and know that you have the right to say no.

How to say no to sex

If you are do not want to have sex, are having sex and decide to stop or are kissing and decide you do not want to go any further, you are always completely within your rights to make that decision. You never have to have sex or engage in any sexual activity with someone unless you want to

When telling someone you do not want to have sex:

  • It’s important that you are clear and direct, simply say ‘I don’t want to do that’ or ‘I’m not comfortable with that’
  • If they continue to pressure you, say ‘no’ again in a firm voice, and remind them they are making you uncomfortable
  • If you need to, get up and put space between you and the other person, or leave if they have still not accepted your refusal
  • They may try to make you feel guilty by saying, ‘if you loved me you would…’ or ‘everyone else is doing it’, do not fall for this 
  • There is no pressure on you to do anything that you don’t want to, and your partner should respect that
  • Remember that you have the right to say no, regardless of whether you have had sex with the person before or not.

Sometimes when we try to tell someone we do not want to have sex they may not always listen. If someone does not listen to you when you tell them you do not want to have sex remember that this is never your fault. If someone has sex or engages in any sexual activity with you when you do not want to this is sexual assault or rape

My partner won’t have sex with me

Whatever reason your partner has for not wanting to have sex, you need to respect it. They may not feel ready to have sex with you and it’s important that you do not pressure them to do anything that they’re not ready for. If your partner does not want to have sex:

  • Respect their decision, and resist the urge to make them feel guilty. Waiting might be frustrating, but it’s would be worse to have sex with someone who you know isn’t ready
  • If they want to talk about why they’re not ready, listen and be understanding, but also don’t push them if they’d rather not talk about it
  • Remember, everyone has the right to say no
  • Make sure you understand consent and how to recognise it

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.

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