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I'm into my friend and want to fool around with her, but will she do it?

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Samuel F. asks:

I'm 15, and I have a close female friend of the same age with D-cup bra size and very good looks all-around. She hasn't shown much visible interest in sexuality, but we haven't talked very much about it at all. I've been wanting to see if she'd want to fool around. Is that really way too much for friendship or could I somehow get her to do it willingly?

Heather Corinna replies:

I'm a little uncomfortable with how you're framing this. I'll do my best to fill you in on why. It's also really tough for me to answer your question given the way it's framed. I'll explain that, too.

When someone suggests they want sex with someone, and seems to be suggesting that sex would EVER be at all okay if someone did not engage in it not just willingly, but wantedly, enthusiastically, and with basically as much desire for it as the other person I get very uncomfortable. That's because someone who is not having sex willingly and wantedly in that way, but to whom sex is happening from another person's actions, is most likely being sexually abused or assaulted in some way; is being raped, which I'm sure is not what you want or intend to do.

If she was very interested in having sex with you and wanted to do so, it would not only be willing, but it wouldn't be anything you "got her" to do. It'd be something she shared your interest and desire in without your urging. See what I mean?

Just to really make sure you and I are on the same page on this, I want to share something that explains consent and nonconsent, from another piece here on the site:

Yes is yes. No is not yes. And neither is maybe. When it comes to sex, "maybe" isn't yes. At best, it’s “Not now, but perhaps another time” -- and so in a scenario where the answer to “Do you wanna?” is maybe, maybe is no. Full and active consent to sex isn’t an “Ugh, okay,” or an “Ummm… I guess.” It’s an enthusiastic yes.

A lot of people have been (and are still) reared to think that sex with someone is something you "get," and if someone will LET you get it – rather than really sharing it with you -- it's all okay. Those same folks have often also been reared with the idea that while no is no, maybe is yes (and that even when someone says no, if they’ll let you get away with ignoring their no, it’s still okay to ignore their dissent).

When someone wants to, really wants to, have sex with us, we'll know because that person will be taking an active role, will be saying -- if not yelling! -- "Yes!" or "Please!” or "Do me NOW!" We may know because that person is initiating sex, at least as often as we are... We'll know because it will feel like something we are absolutely doing together, that couldn't happen at all if the other person wasn't just as engaged as we are (imagine trying to dance with someone else when they’re just standing there or not really paying attention: same goes with sex). We'll know because our partners will absolutely not "just be lying there."

Most of the time when someone is going to enthusiastically consent, when they have strong sexual desires of their own, consent also won't just be an ask-and-answer, where only one person is putting all the invitations out there, and then the other is just responding to them.

In other words, when two (or more) people are really feeling a sexual thing that they also want to act on, most of the time, no one will be wondering if the other person is interested: it'll be pretty obvious based on what we each say and do. In sexual interactions between men and women, there's an unfortunate and long-running script in our culture that presents women as sexually passive, something which isn't true, which plenty of people still believe. That idea makes it tough for a lot of women have to know and identify when they're really feeling desire, and tough for a lot of men to fully understand that when a woman isn't putting her desires out there, it's not usually because she's passive or docile, but because she's just not feeling enough desire to express in the first place. That can be all the harder to unpack and rethink when you're very young or when you don't have a lot of experience in elective interpersonal relationships, sexual and otherwise. There are more layers to all of that than I've just explained, so I'm simplifying there, but I think those aspects and bare basics are most relevant to your question.

In sexual situations where everyone involved feels strong desires, there's usually some back-and-forth, verbally, physically, energetically. We'll feel some kind of shared chemistry, some kind of buzzy sparking between us that's not just one-sided. It's not easy to describe what that feels like, but it's one of those things where we tend to recognize it when it's felt. If we don't have any sense at all that someone is interested or shares our sexual feelings, then chances are, we probably aren't feeling that chemistry and already know the answer isn't yes.

One of the many reasons some people say that the teen years are too early for sex is that not everyone always feels those desires strongly yet, and not everyone is in the place in their own development where they have the confidence and assertiveness to put those desires clearly out there when they do; to voice both what they don't want, but also what they do. Until a person is in that space, or has at least gotten some good footing on that path, it can be really hard for everything to earnestly be consensual and healthy and very easy to misstep.

You say you two haven't talked about it much. When you have, has it been you that's brought it up or her? If it's been mostly or all you, and she doesn't bring it up herself, or doesn't seem to want to talk about it with you much or at all, then that's a fairly clear sign she may not be interested in even having those conversations, let alone sharing that part of herself with you in other ways. Has she talked at all about feeling attracted to you or having a sexual or romantic interest in you? Is she physical with you at all in any way, like giving you kisses or hugs that aren't the kind you'd expect from a pal or a sibling? If she hasn't really done any of those things, then again, I think it's best to assume she doesn't share you interest right now.

By all means, while it can happen that two people who both want to be sexual put it out there at the exact same time, it's far more common for one person to put it out there first. But ideally, we want to try to only suggest any kind of sex to those who we feel are very likely to share our interest in it, and to talk about our sexuality with people who want that information about us and are comfortable sharing it. When talking about sexuality with friends, especially friends we're attracted to, we want to try and keep that pretty balanced, where conversation about sexuality is being initiated just as much by one person as the other, otherwise it can make the person who isn't bringing it up at all feel pretty darn uncomfortable. Not every friend we'll have will be a friend to talk about sex and sexuality with.

I'm not sure how this person's bra size or what they look like is information I need or could find useful. Now, maybe you just didn't think that way when you asked your question, and if you like the way your friend's breasts and the rest of her looks, you just said that because it's clearly relevant to you. But what I thought when I read that was "Phooey, I sure wish I knew more about this girl than just how she looked, because it's hard for me to help him figure this out knowing only that." I'd say the same is probably true for you.

If all you know well, or all you are focusing on, is what she looks like, it's going to be impossible to figure out what she wants because what someone looks like can't tell us that. You brought up the idea of her showing "visible interest" in sexuality, but the thing is, I don't think there is such a thing, and if there is, it probably has a lot more to do with what the person looking is seeing than what the person being looked at is feeling or showing. Unless she shows up wearing a t-shirt that says "I am very interested in sexuality, Samuel," I think you gotta figure that you're not going to be able to see any interest she may have in sexuality.

What her own interests are in sexuality in general or her sexuality also may or may not be something she chooses to share with you. Just because we have an interest in sexuality, after all, doesn't mean we share any or all of it with everyone. But there certainly are some things that many people do when they have a sexual interest in someone, which is what's relevant to you with this kind of question. How interested she is or isn't in sexuality, after all, still wouldn't tell you if she had any interest in exploring her sexuality with you, or if she had sexual feelings for you.

How someone looks physically is usually part of our sexual feelings around them, but I'd also hope that your feelings, and even more so your choices, are about a lot more than how someone looks. Just because we're physically attracted to a person doesn't mean they're going to be a good choice of sexual partner for us, or we for them, or a good choice at a given time or in a given context.

In making sexual choices well, we have to consider so much more than just our appreciation for someone's looks. We'll want to think about how we feel about each other as whole people, not just parts of people, or how we feel about each other's body parts. We'll want to consider things like how we get along, where we're each really at in our own sexuality and in whatever kind of relationship we have, how ready we both feel for all the responsibilities involved in any kind of sex, how well we communicate together (or don't), how ready we feel to be vulnerable and very careful with the vulnerability of the other, and if what each of us wants from the other and out of sex really works together or not. There's a lot more than that to think about, so I'll leave you a link at the end of this page that can give you the scoop on some sounds things to consider in making sexual choices.

None of this is to say that a friendship is automatically a bad or problematic context for sex: it's not, it just really depends on the friendship and on the people involved, just like it does in a romantic relationship. Of course, not everyone wants to have sex in any given kind of relationship: some people strongly feel they only want to do so in the context of a romantic relationship and/or a very committed relationship. Some people strongly feel they'd only want sex in friendships or other relationships that are not romantic. Many more people are somewhere in the middle, or base those choices on the unique relationship and their wants at a given time of life. Exclusivity is another factor for some people, based on if they want and need that or not. If this is only or primarily about how she looks for you, that can be another factor: some folks are comfortable having sex with someone who is only or mostly only physically attracted to them. Other folks are not at all comfortable with that (and this is a place where I think we can safely generalize and say most aren't most of the time), and want to be sure their sexual partners are seeing them as whole people, inside and out.

You mentioned in your user profile that you feel obsessed with sex. I have the feeling you were engaging in some hyperbole there, though, rather than suggesting you have an unhealthy fixation. Having strong sexual feelings, thinking about sex a lot, especially when we're growing into adult sexual feelings and sexuality is, as you probably already know, really typical. At the same time, if we're really fixated sex in a very general, overall way, and it also feels really overwhelming, it's often not the space we tend to make our best sexual choices in, especially when other people's unique bodies, minds, feelings and lives are intimately involved.

Since, on the whole, it's sounding like you're just not yet in the best space to make choices about being sexual with others, and like there's nothing thus far to give you the indication that's something your friend has interest in, it just sounds like now's probably not a good time to put this out there. It's more likely a time to explore sex through your own masturbation, and hold off on partners, particularly this one. I also think it'd be a good idea to spend some more time with your friend as a friend to can get to know her better and to get a WAY better sense of where she's at in her own sexuality, if she has any sexual feelings for you, and if so, if she has any interest in exploring those feelings in action together.

With more time spent together, maybe she will open up more with you about her sexuality (especially if you're not staring at her boobs), about where she's at with it and about what she wants around it right now, whether that does or doesn't involve you. Maybe she won't. Either way, I think this soup needs more time on the stove to cook. Taking some more time to feel and find all of this out seems the most likely route to choices that'll be most comfortable and best for the both of you. You say she's your friend, so I'm sure you don't want to tank a friendship -- which, when it's good and it's real, is as important and serious a relationship as any other kind -- by being sexual with or around her when she's not open to that.

By the way? You also mentioned in your profile that you have awesome, supportive parents who treat you with a lot of respect. That's utterly fantastic. You might want to talk to one or both of them about this too, so you can get even more perspectives.

In the meantime, I'm going to leave you my best wishes, and some links to look at I think might round all of this out:

written 29 Oct 2010 . updated 20 Jan 2014

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