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Am I ready for sex, or is it just my hormones talking?

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Anonymous girl asks:

I have just become a teen and sometimes I feel like having sex but I don't want to because I'm not ready. I just started my menstrual cycle. I think it's just my hormones but I am not sure. I also think it's wrong to do it unless you love someone a lot or your married. Most people today in our modernized world don't have the same philosophy. Am I weird? I am really religious so if I do it, it's gonna be on my conscience. Also since protection is not always 100% I might get and STD or pregnant. I need some advice. I don't think I can handle a sex life right now.

Heather Corinna replies:

You just answered your own question. You don't need me at all! :)

If you don't think you can handle a sex life right now, and you don't feel like sex outside of a certain context -- which you are not currently in or don't have the opportunity to be in -- fits with what you believe or is going to be right for you, those are both very sound reasons to hold off. If you know you can't deal with a potential risk of pregnancy or STIs, and you're right, while many methods of birth control and safer sex are very effective, none of them are 100%, that's a smart reason to hold off or choose only the kinds of sex with risks you can deal with and manage. Since it sounds like you're pretty young, it also can be really tough for younger teens to even access things like reliable contraception and sexual healthcare, partnered sex may not even be something you can legally give consent to yet, and younger teens do often have larger challenges and risks with sex than those even just a couple years older. You also express that partnered sex would create a religious conflict for you. Even just one of those reasons is enough to know sex with someone doesn't sound like the right thing for you right now, and they are all totally valid.

Not everyone shares the same values, ethics or ideals when it comes to sex and love and relationships: we all differ very widely. There are many people who feel the way you do, plenty of people who feel differently, and there are people who have felt more than one way at one time as they went through their lives growing and changing and experiencing different things and different relationships. But those differences are just fine. You're not deciding what's right for someone else, after all, you're deciding what you think, feel or know is best for you. Even if you WERE really unusual and no one else on earth felt the way you do (which is not the case at all), it still would be a pretty good idea to stand with your own feelings.

These variances in everyone's ideals and beliefs are also so vast and diverse that we can't really divide people into two simple camps, and there's really no need to since all we need to know in making our own choices is what we strongly feel is best for us in the short and long-term.

The best any of us can do is to try and be very self-aware in terms of our feelings as well as our needs, limitations, life goals and relationships, at any given time and with some feeling of what also may be true for us in the long-term and make our sexual choices based on those things as well as sound information.You sound like you already are very self-aware of these things and have a pretty good idea about what's best for you.

Too, I don't hear you saying anything about who you might want to have sex with, and that's a part of partnered sex that usually tends to be of some importance, if not great importance. If you are thinking about this with a specific partner, that's someone else where you both need to be talking, expressing what seems best to you and sharing each of your limits, wants and needs. That's someone you need to look at the quality of your relationship with, see how things are going between you in all areas, how you two do with communication, with feeling safe around each other, with other kinds of physical affection -- like kissing or snuggling -- or some kinds of sex you feel out over time like manual sex or petting, to weigh whether or not intercourse or other sex together is a sound choice and in line with what you both want, need and can handle.

There are lots of reasons we might want sex with someone else, and they aren't just hormonal (and for the record, adults have hormones racing through our bodies, too: it's not something exclusive to teens, nor do hormones in anyone's bodies render us powerless or unable to make our own best choices) or physical, particularly when we're talking about sex with a partner. Those desires are actually largely social -- about bonding or community, about friendship, love, attraction, wanting to share something with someone else, find a deeper intimacy with another person and have sex be about both of you equally, not just the desires of one or about getting the lead out. When we just feel that physical urge for sex pretty singly -- when we feel our sexual desires rising up, but it's not really about anyone in particular, not about wanting to share something very intimate with someone else, and more about wanting to just have a release, that's the kind of motivation where it's often more sound to look to masturbation, to sex that is 100% for ourselves and about ourselves, with our own two hands, rather than to sex with another person.

Even people who are married, even couples who very much love each other and are attracted to each other will usually still masturbate, because again, the urge to share something with someone else and the urge to just satiate a physical need are not really the same thing, even though sometimes, with a partner, those desires overlap just fine. As well, often, any two people will not have the desire for sex at the same time or on the same day, and that's another sphere where masturbation often fits the bill: otherwise, you have people having sex with someone when they don't really want to, which isn't healthy for anyone. Since you don't mention a particular partner, and it seems like you're expressing that you feel sexual desire you want to fulfill, but that sexual partnership isn't something you're ready for which fits with your values right now, I'd say it sounds to me like the place you're at is more a place for masturbation than a place for partnered sex.

One additional perk of masturbation is that it helps you to know about your own body and your own sexual response long before you invite someone else in to share it. That gives you things to communicate to that partner when the time comes which will help sex be a more pleasant and comfortable experience for both of you.

So, for now, why don't you either look to masturbating or, if you don't feel right about that either for some reason, just give yourself some more time to digest all of these feelings and to think through the kinds of things you've clearly already been thinking about. I'm going to leave you with a few links I think might help you have more information to think all of this over with, but in the meantime, trust your head and your heart: it sounds to me like they're in alignment, and that's always the sign of a sound choice. Sex is pretty much always going to be best when doing it is what really feels best, including in your heart and your mind, and this kind of good stuff always keeps because of that.

written 06 Aug 2008 . updated 06 Aug 2008

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