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He wants me to prove I love him by having sex.

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Taylor asks:

I'm a virgin, and I've been dating my boyfriend for over a year now. He's really worried that I don't really love him unless I have sex with him. The thing is I'm not really worried about the actual sex part, I'm worried about the aftermath. You know, getting pregnant. Is there any possible way on my first time? Especially if we use a condom? I have a lot planned for my future, but I want him to be in it. HELP

Heather Corinna replies:

Before the two of you do anything sexual, I'd say it's REALLY important that you work out the issue of him seeing sex as a way for you to prove your love.

It's not. Take a look at the bare basics from our Sex Readiness Checklist:

If either of you wants to do it because you feel you must or should, because one of you is pressuring the other, you're getting pressure from friends, or if you're having troubles in your relationship and you think sex will fix it, stop right there; wake up and smell the double-latte. Sex between people should only happen when it is what both people very enthusiastically want, and not just because they think it'll make the other person happy (or get them to stop nagging). Another thing to give you pause might be if you're fantasizing about sex based on movies or television. Remember how in Tom and Jerry cartoons, Tom could hit a wall and walk away from it just fine, and you knew that wouldn't work in real life? Same goes with a lot of sex in movies and television; it isn't often as it appears. Also, if you simply want to unburden yourself of your virginity with no one in particular, you might want to think again. In most studies, most women (and some men) who have handled it that way weren't so jazzed about that choice later.

People have sex together all the time who don't love one another, and people who love one another -- even those who have been sexually active together before -- will often go for periods of time without sex, even when they still love each other plenty. By all means, sex can be an expression of love, but it's also an expression of a lot of things, and if any given person feels pressured to have sex to prove something else to their partner, that's not coming from a place of love, but a place of fear: fear of losing that partner (which sounds like what you're dealing with) fear of increasing that partner's own insecurities, fear of saying no when someone very much wants you to say yes. Fear is the opposite of love.

The time for you to say yes to sex -- be it the first time or the 301st time -- is the time when it is what YOU want, as well as what your partner wants, and not just because they want it. That'll be a time when you don't feel like you have to have sex to appease him or prove something to him, or for you to be managing HIS insecurities (which is his job, not yours).

I'd suggest that if you're going to stay with this guy, you two make some time to have a few talks about all of this.

You can let him know that you just don't want to and will NOT have sex with him until you don't feel any pressure to do so, and when he's more secure in that you DO love him, separate from sex. You can let him know that if you have sex now, it'd be a lousy proof of love, since all it'd prove at the moment is that he's scared you into feeling he might leave if you don't have sex with him: sex now would prove you're afraid, not that you love him. If he really wants the sex you two have to be about love -- rather than using that as a line to get into your pants -- then he's got to be loving himself and wait for the time when it feels right for both of you, and when your relationship is on firm enough footing to be able to handle sex being added to it. If he's insecure now, sex isn't likely to make him feel more secure. It's a thing that makes us all pretty darn vulnerable, so while there are a lot of great parts of sex, there are also a lot of stresses, and when we're feeling insecure or uncertain about a partner's feelings isn't the time to have it.

You might want to ask him why he's feeling like you need to prove that you love him right now. Is he not feeling loved and cared for? If not, why not? Does he have something going on in another area of his life that has him feeling insecure? Is he getting static from friends for not having sex yet? You might express how this pressure makes you feel: that it's got you scared about losing him unless you do something you're not feeling 100% ready to do yet. I'd also be very clear that whether he means to or not, he's exerting a form of pressure on you to have sex.

You might need to talk this out more than once, but I'd encourage both of you to invest that time. Heck, if either of you wants some sound proof of love, it would be the willingness of both of you to take that time, have those hard talks, and be sure you're both taking the other into real account and only having sex when it is truly wanted on both your parts, and you're both really feeling ready for it, okay?

If and when that time does come -- like I said, it's clearly not now, but things may change -- here's the scoop on your risks.

Having sex for the first time carries the same risks of pregnancy and infections that sex for the fifth time carries. You certainly can become pregnant the first time you have vaginal intercourse. Condoms, when used properly and for ALL direct genital contact, are great methods of birth control and STI protection, but they're not 100% effective. No method is. You can combine methods for greater effectiveness, though. For instance, if you use the birth control pill AND a condom, or a vaginal ring AND a condom, your risk is even less than 1%. A very, very low risk, but still a risk. If you want the ideal, then you want to use condoms no matter what, to protect against infections and pregnancy, and then a second method of contraception: the methods with the highest effectiveness rates are hormonal methods or IUDs. To find out what method is best for you, you can check out our tool for that here -- Birth Control Bingo! -- and then talk with your healthcare provider.

One part of sexual readiness is being able to deal with the fact that there are always going to be those risks, as well as emotional risks (for instance, if you have sex together, it may not bring you closer together, it may drive you further apart: sometimes, that happens). You can substantially reduce them, but if you need pregnancy to in no way be a possibility, then the only right answer is to abstain from genital intercourse, full-stop. And if that's what you need for now, there isn't anything in the world wrong with that. Any boyfriend who cares for you and respects your needs should be understanding in that regard, particularly if he puts himself in your shoes and thinks about how he might feel if he was the one who could become pregnant.

I'm going to give you a big handful of links which I think will help you out. What I'd suggest is that you read them through, then bring your more-informed-self to the table for those talks with him. Suffice it to say, I'd also strongly encourage you to ONLY have sex when it's what you want -- and not just a perceived result of sex, as in, if you have it, he'll feel loved or will leave you alone about this -- and what you feel ready for. As well, I'd encourage you only to have sex when not only is the person you're with secure in your love for them, but when they're also demonstrating real love and care for you, and pressuring you for sex that they need to make themSELVES feel better isn't loving towards you.

(Lastly? If he does keep up with this pressuring and the guilt-tripping, or your talks about this are unproductive, then this probably isn't someone you should keep being with. YOU need to be loved, too, and that includes someone respecting and accepting your limits at any given time, and paying real heed to your fears as well as your goals. A solid partner -- one with the emotional maturity to have a healthy sexual relationship with -- owns their own fears and insecurities and takes responsibility for managing them himself, rather than trying to shove them off on you, or to get you to do things for them so that they don't have to take that ownership. On top of all that? Sex, of any kind, should be about enjoyment and pleasure, too, and when sex is driven by any kind of guilt or pressure, it's pretty impossible for it to be about those things for both partners.)

written 19 Jan 2008 . updated 31 Jan 2014

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