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I'm 13 and totally sure I'm ready for sex.

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Anonymous asks:

I'm 13 and I know that I'm totally ready to have sex. I no that everyone is ready at different ages and all my friends are surprised because half of them cant even talk about puberty without blushing. It's not like I'm seeing anyone so I'm not being pressured I'm just so ready and I want the first time over and done with. Is this such a big deal?

Heather Corinna replies:

Well, it can be a big deal, and it is for most people.

One thing that is important to understand is that NONE of us -- not you at 13, not me at 37 -- are ever ready and interested in having any kind of sex in the way you're describing when who the other person involved isn't known to us. I mean, overall, I really quite enjoy having many kinds of sex, but I've also very much NOT enjoyed the kinds of sex I often do now and then because who I was having it with, or what environment -- literal or emotional -- I was having it in wasn't right or what I wanted. Sex doesn't exist in a vacuum, and what it is varies wildly from person to person, partner to partner and experience to experience. Love sex as I often do, I'd never say that I'm "ready for sex" full-stop, in any situation I might find myself in, because I know it very much to be true that I most certainly am not: no one is.

In other words, whether we're ready or not isn't just about us: it's also about our mood at any given time, our specific wants and needs, and many conditions, most notably that other person, what they're ready for, how they interact with us, and what our relationship is -- no matter what kind of relationship it is -- is like. When that partner is an X-factor -- when they aren't actual, but just an idea -- we can't possibly figure if we're ready or not. For instance, I know for certain that I'm often (but not by any means always) ready for sex with the partner I'm with now, and I also know that I'm never likely to be ready for or interested in sex with my friend Chris. But if I didn't know who the other person was, and what the situation was with them (our relationship, my mood that day, what kind of sex I wanted, what kind they wanted, etc.) I couldn't tell you if I was ready or not, because they're more than half the story.

Having any kind of sex (though I'm guessing you're talking about vaginal intercourse) can be anything from a really great experience to a really awful one, depending on an awful lot of factors. Obviously, we want to do what we can to avoid having truly awful experiences in our lives when it can be avoided. We try NOT to get hit by oncoming traffic, right? Same goes here with sex: a truly awful experience can have truly awful consequences, or long-term consequences that can make something that lasted just a few minutes into a pretty big deal. Contracting a sexually transmitted disease that isn't curable, for instance, or becoming pregnant due to a birth control failure or a partner refusing to use birth control -- especially at 13! -- are two things that very much could make what seems casual into something pretty darn serious.

There are also often feelings to manage: even with more casual sex, outside a serious romantic relationship, partnered sex brings up deep feelings for a lot of people that can come as a real surprise. So, for instance, when two people have sex and one then starts talking trash about the other to all of school, or never calls again, most people find that's pretty emotionally painful for them, and turns what should be a decent experience into something pretty bad that lingers, and which can also leave them with hurt that poisons their sex lives and sexuality over time. Even a lesser consequence, and a typical sexual reality, like your partner not being able to orgasm, or not wanting to deal with your body, or needing more emotional support afterwards than you thought you'd have to give can be tough to handle, especially if you file sex as something to just get over with.

Statistically speaking, you should also know that a lot of sound data has shown that the younger women are when they first have intercourse, the more frequent their reports of abuse, of pregnancy and infection, and of unsatisfying sex and hurt feelings. One of the biggest findings with very young women having intercourse is that the younger a woman is, the more unrealistic her ideas usually were about intercourse, full-stop: that finding lets us know that very often, when someone as young as you thinks they're ready, it's because they don't really get what and all it is they need to be ready FOR. Make sense?

It's also helpful when figuring out how ready you are when that other person DOES come along who seems like a good choice to be realistic. Usually, when we see someone very young defining vaginal intercourse as sex, it's a good tip-off that they're not really clear on what partnered sex -- or even solo sex -- is all about (hint: vaginal intercourse is often one of the last sexually satisfying activities for a majority of women).

For instance, you say you, unlike your friends, can talk about puberty without blushing. But you're probably not talking about it sitting naked in front of someone you feel very vulnerable around, when both of you are incredibly nervous, because it's not just talk anymore and you're thrust into an incredibly intimate space with a lot to lose on both sides. Might you feel so comfortable in that position, for instance, insisting a partner who doesn't want to use a condom does? Or showing him where your clitoris is so that you can enjoy some pleasure yourself -- since vaginal intercourse alone is unlikely to do that? How about dealing with rejection? Or with calling off the sex midway through because you had second thoughts, and having to deal with a partner not taking no for an answer? It's a bit of a different scenario, to say the least, and that becomes more obvious when it's a reality, not just an idea.

Another big reality to deal with is the law (at 13, you're likely not of the age to even give legal consent to sex), and an even bigger one is what you need to BE ready materially and practically. Have you started getting yearly gynecological exams? If not, are you ready to do that, including STI screenings? Ready to be able to manage birth control and sexual healthcare costs? An unplanned pregnancy if birth control fails?

I understand feeling like with all the to-do put on intercourse and virginity that sometimes, it's something that feels like a real burden to carry around that you just want to unload. I also get just wanting to see what all the freaking fuss is about so you don't have to wonder. Lastly, I also understand the idea that if you just get it over with, without investing a lot in it, you're less likely to get emotionally hurt: trouble is, reality often contradicts that idea -- a lot of folks who go in thinking that find out they were wrong.

Ultimately, any of this conversation is hasty when there isn't another person in the picture who is the partner at hand. Without being able to know anything at all about them, no one can figure if they're ready or not.

So, my advice to you is to start thinking more about this whenever that other potential partner does show up in your life. Get to know them. See how you interact and communicate. See how they make you feel with them and about yourself. See how you feel about sex then, and also how they feel about it: after all, boys aren't just automatically ready for sex, either. Get to know your own sexuality all by yourself -- via masturbation, for instance -- more first. (If you're feeling like sexual intercourse is what makes a person sexual, or that you need that to "start" your sexuality, you're off-base, there: it starts with you and exists even when we don't have partners at all.) When and if a sexual relationship develops, see how it goes with other kinds of sex first before diving head-first into the most risky type: in terms of diseases and pregnancy and your overall health, but also in terms of the kind of sex that carries the most emotional weight for a lot of heterosexual people.

Even if you find out over time that you're an exception to the rule and that sex with people does NOT carry a ton of emotional weight for you, it's pretty silly to just try and "get something over with," that at the very least, should be a pleasurable experience that feels really good -- in body and mind -- and is exciting, interesting and *something* to write home about. Sex isn't mandatory, and it should be a real pleasure, not a duty, or a chore that just needs to be done, just because.

It may be that in time you find a more casual scenario feels like it'll be best for your first-time intercourse...or you may not. But the idea of these things and the actuality of these things often differs a whole awful lot, so until the situation is more than an idea or a fantasy, none of us can know if and what we're ready for.

Here are a couple links that I think will help you get an even better idea of all I'm talking about here, and a more realistic picture when it comes to partnered sex and sexual intercourse. I can't encourage you enough to really look deeply at the first of them:

written 06 Sep 2007 . updated 18 Apr 2009

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