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I'm 14 and sure my boyfriend wants sex: but is now the right time?

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Hannah0035 asks:

Hi I am 14 years old and me and my boyfriend have been dating for 2 months on the 20th... we're mostly all teenagers here and young adults and can tell that guys want more than just make-outs, hugs and kisses they want sex... I wouldn't have a problem having sex with him. I am pretty sure he is still a virgin by 99.9% and I am also still a virgin and was wondering when the best time it would be to have sex, where and I am nervous that I will mess up some how.... Help please??

Heather Corinna replies:

Just because someone might want something from someone else doesn't mean it's right for that other person, either person, or that the time when they want it is the right time for it to happen.

Few people in their early teens have a lot of what is needed in order to have healthy and satisfying sexual lives with partners, especially when they include kinds of sex that present high risks of sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy or heavy negative social outcomes. Some of not having what's needed is about not having the same legal rights and resources as older people do. Some of it is about just getting started in discovering your sexuality, and learning how to manage it and how to manage love or sexual relationships. Think of it, perhaps, like learning to drive: you wouldn't take an 8-wheeler out on the highway before you had a lot of practice with side streets and a car that wasn't the size of a house first, right?

It tends to take some time and life experience to get a foothold on the communication and assertiveness skills people need to be able to have about sex in order to lead sexual lives that go well for everyone involved. It's also difficult to have a sexual life that's healthy and that we really enjoy when we're very worried about things like "messing up," too. Part of learning to have sex with a new partner, and learning about sex, period, involves lots of trial and error (which often is more awkward than steamy), some stuff happening we might feel embarrassed by, and doing things that maybe one partner thinks will rock the other's world, but their partner experiences as merely meh. Part of being ready to be sexual with someone else involves some level of comfort for those kinds of things: feeling okay about them happening, even if we're not thrilled they're happening.

Even for much older people who have more life experience and resources, including relationship experience, better access to sexual healthcare, and better cultural support in having sex lives, two months of dating can often be too fast to move into kinds of sex like oral sex or intercourse. Not for everyone, mind you, nor in every relationship or situation, but for plenty of people it is, and not just because of their age. Being ready is about a lot more than how old we are.

I also found this other question from you'd posted:

I am 14 years old and my boyfriend is 15. His and my senior friend is having a Halloween party/bash. Being that he is a senior I am pretty sure there will be alcohol there. I am also pretty sure me and my bf will eventually have some one way or another. Then if we get drunk enough (which will probably happen) we may end up in the bedroom together and I won't know how to respond to this... I am pretty sure him being a teenage guy he wants to have sex with me. But I don't know how to react to this. I don't know if he'll have a condom because I don't have birth control but I also am wondering if he is ready himself??? HELP PLEASE??!!!

That post lets me know, and should also let you know, that there are clearly sound reasons to be concerned that this is very much not at all likely to be the right time. Some of the other things the best time for sex requires are the ability for everyone to give real consent -- which can't happen when you're wasted out of your gourd -- nothing that's optional, like sex or drinking, seeming like it will simply happen, rather than be something you choose, and ideally, it also won't involve anyone breaking any laws. In both your cases, not only is drinking itself against the law, someone having sex with someone else while drunk also is often criminal (that is a form of sexual assault, one either you or your boyfriend could be held legally responsible for committing), and given your age, you also probably aren't yet of the age of consent for sex, either. Some areas leave room for same or similar-aged partners, so you may be clear of that one, but not all of them do, meaning your older-than-you boyfriend could wind up in very serious legal hot water. You also express feeling very unprepared to know how to respond to any of this. In a word, it sounds like you're drowning already.

These two posts together make it sound like the way things stand now, and the way you're feeling about them, having any kind of sex together would much more likely be something that results in negatives for one or both of you than in positives.

I'm not a person who gets judgy about sexual readiness based only on age: just because someone is 14 doesn't mean I'm going to assume they're not ready for something. But I am someone who's heard about more people's sexual choices and outcomes than most, and I've a very good idea of what "pretty ready for sex" looks like and what "nothing close to ready" looks like. This looks to me like you are nowhere near where you'd need to be to be likely to have most kinds of sex, including intercourse, be a positive for you. Knowing what I know, both from life and my work where I have talked with tens of thousands of young people one-on-one about their sexual choices, you're looking a lot more like a deer in the headlights to me than like someone who is ready to be in the driver's seat.

There's never going to be one "best time" for any kind of sex for anyone, of any age, because these decisions are individual and very situational. In other words, there's about who we are as individual people and about the specific situations involved, including the with-who, the where, the when and the how, things which differ from sexual scenario to sexual scenario a lot. However, we can make some fair generalizations about what is most likely to be a better time for most people, a time and environment when sex they engage in is most likely to be as safe as it can be in terms of their health, and as positive as it can be for them all around, including enjoying themselves and feeling good in their bodies and their hearts.

For instance, better outcomes from sex usually happen when people hold off on high-risk sex -- which intercourse is, especially when people are in a position where they can't fully consent, like when drunk, pressured or uninformed -- until they have what they need to either reduce those risks, or to deal with those outcomes. You say you haven't even had a talk about condoms or asked about them and don't use any other kind of birth control: that makes clear one of the most basic things needed for reducing risks isn't something you're prepared with yet. Readiness around those things also includes the confidence in ourselves and assertiveness with partners to ask about things like condoms and set limits clearly, rather than putting that the other person and gambling with those risks.

It's likely to be a better time when you feel okay about the knowledge that sex with a partner, especially when it's new or they are new to you, is not at all likely to go how it does in the movies; when you feel like it'd be okay to "mess up," or look the way that you look, or when you know that how people respond to sex can be a big question mark. Ideally, you'd already have some sense of how you both respond from spending much more time taking smaller, more gradual sexual steps first.

Having the help and support we need with our sexual lives is another biggie. When sex is a positive in our lives, one piece of that is often that we don't have to be sneaking around and can talk to the people who are the biggest part of your lives about our sex lives, even though we might not share every gory detail. We also will either have access to the kinds of things we need to have healthy sexual lives -- including sexual healthcare -- or access to people who can help us get those things. As a minor, that will usually mean at least one person who is a legal adult and who you really, really trust and know has earned that trust.

It's a way better time to have sex when it's not just something a person "wouldn't have a problem with." Sex with partners is optional: it's not anything anyone has to do or is obligated to do. Sex with a partner is supposed to be something that, when we choose to be part of it, we choose because it's what we really want and feel good about, not just what someone else does, if they even do. Sex between people always goes best when it's something both people strongly want as much for themselves as for someone else, not when one person is just trying to give the other what they want or what they think they have to to get them to stick around.

I bet you can figure that if your boyfriend was going to have sex with someone, it'd be about something he really, really wanted, not just something he was like, "Well, I guess so," especially if he risked becoming pregnant at 14. You probably don't have a problem with taking the garbage out, but it's also probably not your favorite thing to do. I'm going to assume you want your sexual experiences to be a whole lot different than taking the garbage out. For this to go well, it needs to be something you really want, rather than something you'd just accept.

I want to also add that the idea that your boyfriend is ready for all of this just because he wants it -- or because you think he does due to his being a guy, an assumption that's just as often not true as it is true -- is iffy. I don't know where your "can tell" about what guys want is coming from here, but even if you're right, and this is something he wants, that doesn't mean it's something he's ready for, or that he wants to do if you also don't really want to and aren't really ready. Guys being ready is as important as girls being really ready: having sex when they're not really ready can mess them up, too. You suggest in your other post you're not sure if he is ready: I'd pay attention to that gut feeling of yours, because you're probably right.

It seems like your ideas about what he wants might not be about him as in individual, but about your ideas about guys. Not only is what you're assuming not true at all of all guys, your boyfriend isn't all guys: he's just one guy. And just like girls, just like people who are 14, just like people who wear pants, people who are members of giant-sized groups like that are not all the same.

You know, if he gets the impression from you that he's supposed to want certain kinds of sex with you now just because he's a dude -- an idea guys have pushed on them a lot, especially from other guys, and all the more if he hangs out with older guys -- then you both might wind up having sex mostly because you both think that's what you're supposed to do, rather than it being what you both really want and feel is right for each of you, and for you as a young, new couple, right now. You don't need me to tell you that people having sex together when they both don't really want that yet or don't really feel prepared for that yet does not an awesome sexual experience make. That's also a kind of setup where you're more likely to feel more distant from each other because of sex than closer, which probably also isn't something you want. When people aren't really talking and each person is making assumptions about the other or acting in ways they think the other wants, it doesn't build intimacy: instead, it builds a wall between people instead that tends to make them more separate.

It's clear that one big first step you haven't taken yet is to stop guessing and to start really, and deeply, taking about all of this together. If either of you doesn't have the trust or maturity to swing that just yet, that's a sure sign now would be a lousy time to get more sexual. Whenever you do start really talking about this, do both of you a favor and don't tell him what he wants and is ready for or what guys want. All that does is put pressure on you both, on top of leaving very little room for him as his own person, who just also happens to be a guy. Let him tell you how he feels: there's no need for you to guess or make generalizations. He's right there for you to find out his own real deal.

It might help to know we have a lot of study (and people's hindsight) that shows us that the younger people are when they engage in intercourse and other kinds of sex with big risks, the less likely it is for positive outcomes to happen, and the more likely it is for things to go badly. In the studies that have been done about this where they talk about thing that make negative outcomes more likely, some of the things you have mentioned here come up: situations where people can't give full consent or don't even grok what that means, people making a lot of assumptions about sex or gender that aren't realistic and are mostly based on media, stereotypes, or peers, a lack of communication and a feeling that sex isn't optional, but something people have to do for someone else. In other words, you appear to be at a high risk of becoming that statistic if you choose to engage in sex anytime soon.

Since you're asking for my advice about when I think sex -- and it sounds like you mean intercourse when you say that, even though that's only one kind of sex -- would go best for you based on what you've told me, here it is: You're about to seriously rush in. If you don't want the crap that kind of rushing often results in, I'd advise you to SLOW DOWN. Take the time you really need to even know what these choices can mean, and to figure out if they're right for you: that tends to take way more than eight weeks for someone to do when this kind of decision-making is new. Spend more time together getting to know one another better, talking these things through, and gradually exploring sex in slower steps rather than trying to jump into the deep end when you haven't even learned how to doggy paddle yet. Those steps give us a lot of information about if further steps are or aren't likely to be a good thing.

See how your relationship is going over, say, another six months, if it still even is going at all (with younger teens, on average, romantic relationships don't last more than a few months). Take the time to talk about all of this together, a whole lot. There are high stakes here: be as thoughtful as you can with these choices, and ask for the same thoughtfulness from your boyfriend.

One thing I can't do for a new user I haven't talked over time is have any sense of who you are in a bigger way, and what you're really capable of handling at this point in your life. Someone who knows you well can do that with you. Talk with someone older than you who you trust and who knows you really well. For the record, I don't mean a years-older-than-you friend who thinks it's a good idea to help young teenagers get wrecked at a party. That person is showing you they wouldn't know a healthy, sound choice if it smacked them upside the head and that interaction with you is probably about entertaining themselves, not caring about your well-being. I'm talking about people with a good deal of life experience and maturity who you know and who know you and care about you; people who, even when you don't always agree with them, you know want the very best for you.

In the case that you just don't feel safe about that kind of conversation or openness with someone in your family, a next-best option is to have a talk like that with a healthcare provider. In the United States, what you share with a doctor about sex is private, and can't be shared with parents unless you give permission. If you want absolute assurance of that, you can see someone at a Title X clinic, like a Planned Parenthood clinic. Not only can those people help you get informed about and prepared with things like safer sex, contraception and sexual negotiation, they can also do a great job of helping you think these choices through. They know and understand how important it is to you.

It might also help to sit down with pencil and paper and write out what you think you'd want and need for sex with a partner to be really right for you and great for you. For example, would you want to feel a lot less worried about messing up? How about wanting to have the things you needed to make sure you didn't become pregnant before you wanted to? Some people feel most comfortable only having sex within relationships where they have secured a deeper commitment, or where they have been with someone for a certain length of time: if those things sound familiar to you, you can write down what you think would be right for you in that regard. How about how you would want to feel about your body or your own sexuality: whatever level of confidence you have about them now, and knowledge you have about them now, might more be better?

How about trust? Sometimes, especially when we're younger, having sex with someone can mean negative social consequences, like taking a lot of crap from peers or people in school we don't even know about having sex, when someone we have sex with tells others who tell others, who tell others... you get the picture. Most people don't ever expect that to happen, but it happens often, especially when people rush into sex without taking time to build and establish trust with a partner and to have big talks about privacy needs. If your partner is a guy, he might get some social status from sex: if you're a girl, you will likely lose some. That's so messed-up, but it's so very common. What about the other things you feel you want and need from a sexual partner? Just write it all out.

Those are just a few ideas of places to start. There is so much to think about with big sexual decisions, especially when we've no experience making them, that if we try and do it all in our heads, it can make thing less clear instead of more clear. If we can put it all down somewhere and get a clearer look at it, it can be easier to sort through. And if, when you talk with your boyfriend about any of this, he makes clear he has been thinking about engaging in sex with you soon, you can ask him to do the same thing, and then you both can sit down together with your lists and get a much more real, honest picture of what both of your readiness really looks like. It might also be a lot easier to start talking together with that kind of clarity.

I'm going to assume that, like most people, you want any sex you have to be sex you feel good about, not just during, but before and after, too. I'm going to assume you want the sexual relationships you have in life to be as great as they can possibly be. In order to make both those outcomes the most likely, you're just going to want to take more time than this.

I'm going to leave you some links I think will help you, and can get you started with the kind of information you need to know in order to make these choices smartly. Go ahead through them yourself, and then, if you and your boyfriend are talking seriously about moving past making out anytime soon, share them with him, too, and you can talk about them together and use them as ways to start talking more. If you want to talk more about all of this with us, we're always around for that at our message boards, where you can either keep talking to me, talk to a volunteer, or talk to other users who are peers.

But, in a nutshell? I think you're going to feel a whole lot better, and be more likely, in time, to have the kind of sexual experiences you probably want, if you keep things at the pace they are or even slow them down.

Don't forget: if you have the idea you have to "give" a partner sex in order to keep them around or interested, you're forgetting that you are already giving them a lot by spending your time with them, and investing your heart in them. You, all by yourself, in heart and mind, are a heck of a thing to share. For someone who really likes you and cares about you, that is going to be pretty amazing as it is. No one who cares about you and is really into you is going to want you to be more sexual with them until you really feel good about it, ready for it, and really, really want to do that. In fact, to someone like that, doing anything you don't deeply want to or before you're ready would be the last thing they want, not the first.

written 21 Sep 2011 . updated 22 Jan 2014

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