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I'm ready, but I can't figure out if she is.

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Travis asks:

Me and my girlfriend are virgins and are 16. We have been dating for about ten months and are getting curious about sex. She asked if I was ready and I told her I don't know because she's not sure and I'm not sure what to do. She will say that she wants to but turn around and say no. I just don't want her to lose her virginity and regret everything else that we do for the first time. I haven't even seen or touched anything yet, so I guess that leaves me some room, if I get that far without confirmation. I love her so much but I want to do it so bad. There's something stopping her and I don't know how to express myself . I guess she is scared because it might hurt and she does not know what she is doing and she doesn't want to upset me.

Heather Corinna replies:

Travis, it sounds like you do already seem to have a pretty good idea of what her concerns are, and it sounds like you're doing a great job in trying to be sure that whatever you do is something you both can feel good about. In other words, I think you need my help less than you probably think that you do.

But I can certainly give you a few pointers and suggestions.

Before I say anything else, I hope you know that it's not unloving to want to have sex with someone. You say you love her BUT you want sex badly, and those things aren't mutually exclusive. In fact, for many couples, sex is one way of expressing the love that they feel. Sex with someone also very much does not have to be about disrespecting them. In fact, since most people do have sexual desires, so long as whatever you're doing together is what you both want, and is done in the spirit of love and care, you are still respecting your partner by meeting or sharing their and your sexual desires.

One big thing to understand is that if the dynamic here is all you asking or initiating, and her saying no or yes -- and she isn't really initiating anything at all -- then it's pretty clear she's not strongly feeling a desire for sex yet. When any kind of sex is something we really, truly want, we don't stay passive about it. We -- as it seems like you have yourself -- initiate or invite our partner to engage in whatever it is we want to do with us. So, if she hasn't initiated any kind of sex, at all, then I'd take that as a clear sign that she's just not there yet, and that you'll need to wait a bit more until she does start voicing those desires. (Which doesn't mean you can't talk about all of these things: in fact, talking about them in advance of sexual activity is really ideal.)

Now, her asking if you were ready may have been that, but it may also have been her way of trying to figure out if it's really okay for her not to be ready yet. A lot of the time, a partner who doesn't feel ready can get worried that if their boyfriend or girlfriend is, that if they don't get ready soon, they're going to lose that person. So, I'd make sure she knows what you've said here, which is that while you do feel ready for sex with her, you have no interest in rushing her or canning a relationship you value over sex. Once you bring that up, you might ask her how she's really feeling right now, making clear that there is no right answer. is she interested in any kind of sex? If so, what activities does she feel like she might be up to trying? I'd talk with her about these things rather than trying to get "farther" with your hands or any other part of your body. Encourage her to take as active a role as you are, rather than setting up a dynamic where it's all about what you do and what she'll let you do, you know?

I'd also let you know that going from 0 - 50 is a heck of a jump. In other words, if the two of you haven't engaged in any kind of physical intimacy yet, leaping to intercourse is pretty hasty. Not only are other sexual activities -- like making out, petting, mutual masturbation, manual sex, oral sex, phone sex, massage, even sleeping or showering together -- as enjoyable (and for some people, more so) as intercourse, taking those kinds of steps allows both of you to get to know each other sexually more gradually. Something like intercourse seems a lot less scary when we have developed a trust with a partner sexually, gotten an idea of what some kinds of sex with them are like, and when both partners have some idea of what the other enjoys doing sexually. If it turns out she is scared, about intercourse or any other kind of sex, you can ask her to express what those fears are so that the two of you can talk about them and address them. For instance, is she afraid of pregnancy? Afraid something will be painful? Afraid sex will change your relationship? Nervous or insecure about her body? Finding out exactly what her fears are will not only bring you two closer, it'll allow you to get a better idea of where she's at, and what kinds of things you both might need to work on before sex does seem right for her. If she's afraid of upsetting you, you can find out what that's all about and talk it out.

If you or she are worried about not knowing what you're doing with those things, that's okay. With any new partner -- even if we've had sex with others before -- we really, truly don't know what we're doing, and it's a process of discovery and learning over time, which we explore by experimenting and communicating together. That also doesn't have to be a bummer: in fact, in many ways, it should be pretty exciting, even if now and then there's some good-natured laughter involved over something doing something that just didn't work, or when any two people find out something that seemed like it would feel good isn't really anything to write home about. Partnered sex is really unique to whoever the particular partners are, and that's also why learning together what to do for the other -- based on that unique person -- is a way sex can make couples closer.

It also sounds to me like you're putting a lot of pressure on yourself when it comes to first-time sexual experiences. It might help to know that more times than not, they are not sexually fantastic or mind-blowing. often, new partners are awkward together and fumble a lot, and often enough, one or both partners won't reach orgasm or be driven crazy with pleasure. A good first time can still be good even if in some respects, it's imperfect or even mediocre, so long as the people involved want to be together, are being open with each other and expressing themselves, enjoy one another and are also both feeling prepared enough for what they're doing as well as managing things like risks of pregnancy or infections responsibly.

When it comes to expressing yourself, what I'd encourage you to do is to talk about sex as candidly, but also with as much sensitivity, as you do about any other part of your relationship. From the sounds of this post, you're a considerate boyfriend who is very concerned with her feelings, so I have a tough time seeing you handling this talks poorly. I think a little confidence in yourself, and in the strong feelings you obviously have for her, will get you pretty far.

I'm going to give you a handful of links here which I think will help you, some of which you might also want to share with her, so that you both can be equally informed about some of these issues to consider. So, read up with these, but then take a vote of confidence from me and carry it with you. I think you're going to handle all of this brilliantly.

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