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(More Than) a Few Words On Being 13 and 100% Ready for Sex

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vergin_13confussd asks:

Im 13 and a vigin and my boyfriend is 13 and not a vigin, and we're 100% ready 2 have sex, but the problem is that hes in south carolina and im in minnsota. Wen I lived in sc he went 2 my skool and we never talked. But there was a girl that would always say bad stuff about him, like hes slept wit every girl in the skool and hes such a bad guy, blah blah blah. so 1 day i messaged him on myspace and i gave him my number 2 txt me. i wanted 2 hear his side of the story. we got 2 no each other and we fell in love. im just worried that hes not done with his cheating ways, n that after we have sex hes gunna leave me. 1 of his ex's says that hes telling her that he doesnt love me and that he wuld cheat on me, but it depends on who. and that hes jus using me. idk wat 2 believe anymore!! i love him with all my heart and we believe were soulmates!!! ive never felt like this b4. and he says the same thing. my question is: how do ik he is gunna change and not leave me? and how do ik hes not jus tellin me wat i wanna hear? he says that im gunna b perfect in bed, but im jus so worried that im not gunna b as gudas he hopes. how do ik i'll b good? i really need 2 no!! im desperatly confused and dk wt 2 do!!!! my mom says he means wat he says 2me and that she's been threw sumthin like this. my heart says to stay with him and my gut says that stay with him but yor gunna get hurt. i jus dk. i really need help!! Thanks Heather!!!

Heather Corinna replies:

I can't make these choices for you, and I think it's really important you make and own your own choices in relationships and in sex once you start choosing to have them be part of your life. What I can do for you is to try and give you some extra information and perspective, based on what you've said here, that I think you might need and would be good to consider when you're making these choices.

A lot of what you're saying suggests that both of your expectations, about sex and also about this relationship, are probably unrealistic. When that's the case, it's so hard to make good choices. In your profile here at the site, you talk about how you want to have sex just to get it over with, but that you want it to be very "romantic, memorable and special." Those two things are usually at odds with each other, and from the sound of your question here, you're much more invested in that big stuff than you are in just "getting sex over with." People who earnestly want to just get sex over with don't tend to ask the things you're asking.

What I'd like to do is go through some pieces of what you've posted here and give you a reality check around them. Hopefully, what perspectives I can add to what you're asking and what you're already thinking, feeling and wanting will help you get more clarity around all of this and help you make the choices that are most likely to result in what you really, really want.

We're 100% ready to have sex

I'm not sure anyone can know we're 100% ready for sex with anyone we haven't had that kind of sex with before and/or when we haven't had sex with anyone, period. Until we've been having that kind of sex with that particular person -- or have at least had some kind of sex with them, and have been interacting with then in ways that give us real cues about how it might go, which does mean time spent together in-person -- we just can't predict a lot of how it's going to go, what it could be like, how we're all going to feel about it, or what the outcomes are going to be, positive, negative and neutral. If we're also not in touch with the overall and general possible realities and outcomes of something in general, we can't say we're ready because we can't know all that we'd possibly need to be ready for.

I've talked about this in a few columns in the past, but one thing we know about sex and age that's very well documented is that the younger someone is, the more unrealistic their expectations of sex tend to be. In other words, what you expect sex to be like, to go like, to require of you and a partner at this age is probably a bit more off base than your expectations two years from now, a lot more off-base than your expectations will probably be four or five years from now, and way, way more off-base than your expectations will probably be ten years from now. That's because in all those years, you'll learn not just more about sex and relationships, and about other people, but you'll find out and learn a lot more about yourself, including what you really want and need in sex and in love, what you can and can't deal with, and what you being ready -- not anyone else, just you, uniquely -- really looks and feels like. In your teens and twenties, a lot of development happens pretty fast sometimes, so even just a difference of one year can be a lot bigger than it seems like it might be.

My guess is, particularly given your age, that you're probably not ready for some of those potential outcomes of sex, and that he might not be either. If only the good stuff is being talked about, or the sexy stuff, and not any of the tough stuff, that's another clue that one or both of you probably aren't ready, because if you were, you'd know those things need to get talked about, too. For instance, you're probably not ready to handle a pregnancy. You're probably not ready to handle having sex, then having this relationship tank right after you've been so vulnerable and exposed. You or he may not be ready to handle taking safer sex seriously, which includes not just always using condoms, but each of you getting tested for STIs, something that if he hasn't done yet having already been sexually active, which he probably hasn't, gives you a big clue he's so not ready.

You also might not be ready to handle even some outcomes you think you might want, like your boyfriend winding up very attached to you... maybe too much for your comfort. Or your own feelings being stronger...but him not reacting well to that and running scared. Or him indeed finding out he thinks you're great in bed... and deciding that means that he only wants a sexual relationship with you, not something romantic after all. Even just managing having sex we really enjoy, and a sexual relationship that's awesome can be tough to fit into the rest of our lives in a way we don't blow the other important stuff, and that's a lot harder when we're a lot younger than it is a little later down the road.

I love him with all my heart and we believe we're soulmates! I've never felt like this before, and he says the same thing.

Here's the tricky thing about the idea of soulmates. Really, until we've lived a whole life, if there is such a thing as soulmates, or we feel we had one or more than one, we probably won't be able to know who ours were until we're old and grey when we can look back at many decades of life. I don't mean to harsh your love buzz. I'm glad that you are experiencing such wonderful feelings, feelings I think matter and are important whether or not you're soulmates, and whether or not this relationship lasts two weeks or fifty years. I think you should enjoy and value those feelings.

But when people say they believe that they're soulmates, especially when they haven't spent a lot of time together in their lives, when they haven't been though some big life challenges together to know how they do or don't help each other when the chips are seriously down, it's usually mostly because they want that to be true. If that's something you want -- maybe even something you feel you need -- then you want to walk here, not run. Because if you rush in too much, throw your whole heart in, take big risks and find out that isn't true, it's going to hurt like hell when it really doesn't have to. People who believe in soulmates generally have the idea that those people have been together in lives before and/or will be important to each other for the whole life they're in, and maybe even past that. That's a long time. If someone really is going to that important for that long, and is somehow deeply linked to us that way, then it seems to me that there's no hurry at all, and those folks have got all the time in the world -- literally! -- to get to know each other over time, to build a relationship over time, and to take plenty of time in all their choices together.

Both of you may not have felt this way before. However, chances are good that you will both not only probably feel this way again in your lives, with other people, you'll probably experience feelings a lot deeper and more enduring than these, not because you're shallow people or anything, but simply because the more life experience we gather, the more we grow, the richer and more complex feelings of love (and lust!) can tend to become.

What's most common is for romantic relationships when we're very young to be relatively short, or, if they last for more than a few weeks or months, for our feelings and interests to change well before adulthood. That doesn't mean they're not a big deal or not important: a relationship lasting a long time, or a lifetime, isn't automatically more important or more valuable just because it did. There are an awful lot of people in long-term relationships that are really crappy, after all. It just means that both of you having these feelings for the first time doesn't mean they're the last time you'll have them, are the last people you'll have them with, or that this is as big as it gets. Believe it or not, these feelings can get a whole lot bigger.

How do I know he is going to change and not leave me? How do I know he's not just telling me what I want to hear?

You don't. You can't know either of those things now. What you can do is take some more time to see how things pan out not just over weeks, but over months and years. You say you texted him because you wanted to hear his side of the story, but you also say you're worried that he'll "return to his cheating ways." Does that mean that he verified that some of what had been said about him was true? If it does, then he's got a pattern to change. That's something he'll need to take real time with to work on on his own, not something that'll be magically fixed just by loving you a lot. If he has tended to make commitments he doesn't honor, some of the work he'll need to do is to stop being so quick to make those kinds of commitments, taking more time to make them and not making them until he really knows he can honor them. Time that, from the sounds of things, he hasn't taken.

It's crystal that it's important to you that a person you have sex with is loyal to you and also doesn't ditch you; that you're not likely to feel comfortable with a sexual situation where you're not strongly sure that's not going to happen. That's something that's important to a lot of people, and also something that informs a lot of people's decisions about who they have sex with and when they have any kind of sex. Some people are comfortable just going on hope and a prayer and seeing what happens, feeling capable of managing any rough emotional fallout. Other folks need more than that, or know they either aren't up for handling that kind of fallout, or really want to try and avoid it.

You sound like the latter to me, and I'd honor yourself in your own wants and needs there. If you want and need those things, and it sounds like you do, take good care of yourself in that by taking the time to be pretty darn sure you're going to get those needs met. You also seem to be saying it's possible this guy has treated other partners poorly in the past, and it certainly sounds like more than one girl has not had a stellar experience with him. While sometimes people just talk trash, it's always sound to figure you can't know what's trash and what's truth in this kind of situation until you take more time to see how this person actually behaves over time.

He says that I'm going to be perfect in bed. How do I know I'll be good? I really need to know!

This is another one of those things you can't know, but I'd also think about why it's so important to you to "be good in bed." Being sexual with someone is an intimate thing to do with them, and when we're getting that close to somebody, it should be okay to be as human as we are, including sucking at things sometimes or not knowing what the heck we're doing. If you feel like you have to be perfect or worry you won't perform up-to-par, remember, this isn't supposed to be a performance. Sex -- the first time or the 201st -- is supposed to be an experience, and one where, ideally, all that's expected of you is that you be yourself, you let the other person be themselves, and you both treat each other with care.

Just so you know, I think the whole idea of "good in bed" is stupid. I don't think you're stupid, or stupid for thinking that means something, just that it's a stupid idea a lot of smart people get fooled into thinking is something other than stupid. Someone being a good lover generally has to do with things magazines don't talk about and movies don't show us: things like being a good communicator and a good listener, like being creative and imaginative, like being respectful and thoughtful and kind, like being willing to make a fool out of yourself, like being comfortable and confident in your own skin and around other people's bodies. All of that stuff? All of that stuff tends to be what most of us do without trying too hard when we care about and have confidence in ourselves, care about and have confidence in other people, and when we are really invested in ourselves and other people and they're really invested in themselves and us.

That feeling of just wanting to get first-time sex over with often comes from wanting to just get worries and anxieties like this over with -- Will I be good? Will someone else think so? Will a sex partner stick around after I had sex with them? Will I get my heart broken? Will I even like sex? What if I don't? What if I do? Here's the thing a lot of people thinking that way don't know yet: once you start having any kind of sex, if you're still thinking the same way about those things -- something that won't change just because you had sex, but only if you change the way you think about it -- those worries usually stick around or get even more crazymaking. On top of that, being sexually active brings with it a host of new things to worry about you aren't worrying about yet, or things you have to be concerned with because they're real and happening, not imagined or not happening yet. So, having sex to try and get rid of those worries is not exactly the smartest strategy most of the time, especially since having sex involves opening yourself up to a bunch of risks.

Here's the good news: you can chill those worries and anxieties, without taking any risks at all you're not ready to deal with, by changing how you think about this and by taking the pressure off by not getting involved with sex with someone else just yet. If you're WAY worried about being good in bed, that tends to be because you're not in the right space in your life or your own personal or sexual development to be secure enough in yourself to have sex with someone else. So, you don't have to. Which means you don't have to be concerned about this at all right now. I'm not trying to be a brain surgeon, nor am I doing any brain surgery, so it doesn't matter whether or not I'm good at it. Get it?

When you are in a space where sex is the right thing for you and someone else, when you are in a relationship you feel pretty secure in, when you feel more secure with yourself, and when you've taken more time to develop, think about and explore your own sexuality (the one you have all by yourself and can explore in your own head and heart, and with your own hands), you won't worry as much about this stuff. I promise. You'll feel a lot more relaxed, and it'll all seem like less of a huge deal. Some of why some of these worries probably feel so big is that you're just not ready for the place you're thinking about putting yourself in. I think your worries are trying to tell you something important that can help you make your own best choices.

While I know that long-distance relationships can be a bummer when you feel very strongly about someone and miss them, in this case, I actually think it's probably a good thing. I'm saying that because I don't think you two leaping into bed right now would be so great for you or be like you think it would. I strongly suspect you'd not get what you want and need in it, that it'd be way more likely for things to happen you really didn't want or weren't able to handle now than later. It sounds like in person, you'd have a hard time not being impulsive. There are also some cool parts of long-distance relationships I think you can take advantage of right now.

A lot of deep communication that's not easily distracted by strong sexual feelings tends to happen when things are long-distance, for instance. I'm not talking about texting or IMs. I'm talking about long phone conversations and letters, things we put real time and effort in. Ideally, in that kind of communication you two will be talking about more than wanting to go to bed together, who is going to be good in bed, or sussing out if someone's rep is or isn't factual. You can also see if both of you feel strongly enough to keep up with letter writing, to really put some creativity into your communication, and to find out how deep all of this really is for both of you(or isn't). Long-distance relationships also mean we have to take things more slowly, which is a good thing if we're otherwise inclined to jump into the deep end before we have any idea of how to swim. It sounds like you need more time, and it sounds like you have that time.

I want to add that while it's great you're able to talk with your Mom, and great that she supports you in your feelings, she isn't psychic. She can't know that this guy means what he says, and whatever her previous dating experiences were can't tell her that. It sounds like she may be projecting some of her own stuff here, and also like she just doesn't want you to be upset, but I'd not put too much stock in her feeling that this guy must be on the up-and-up because someone she dated was. She didn't date this guy (at least I certainly hope not!), so she can't know his deal. That's something only he, you and your mother can find out over time based on this relationship, not her past relationships.

I'll leave you with some extra links that I think might help you out, but what I'd suggest is that you just. Slow. Down. You keep saying you just don't know about all of this. That's okay: you don't have to know. But since you don't know now, do yourself a favor and don't put yourself in a position where you have to. I know it's hard to slow things down when feelings are intense, but I think you'll feel a whole lot better, and be better able to decide what's right for you with your choices in this relationship, including any sexual choices, if you do. What you have here isn't running so you have to chase it (and if it is, you know it's not going to be a good deal). You can take plenty of time not only to make decisions, but also to just enjoy all the good stuff in this and see how it goes and where you're comfortable taking it, step by step.

written 12 Oct 2010 . updated 13 Oct 2010

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