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My best friend really wants to have sex with me, but I'm afraid it'll ruin our friendship.

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scarletbabe asks:

I'm a female and my best friend is a male. We're both virgins, he's 17 and I'm 16. He keeps telling me that he wants to have sex, and he's been touching my body more and more. We've kissed and made out recently, but he wants to go all the way. He tells me things like "I want to be your first, and I want to be your first." He says that he thinks sex will "strengthen" our best friend relationship but I'm afraid it might ruin it. What should I do?

Heather Corinna replies:

What I'm not hearing in this is what you want.

You tell me he's been touching your body more and more, but you didn't say anything about if that's something you want and have been enjoying. I hear the things he's been saying, but I don't know what you've been communicating to him yourself.

The picture painted for me by this post tells me about him, what he wants, how he feels, and what he's been doing, but it tells me little to nothing about you.

Maybe that's because you really, in a real way, haven't been just as much a part of the picture here, or maybe that's because you haven't figured out how you're feeling about any of this beyond identifying a fear that this could ruin your friendship. That might also be because you're really just reacting here to what's coming from him because you haven't been given the time or chance to catch up with what is or isn't coming from you.

Let's see if I can't help you put you more in this picture and sort out your feelings with what has already been going on and about what your friend wants from here. I'm going to start with where you already are and what you've already been taking part in.

Have you wanted to kiss and make out with him? Is that something you have enjoyed in the moment, and felt good about on the whole? Is that something you've wanted to do just as much as he has, to the point where it's not just something he's been initiating, but you have, too?

If your answers to those questions were mostly no, I'd say it's clear that not only is moving into more kinds of sex probably not the best choice, but continuing as things have already been going probably isn't, either. If most or all of your answers to those questions were no, then a yes to any of what you've already been doing -- or being passive, and letting it continue without saying anything -- isn't likely your right choice. Instead, it's time to talk with your friend about how you've been feeling about all this and set limits around anything you don't feel good about or aren't enjoying. At the end of this piece, I'll give you some links, and will include a couple to give you help with those conversations if you need them.

If they were yes -- you have wanted to kiss him and make out with him, you have enjoyed those things in the moment and felt good about them overall, you have wanted to do those things just as much as he has, and you perhaps even have been initiating them yourself sometimes, rather than just going along with what he initiates -- let's move forward.

You say he's been touching your body more and more. Are you okay with that? Is it something you want him to be doing? Do you also want to be touching his body more?

If no, then jump back to where we talked about those other no's and apply that advice.

If, instead, you answered yes or mostly yes to those questions -- as in, you are okay with him touching your body more, that is something you want him to be doing, and you do also feel a desire to be touching him more, too -- then let's take another step forward.

You say he wants to have sex with you, and it sounds like you're talking about sexual intercourse. Setting aside concerns about your friendship for now, is that something you also want? Is it something you feel ready for in your life in general, and ready for all that can involve, and also something you want with this particular person?

If you're not sure, it can be helpful to think about if it's something you would want even if the other person didn't; if it's something you'd thought about, maybe even fantasized about or imagined, before he put it out there. It might help to think about how much you, all by yourself, have thought about having sexual intercourse, and how much desire, if any, you have had on your own to have intercourse with someone soon.

Even if you don't know anything about any of this except that you feel afraid about one thing -- in this case, ruining your friendship -- any feelings of fear tell me that you can be pretty darn certain that at the very least, engaging in more sex with him, or whatever kind has you feeling afraid, isn't the right thing for you right now. We can certainly feel anxious when we're excited about something, and even a bit fearful just because we are about to do something new to us, but this doesn't sound like that kind of feeling. Feeling afraid something might damage a relationship that's of value to us is a big feeling to pay big attention to. Whatever has us feeling that fear is something to take our time carefully and thoughtfully considering.

I'm guessing that all of this might feel rushed and pressured for you. It sounds like your friend is pushing for what he wants, rather than just putting it out there and letting you take your time responding back, and is even perhaps trying to talk you into sex here. That's no way to walk into any sexual experience that's likely to be positive.

It's also not a way to walk into a sexual experience that's truly consensual. There's not enough room for real consent when one person is filling up the back of the proverbial pickup truck with so many boxes of their own wants that the other person can't find room for even one of theirs.

I think making a choice would be helped by thinking about why you're feeling it might ruin your friendship. If that's a strong concern, there's probably good reason for it, so getting some more clarity there could help you out.

Just with what little information I have to work with here, for example, it sounds like he's being at least a little pushy, if not a good deal more than a little. And for sure, being pressured into sex can not only result in sexual abuse or assault, which wounds you most of all, it by all means also tends to ruin a relationship. Having your friendship become a sexual relationship when you don't feel like you've had time to figure out if that's something you really want, not just something he wants? That could make it mighty hard to stay friends. Maybe those are two of the things you've already been thinking about, maybe not, and maybe you have additional concerns. Take some time to figure out what your worries or concerns are about this -- and don't second-guess them -- and why you have them: your answer here might be something you can easily find right there.

But you need some time and space to think about this. My best advice, per moving to sexual intercourse, or with any kind of sexual activity you've been engaging in with him and don't feel great about, is to start by making clear that, for now, you need him to stop asking you about sex, and trying to convince you to have it with him. You need to ask for the space you need to think. You can make clear that you need to figure out how you feel about it, regardless of what he wants -- and you more than know what he wants by now, obviously, so it's not like he needs to make it any more clear -- and to identify if you think it's what you want or not. If for no other reason, if he only wants to have sex with someone he knows also really wants to have sex with him, he'll give you that space.

It sounds like this guy feels pretty strongly that he wants to have intercourse, and other kinds of sex, and have that sex with you. I'd aim to make sure that you feel the same way about any sex you choose to engage in, and whoever it is you choose to have sex with.

If you decide intercourse or other kinds of sex with him are things you do strongly want to do, and with him, but have specific concerns about, you need both the time to really talk about your concerns, as well as for him to really hear them, value them, and invest real time in talking about them with you. That means he has to pipe down about his wants and listen to you, really considering what you want and need, too.

I imagine you might be feeling like you're now afraid for your friendship no matter what you say. It sounds like, with the way this has been going, and what he's been saying, that you might feel just as afraid that saying no to sex with him will damage your relationship as you feel saying yes might. And if you're feeling that way, I'm so sorry that you are: that's a lousy spot to be in.

If you are feeling that way, though, what I'd try and remember is this: whatever your right answer is, for yourself, based on what you truly feel best about, it can't be the wrong answer.

It might happen that if you say no, he takes it badly, or maybe even he blows off your friendship after that because he doesn't like that or can't handle your no. Even if that worst-case-scenario is what happens? I'd say it's a far better outcome than having sex you don't really want because you're afraid that if you don't have sex with this guy, you'll lose a friend. Friendships can end, friendships can last our whole lives, but ultimately, you have to live with you and your own choices your whole life no matter what.

Plus, someone who is only our friend when we say yes to what they want for themselves isn't usually someone who is going to wind up staying a good friend over time, period. Or who was a very good friend to us in the first place. Friendships, like every kind of relationship, have to have room for both people to be the separate people they are, including ways they're different, or different things they want. Someone who can't have sex that they want at a given time or with a given person is always going to have a much easier situation to deal with, one well-adjusted people all learn to weather, than someone who engages in sex they didn't want.

You feeling okay with and about YOU is really most important. And that's also something that anyone who cares a great deal about you would want for you in any kind of sex they were to have with you.

For the record, I don't have any issue with friends-with-benefits as a general model. I also know that it's very common for people, and always has been, to explore sex within friendships, or to create sexual or romantic relationships stemming from friendships. That said, it's also not for everyone, and I also know that plenty of people, and often young women in particular, prefer to engage in sex, especially with first-times, with a partner in a more romantic relationship. For that matter, you might want to check in with him about his feelings and in with yourself about yours in that respect: after all, maybe this is turning out to be something more like a romantic relationship. If so, that might factor into your decisions here, and be something else the two of you should probably talk about.

I think what we always want to do when considering a friends-with-benefits model -- if we don't know right off the bat that isn't something we want -- is to ask ourselves two core questions:
1) What are the benefits? Do they really seem like they WILL be beneficial to us, and
2) Are this person and I truly friends? Do I think this person will still be my friend even if I say no to sex with them? Or is their friendship conditional on my having sex with them?

A real friend isn't going to push us to have sex with them, and they're also going to try to make sure that if we are entering into sex together, it's something we both want and feel good about. Someone who is our friend, period, won't only be our friend if we have sex with them. And sex that's beneficial to us, in any kind of relationship, is going to be sex we feel emotionally good about, and that we really want, not just something the other person wants and feels good about. A friend cares about this stuff. You clearly care about it with your friend, evidenced by your concerns about the impact of sex on your friendship.

If this person is really your friend, and this is a friendship he values as much as you seem to? It's going to be okay to either say no, or to ask to slow things way down so that you can have more time and space to think about all of this to even figure out how you feel about it. And who knows, maybe he will be just fine and a great friend about all of this if you say no, or "Not anytime soon," or "Maybe later, but for now I want to stick with where we're at," or even "No, and I don't want us to be sexual anymore in any of the ways we have been. I understand you want to, but I really don't."

It's also possible that if you haven't spoken up about any of this yet, or directly communicated with him at all about it, he's been driving this car because he's been waiting for you to put on the brakes if that's what you want. That's certainly not the sound way to go about a sexual relationship, but it's a dynamic that happens a lot, especially when people are new to sex, and especially if people are operating under messages a lot of people get, like messages that say guys are supposed to initiate and "drive" sex, and everything should be considered a yes if girls go along with it unless they say no or otherwise stop it. If that's the kind of dynamic that's been going on here, I think it's important to change it ASAP. It really isn't fully consensual, if that is what's going on, that dynamic could certainly really mess up your friendship, and it certainly isn't the way for you two to build a healthy sexual relationship, or for you to create a sex life you're really part of and an active part of.

Here are some links you might take a look through:

The first two should give you some help in communicating about all of this with your friend and setting any limits or boundaries you want or need. The rest of them should help you figure out what you really want -- and what you don't -- and what's best for you right now and in the near future in terms of sex. The last one is important, too: a friendship is a relationship, after all, and this is also a sexual relationship. Checking in to make sure it's a healthy one is a good idea. You might also find one or two of these to share with your friend: if you both have read some of the same things and have the same information, that can make talking about all of this easier. If you want to share one or two but aren't sure which, I'd say having him look at the piece about consent and the readiness checklist might be two goodies.

After you read through these, the simplest, best advice I can give you here is to trust your own gut instincts and what you really feel that you want and feel good about here, whether it's the same or different from what your friend does. If you really honor and follow those feelings, you really can't make a wrong choice here, and are likely to make sexual choices you feel best about now and in the future.

written 20 Dec 2012 . updated 09 Oct 2013

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