Should I Have Sex To Fit In & Keep Him From Leaving?

Claire
asks:
At my school many of the girls want to have, or have had, sex. They explain it as if it is an act that declares your love to the world for someone. Someone told me that they would want to lose their virginity before high school and I was a bit shocked when they said that to me. I honestly don't want to have sex until I'm much older and not in high school. From what I see high school romantic relationships don't last that long and I don't want to have sex with someone that won't be in my life for a long time. This is what I want, but there is guy that you can say I am kind of dating. It isn't official or anything but we certainly do act like a couple. We have talked a little bit about a sexual relationship, but I'm still not sure about if he wants to lose his virginity in high school or when he is older. I feel like I'll have to lose my virginity to him if I want to stay with him. And I know that isn't that greatest idea to come out of my mouth. Even though that may be true I am not ready to be in a sexual relationship!
Sam W replies:

The good news is that you do not have to be sexually active until you're ready. Virginity, aside from being an idea rather than a physical thing you can lose, is not something you need to race to "get rid of." There are no prizes for being the first person in your school to have sex, and no penalties for being the last person (or for never having sex during your high school years).

If you're still considering having sex with this guy because you feel it's the only way to get him to stay, it's time to hit the pause button on both that thought process and this relationship. It sounds like you already know that having sex to make him stay is not the best idea, and I encourage you to listen to whatever inner voice is telling you that because it's a wise voice. Having sex with someone just because you're afraid they'll leave you if you don't isn't a great move, because it means you're having sex due to pressure instead of enthusiasm. If they're a good partner, they won't want you to do anything you're not ready for or excited to do. If they do leave, then they weren't a good partner for you in the first place, either because you two have different needs when it comes to sex (which is totally okay) or they were dating you because they wanted sex and saw you solely as a source of it instead of a complex human with needs and boundaries of your own (which is not okay).

One idea that might be influencing you and your classmates' thinking here is that sex is some kind of magical love ritual that binds two people together. It's true that being sexual with someone can change the dynamics of a relationship, for better or for worse. But it's also true that plenty of people have sex and don't experience major shifts in their relationship. The reason for that is simple: sex will not make someone love you. It can't, it doesn't have that kind of power. It won't make someone stay with you if they want to leave. And, by that same token, having sex is not "proof" that you love someone. I say this because the sex-equals-love mindset pushes a lot of young people to be sexually active before they're ready and eager to be. Or worse, a person will use the idea that sex equals love to manipulate their partner into having sex when they don't actually want to, which is an awful thing to do.

There's also this idea that sex is the only way to achieve the deepest possible connection to a person. This is another misconception about how sex and love line up. Sex is just one of the many ways we can be intimate with another person, and if you're not ready for sex, there are a lot of other things you can do to help you can feel emotional and physical closeness with your partner.

Another toxic notion, one that you might be factoring into your situation without being aware of it, is that guys are "only after one thing" (sex) and agree to be in relationships purely as a means of getting that one thing. This leads the people they're dating, particularly young women, to feel as though they might as well have sex with a guy they're not interested in being sexual with (either because they're not interested in sex, period, or they don't want to have it with that specific guy) because any guy they're with will want sex and leave if they don't get it, so there's no point in putting it off. This logic is flawed for a few reasons. It assumes that guys are the only people who have sexual desire within a relationship, even though we know that people of all genders can and do want sex. It also frames guys as basically interchangeable, horny beings in a way that is unfair to the young men of the world. It erases the fact that guys have complex needs and wants around relationships, and when they do want sex it's seldom all they're after in the relationship. This is all to say that dating a dude doesn't mean he's automatically going to expect sex from you. And, if he pressures you for sex, you can rest assured that there are guys out there who won't do that, so you can go ahead and dump him.

It's also worth mentioning that people attach a lot of different meanings to sexual behavior. For some people, sex is very much tied up in the idea of love, and being sexual with someone is way of expressing those feelings. Other people pursue sex out of a desire for mutual pleasure, with love not playing as big of a role. Some people see sex as something to engage in casually, and others see it as something to only be done with one person, ideally the person they marry. You mention the fleetingness of high school relationships and it's true that many relationships, both in high school and in later life, don't last very long. Whether we feel comfortable having sex in those likely short-lived relationships has a lot to do with which meanings we attach to sex. It sounds like you're not comfortable with the idea of being sexual in a relationship that might be brief, and that's absolutely okay. Here's the important thing to remember at those meanings we attach to sex: none of them, and none of the choices we make because of them, are better or worse than the others. Those meanings only become an issue if we're choosing them because we feel like we should, rather than because we want to, or if we're judging other people for not choosing the same approach that we did. The choice that's right for one person can be the wrong choice for another. That's why there aren't official rules for when, how, and with whom we choose to have sex.

As a final side-note, it sounds like you and your current partner would benefit from having a conversation about how you each view your relationship and what you each want from it. Some of your worry seems to be coming from the fact that you're not sure where he stands on sex during high school relationships. The most efficient way to reduce that worry? Talk about it! It might feel awkward at first, but having an honest conversation about what you both want and expect from this relationship will help you build a relationship model that works for both of you. Once you have a picture of that model, you'll have a better sense of whether or not your sexual boundaries match up, and you can move forward from there. Just remember: you have a right to your boundaries, sexual and otherwise, and no partner, friend, or social pressure gets to veto those. They're yours to set, and you get to decide when and if they change.

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