The Sex Goddess Blues: Are You Ready For Partnered Sex?

Preparedness: Are you ready for partnered sex?

I'm just going to lay it down for you: sex will not be great unless you're mentally and emotionally prepared. But "prepared" means something different for everyone. For one person, it might mean a solid, committed relationship. For another, it might mean having overcome some body image problems. And for yet another, you might just genuinely feel ready right out of the gate. We all require different things in order to be truly prepared to have sex for the first time. Some of us might require a lot, and some might require almost nothing. Sex might have a lot of emotional or moral meaning for one person, but for another, it might have no such weight behind it at all.

While it is absolutely possible to have partnered sex too early, the definition of "early" is completely subjective and defined only by your individual needs. One person might be fully ready for partnered sex at sixteen while another isn't there till thirty.

Many young women face societal pressure to hurry up and "lose their virginity," especially once high school draws to a close, or if they enter into a "good" relationship with the "right guy." Simultaneously, however, there is pressure to hold onto that "purity" or "virginity" until later -- like, at least until you fall in love, maybe until you're with the person you'll end up marrying, and maybe even until you're actually married.

It can feel like there's a tiny blip of an age range where you're neither "too old" nor "too young" to experience partnered sex for the first time. If you're older or younger than the expected age, you may feel the impact of all kinds of arbitrary societal labels. Because of these labels, we may feel pressure to change our behavior to align with what our culture declares appropriate for our station in life. Some of us may end up rushing into experiences we're not yet ready for, while others may deny themselves something they truly want and feel prepared for.

So, step back and ask yourself: Am I prepared to have partnered sex? How do I even define what sex is for myself? Have I thought this through and asked myself about what I actually want and need, not merely what society/my peers/my partner expect(s) of me? Partnered sex doesn't necessarily have to be a big deal for you personally. You're not dysfunctional if you're just not that stressed out or worried about having sex. Such an attitude is just as normal as being intimidated by it. No matter where you fall on the preparedness spectrum, however, it's crucial to know yourself and your needs.

Consider the types of sex you might want to have, and set some boundaries. I mean this partially in terms of physical acts (e.g. manual sex, oral sex, vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse, et cetera) but I'm also referring to the context of the sex you're having. Will you only feel comfortable with a trusted partner who loves and cares for you, or are you cool with casual hookups? Could you potentially be happy with either? How long do you feel you need to know someone before having sex with them? There are no right answers to these questions -- the only correct answers depend on you and your individual needs as you know and understand them so far. For some more in-depth questions and thoughts on sex-readiness and boundaries, you can check out this and this. Also, here is an article about protecting your heart and best interests when it comes to sex.

Additionally, sex is obviously not risk-free. There are methods available to prevent unwanted ramifications from sexual activity, but you have to actually know how to implement them. Do you know how to go about getting tested for STIs? Do you have access to birth control, if applicable? Do you have access to condoms? Pregnancy tests? Lube? Dental dams? If you have all the stuff you'll need to practice safer sex, it will ease your mind considerably. If you don't have access to these items or if you're reluctant/unwilling to use them, I would question whether it's a good idea for you to be having sex right now.

If you're not pretty mentally, emotionally, and physically prepared for partnered sex, and you aren't holding your own lines, you probably won't feel great about it. Confident will likely be the last way you feel. Try thinking about it like going on a long hiking trip with only a few items that you'll need, or maybe even just the clothes on your back. How are you supposed to have a good time hiking without means to make a fire, or without anywhere to sleep? Or what if you don't even have water to drink? What if you know you can't walk more than ten miles in a day without hurting yourself or getting really annoyed, but you don't set that as a limit? It's not bound to be a very good experience; you're going to feel lost, confused, frustrated, and maybe even afraid. You will feel much better if you've got the basic materials you need.

When it comes to feeling good about your sexual self, the first step is actually feeling ready for the sex you're having, and not doing anything you don't feel excited about and ready for. I can't spell out what this means for you since everyone is different; only you have the answers in that department. You've got to look within yourself for these answers: not to your partner, friends, family, or any kind of media outlet. You can try writing out a checklist for yourself (maybe with some help from the two links above) that addresses what you're comfortable with, or steps you might want to take to feel ready for sex. 

This is a section of a larger piece, The Sex Goddess Blues: Building Sexual Confidence, Busting Perfectionism. To read the whole piece or another section, click here! Illustrations: copyright 2014, Isabella Rotman.