How Do You Know When You're Ready for Sex?

teenage sex

Take our "ready for sex" test below

Sexuality is a natural and normal part of life. And so is sex. Having sex play - from masturbation to flirting, from kissing to petting, from oral sex to intercourse - is a big decision. It involves many feelings and responsibilities.

Almost 3 in 10 young people were disappointed by first-time sex.

Choosing to be in an ongoing sexual relationship is another big decision. There is a lot to consider.

Figuring out when you're ready for sex continues through life. People need to make decisions about sex in their teens, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond - every time a sexual situation develops.

Personal Values and Goals

Sexy images are everywhere. We see sex on television, the Internet, and in books, magazines, and movies. We hear about it in songs. Sex is used in ads to sell products. The messages we get can be confusing and hard to sort out.

Think about your values by answering these questions:

  • What messages have you gotten from your family about sex?
  • What are your religious, spiritual, or moral views about sex?
  • Do you want a committed relationship before you have sex?
  • Will having sex now affect your plans for the future?

If having sex supports your personal values and goals, rather than conflicts with them - you may be ready.

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Emotional Risks of Sex

Having sex can be wonderful - whether or not it includes intercourse. But it can make people feel very vulnerable, and they can get hurt.

Think about how it may make you feel:

  • Will having sex make you feel differently about yourself? If so, how?
  • How might your feelings about your partner change?
  • Will you expect more commitment from your partner? What if you don't get it?
  • What if having sex turns out to be different than you expect?
  • What if having sex ends your relationship?
  • What if having sex changes your relationship to your family and friends?

If you understand and can accept the emotional risks of having sex, you may be ready.

Physical Risks of Sex

Having sex with a partner can be a meaningful way to express yourself. But there are two important physical risks - sexually transmitted infection and unintended pregnancy.

Do you know how to reduce the risks?

  • I know how to reduce the risk of infection with safer sex.
    [ ] Yes - [ ] No
  • I have condoms - and know how to use them.
    [ ] Yes - [ ] No
  • I know how to prevent pregnancy.
    [ ] Yes - [ ] No
  • I have reliable birth control and know how to use it.
    [ ] Yes - [ ] No
  • I know how I would handle an infection or unintended pregnancy.
    [ ] Yes - [ ] No
  • I know how my partner would feel about an unintended pregnancy.
    [ ] Yes - [ ] No
  • I will go for check-ups for sexually transmitted infections when I take risks.
    [ ] Yes - [ ] No
  • I have discussed these issues with my partner.
    [ ] Yes - [ ] No

If you are ready to protect yourself and your partner from physical risks, you may be ready.

Pressure to Have Sex

It may seem as though everyone your age is having sex - especially intercourse. This can make you feel that you should be, too. But the truth is that only about half of high school students have ever had intercourse. Far fewer have it on a regular basis. Many kids who have had sex wish that they had waited.

How do you feel about these reasons for having sex - whether it means intercourse or not?

  • I feel like the only "virgin" in my group of friends.
    [ ] Yes - [ ] No
  • I want to just "get it over with."
    [ ] Yes - [ ] No
  • My partner will break up with me if I don't have sex.
    [ ] Yes - [ ] No
  • Having sex will make me popular.
    [ ] Yes - [ ] No
  • I'll feel more mature if I have sex.
    [ ] Yes - [ ] No
  • I want to get back at my parents.
    [ ] Yes - [ ] No

If you let yourself be persuaded by any of these negative reasons, you may not be ready.

Being Clear

It is important to let your partner know what you want - and what you don't want - before things get sexual. This may not be easy. Maybe it seems like having sex is something that should "just happen."
In fact, you need to be clear about what you want. Your partner can't read your thoughts. Talking with your partner is very important.

Are you ready to do that?

  • I'm embarrassed to talk with my partner about safer sex or birth control.
    [ ] Yes - [ ] No
  • It's easier to talk to my partner when I use alcohol or other drugs.
    [ ] Yes - [ ] No
  • I don't know how to say "no" to my partner.
    [ ] Yes - [ ] No
  • Saying "no" will hurt my partner's feelings.
    [ ] Yes - [ ] No
  • I'm uncomfortable about letting my partner know what kind of sex play I do and do not like.
    [ ] Yes - [ ] No
  • I'd feel awkward telling my partner what I like or what doesn't feel good.
    [ ] Yes - [ ] No

If you're not ready to talk openly with your partner about having sex, you may not be ready to have sex.

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Your Relationship

People who care about and trust each other become intimate - close. But sex is just one part of a whole relationship. It is just one way to be intimate.

How about the other aspects of your relationship?

  • Do you treat each other as equals?
    [ ] Yes - [ ] No
  • Do you trust each other?
    [ ] Yes - [ ] No
  • Are you honest with each other?
    [ ] Yes - [ ] No
  • Do you respect each other's needs and feelings?
    [ ] Yes - [ ] No
  • Do you care about each other's pleasure?
    [ ] Yes - [ ] No
  • Do you share similar interests and values?
    [ ] Yes - [ ] No
  • Do you have fun together?
    [ ] Yes - [ ] No
  • Are you ready to protect each other?
    [ ] Yes - [ ] No
  • Do you both accept responsibility for what you do?
    [ ] Yes - [ ] No
  • Do you both want to have sex at this time?
    [ ] Yes - [ ] No

If these things are true about your relationship, you may be ready to have sex.

We all have sexy feelings. But we don't always have sex when we have them. When to have sex is a personal choice. Often the decisions we make in life aren't perfect. But we usually make better decisions when we think through the possible benefits and the risks.

Sometimes it's helpful to talk things through with someone you trust - a parent, a friend, a professional counselor, or someone else who cares about you and what will be good for you.

A good sex life is one that keeps in balance with everything you're about - your health, education and career goals, relationships with other people, and your feelings about yourself.

next: Virginity: A Very Personal Decision

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, December 8). How Do You Know When You're Ready for Sex?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 21 from

Last Updated: August 19, 2014

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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