What's the right age to start having sex? When to start having intercourse (or any other type of sex) is a very difficult and serious decision to make. Some people believe you must wait until you're married before having sex. Other people may not have a problem with premarital sex. You're the only one who can decide for yourself — although there are important factors to consider in that decision.

Many adults will tell teenagers to be abstinent — to wait until they are married before having sex. At the same time, sex before marriage is commonplace in today's world. Consequently, far too many young women are becoming single mothers, a difficult and expensive life for both mother and child.

Making the decision to have sex

The most important thing about deciding to have sex or not is not to rush into anything. Think about your decision carefully and weigh the pros and cons. Your relationship with this potential partner will have a lot to do with your decision.

The relationship aspects of being a couple are just as confusing and messy as the sexual ones. It's easy to say that you're boyfriend and girlfriend, but exactly what that means during your teens is very subjective. Some young people want so badly to have a boyfriend or girlfriend that they'll link up with someone they don't even like.

Remember these straightforward guidelines when making your decision:

  • Never, never have sex because somebody pressures you into it. If you're with somebody who says that he or she will stop seeing you unless you have sex, then you know what the right decision is: First, stop seeing that person, and certainly never have sex with him or her. That person isn't interested in you, but in sex.

  • If the person you're with says that he or she is "dying" with the need to have sex, remember: No one has ever died from not having sex, but you could die if you have sex with a person who gives you AIDS or cervical cancer (which is associated with human papillomavirus, or HPV).

  • Remember, you will never forget the first time you have sexual intercourse. So be as certain as you can be that, when you "do it" for the first time, the occasion is one that you'll treasure for the rest of your life — not one that you'll regret forever more.

If you have followed your best judgment in making your decision, no one can say whether your decision, whatever it is, was absolutely right or wrong. Only time and your own life's experience will tell.

Is this person worth it?

Perhaps you have already had sex for the first time, but you're trying to decide about a new potential partner. How do you decide whether someone is worthy? Here are some possible questions you may ask yourself. There are no right or wrong answers here, but if the overall tone of your answers skews toward the negative, then consider getting to know the person better before engaging in sexual intercourse.

  • What parts of me does this person activate? My head? My heart? My loins? Two out of three? One out of three?

  • Will I want to keep the lights off, so this person doesn't see the parts of me I don't like, or on, so I can see all of this other person?

  • I could use a shower. Will this person care? After getting undressed, will I care?

  • Where do I see us as a couple one month from now? Six months from now? Ten years from now?

  • If something goes wrong and neither one of us has an orgasm, will I ever want to see this person again?

  • What will I think about myself in the morning?

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