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Deciding to have sex

Whenever you decide to have sex, the most important thing is for you to be comfortable with your choice, and to make sure you are doing it for healthy reasons.  

When you are considering having sex with someone – whether you’ve had sex with the person a hundred times, it’s your first time taking part in sexual activity with that person, or it’s your first sexual experience with another person at all – it’s important for you to feel comfortable with whatever decision you reach.  

What we mean by ‘sex’

Often, when people talk about having sex for the first time they mean having penetrative vaginal or anal sex. At Brook, when we talk about sex, we are usually talking about all forms of sexual contact between two or more people: this could include penetrative sex, oral sex, fingering and using sex toys amongst other things.  

Is it normal to feel nervous?

Many people feel a little nervous before they have sex with someone they haven’t had sex with before, and this is natural. However, these nerves should be linked to anticipation and excitement rather than fear or panic. Having sex should always be something that you want to do and you are looking forward to, not something that causes you anxiety or distress. If the idea of having sex with someone is stressful, then it might not be the right thing for you at that moment in time.  

Sex and Consent

The most important thing if you do decide to have sex is consent. It’s important that everyone involved is consenting at all times – no one should ever feel they have to do something they are not comfortable with or don’t want to do. Just because you have consented to one thing doesn’t mean you have consented to something else, and it’s completely OK to say no or stop at any point if you don’t want to continue. 
Read more about sex and consent.

If your partner changes their mind, it’s OK for you to feel disappointed, but if you’re so unhappy that your partner feels they have to have sex in order to cheer you up, this isn’t consensual.  

Healthy reasons to have sex

When you are trying to decide whether to have sex with someone, ask yourself why you want to do it. Here are some examples of reasons why you might want to have sex that we at Brook think are healthy because they are about your pleasure and sexuality.

I fancy this person and want to act on my feelings for them.

This is really fun and a very common reason for wanting to have sex! It is natural to want to act on fantasies about a person when you fancy them, so as long as you are practicing consent, then go forth and have a great time.  

I am excited to have a sexual experience and I trust this person enough to share that with them.

There is no right or wrong way to have sex with someone, as long as it is consensual, and there is no rulebook which says you need to know the person really well or be in a relationship with them. As long as you trust them, having sex with someone who you haven’t known very long, or who is a friend, can be a great way of expressing and enjoying your sexuality.

Just make sure that, no matter how ‘casual’ or ‘serious’ your connection with the person is, you are communicating and setting boundaries, and always prioritising consent.  

I want to feel intimate with my partner.

Sex can be a wonderful way of feeling intimate with someone, as it takes trust and vulnerability and is an exciting way of sharing physical touch with another person. It is also worth remembering that there are other ways of feeling physically intimate with someone, such as 

  • hugging 
  • massage 
  • sharing a bath 
  • eye contact 

All of these, and more, can heighten your sexual experiences with someone, and if you don’t feel like you want to have sex with your partner this doesn’t mean you can’t still be intimate with them.  

I want to explore my body in a sexual way.

Having sex with someone can be a great way of enjoying your body and sexuality, and finding out what makes you feel good.  

If you want to explore your body and sexuality but aren’t sure if you feel comfortable doing this with another person, masturbation can be a really great way of doing this (and is fun to do anyway!) 

Find out more about masturbation here.

What do I want from sex?

Knowing what you want and what you don’t want sexually, and being aware of your feelings can help you make the right choice for yourself. Take some time to think about what’s important to you and what you value. 

Unhealthy reasons for having sex

The person has said they will stop seeing me if I don’t have sex with them.

This is manipulation and is not okay. No one should be pressuring you into having sex with them for any reason.

It is fine for someone to feel that sex is important to a relationship, but this is never an excuse to pressure someone into having sex, and they should value the time they have with you regardless of if you are having sex or not. If someone is pressuring you into having sex with them by saying they will leave you if you don’t, then they might not be a kind or healthy person for you to be in a relationship with.

If this is happening to you then speak to a friend or trusted adult. You can also speak to Childline on 0800 1111 or chat to a counsellor the Childline website.

Read more about abuse.
Read more about consent.

I don’t want to disappoint my partner by not giving them the intimacy they want.

You don’t owe your partner sex, ever. Even if you have had sex with them before, it is fine to decide every single time if you want to or don’t want to have sex with them again.

There are plenty of ways of being intimate with someone, both physically and emotionally, and your partner should value you for who you are, not for your ability to give them a particular type of intimacy. After all, it is only true intimacy if you are both comfortable and enjoying the experience!   

We’ve been dating for a long time and it seems like we should be having sex by now.

There is no right or wrong amount of time to be dating someone before having sex with them; it’s down to what you and the other person want, and what you feel comfortable with. 

Some people want to wait, others want to get right in there. It really depends, but it helps to be very aware of your own feelings and the reasons why you want to sleep with someone. Doing it to impress them or to make sure they stay with you aren’t good reasons, and neither is following an arbitrary script of when things ‘should’ happen in your relationship – every person and therefore every relationship is unique, and you don’t need to do anything at a particular point unless you want to. 

I want people to spend time with me and see my value as a sexual person.

While sex can be a really fun and affirming experience, if you are seeking validation and support through having sex alone, then you might be displacing your need for companionship or feelings of self-worth onto an experience which probably won’t live up to those expectations.

You don’t need another person to confirm your value, and sex is an unhealthy way to seek that validation – you are a person worthy of love and appreciation regardless of your sexuality or ability to have sex. Focus on loving yourself, and ask your friends for support if you are struggling. 

My friends are all having sex and I want to keep up.

You don’t need to do anything just because your peers are doing it. Everyone has different and unique feelings about sex, and feel ready to have sexual experiences at different points – and some people aren’t interested in having sex at all! All of this is totally fine and normal, and the only person you should be trying to ‘keep up with’ is yourself. Your friends should love and respect you no matter how often or little you have sex. 

Just remember that you’re an individual. How boring would it be if everyone said and did the same things? If you resist pressure to do something you don’t want to do, most of the time people will end up respecting you for it. 

All of the above reasons for having sex are about trying to ‘do the right thing’ based on what other people think, rather than prioritising your own enjoyment and safety.

Ultimately, having sex should be a free choice made only by you and only because it’s what you want. 


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