Healthy lives for young people

Sex, risks and avoiding regret

Everyone makes mistakes throughout life. But there are some things you probably want to avoid, like pregnancy scares, STIs or sleeping with someone you shouldn’t have slept with.

Here are our top tips to avoiding situations like this…

  • Know what you want and don’t want. It helps to know for yourself what you want and what you don’t want. Make a list of different situations and what you might think and feel if they happened to you
  • What are your risky situations? Most times there are some situations where someone is more likely to do something they then regret. Some examples are drinking or taking drugs, having someone coming on to you or when you don’t have any condoms. It can help to identify for yourself what your risky situations are
  • Making plans. Once you know your risky situations, try thinking through some plans that will help you avoid them. These might be things like, not getting too drunk, not going out with certain people or always carrying condoms. The plans will depend on your own risky situations
  • Write all of this down. Try writing all of this down somewhere safe. Writing things down can help you stick what you want to do. It can help to write statements for yourself like “whenever I go out, I’ll always take a condom with me”.
  • Practise. Practising is key to most things and it can really help to practise the plans you have made. This can either be actually practising on your own or just running through situations in your head, working out what might happen and what you might then say or do.

What some young people have told us:

I think it’s best to wait until I’m in a loving relationship. Waiting to me is well worth it.

Beth, 16

I haven’t regretted anything but I know a few people who have. One friend just lost his virginity to a girl through casual sex. He regrets it because he’d rather be in a relationship. You should do it with someone you know and you’re with, otherwise it can knock your confidence. 

Samuel, 18 

Drinking and drugs can make you regret things. My friend had sex with his mate’s girlfriend when he was completely drunk. He didn’t know what to do. He just felt ashamed of himself. I don’t mind if people drink but they have to drink sensibly.   

Daniel, 18

Are you having sex for the right reasons?

As well as having strategies for avoiding risky situations, it’s also worth thinking about why you have sex.

Some people use sex as a way of getting friends or to stop feeling lonely but this can lead to problems. People can feel used if someone is just seeing them for sex, when what they want is a relationship or friendship. It’s also unlikely to stop a feeling ofloneliness, because loneliness is often more about having friends and company than sex.

If you feel that you’re using sex just to get friends, company or be accepted by people, here are some questions to ask yourself?

What do you get from sex? Have a think about what you’re getting from sex. What does having sex do for you? What do you enjoy about it? What do you regret?

Are there other ways you can get what you want? If you are having sex because you’re lonely or want friends, are there other ways that you can make friends? Can you just spend time with people doing other things?

What does it make you feel like? Have a think about how sex makes you feel. Does it make you feel good about yourself or do you end up feeling a bit low?

There are lots of ways to get friends and to make friends, other than through using sex. There are also lots of places to get help and support if you or someone you know are feeling this way.

Is your sex life giving you a bad name?

People have very different views and opinions about sex and relationships and what is right and wrong behaviour.

It’s also an unfortunate fact that sexual double standards exist between men and women.

Brook’s view is that there’s nothing wrong with having lots of sex or many partners as long as what you are doing is safe, is making you happy and doesn’t hurt anyone.

But it’s good to be aware of some of these double standards, as you may come up against them at some point. By being aware of them, you can make more informed choices about what you want to do and what you don’t want to do.

Here are some of the double standards that young people have told us exist:

  • Sexual appetite. Although things are changing, it still seems more acceptable for men to have more of an interest in sex than women
  • Playing the field. It’s more acceptable for men to have more sexual partners than women
  • Sex on the first date. It’s often thought that a woman sleeping with someone on the first date means they’re not ‘girlfriend material’ and are instead only good for a one night stand
  • Who’s in control. Some people still think that a man’s sexual satisfaction is more important than a woman’s
  • Always up for it. Some people think that men must always be up for sex but it’s OK for women not to be in the mood
  • Safe sex. Some people think that girls carrying condoms means they are easy

Some of these views have been around for a long time and it’s about time they changed. Although, the fact is that some people still think this way so if you do want to have lots of sex or sleep with lots of different people then you may find you get a reputation. 

So here’s our advice to navigating these tricky waters:

Keep things quiet. You don’t need to tell everyone about everything you’re doing in your life, so it might help to keep you sex life quiet by only telling people you can trust
Find people who respect you. If someone is going to sleep with you and then slag you off to their mates afterwards, is this really the sort of person you want to be going with? Try finding people who will respect you for who you are
Think about the effects of what you’re doing. There are some things that will earn someone a reputation straight away, like cheating on someone or sleeping with someone else’s partner. It can help to think about the effects of what you’re doing before you do it
Think about why you’re doing what you’re doing. Are you sleeping with a lot of people because you’re unhappy, or are you happy and comfortable with what you’re doing?
Talk to friends you can trust. Talking to friends can help you think things through


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