How to Know When You’re Ready to Become Sexually Active

Two women wearing graduation gowns and mortar boards smiling at each other.

How to Know When You’re Ready to Become Sexually Active

by Anna Labarca

Main takeaways:

  • Take some time to figure out why you are feeling like you want to have sex.
  • You can always say “no” to sex, even if you’ve previously said “yes.”
  • Find a birth control method that meets your needs.

Sex is everywhere. Pop stars sing about it, magazines write about it, movies sell it. But where does that leave young people? We know what it is, we may have learned a thing or two in school, but how do we know when we’re ready to take the next step with someone? The truth is, it’s different for everybody. Here are three things to keep in mind when you’re deciding if you’re ready to have sex:

Reflect on it

Take some time away from social media or friends and think about how you feel about sex and sexual activity. Don’t let anyone else influence your decisions. Questions you could consider: Do you want to have sex? Why do you want to have sex? Is it because it’s something you want to do or are you feeling pressured by someone? Do you want to be in a relationship with the person you’re having sex with? Or keep it casual? Even a basic pro and con list can help you process everything you’re pondering.

If you have a partner, let them know how you’re feeling and be honest. Your partner should support you and be able to voice their own thoughts and feelings in a respectful manner as well.

Don’t Stress

If you decide to take things further, don’t be nervous. Nerves are normal but remember that you’re in control of the situation and if you want to stop at any moment, you have the right to do so, no matter how “far” you’ve already gone. 

Get on Birth Control (If you’re not already)

Before you start becoming sexual with a partner, talk to your health care provider or a trusted adult about getting on birth control. Don’t let embarrassment stop you—protecting yourself is way too important. You could also talk to your provider alone and ask about the information they are required to disclose to your legal guardians. If you want to do a little research on your own, here’s a birth control method explorer here.

Everyone’s journey with sex is unique and perfectly valid. At the end of the day, what you do with your body is up to YOU. Have open conversations with your partner(s) and stay true to yourself. The power is in YOUR hands.

Anna Labarca attended Walt Whitman High School in Maryland, where she wrote for the student newspaper, The Black and White. She plans to study journalism in college and is interning at Power to Decide to learn more about the role communications has in campaigns.