Adults can have sex whenever they both decide that they want to have sex, if everyone involved is capable of consenting, and if doing so would be legal.
Providing those two conditions are met, feel free to make your own choices about physical intimacy. But not so fast — at least not at first. The best decision is an educated decision, so there are some things you should know first about yourself and your partner, covering your attitudes, values, beliefs, and approaches to any consequences.
The decision to have sex may seem a little more complicated if it would be your first time with a particular partner — or first time overall. Give the following considerations some thought before taking a relationship to the next level of intimacy or adding sex where there may be no relationship at all.
Sex can even be an impulse decision if you’ve already gone through the process.
What is important to you?
Do you feel that you need to have a emotional connection with a partner before starting any physical intimacy? The first thing to think about is what you value in a relationship and what kind of beliefs you have. Your beliefs may be influenced by your parents, the community you grew up in, or input from other people around you. Everyone’s situation is somewhat different.
The first step is communicating your beliefs and your values surrounding relationships to your partner. You do not have to have the same opinions, but it helps to understand where the other is coming from. This goes a long way towards avoiding any emotional surprises later on.
You might even find that you think you feel one thing, but you find that later on, you change your mind, or you feel that your initial feelings were wrong. It’s good to recognize that as a possibility, regardless of how you feel today.
What type of relationship, if any, is important to you before you have sex? Do you want to act on purely physical arousal? Would you prefer to have an emotional connection before Netflix and chill? Or do you consider yourself a sapiosexual — a word I just recently learned — turned on by intelligence? There’s no right answer; it all comes down to what you like.
And if you don’t know what you like yet, you should feel free to experiment, make mistakes, and figure it out. On that note…
Do you feel pressured?
You shouldn’t let anyone pressure you. The decision to have sex is one you need to have the freedom to come to on your own first, then as a couple. Don’t allow your partner to manipulate you, make you feel guilty, or convince you to do something you’re not ready for. Communicate honestly about your desires, and expect the same from your partner. Trust goes a long way to making sure the sex you do have is enjoyable and fulfilling — and potentially amazing!
Pressure can come from outside the couple, too. Your friends may not be pressuring you outright or on purpose, but you might feel pressure just being within a group of friends who have a different approach to sex than you do. Try to separate your image of yourself from the idea of what you think people expect from you.
You could be pressured into not having sex, too. Keep in mind that as an adult, you have the freedom to say yes. It can be difficult to remember this if you have been receiving opposite messages consistently and repeatedly from people you trust since adolescence. Physical intimacy is not bad, evil, or inappropriate. It can be risky, but it shouldn’t be shameful.
A question I hear often is regarding the number of dates with the same person after which sex is expected. Sex should never be expected. You should wait until you feel you’re ready to be intimate with that particular partner. The number of dates is irrelevant.
How would you handle the consequences?
Starting or continuing a physically intimate relationship can have unintended consequences, so it’s best to think about what you would do personally in the event of each consequence, and then talk about what you would do as a couple.
If the relationship involves a man and a woman, pregnancy is a potential outcome. Have you given any thought to what you would do or how you would feel if you or your partner becomes pregnant as a result of your intimacy? Have you discussed this? And if not, are you taking enough precautions to try to prevent the situation? And then what happens if the preventative measures fail?
How familiar are you with your partner’s sexual history? And beyond history, what about the present? Are you both sleeping with other people as well? Basic information about other sexual partners is helpful to prevent the spread of STIs. Combine this knowledge with safe, protected sex, and you are setting yourself up for healthy sex. Condoms will help protect both against pregnancy and STIs, while birth control via pill, patch, implant, or some other means will only help avoid pregnancy. But there are no guarantees.
And while it may not be as important as these considerations, you might need to think about the well-being of others beyond your potential sex partner. Are either of you in emotional or physical relationships with others? How will your actions affect your other relationships?
Sometimes, the consequences might be nothing more than feeling awkward when seeing your partner under normal circumstances. Sometimes, even people who think they can handle being friends with benefits find that they’re uncomfortable around the other person or even develop a stronger emotional connection when they weren’t planning to. These consequences can be frustrating or they can be great — depending on whether everyone involved continues to share the same attitude and feelings towards the relationship.
The role of sex in a relationship.
Sex can strengthen a good relationship or add excitement outside of a relationship. It doesn’t solve all the problems throughout the world, and in fact, it can also harm others if it’s included in an abusive relationship. Avoid using sex as a bargaining chip or to control your partner’s behavior. But there are no rules other than what the law calls for, including the ability to consent.
Sex is meant to be fun! It’s all about pleasure and enjoying each other. If it doesn’t feel good, change something, don’t be nervous, avoid the pressure, and keep trying.