Dr. MJ Bazos MD, Patient Handout
Sex: Take Time to Make the Right Decision
What is sex?
The word sex is used in a lot of ways. It can mean what sex you were born (male or female) or physical appeal (being sexy). It can also mean a wide range of sensual activities, like kissing, touching or "making out."
When people talk about having sex, they usually mean sexual intercourse, which is penetration of the vagina by the penis. You're a virgin if you haven't had sexual intercourse. You're not a virgin if you've had sexual intercourse.
All my friends are having sex...
Don't assume that "everybody's doing it." Your friends might say they're having sex, but they may just be bragging to sound cool or to be popular. They may be stretching the truth, or they may be making stuff up from what they've seen in magazines, on TV or on the 'net.
Don't give in to peer pressure about sex. Nobody can tell you what to do with your body or when to do it. Having sex to fit in won't make you feel cool or grown up. And you can get a reputation for being "fast" or "easy," which may make you feel uncomfortable. Whether you have sex or not is private. You don't have to share that kind of information with friends if you don't want to.
What are the risks of having sex?
Some of the health risks include pregnancy and catching one or more STDs (sexually transmitted diseases like herpes, chlamydia, genital warts, gonorrhea, syphilis and AIDS). Having sex before you develop physically can also hurt. Girls who start having sex before age 18 tend to have more health problems, including a higher risk of cervical cancer.
Sex also has some emotional risks. If you have sex when you're not ready or because someone is pressuring you, you may feel bad about yourself or wonder if your partner really cares about you. You may have to deal with consequences you hadn't thought of, such as pregnancy or an STD.
A downward trend
Recent statistics suggest that more teens may be choosing not to have sex. In 1995, 53% of high school students reported having had sex at least once. In 1999, the number dropped to 50%.
What is abstinence?
Abstinence means choosing not to have sex, and it isn't an outdated idea. It's an important option to think about. A lot of young people like you make the choice to wait. Some people abstain because of religious or spiritual beliefs or because of personal values. Others abstain to avoid pregnancy or STDs, or just because they aren't ready to have sex. If you abstain, that's great. You should feel good about your choice. And if you have a friend or partner who abstains, give him or her your support.
I had sex, but now I wish I hadn't.
Maybe you made a decision you regret, and now you know you weren't ready to have sex. You've learned something about your feelings. Now you can make better choices in the future, which may include deciding not to have sex again until you're older. You might want to talk about your feelings with someone you trust.
How will I know if I'm ready to have sex?
Figuring out when you're ready can be hard. Your body may give you signals that seem to say you're ready. That's natural. But your body isn't the only thing you should listen to. Your beliefs, values and emotions play a bigger role in when you choose to have sex.
One sure sign that you're not ready is if you feel pressured or if you feel really nervous and unsure. Take a step back. Try to figure out what you really want. Talk to someone you can trust, like your parents, a counselor, a teacher, a minister or your family doctor.
"You'd do it if you loved me."
Don't let anyone use this line to push you into having sex. Even if you really like the person, don't fall for it. Having sex to keep a partner usually doesn't work. Even if it does, you might not feel good about your decision. If someone wants to break up with you because you won't have sex, then that person wasn't worth your time in the first place.
Don't use this line on someone else, or you risk losing the person and feeling bad about yourself. Respect your partner's feelings and beliefs.
What if I decide to have sex?
If you're going to have sex, or if you're already having sex, you should be as safe as possible. (Remember, though, the "safest" sex is no sex.) To protect yourself and your partner, use a lubricated latex condom and a spermicide with nonoxynol-9. (Read the label to make sure the spermicide has nonoxynol-9 in it). Even though it's not 100% safe, this method of protection will help lower your risk of catching an STD or getting pregnant. But condoms and spermicide won't work if you don't use them correctly every time. Read the packages to figure out how to use them, or go to your family doctor or a health clinic so someone can help you figure it out.