I am a virgin. Am I ready for sex?

-- Question for John --

Me any my boyfriend are 16, together for about 5 months now, and we are both virgins. We have talked about having sex, and he told me if I was up to it then ok, but if not than he respects that also. I want to, but I’m also scared of the things that can change if we decide to do this. I know he’s the one I love, and the guy that I want to be my first. How do I know if I’m ready or not?

-- Answer from John --

I don’t know how to know for sure if you are ready or not. That is ultimately your choice and your choice alone. But if you think you are ready, I would assume or hope that you have already gone over and questioned and looked at all the possible consequences (especially those you would not want to have happen), and the practical issues, and the emotional issues, and, certainly, the relationship issues (yes, things will be different and things can change if you decide to do it).

The following is not a complete list of questions. Or perhaps even the best questions for you personally. But these are some questions that I would want to explore.

There are very practical health related questions that you need to have very clear answers for before you are ready. That is pretty much bottom line. Don’t let love and flowers blind you to the more important issues about your personal health and your own future. Issues like Pregnancy. (Do you already know all about the havoc that so-called accidental pregnancy wrecks in young girl’s lives?) Issues like STD’s. HIV. AIDS. Risk behaviors. The “get real” sex-ed stuff that is about your health. Be real clear about those. And about not ending up being a too-young mother raising a child instead of maturing and having motherhood be a conscious choice.

There are many many emotional questions that you need to look at. Are you emotionally ready for a sexual relationship? Are you emotionally stable enough inside yourself to be ready for the increased risk of emotional ups and downs?

What are your relationship expectations? How do you imagine the relationship will change once the physical element is added? What do you truly want right now for your life? What are your highest priorities?

And what if the relationship suddenly and unexpectedly changes in a direction that becomes very emotionally painful for you — are you prepared for that with a good emotional support system in place right now, from other friends and family. What if he left you for a different girl after you got sexual and you, yourself, became much more needy of his love, while he, perhaps being a typical guy, starts yearning for those unknown greener pastures once he plowed your fields? (I’m not saying that would happen, but statistically, it is quite common, as you probably already know. I ask the question to see how aware you are and whether you are being naive or knowledgeable about the possible consequences here. I actually know nothing about him or your relationship future with him or even what you really want or expect in that regard).

Are you internally secure in yourself about getting physically sexual at this time in your life, or are you really more responding to what you think you should be doing, compared to others in your peer group or compared to what magazines and TV and movies say should be going on?

And I guess there are some things you need to look at around how getting sexual is supposed to play out in the context of where and when you would have sex. Will you be at your home? At his? Will it have to be a secret from your families or can you communicate real things with them? How would it affect your family situation if you did (accidentally, in spite of your precautions) get pregnant? Or if you suddenly had wider mood swings because of surprising and difficult emotions that came up (if things don’t go as well as you hope)?

So I hope you can have a conversation with someone who has enough experience in all of the above matters (that’s probably an adult) to help you explore how these various things apply to where you are in your life and knowledge right now. Unfortunately, I know that it can be rather difficult to come by such an adult. And parents are notoriously awkward and ill-at-ease in discussing these kinds of things.

Kids are generally left in the dark, left to make all the mistakes for themselves.

By the way, I would encourage you to be talking with your mom about all this, too. I know it might feel awkward for both of you at first. But from what you said, I feel the two of you can really include this kind of authentic, open and honest communication in your relationship now. It would be a really powerful thing ultimately for both you and her. I have seen some mother-daughter relationships that included such openness and support and it is a very worthwhile thing to go for, even if it is hard to get going at first.