What does it mean to be ready?
Ok, so you have seen the film. You have got a partner. You have learnt about the birds and the bees. Everyone’s doing it (or so they say)! So you think you need to start too, right? If you are lucky, your first time is nothing more than disappointing. For too many of us it is a painful, embarrassing fumble with someone we know, leaving us feeling lousy the next day and thinking of how we could have done it differently. That’s not very cool! Before you have sex you need to make sure you’re ready. Being ready is about understanding what sex means and what the consequences can be so that you don’t have problems or regret it afterwards. It’s important that you are ready and can enjoy it but can also take the responsibility for it by using protection to prevent unplanned pregnancy and to avoid sexually transmitted infections. Being ready is also not about reaching a certain age. Once you’ve turned 16 years old, it doesn’t mean you should go out and have sex; you need to do it when you feel ready to and when you have met the right person. Check out the law section on this website to make sure you are not breaking it! Remember, anyone under the age of 16 years old should not be having sex!
So if you think you might be ready what should you do?
- Is anybody’s forcing you or putting loads of pressure on?
- Do you know about contraception and have you both agreed on the right one to use?
- Am I going to regret it?
- Is he/ she worth it – are you having sex just to keep him/her?
Make sure you honestly have good answers for the questions below, as just crossing your fingers and hoping it will be ok is never a good option.
I’m not sure if I am ready yet
Be sure he/ she wants to do it too and if he/ she is not ready respect their choice. Make sure the condoms are packed and guys practice putting one on yourself, girls on a carrot or cucumber beforehand. It beats the first time nerves and means we don’t ever have to rely on anyone else to protect us. If you are having second thoughts at any point, just stop, it doesn’t matter; better to stop now than regret it! Remember, if you have had sex once, it doesn’t mean you have to keep on having it. Many people realise this and drop it for a while. We all think our mates are doing it and we are the odd one out but that is not always true and anyway why be a sheep. You might worry that by saying no, some nasty people might say you’re a prude, a tease or a baby, but really it’s important that you know it is the right thing to do if you’re not ready.
In life we all come up against pressures whether we are 14 years old or 40, but it’s difficult when friends boast about having sex and knock you for being a virgin. Just remember that they could be exaggerating to make themselves look more knowledgeable or even just to fit in.
It might help you to remember that:
- saying no to sex is not bad for anyone’s health
- being in love or fancying someone doesn’t mean that you have to have sex
- choosing not to have sex is not a sign that you’re immature, in fact choosing when is best for you shows how mature you are.
Everyone (girls, boys, lesbian, gay, straight, transgender or bisexual) deserves to make their own decision in their own time. Sex can be great when both people like each other and feel ready. You should check out the law section on this website to make sure you are not breaking it! Remember, anyone under the age of 16 years old should not be having sex!
Age of consent is the age that you’re legally allowed to have sex. So if you’re thinking about having sex, check out the laws and guidelines. Everyone is ready for sex at different ages; the law is there to protect those who are most vulnerable, from exploitation.
What are the rules?
In England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales we all have to be 16 years or older to have homosexual (gay) or heterosexual (straight) sex. – ‘Sex’ means penetrative sex, oral sex or masturbating together. – Having sex should always be your decision and sex is only legal if you have given your permission. You don’t have to have sex unless you want to and you should not be forced into having sex.
What happens if you have sex under-age?
The law sees under-age sex as a criminal offence- called sexual assault. This is because in the eyes of the law you are not able to give informed consent to sex when still a child. The law includes:
- A guy who has sex with a girl under 16 years old is breaking the law, even if she agrees to it.
- If she is under 13 the guy could be sentenced to life imprisonment.
- If she is 13-15 years old, the guy could go to prison for two years.
- A girl age 16 or above who has sex with a guy under 16 years old can be prosecuted for indecent assault.
It is not intended that the law should be used to take legal action on jointly agreed sexual activity between two young people of a similar age unless abuse or exploitation is involved. If someone who is trusted to look after you has a sexual relationship with you, including a teacher, carer and doctor, it would be a criminal offence; it is illegal for them to have sex with under-18 year olds in their care. There is no law against asking questions and finding out about sex- what it all means, am I protected? emotions and relationships etc.
The law states that you cannot give proper consent if:
- you have been drugged
- you are held against your will
- you are sleeping
- you have a disability and cannot say no
- you are being forced into it, or are afraid that if you say ‘no’ the person will be violent towards you
If you are made to have sex in any of the above situations the other person has a committed a serious crime and that is called rape. If you are made to do other sexual acts or you are touched in a sexual way when you didn’t want them to then this is sexual assault. In any of these situations you should tell someone like your parents, a trusted adult or a friend you can trust. Just remember, no matter what your age- you should not have sex until you feel ready!
If you are worried about having sex, you think you have an STI or you think you might be pregnant, there are people who you can talk to in confidence. Remember if you are in danger dial 999; if you have a sexual health problem which needs urgent care then you should to talk to someone as soon as you can. School nurses, GPs, sexual health nurses and teachers are there to help and its probably something they have heard before. Although it can be embarrassing to talk to someone about a personal issue, it’s more important to get it all out in the open and get things sorted.
Can I be sure that I’ll be treated in confidence?
Health professionals are able to keep what you discuss with them confidential (private), even if you’re under 16 years old, so the doctor, nurse or pharmacist won’t tell your parents or anyone else that they’ve seen you. The only time a professional might have to tell someone else is if they think you are at risk of abuse or injury. The risk would need to be serious, and they would usually discuss this with you first and explain why they need to contact another professional or if necessary the police. Don’t be put off talking to someone because of this, just find someone you trust to confide in.
The situation is different for people under 13, because the law says that people of this age can’t consent (say yes) to sexual activity. If you’re under 13, doctors, nurses and health workers might feel it’s in your best interests to involve other people, such as a social worker.
Schools have their own rules around confidentiality so a teacher or other member of staff might not be able to keep what you discuss with them completely private. You can always ask about confidentiality before you say anything if you’re not sure.
What about getting contraception?
A doctor or nurse can give you contraception even if you are under 16 years old, providing they feel confident that you understand the information, decisions and consequences. They will encourage you to consider telling your parents or carers, but they won’t make you. Doctors and nurses can prescribe contraception without parents knowing and don’t need a parents consent if a young person doesn’t want to involve them. These principles also apply to termination of pregnancy (abortion).
When can I see a doctor or other health professional on my own?
If you are under 16 years old you can receive confidential sexual health advice and treatment if it is believed to be in your best interest. Government guidelines request that all healthcare professionals (such as your doctor) clearly advertise their confidentiality policy; you can always ring and ask anonymously what the policy is! But you need to be aware that whatever age you are, if someone thinks you are at risk of being harmed or harming someone else, they legally have to report it. If you are aged 13 to 15 doctors and nurses don’t need to tell a parent, carer or guardian what you have talked about or even that you have made an appointment, but they can only provide contraception and treatment if they believe you understand everything they have said and the consequences of any decisions you make. If they do not think you fully understand, they can legally refuse to offer you some services. If you are under 13 years old you can talk to doctors, nurses or other people if you need advice about relationships or sexual health. But you need to be aware that it is a serious criminal offence for anyone to have sex under the age of 13, so if you tell anyone that you have had sex, they will have a legal duty to report it.
You might feel like everyone around you is having sex. Your friends are always talking about it, it’s on TV, in films and you don’t feel ready just yet. It’s OK to say no. If you’re feeling pressured into having sex, you’re not alone. You might feel like the only person you know who is a virgin. On average in the UK people start having sex at 16 years old, which mean some people do it earlier (which is illegal) and some later than 16. This is true for both guys and girls. All good relationships start with a friendship and are build on trust, so if you find someone you like, this is a good place to start.
What is peer pressure?
Peer pressure means that you feel friends and the people you know are putting pressure on you to do things you don’t want to do (or don’t feel ready to do), such as have sex. There are different types of peer pressure: – obvious peer pressure, such as: “Everyone’s doing it, so should you” – underhand peer pressure, such as: “You’re a virgin, you wouldn’t understand” – controlling peer pressure, such as: “You would do it if you loved me” Talk to someone you can trust if you think peer pressure is getting too much.