Ten Things to Do Before You Have Sex


As a sexuality educator, I spend most of my time helping parents understand how to talk with their children and teenagers about sex, sexuality, gender, and all of the myriad issues that go along with those things. One question that parents often ask me is how to make sure their teenagers are ready to have sex. Putting aside issues of whether parents should have substantial input and control over their teenager’s sexual activities, I found that parents were relying on goals that were far too vague. Parents want to make sure that their teenagers are mature enough, have good communication with their partners, understand the health and reproductive consequences, etc.

One parent lamented that she and her daughter had (what the mother thought were) great conversations about the need for all of these things, but that her daughter went ahead and had sex even though she never had good communication with her partner and ended up having unprotected sex. Was her daughter not listening to her? Pretending to go along and then choosing a different route? While those are possibilities, the more likely problem is that the daughter was not sure how to measure and assess her relationship to make sure that she had reached the goals she enthusiastically agreed with her mother were important.

And so, my list of ten concrete things that teenagers need to do before they have sex  was born. Just to be clear, these are things to do before you have oral sex, sexual intercourse, or anything else that could get you pregnant or an STD.

1. Have an orgasm.
Yes, before you start having sex, you should give yourself an orgasm. It’s important to know what feels good to you before you can show another person what feels good to  you.

2. Know the other person’s sexual history.
And I don’t mean just vaginal intercourse for this one!

3. Know the other person’s STD status, as well as your own.
The only way to know this for sure is to be tested! And if you’re both virgins, well, you’re not going to be for long. You might as well get that scary first STD testing out of the way so you’ll know what to expect next time around.

4. Talk about exactly what STD protection and birth control you will be using.
These two issues go hand-in-hand (for heterosexual couples), and it is the domain of  both parties to be intimately involved.

5. If you are part of a heterosexual couple, talk about what happens if the woman gets pregnant.
Here are a few options to talk about, in alphabetical order: abortion, adoption, raising the kid alone, raising the kid together. With the understanding that reality is different than the theoretical, make sure you’re both on the same theoretical page.

6. Have your best friend’s blessing.
We can rarely see someone we’re in love with clearly. It is often our best friends who can see our lovers and our potential lovers for who they really are. Listen to what your best friend has to say, and take it to heart. If it’s not what you wanted to hear, give it some time. Wait a month. A good relationship will be able to withstand another month before having sex. Then ask a different friend, and see what they have to say.

7. Meet your partner’s parents.
At the very least, make sure you know why you haven’t met your them. The best sex comes out of knowing someone well, and knowing someone’s family is an important part of knowing them. (Even if they’re really, really different from their family.)

8. Be comfortable being naked in front of each other.
You don’t actually have to strip down in broad daylight to make sure you’ve reached this  milestone, but it sure helps!

9. Have condoms on hand.
Make sure they fit right, that they’re within the expiration date, and that they haven’t been exposed to extreme conditions (like the inside of a really hot car). Condoms should be part of any respectful sexual relationship. There need be no assumption of hook ups outside of the relationship, just an assumption of good sexual habits being made and
kept.

10. Make sure that your partner has done all of these things too.
Part of a happy, healthy sexual encounter is taking care of everyone’s emotional needs and physical health. Both people need to pay attention to themselves and to their partner. That way each person has two people looking out for them. It’s just the best way to do things.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

To schedule an interview with contact director of communications Rachel Perrone at rachel@rhrealitycheck.org.

  • invalid-0

    Best advise ever. Bravo. This article shows how vitally important information is toward establishing healthy sexual habits, and expectations.
    Good health care, while understanding that ‘no body is perfect” helps. I especially respect the advise to “have an orgasm”. So many young women go into their sexuality, emotionally unsure, and physically ignorant of their own sexual needs.
    I will have my 14 year old daughter read this article. Thank you.

  • http://www.frank-romeike.de invalid-0

    I’m not sure if young people who plan to have sex will go out with this list of good hints.

    I’d prefer to have just three rules:
    1. Know your own body / own sexuality!
    2. Don’t do it if you don’t feel good with it!
    3. Have condoms and USE them!

  • invalid-0

    I didn’t really read the intro, I’m assuming this is for teenagers who haven’t experienced sex yet. If you intend any of this advice to apply to me, a 38 year old man, then it is comical. Do you really think I’m going to “meet the parents” of the next woman I sleep with? Do you think I need to “check with my best friend?” before I have sex?
    I guess this is all good advice for a 15 year old. As an adult it’s comical though

  • invalid-0

    Oh my god, have you had sex before? it could not have been pleasurable. Everybody knows that if you have sex with a virgin it will cure any std. Jump into reality lady.

  • http://www.theinnbetween.net invalid-0

    This is one of the best pre-sex advice columns I’ve seen in a long time. And it is my opinion that this should go for everyone, not just 15-year-old virgins.

    If the older gentleman above would stop scoffing at the idea of checking with friends before having sex long enough to see the rising diagnoses of older people with STDs, perhaps he won’t become another statistic, or at the very least, one of those guys who loses all his friends because they don’t like his new girlfriend and then laugh and say “we told you so” when she runs off with his new big screen TV.

    There is a form online that will give people a simple method for what kinds of data they should be collecting and what kinds of tests they should be asking for. You can find it at http://www.theinnbetween.net/sexual_health_and_history.pdf

    I’m copying and linking back to this article in My Live Journal and my OK Cupid profile. I think the online dating services and social networking sites really need to see more of this kind of advice!

  • http://www.theinnbetween.net invalid-0

    Unfortunately, condoms don’t protect against all STDs and they sometimes fail. Having condoms is only the beginning. Having a discussion about what to do if the condoms fail is the next step and, as far as I’m concerned, is not complete until that step is taken.

    Talks about STDs and what-to-do-if are just as important as condoms, if not more. Relying upon condom use without conversation is only half the solution … and only half as effective.

  • harry834

    "one of those guys who loses all his friends because they don’t like his
    new girlfriend and then laugh and say "we told you so" when she runs
    off with his new big screen TV "

    Should I assume its a joke, or is that a probable concern? I didn’t really ask any friends before I started having sex with my girlfriend. She hasn’t stolen from me.

  • harry834

    like a guide than a rule. I do understand that others can often (but not always) see your partner in more objective terms than you. It also depends on asking the right friend (some have crappy judgment, even if thir otherwise smart). And how certain can they truly say "we told you so"? It’s one thing to speculate, its another to assume you "knew it all along".

  • http://www.karenrayne.com invalid-0

    While I generally think that jumping into sexual activity without going through these steps isn’t a great idea regardless of your age, the explicit nature of this list is designed for teenagers.

    The reason I wrote this list is because most pre-sex advice lists for teenagers offer vague advice (“Have good communication with your partner.”) that can be hard for teenagers to gauge objectively. Frank, that is why the list is a little bit longer than yours, so that it can be more explicit.

    And while life is more likely to get in the way and stop adults from introducing their girlfriends and boyfriends to their parents, why not get input from your friends before you have sex? What’s the potential drawback?

    And yes, all of this is of course guidelines rather than iron-clad rules. There are always situations that, for example, make the parent rule difficult – what if a teenager lives at boarding school and only sees their parents once a year? But rather than nit-picking, take a boarder view. Most of these are not unreasonable regardless of your age or personal situation.

    And thanks for the positive comments! I’m glad you like it.

  • invalid-0

    It takes all of 5 minutes to read the beginning, maybe try doing that before posting comments in the future.

  • invalid-0

    As a former teenage girl (very former these days) I can tell you your list is not in depth enough. First, your partner, if you are really into them, can convince you that anything THEY want is what YOU want, so knowing your self is hard to do when your lines are blurred like that. Also, you don’t know what will feel good or not until you are there and the heat of the moment persuasion by that “special someone” may put you in situations you actually wouldn’t have been in had you planned ahead and used your brain. The list written in this article gets you to think first so you know what you want before you get into the situation and gets you talking with your partner. If you are able to talk with your partner, you are probably ready to take the next steps. If they are relying on the heat of the moment to score, then that’s a great indicator that this is not someone to take that step with.

  • invalid-0

    Is this a joke? I can’t even tell if you are trying to be funny or if you’re serious. I can only hope and pray that you are in fact trying to be sarcastic. Otherwise, at the very least I hope you are not having sex. Read a book, take a science class, go back to sex ed class in high school even! You must have slept through it the first time!

  • invalid-0

    you’re all going to burn in hell if you have sex out of wedlock

  • invalid-0

    Hey God s’up? Give JC my regards, will ya? And explain to the “virgin” how sex out of wedlock is so wrong, k? It appears as if she needs a good talkin’ to!

  • heather-corinna

    That threat is perhaps more potent during the warmer months than during this particular time of year.

  • invalid-0

    to be honest, i really should have taken that advice with my ex-boyfriend. i lost a lot of friends in the 4 years i dated him, and a lot of self respect. if i had only listened to my best friends when i first met him, i would have saved myself quite a lot of heartache and trouble.

  • invalid-0

    …Well, it hasen’t happened yet.

  • http://www.condomman.com invalid-0

    I definitely agree with the 10 rules that are written in this article, and I think that most of it comes down to common sense. Basically you are saying know yourself, know your partner, and know about sex (safe sex especially)

    What I am most confused by in this article is the rash of immature and derogatory comments written by anonymous posters. Why do some people feel immediately threatened by a woman trying to educate and prepare others for safe sex? Knee-jerk chauvanism I would assume.

  • invalid-0

    yes this is a very good article, and im a teenage boy reading this, it seems like sound advice im going to follow if i dont want to get my girfriend pregnat thanks alot!!!!!

  • therealistmom

    Where exactly in that bible thingy of yours does it say that? ‘Cause all I have been able to find is that if you have a religious based wedding you can have sex only with your spouse. Oh, and some misogynistic crap about girls needing to be virgins in the Old Testament, but your son came along and said that he was overturning those laws right? Just sayin’.

  • invalid-0

    Hello, my name is Prince Murray, I just want to gives you feel compliments about Teenage sex. Many Teenage in the United States get pregnant for having unnecessary sex. I think, having sex is a good thing. but realistically, you need to be careful with the person you I having sex with. as a teenage, before you have sex with any one, you need to make clarification I simply means, you need to check with your Doctor if both of you guys are virgin. than it is going to be possible for both of you to have sex with each other, if the girl know that she is a virgin, than she need to used 2 condoms when ever they are having sex with each other. if the girl does not want to get pregnant by the guy, than the two Condoms going to keep the sperm in. but some teenage try to used one condom but using one condom can not save the feel male from not getting pregnant. ok, let me
    tell you why? when ever both of than are having sex with each other, the weight from the guy can mass up the condom. and some times the condom try to split, and all the sperm
    from the guy try to get into the girl vagina. so teenage need to be careful when ever they O having sex with their friend. from prince Murray.

  • invalid-0

    be a sex myth believer. when you have sex you need to use ONE condom. and that is because two condoms together causes friction which means they are more likely to break or rip than one condom is. & to everyone else.dont joke about this page someone looking for information might get confused with sarcastic comments.

  • http://www.sinetif.com invalid-0

    This is great. thanks for information..

  • invalid-0

    THE BEST SEX
    by Anne Morse
    I usually start my day with a cup of hot cocoa and The Washington Post. Last month while reading Carolyn Hax’s weekly advice
    column, “For the Under-30 Crowd,” I was stunned by her advice to a college student. He was disturbed because his fiancée had slept
    with several men before meeting the man of her dreams.
    “Before we were together,” the man wrote, “my fiancee had sex with three other guys … I have a really hard time dealing with this
    past. I know it’s something I need to work through, and I talk to her about it … [but] most of all I just want to forget.”
    “In case you’re wondering, we’re sophomores in college, recently engaged, tying the knot after graduation. I have no previous sexual
    experience, not even so much as a kiss. I was saving myself for the one I wanted to marry (although I did have sex with my fiancée
    before we were engaged).”
    He signed the letter “Wanting to Forget.”
    Well, “Wanting to Forget” isn’t likely to forget Carolyn Hax’s tart reply:
    Since “wanting to forget” is just another way of saying “not wanting to deal with it,” which is just another way of saying
    “seriously screwed-up marriage,” you need to think about this more, not less. But not the sex, the engagement —
    specifically your mind-bending rush to secure it. What exactly are you afraid of? Dating? Disease? Virginia Woolf?
    … But you didn’t question your engagement, you asked for professional help. So I got you some free. Melissa Berler, a
    licensed clinical social worker based in Chicago, suggests you “reframe” your fiancée’s hay-rolling as an advantage for
    you. “She chose you … despite her past sexual, emotional and intellectual experiences. Her choice is a compliment,
    and actually it is a more informed choice than yours.”
    Saving yourself for marriage is often just a cover, “hiding fears of one’s sexual capabilities as well of emotional and
    sexual intimacy.”
    Just how bad IS Hax’s advice? Let me count the ways.
    First, she tells “Wanting to Forget” to “reframe” his fiancée’s “hay-rolling” as an advantage, because in choosing him, she’s made a
    “more informed choice.” But if you take this line of reasoning to its logical conclusion, it follows that the more people you roll in the hay
    with, the better informed you are. Does Hax have any limits in mind? Five partners? Ten? Would fifty be enough? But how many of us
    really want our future spouses THAT well informed?
    Second, if people take Hax’s advice, they may become better informed about things they never anticipated — such as venereal
    disease. Every year, three million young people are infected with one of 60-odd sexually transmittable diseases (STDs), according to
    the Western Journal of Nursing Research: “Because of the high incidence of STDs among adolescents, they are more likely to have
    sexual partners with an STD than are adults, even if the adolescent has had only one partner.” Left untreated, these diseases can
    lead to severe health problems, including infertility.
    There’s more grim news for women: Females who have slept with three or more people over a lifetime are 15 times more likely to get
    cervical cancer.
    That’s a pretty steep price to pay for being “well-informed.”
    Third, Hax claims that “saving yourself for marriage is often just a cover” for people who are really afraid of intimacy, both sexual and
    emotional.
    Far from being afraid of intimacy, most unmarried Christians I know would LOVE to engage in sex — but they know it’s wrong. Only
    those who have not scratched every sexual itch know how difficult it is to remain pure in an impure culture.
    If people really want to make well-informed choices about sex and marriage, they ought to listen to the real experts: People like Mike
    McManus, a Christian newspaper columnist and author of Marriage Savers: Helping Your Friends and Family Avoid Divorce .
    McManus, with his wife Harriet, has counseled hundreds of engaged couples. A few of the facts he’s collected about sex and
    marriage:

  • invalid-0

    Couples who engage in sex before marriage are far more likely to divorce. According to a study by the National Survey of
    Family Growth, women who have the kind of sexual experience Hax advocates — the premarital kind — increase their
    odds of divorce by about 60 percent. It is, McManus notes, “secular evidence for St. Paul’s injunction, “flee fornication.”

    • invalid-0

      Maybe because they’re more likely to be more “hardcore” Christian and think divorce is a sin, or would be alienated by their families if they wanted to divorce.

  • invalid-0

    Couples who engage in sex before marriage are far more likely to divorce. According to a study by the National Survey of
    Family Growth, women who have the kind of sexual experience Hax advocates — the premarital kind — increase their
    odds of divorce by about 60 percent. It is, McManus notes, “secular evidence for St. Paul’s injunction, “flee fornication.”

  • invalid-0

    Couples who engage in sex before marriage are far more likely to divorce. According to a study by the National Survey of
    Family Growth, women who have the kind of sexual experience Hax advocates — the premarital kind — increase their
    odds of divorce by about 60 percent. It is, McManus notes, “secular evidence for St. Paul’s injunction, “flee fornication.”

  • invalid-0

    sorry but cannot post the additional info, keeps repeating as noted above.

    here is the article. Having been engaged in premarital sex and the disasters I encountered, this artilce is truth for open hearts:

    http://www.boundless.org/2005/articles/a0000055.cfm

  • invalid-0

    It is a real shame to advice young people to commit this bad evil, to have sex outside marriage. Shame shame.

  • http://kuyakevin.blogspot.com invalid-0

    Get married.

  • invalid-0

    I agree that you must have common sense before you have sex, including being sober when it comes time to come.

  • invalid-0

    “6. Have your best friend’s blessing.
    We can rarely see someone we’re in love with clearly. It is often our best friends who can see our lovers and our potential lovers for who they really are. Listen to what your best friend has to say, and take it to heart. If it’s not what you wanted to hear, give it some time. Wait a month. A good relationship will be able to withstand another month before having sex. Then ask a different friend, and see what they have to say.”

    Not a bad suggestion but remember, teens are often jealous of each other and will give out bogus advice so i would be wary of number 6.

  • invalid-0

    *is a teenager*
    i liked this, but things are diff for us teens. we just want to do it for either no reason, or we’re just crazy bout eachother:) and sometimes, your not in a relationship. and we dont really want to talk to our rents, cuz i know mine for a fact wont understand.
    All Love, ::KarleyNicole::

  • invalid-0

    I wish something like this had been available to me in Highschool. Our school taught abstinence only education and when I got engaged I became subservient to my fiance’s wishes. Never knowing the options out there made it difficult for me and put me in a situation of pregnancy before I was ready for it. Thankfully everything worked out but I wish we had been presented knowledgeable information on preventing pregnancy before we were ready.

  • Pingback: Ten Things To Do Before You Have Sex – RH Reality Check | How to GetGirls.com