Get Real! Am I Ready for Sex, Or Is It Just My Hormones Talking?

Anonymous girl asks:

have just become a teen and sometimes I feel like having sex but I
don’t want to because I’m not ready. I just started my menstrual cycle.
I think it’s just my hormones but I am not sure. I also think it’s
wrong to do it unless you love someone a lot or your married. Most
people today in our modernized world don’t have the same philosophy. Am
I weird? I am really religious so if I do it, it’s gonna be on my
conscience. Also since protection is not always 100% I might get and
STD or pregnant. I need some advice. I don’t think I can handle a sex
life right now.

Heather replies:

You just answered your own question. You don’t need me at all! :)

If you don’t think you can handle a sex life right now, and you
don’t feel like sex outside of a certain context — which you are not
currently in or don’t have the opportunity to be in — fits with what
you believe or is going to be right for you, those are both very sound
reasons to hold off. If you know you can’t deal with a potential risk
of pregnancy or STIs, and you’re right, while many methods of birth
control and safer sex are very effective, none of them are 100%, that’s
a smart reason to hold off or choose only the kinds of sex with risks
you can deal with and manage. Since it sounds like you’re pretty young,
it also can be really tough for younger teens to even access things
like reliable contraception and sexual healthcare, partnered sex may
not even be something you can legally give consent to yet, and younger
teens do often have larger challenges and risks with sex than those
even just a couple years older. You also express that partnered sex
would create a religious conflict for you. Even just one of those
reasons is enough to know sex with someone doesn’t sound like the right
thing for you right now, and they are all totally valid.

Not everyone shares the same values, ethics or ideals when it comes
to sex and love and relationships: we all differ very widely. There are
many people who feel the way you do, plenty of people who feel
differently, and there are people who have felt more than one way at
one time as they went through their lives growing and changing and
experiencing different things and different relationships. But those
differences are just fine. You’re not deciding what’s right for someone
else, after all, you’re deciding what you think, feel or know is best
for you. Even if you WERE really unusual and no one else on earth felt
the way you do (which is not the case at all), it still would be a
pretty good idea to stand with your own feelings.

These variances in everyone’s ideals and beliefs are also so vast
and diverse that we can’t really divide people into two simple camps,
and there’s really no need to since all we need to know in making our
own choices is what we strongly feel is best for us in the short and

The best any of us can do is to try and be very self-aware in terms
of our feelings as well as our needs, limitations, life goals and
relationships, at any given time and with some feeling of what also may
be true for us in the long-term and make our sexual choices based on
those things as well as sound information. You sound like you already
are very self-aware of these things and have a pretty good idea about
what’s best for you.

Too, I don’t hear you saying anything about who you might want to have sex with,
and that’s a part of partnered sex that usually tends to be of some
importance, if not great importance. If you are thinking about this
with a specific partner, that’s someone else where you both need to be
talking, expressing what seems best to you and sharing each of your
limits, wants and needs. That’s someone you need to look at the quality
of your relationship with, see how things are going between you in all
areas, how you two do with communication, with feeling safe around each
other, with other kinds of physical affection — like kissing or
snuggling — or some kinds of sex you feel out over time like manual
sex or petting, to weigh whether or not intercourse or other sex
together is a sound choice and in line with what you both want, need
and can handle.

There are lots of reasons we might want sex with someone else, and
they aren’t just hormonal (and for the record, adults have hormones
racing through our bodies, too: it’s not something exclusive to teens,
nor do hormones in anyone’s bodies render us powerless or unable to
make our own best choices) or physical, particularly when we’re talking
about sex with a partner. Those desires are actually largely social —
about bonding or community, about friendship, love, attraction, wanting
to share something with someone else, find a deeper intimacy with
another person and have sex be about both of you equally, not just the
desires of one or about getting the lead out. When we just feel that
physical urge for sex pretty singly — when we feel our sexual desires
rising up, but it’s not really about anyone in particular, not about
wanting to share something very intimate with someone else, and more
about wanting to just have a release, that’s the kind of motivation
where it’s often more sound to look to masturbation, to sex that is
100% for ourselves and about ourselves, with our own two hands, rather
than to sex with another person.

Even people who are married, even couples who very much love each
other and are attracted to each other will usually still masturbate,
because again, the urge to share something with someone else and the
urge to just satiate a physical need are not really the same thing,
even though sometimes, with a partner, those desires overlap just fine.
As well, often, any two people will not have the desire for sex at the
same time or on the same day, and that’s another sphere where
masturbation often fits the bill: otherwise, you have people having sex
with someone when they don’t really want to, which isn’t healthy for
anyone. Since you don’t mention a particular partner, and it seems like
you’re expressing that you feel sexual desire you want to fulfill, but
that sexual partnership isn’t something you’re ready for which fits
with your values right now, I’d say it sounds to me like the place
you’re at is more a place for masturbation than a place for partnered

One additional perk of masturbation is that it helps you to know
about your own body and your own sexual response long before you invite
someone else in to share it. That gives you things to communicate to
that partner when the time comes which will help sex be a more pleasant
and comfortable experience for both of you.

So, for now, why don’t you either look to masturbating or, if you
don’t feel right about that either for some reason, just give yourself
some more time to digest all of these feelings and to think through the
kinds of things you’ve clearly already been thinking about. I’m going
to leave you with a few links I think might help you have more
information to think all of this over with, but in the meantime, trust
your head and your heart: it sounds to me like they’re in alignment,
and that’s always the sign of a sound choice. Sex is pretty much always
going to be best when doing it is what really feels best, including in
your heart and your mind, and this kind of good stuff always keeps
because of that.


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  • invalid-0

    2 great rules for teens who ask if they are ready for sex. Rule number 1 is you must be able to bring yourself to orgasm through masturbation. This teaches girls to become comfortable with their bodies and how they work, including learning to give oneself pleasure and not depending on the partner. 2, you must be open and comfortable discussing birth control options with the potential partner. If a teen is not mature enough to handle either of these 2 rules, one is not mature enough to be having sex. This is coming from a midwife/sexologist.

  • heather-corinna

    Anonymous, I’d mostly agree.


    The only issue I have with what you said…okay, so I have a few issues.  One, linking orgasm with maturity is problematic for me, as many older women are inorgasmic (overall, or for given periods of time), despite being people of clear maturity who are capable of doing things like parenting, holding down jobs, etc.


    As well, it’s fairly common for young women to have trouble reaching orgasm even alone for some years. To boot, I think we have to be very careful making sex all about orgasm, or pleasure all about orgasm.  That tends to present sex as product, not process, and to put orgasm before or above any number of kinds of pleasure.


    Lastly,  let’s also be cautious about defining sex as intercourse or suggesting that all people need contraception (same-sex couples don’t, many male-female partners with one trans partner don’t, and perhaps obviously, some people want to procreate).  Many kinds of sex don’t present risks of pregnancy, so contraception isn’t always an issue, though safer sex can be. :)

  • invalid-0

    “…otherwise, you have people having sex with someone when they don’t really want to, which isn’t healthy for anyone.” I don’t know about that Heather. Couples do things for each other even if they don’t feel like it all the time. Isn’t that just a part of the give and take of a healthy relationship? If my wife and I only had sex when we were both horny we would have a lot less sex than we do now.

  • heather-corinna

    I heartily disagree that having sex when anyone doesn’t want to is healthy or about give and take. Taking out the trash when you don’t feel like it is a very different thing than having sex when you don’t want to.


    So, sure, if either of you is having sex when the other wants to, but you really do not, you might be having less sex together.  But you’d be sure the sex you are having is very much wanted by both parties and likely a lot more emotionally healthy.  And maybe one or both of you would simply have a different balance of partnered sex and masturbation than you do now.


    Mind, if you’re not talking about what I was in that quote, but about maybe both parties having an interest in sex, but one’s interest being a bit higher than the other, and the other just needing to get into the groove to amp their desire, that’s different.  But that isn’t when someone really doesn’t want to.

  • heather-corinna

    …Hugo Schwyzer wrote a pretty awesome blog entry on a 30-day sex "challenge" that involved basically — probably — having obligatory sex, and I think he said some pretty insightful and dead-on things in it:

  • invalid-0

    Say it again, Heather! For those who don’t get it…

  • invalid-0

    OK. Next time my wife wants sex and I don’t feel like it I’ll tell her she can finger herself instead. We’ll both be MUCH happier after that.

  • heather-corinna

    Given how long I’ve worked in sexuality, I’m well aware that people can react defensively a lot.  I don’t see any reason to be defensive with me about this, but I also get that it happens.


    the thing is, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find a sexologist, or
    a sex therapist who works with couples who will not make pretty clear
    that duty really tends to kill desire, and that anyone having sex when they don’t want to do that simply isn’t a recipe for a healthy sexuality and healthy sexual relationships.  They might additionally point
    out that when couples stop having any sex they don’t really want to
    (and again, I’m not talking about someone just needing and wanting some
    time, space or certain activities to get in the mood), or better still
    never have that as a dynamic in their relationship at all, that it’d be
    unsurprising to see that more desire starts to grow, so the frequency
    of sex, after some time to adjust to the new dynamic, may not change at
    all, or may even increase.  But we can be very sure that the quality of
    sex, and the quality of that sexual relationship, would improve.  And
    yes, it may mean couples masturbating more, and sometimes a partner may
    well do that without approaching a partner for sex first.


    In other words, the way you’re presenting a scenario of one partner wanting sex and another not, and your response to that doesn’t strike me as the way that needs to go or would go in a healthy relationship, or when people have healthy attitudes around sex or masturbation.  But I don’t know anything about you and your wife’s sexual relationship save what I can surmise from these two posts, which is extremely miniscule information, and information you’re giving in what feels like a feeling of resentment towards me.  I have to say that I find it feels particularly strange since I am talking to a young woman in this piece who is very unlikely to be YOUR sexual partner, so I’m not sure why my suggesting a healthy dynamic for her is something you seem to feel such a personal investment in.


    bear in mind that my aim, as a sex educator who primarily works
    with young adults, is also to do my level best to help young people
    come into their sex lives WITHOUT learning unhealthy dynamics that the
    generation before them, or some members of it, may be stuck in (and I’m all too aware of what kinds of dynamics, obligatory sex being one of them, tend to have resulted in less-than-awesome outcomes for people of my generation and older, as well as for young people).  Even
    some dynamics which are common, which may seem or feel normal or workable
    just aren’t necessarily optimal or healthy. And sex as duty, or sex people agree to when they’re not wanting it — and the expectation that’s just how it goes — isn’t something those of us who work in sexuality, and who listen to people talk in depth about their sexual relationships and sexuality, find to be healthy or find tends to result in the best stuff.

  • invalid-0

    OK. Ignore my previous post. That wasn’t fair to you. I apologize. I geuss I’m just flabergasted that you used the word “unhealthy”. That’s bad. To be clear regarding “duty”, I see this going two ways. One way reminds me of Al and Peg Bundy. Peg says, “Al I’m ready” from the bedroom. And from downstairs Al says with a squemish face, “why me?” I UNDERSTAND there are situations when someone REALLY doesn’t want to, for whatever reason. I’m wondering though if this is just really a symptom of a bigger problem. I also see “duty” through love and committment also. If I’m working late and my wife comes over and wants ME I’m not about to turn her down regardless of how much I’m not into it at the moment. If she really just wanted a release she could just masturbate. But she wants ME. To turn her down and suggest she masturbate would be selfish and cold in my mind. So do I really want to have sex at this moment, no. Do I want to be there for her, yes. Is the sex still enjoyable and does it feel right – yes. I honestly don’t remember a single time in 20 years of marriage that either one of us turned the other down. BTW We’ve NEVER discussed masturbation. That’s probably not healthy, but since we live in America I can’t imagine we’re too far from “normal”. Again, I apologize for being an idiot.

  • heather-corinna

    Know what?


    I think we can talk about this, and even address issues that are difficult, or dynamics which are not ideal without anyone calling themselves an idiot. I do appreciate the apology for the way you spoke to me, though.


    Unhealthy isn’t good, you’re right.  And I do think that sex as duty is part of larger issues, to say the very least. I also agree with you that sometimes, things which are unhealthy or aren’t ideal are normal.  But I think there’s more value in sexuality being as healthy as possible than as "normal" as possible, if you catch my drift.  As a young adult sex educator, I want better than normal for the young people who come to me for information and advice: I want to do what I can to help them create a sex life that’s as healthy as it possibly can be, and is great and powerful for them as a result.


    But unhealthy dynamics also don’t have to stay that way, even if changing them is new, scary or makes us feel insecure or uncertain.  At the very least, we can certainly talk about them — and aspects of sex like masturbation, especially because who knows, maybe your wife doesn’t feel comfortable masturbating when she wants to BECAUSE it’s unspeakable between you —  to see what that does.  Even just talking about them,  between people like you and I, and with partners, can make a big difference.


    If I can be plain, if you’re talking about intercourse, and you’re going ahead and having intercourse, as a man, you probably do want to to some degree, otherwise that would be… not impossible, but mighty difficult, since that activity requires erection, which usualy requires arousal.  On the other hand, women (or male partners with receptive anal sex) can really not want to and yet, while intercourse may not be pleasurable or even comfortable, it’s not exactly an impediment to vaginal intercourse men want.  Mind, I don’t think either partner doing something they don’t want and are not into is healthy, but when we’re talking about sex with bodily entry, and a receptive partner, it also can be doubly unhealthy.  I don’t know about what your sex life entials, but if you have not been the receptive partner yourself, that may be tougher for you to understand.


    It’s normal for libido to wax and wane for people, and for human beings
    not towant or be ready for sex at the drop of a hat at any time, and I
    think when we really think about it, most of us can agree that,
    ideally, the sex we really want is sex where it’s strongly wanted by
    everyone.  And if getting the timing right for that means skipping out
    on sex sometimes because a partner isn’t feeling it, it really is not
    usually a hardship, since that helps us have the times we DO have sex
    be something marvelous that’s about some serious connectivity. Bear in mind, too, that when it’s YOU — rather than a sexual release by itself — your wife wants, a lot of what she wants, what anyone does when we just want to be with a partner, are things that can also be satisfied without sex if you (or she, when the shoe is on the other foot) aren’t into it, like snuggling, cuddling, massage, a bath together, even a deep conversation.


    I don’t think — and again, most sexologists and sex therapists will say this also — that declining sex when a person don’t want it, whether they suggest masturbation as an alternative to a partner or not (though again, when it’s a normal part of the dynamic not to expect sex from a partner when they’re not into it, we don’t tend to need an invitation to masturbate from anyone, it’s just something we do if we want to be sexual), is cold or selfish, especially when you understand it’s in service to an optimal sexual relationship and a healthy sexuality for everyone, and do that in service to those things and the love you feel for another person. 

    • invalid-0

      Thanks Heather. I’m over 40, but I try to never stop learning. On the other hand, I’m over 40 and a bit set in ways. Change is hard. Even the thought of change can be hard. I DO understand and appreciate what you’re saying. “As a young adult sex educator, I want better than normal for the young people who come to me for information and advice: I want to do what I can to help them create a sex life that’s as healthy as it possibly can be, and is great and powerful for them as a result.” I agree. Because of the, let’s just say, no information to misinformation I received regarding sex when I was a teen, relationships for me were extremely difficult (or at least much more difficult than they needed to be). The distress and pain in many of the letters you share on this site really take me back. Anyway, I’m very intent on helping my daughter have a much more healthy teenage (and beyond) experience and I’m very glad you’ll be there for her.

  • heather-corinna

    You’re so welcome, and I really appreciate you having an acutal conversation with me, even when it’s precarious. :)  And you’re right, change is hard, but those of us at this age and beyond still benefit from being flexible, adaptable, the works.  I like to often think of applying the same advice to our ideas and habits as we tend to get about our bodies.  We hear a lot about how in the 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond, flexibility can become a real problem, and it’s a good idea for us to be sure to stretch regularly.  I think that’s as important for our hearts and minds as it is for our joints and tendons.


    I’m also really touched you’re glad to have me around for your daughter, and give you props for thinking of her and what you think will be best (and better) for her.