Sex can be very disappointing and even damaging if it isn't something you are 100% sure you want to do, yet a lot of young people feel pressured by their friends or partners to have sex before they are ready. However, sex can be wonderful and very pleasurable when it is shared between consenting partners who all feel comfortable and safe.

It is worth remembering that surveys show that 25% of 25 year olds (that’s one in four!) haven’t had penetrative sex, so even if it sometimes feels like everyone else has ‘done it’, this is very far from the truth.

Relationships are all about compromise and learning to respect your partner, but when to have sex should not be a matter of negotiation – with three out of four sexually active young people (both boys and girls) regretting their first time, it is important to stand your ground and only make that step when it feels right to you.

Remember that romantic relationships do not always have to be sexual, and that there are a lot of things you can do to show someone you love and care about them which don’t involve any sexual activity at all.

You should never feel pressured to have sex just because you have told someone you love them, or because you want to please them, or because you think that is what other people are doing in their relationships. The only good reason to have sex is because you want to, and the only good time to have sex is when you feel ready and are safe and comfortable with your partner(s).

If you’re feeling unsafe in your relationship, pressured or coerced to do things you don’t necessarily want to do, it is worth talking to a responsible adult, and thinking about whether it is worth staying in it.

If all partners in a relationship want to have sex and are comfortable doing so, it’s still really important to talk about boundaries, contraception, and protection against sexually transmitted infections. Some good questions to ask before you have sex are:

  • What are you comfortable trying?
  • What do you not want to do?
  • What have you done in the past that you have enjoyed and would like to try again?
  • What have you done in the past that you did not enjoy, and would like to avoid?
  • What gives you the most pleasure / What turns you on?
  • What can I do to help you feel safe and relaxed?
  • How will we tell each other if we stop feeling comfortable, or want to stop for any reason?
  • Do you feel comfortable saying no?
  • What would we do if the condom breaks or splits?
  • What kind of contraception might work for us?
  • Have you had a sexual health screen? If not, shall we go together?