Summary

  • There are questions we can ask ourselves to help figure out if or when we’re ready for a sexual relationship.
  • The decision about whether you’re ready to have sex (or not) is yours to make, based on what is right for you.
  • If you’ve decided you’re ready and you’re going to have sex, both you and your partner must always give consent freely and without fear, force or pressure.
     

About sex

People have sex for all sorts of reasons – to express love and affection, for sexual pleasure, to have a baby, to boost self-esteem, or because they’re pressured into it.
 
Sex can mean different things to different people. Everybody will define ‘sex’ in the way that feels right for them, which might include kissing, hugging, touching, fingering, oral sex, vaginal sex, anal sex. Being in a sexual relationship can be both rewarding and enjoyable.

Some healthy reasons for having sex include:

  • to express loving feelings
  • you’re feeling sexy
  • you feel ready to take this step in your relationship
  • you want to have a baby, and you’re ready to take on the responsibility 
  • it’s part of your own personal values.

Sex should be a positive experience. Sometimes people are pressured into having sex before they’re ready or forced to have sex against their will. If sex without consent happens, it’s not okay and it’s against the law. So, as well as thinking about if you’re ready to have sex, talk to you partner and make sure they feel ready too. People in sexual relationships need to give consent, every time.

How to decide if you’re ready for sex

Asking yourself questions and talking to the person you are attracted to are important steps when deciding whether you are ready to have sex. Talking to trusted friends or family members can also help you decide what is right for you. 

The decision about whether you are ready to have sex is yours to make. You should never feel pressured into having sex, or pressure anyone else to have sex with you. 

Some questions to ask yourself if you’re thinking about having sex include:

  • How do I feel about my partner?
  • What is the nature of our relationship?
  • Are we ‘on the same page’ about having sex?
  • Am I feeling comfortable about the idea of having sex?
  • Am I thinking about having sex because I want to, and I’m feeling ready, or because I’m feeling pressured, or like feel I ‘should’ be doing this?
  • How does the decision to have sex align with my values or faith?
  • Am I comfortable about showing my body to my partner and being touched by them?
  • Am I comfortable communicating my feelings, expectations, preferences and concerns around sex with this person?
  • How will I communicate my consent to my partner? How will I ask them for consent? 
  • What happens if either of us changes our mind?
  • Have I spoken to my partner about how far I’m willing to go, and how far they are? 
  • Do I respect my partner’s preferences, boundaries, concerns and expectations, and do they respect mine?
  • Am I prepared to deal with unintended consequences of sex such as pregnancy, STIs, awkwardness, disappointment or discomfort with my partner?
  • Has my partner asked themselves these questions too?

Practical questions to consider include:

Don’t make assumptions about how a partner feels about you, and about having sex. Ask them how they feel, and how they see your relationship. Do they feel ready to have sex? Do they want to have sex with you and, if so, what does having sex mean to them? Talk to them about the questions you have asked yourself from the lists above.

Remember, both partners must consent to having sex and continue to consent throughout the sexual contact. A person can change their mind and withdraw consent at any time.

Safer sex

Safe sex is having sexual contact while protecting yourself and your sexual partner, or partners, against sexually transmissible infections (STIs), blood borne viruses (BBVs) and unplanned pregnancy. Sexual contact that doesn’t involve the exchange of semen, vaginal fluids or blood between partners is considered to be a safer form of sex.

Sex that involves the exchange of semen, vaginal fluids or blood may put you and your partner at risk of STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, Mycoplasma genitalium, BBVs such as HIV or hepatitis B, or may result in an unplanned pregnancy.

Condoms and dental dams offer the best available protection against STIs and BBVs by acting as a physical barrier to prevent the exchange of semen, vaginal fluids or blood between partners. 

Safe sex is also called ‘safer sex’ to highlight the fact that condoms, dental dams and other barrier methods are not 100% effective in preventing STIs or BBVs. However, condoms and dental dams do offer the best available protection when used correctly.

Be STI and BBV free by getting tested for common infections and having treatment if necessary, especially if you have a new partner. Avoid sexual contact until the doctor or nurse tells you that you are no longer infectious and until both you and you partner have been treated.

Sexual activity and young people

Across Australia, young people in Years 10, 11 and 12 are sexually active to varying degrees. Many young people have had sexual experiences, but many others have not.

Australian research from the Sixth National Survey of Australian Secondary Students and Sexual Health 2018 shows: 

  • More than a third (34.3%) of Year 10 students and more than a half (55.8%) of Year 12 students have experienced sexual intercourse (vaginal and anal intercourse). 
  • Many young people are sexually active in some other way (including deep kissing, genital touching and oral sex).

You may find it helpful to know these statistics, but it’s still important to use the guiding questions on this page to help you decide what is right for you.

Where to get help

References

More information

Sexual health

The following content is displayed as Tabs. Once you have activated a link navigate to the end of the list to view its associated content. The activated link is defined as Active Tab

Sexual health basics

Sexuality and sexual identity

Contraception

Health conditions and sexual issues

Content Partner

This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by: Family Planning Victoria

Last updated: May 2020

Content on this website is provided for information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not in any way endorse or support such therapy, service, product or treatment and is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional. The information and materials contained on this website are not intended to constitute a comprehensive guide concerning all aspects of the therapy, product or treatment described on the website. All users are urged to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions and to ascertain whether the particular therapy, service, product or treatment described on the website is suitable in their circumstances. The State of Victoria and the Department of Health & Human Services shall not bear any liability for reliance by any user on the materials contained on this website.