Whether you’re a virgin or are contemplating having sex with a new partner, first times can be nerve-wracking. There are many factors to consider, both emotional and physical. Our expert is sexuality, contraception and abortion educator and counselor as well as a writer and activist. Read on for her advice on how to know when you’re ready for sex.
When is the right time to have sex in a relationship?
Some girls wait until marriage, some wait a few months and some just a few dates. There’s no recommended timeline—the right time to have sex is when you and your partner feel ready. Eva, a campusor, decided to lose her virginity a month into hooking up with the boy she liked. She says you know it’s a good time to have sex “once you stop thinking about it and don’t doubt the person and trust they’re on the same page,” she says. “I had a first time that was genuinely lovely. We fell hard and fast.” For others, it takes a bit longer to get comfortable. Veronica, a a student at Makerere University, has dated her boyfriend for four months but has decided to wait to have sex. “I want to make sure I’m in love. I don’t want to have any doubts about it. You hear about a lot of people who do it and then regret it,” she says.
Further, consider your mental health. Are you depressed, overly stressed or anxious? Take a step back. “We know from a lot of broad study and anecdote at this point that while sex can be something we seek out for emotional comfort, when people are deeply depressed or suffering from a lot of anxiety or stress, sex with a partner often isn’t the greatest choice, especially if sex is something someone isn’t already engaging in—and thus, they’d be adding a new potential stressor—or when it’s not happening in interpersonal contexts where someone feels pretty emotionally safe,” Our expert says. “Being in a relatively good mental headspace isn’t required for sex, and it’s not like if someone engages in sex when they’re not in one, it’s likely to create any mind of lifelong trauma, but it usually tends to hurt, rather than help, if we’re already struggling emotionally.”
Will I just know when I’m ready?
Some girls know and other girls take a lot of time to think about the decision to have sex—both are valid! For Emily, a student at Nkumba University, sex was an option that required a bit of thinking first. “I knew I was ready for sex when it became obvious that my boyfriend and I had the same goals. We were both looking to get the same thing out of sex, so I could trust that he was not going to intentionally hurt or use me. It required a lot of communication, but many years later, I have no regrets,” she says. For other girls, like Ann, a finalist at Makerere University, she just felt deep down that it was the right time. “I didn’t feel any reluctance. I wanted to do it with him. I wanted it to be with someone whom I cared about, who cared about me and whom I was secure with. I wanted someone who could guide me through it and not make me feel bad,” she says.
Sex is a two-way street, so your partner should be ready too. Can the both of you trust each other? Do you feel comfortable enough having potentially awkward conversations (about contraception, what you do and don’t like sexually, etc.)? Are you both mature enough to handle the consequences, good and bad, of sex? This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but you should make sure you know your limits and the other person’s limits before having sex. “I like to keep in mind that sex with someone can be, and often is, an emotionally and physically high-stakes activity. Are we up for that? Are they? Do we both recognize that, and are we both on board to do what we can to manage those stakes and explore them together safely?” Think about it.
Regardless of when you decide is the right time, your and your partner’s opinions are the only ones that count. There can be pressure to have sex in college, but that shouldn’t influence your decision. “It doesn’t make sense to have the world decide such a personal thing but I think sex has turned into one of the most public things when it really should be the most intimate. Sex is in plays and movies and books and TV but really, it shouldn’t be something that everyone feels like they get a say in,” Jose our I.T Officer, says.