You know those questions you were too nervous to ask in health class? The ones that made you blush just thinking about them? Things like, “Where can I actually find treatment for STDs?” “How do I know if I’m ready for sex?” “How do I tell my boo that I’m not ready for sex?” and so many more.
Well, girl, we’ve got the answers for you — no embarrassing moments, necessary.
Ester Boykin and Llouana Harper, two counselors from Group Therapy Associates in Haymarket, Virginia., tackle 14 of the most commonly asked sex questions from some of our readers.
And this time, nothing is off-limits.
How do I really know if I’m ready for sex?
EB: The key is to be clear about what makes a healthy relationship and then be sure that’s what you have. Do you feel safe with this person? Can you discuss sexuality, STDs, and your good or bad feelings with each other? Do they know what you are and are not comfortable with? Most importantly, is the person you’re with going to be respectful and understanding — even if you change your mind at the last minute?
LH: If you can’t keep the lights on, you’re probably not ready for sex either emotionally or physically.
I’m the only virgin in my group of friends and I feel pressure to lose my virginity. Is there really a magical age, where it’s no longer acceptable to be a virgin?
EB: There really is no right age to lose your virginity — only a right time for each individual. Ask yourself why you feel pressure: Are there people making you feel awkward for not having sex, or is it because you think everyone else is doing it? Be proud of your decision to wait for the right relationship and time — and remember that there are many other ways to enjoy dating and intimacy without sexual intercourse.
Is he interested in me or just my body?
LH: Truth be told, guys and sex-on-the-brain tend to be the norm and he might be more driven in that regard, nothing personal! But generally, he would be focused on quality time and getting to know you.
What’s the best way to say, “I’m not ready.” ?
LH: Be prepared for him to accept or refuse your decision. Have your reasons ready and talk about the subject in private.
I regret losing my virginity. What do I do now?
LH: Allow yourself to wallow in regret for a bit; you’re grieving a loss and that’s okay. Then, shift focus and take the present by the horns. Take a moment to figure out what constitutes sex for you and set your limits.
Is there really a certain number of boys you can’t go over before you’re considered a “slut” or a “whore”?
EB: Other people never have the right to call you names, regardless of the number of sexual partners you’ve had. Name-calling is the result of others’ cruelty and disrespect. Instead, I would encourage you to ask, “What qualities does a person need to have or what kind of relationship should we be in before having sex?” If sex is treated as an expression of intimacy and love, the number of partners you have won’t be much of an issue.
I’ve heard there were other methods, besides condoms and the pill, to prevent pregnancy. Is this true?
EB: The only guaranteed way to avoid pregnancy is abstinence. Second to that would be the correct use of condoms.
*Note: There are other forms of birth control, as well, such as Depo-Provera, IUDs, rings, patches, diaphragms, female condoms, sponges, cervical caps, and more. Check out this comparative chart on the effectiveness of different options from Planned Parenthood.
Can I buy birth control without my parents?
EB: Each state has different laws, but in most places, you can visit a health clinic without parents. Planned Parenthood is a good option for young people.
What should I do if I think I have an STD?
LH: Don’t let fear stop you from seeking help. Untreated STDs can have lifelong effects on your body. If you don’t want to go to a parent or your usual doctor, a clinic like Planned Parenthood is your next best option. Take a trusted friend if you don’t want to go alone.
I’ve decided I’m ready. What are the next steps to take before having sex?
LH: You should use condoms every time you have sex, as well as ask your partner if he has been tested for STDs and HIV. (Also, peep the answer to question 1.)
Are STDs really that common? What if I know my partner hasn’t got anything?
EB: Nearly half of the 19 million new cases of STDs are in people ages 15 to 24 and almost 40% of people in this group report not using condoms regularly. It is crucial that you are using condoms every time. A clear sign you’re not ready for sex is not using protection consistently.
I know how to protect myself physically but what about emotionally?
EB: Know your worth, set your standards, and don’t be afraid to walk away. It’s not okay to feel intimidated to have sex or other things you don’t want to do. If your boyfriend responds by saying mean things to you or being explosive, you need to end the relationship.
How can I start a convo about sex with Mom and Dad?
EB: Just jump in! If you’re having trouble starting a face-to-face conversation, try texting or e-mailing. It can be awkward initially, but relief will come with an open and honest conversation.
Is it possible to recover from sexual abuse? How?
EB: It doesn’t matter when it happened or what the circumstances were, no one ever deserves to be sexually assaulted. There are many people and organizations ready to help and some counseling is a part of recovery for every survivor. It will be difficult, but a qualified therapist can help you face your emotions and be stronger, healthier, and more confident. The National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE is a great start for help.
Main Photo: istockphoto.com/JHershPhotography