We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we actually hear the nitty-gritty details of how we might actually achieve those things? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a licensed sex psychotherapist based in San Francisco, to help us out with the specifics. This week’s topic: How you know you're ready to have sex with someone.
Q: I started dating someone new a few weeks ago, and things are going very well. We’ve gotten to the “everything but” stage a few times, and it seems like there’s an expectation that we should be having sex soon. I always struggle with when to sleep with someone new. I know there’s no black or white answer, but it’s hard for me to know when it feels “right” for me. How do you know you're ready?
A: Sexual decision making is tricky for most of us. There are so many different factors at play — the excitement of being with someone new, social expectations, gender roles, not to mention sex drives and hormones!
Each situation is different, but here are 11 ways you might be able to gauge whether you’re ready to sleep with someone for the first time.
WHEN YOU KNOW WHAT YOU WANT
I know, I know, this is the hardest part of the equation. But it's important for you to take the time to figure out what you want from sex at this point in your new relationship. Don't ever have sex because you're feeling pressured to or because you feel like it's expected.
Do you want to fool around and have a good time? Do you want to move your relationship to the next stage? Do you want to see if you’re compatible enough with this new guy to commit to him?
Part of knowing what you want from sex involves getting to know your sexual values, for example — is being monogamous before you have sex with someone important to you? Consider some of your past sexual experiences, and use them as guides. Have you slept with people too quickly? Were there certain decisions you’ve regretted? Keep in mind that sometimes knowing your sexual boundaries involves a little trial and error.
It’s fine to be unsure or torn in a few different directions, just so long as you take the time to honestly consider your own desires.
WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE Unrealistic EXPECTATIONS
One of the biggest mistakes I see women making is having sex with someone new with the hopes that it will make him or her want to become more serious. Doing the deed isn't automatically going to push your partner into starting a relationship, becoming monogamous, proposing to you, or falling in love with you.
WHEN YOU'VE COMMUNICATED YOUR DESIRES
Be clear with your partner about what you’re looking for in sleeping together. If you want your relationship to become more serious, tell your new beau that you'd like to sleep together, but that you want to have "the talk" first. If you’re just looking for a good time, you can say something like, “this doesn't have to mean anything other than what it is.”
You can be casual about it (no need to deliver a lengthy monologue about your five-year plan) while still being clear.
… AND ARE STICKING TO THEM
Let’s say you want to be monogamous with a new person before having sex with him, and that you took the brave, adult step of sharing that with them. And let’s say that they gave you a wishy-washy response about not being sure they're ready for a commitment. What do you do then? Don’t sleep with him! If you've identified values that are important to you, stick to your guns.
WHEN YOU'VE TALKED ABOUT SAFETY
One in every three or four adults have a sexually transmitted infection. If you want to stay STI-free, it’s imperative to talk about safety with new partners. At the very least, be clear that condom usage is a must. You may also want to talk about sexual history and STI status.
These kinds of conversations can be uncomfortable in the moment, but that doesn't make them any less important. Plus, if someone isn’t willing to talk about sexual safety, they’re not deserving of access to your body.
when you think you could deal with the awkward
Consider the fact that a lot of first-time sexual encounters with new partners are awkward as hell. Picture something embarrassing happening with this new partner, and see if you can imagine the two of you handling it with grace or laughing it off together.
WHEN YOU can PICTURE THE Morning AFTER
That doesn't mean the morning after has to be spent with the person you just slept with. But it might be useful to think about how you’d feel about yourself after doing the deed. Everyone experiences twinges of sexual guilt or shame. They’re an unfortunate part of our sex-negative culture. But there's a big difference between feeling a little anxiety and feeling like you betrayed yourself. Consider how you think you'll feel afterwards, and if you know you'll feel badly, consider waiting.
WHEN THERE’S ENOUGH CHEMISTRY
How have your hook-up sessions been thus far? Is there enough sexual chemistry to make you curious about taking the next step? It can take a while to get into a good rhythm with someone new, but you should feel like there’s enough potential to work with. If you’ve had some cringe-worthy make-out sessions, odds are the sex isn’t going to be that much better.
WHEN YOU’VE TALKED ABOUT SEX in general
You can learn a lot about a person by the way they talk about sex. Do they engage in slut-shaming? Do they make fun of hacked celebrity nudes? Do they denigrate exes? These are all signs of how they might act towards you once they've slept with you.
WHEN they've GAINED YOUR TRUST
Is this a kind and respectful person? Do they follow through on things when they say they will? Have they made you feel comfortable and at ease those times you've done "everything but"? Are they pressuring you to have sex?
This should seem obvious, but if someone doesn’t treat you well, don’t have sex with them.
WHEN IN DOUBT, HOLD OUT
There are plenty of people who wished they had waited longer to have sex, but not many who wished they had done it sooner. It isn’t going to kill you to take an extra week or two to sort out your feelings and feel confident about your decision.
Images: Fox, Giphy