Top Ten Things To Do Before You Have Sex: a list for teenagers

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(Just to be clear, these are things to do before you have oral sex, sexual intercourse, or anything else that could get you pregnant or an STD.)

1. Have an orgasm.

Yes, before you start having sex, you should give yourself an orgasm. It’s important to know what feels good to you before you can show another person what feels good to you.

2. Know the other person’s sexual history.

And I don’t mean just vaginal intercourse for this one!

3. Know the other person’s STD status, as well as your own.

The only way to know this for sure is to be tested! And if you’re both virgins, well, you’re not going to be for long. You might as well get that scary first STD testing out of the way so you’ll know what to expect next time around.

4. Talk about exactly what STD protection and birth control you will be using.

These two issues go hand-in-hand (for heterosexual couples), and it is the domain of both parties to be intimately involved.

5. If you are part of a heterosexual couple, talk about what happens if the woman gets pregnant.
Here are a few options to talk about, in alphabetical order: abortion, adoption, raising the kid alone, raising the kid together. With the understanding that reality is different than the theoretical, make sure you’re both on the same theoretical page.

6. Have your best friend’s blessing.
We can rarely see someone we’re in love with clearly. It is often our best friends who can see our lovers and our potential lovers for who they really are. Listen to what your best friend has to say, and take it to heart. If it’s not what you wanted to hear, give it some time. Wait a month. A good relationship will be able to withstand another month before having sex. Then ask a different friend, and see what they have to say.

7. Meet your partner’s parents.
At the very least, make sure you know why you haven’t met your them. The best sex comes out of knowing someone well, and knowing someone’s family is an important part of knowing them. (Even if they’re really, really different from their family.)

8. Be comfortable being naked in front of each other.

You don’t actually have to strip down in broad daylight to make sure you’ve reached this milestone, but it sure helps!

9. Have condoms on hand.
Make sure they fit right, that they’re within the expiration date, and that they haven’t been exposed to extreme conditions (like the inside of a really hot car). Condoms should be part of any respectful sexual relationship. There need be no assumption of hook ups outside of the relationship, just an assumption of good sexual habits being made and kept.

10. Make sure that your partner has done all of these things too.

Part of a happy, healthy sexual encounter is taking care of everyone’s emotional needs and physical health. Both people need to pay attention to themselves and to their partner. That way each person has two people looking out for them. It’s just the best way to do things.

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This article was written by Dr. Karen Rayne


Ruth RinehartJanuary 30, 2013 at 12:19 amReply

Just printed this out and handed it to my 16-yr-old daughter! 🙂 Thanks.

LizFebruary 21, 2013 at 1:08 pmReply

My daughter says being in love is too far down the road and that sex is just about having fun at this point. She’s in 10th grade.

Dr. Karen RayneFebruary 21, 2013 at 4:37 pmReply

There are lot of fun things about sex, Liz, you’re daughter is right. However, sex also has many scary potential outcomes that need to be addressed. Is she being safe, both physically and emotionally? What sorts of precautions is she taking? Is she having a lot of sex with one or two friends? Or is she having a little bit of sex with a lot of people? This second one is especially risky.

I encourage you to make sure your daughter has full and comprehensive sexuality education. Has she had anything like this in school?

AmandaMarch 20, 2013 at 11:52 pmReply

“And if you’re both virgins, well, you’re not going to be for long. You might as well get that scary first STD testing out of the way so you’ll know what to expect next time around.”

God, I hate this line of thinking. Please, you’re supposed to be a scientist, you have GOT to stop advocating unnecessary testing. People who have never had any sort of sexual activity don’t need STI screening! Evidence-based medicine! You know better than this!

Dr. Karen RayneMarch 20, 2013 at 11:58 pmReply

That’s true, Amanda, they don’t need STI screening. What they do need is to lower the stakes of future STI screening so that when they need it, they will know where to get it and will be less freaked out by the process.

claireSeptember 15, 2013 at 10:02 amReply

I have printed this out for both my 16 and 13 year old daughters and now I’m printing it out again for my niece who has just started her first serious relationship. When talking to my own girls the only thing I added was that they need to be able to talk about sex with their partners. Likes, dislikes,boundaries, fantasies etc. But I do love your list!

Dr. Karen RayneSeptember 15, 2013 at 4:23 pmReply

I agree, Claire. Being able to talk with your partner about the specifics of what feels good, what doesn’t, etc. is really important! I think that going through these steps will help a teenager get to a point where those conversations can happen – but jumping right to that place can feel a bit daunting! I’m glad that you’ve shared the information with the young people in your life. I’d love to hear what they thought about it!

Top 10 Things To Do Before You Have SexJanuary 29, 2015 at 9:27 pmReply

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SuzetteSeptember 1, 2015 at 12:18 amReply

Great list – taught sex-ed many times and I have always advocated for being able to have these sincere mature conversations. If you cannot discuss these topics – you might not be ready for the reality of sex because it does change relationships and sometimes lives in ways we cannot predict. I would also add an element of faith reflection. Most faiths have something to say about how we treat our bodies and/or sex should be treated. It is not simply “no” but a sincere desire to honor each person and that person’s body. In the end, each person must decide how their faith is connected or not to the decision about engaging in sex and it is better to reflect prior to doing sex than after the fact. It is another mature conversation to consider.

Dr. Karen RayneSeptember 5, 2015 at 4:33 pmReply

Thanks, Suzette, and I completely agree! I have an activity I do with young people about questions to ask themselves and their partners before they engage in sexual activities and both partner’s moral, ethical, and religious beliefs are an integral part.