When Is The Right Time To Have One’s First Sexual Experience?

James Kirk
Author James Kirk
Collection StoriaHealth

There are young folks who crave their first sexual experience sooner rather than later not only out of curiosity and desire, but also out of an urge to boast to their friends of their “achievement.”

On the other hand, there are many who regret having theirs too early in life. More than a third of women and a quarter of men in their teens and early 20s admitted it had not been "the right time" when they first had sex.

But when is the “right” time?

People must be 16 or over to legally consent to sex in the UK.

The latest National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (NATSAL) poll says many people may not be ready at that age, according to the BBC.

The NATSAL survey, carried out every decade or so, gives a detailed picture of sexual behaviour in the UK.

For this latest work, published in BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health, researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine looked at the responses of nearly 3,000 young people who had completed the survey between 2010 and 2012.

The responses showed that nearly 40percent of young women and 26 percent of young men did not feel that their first sexual experience had happened "at the right time."

When asked in more depth, most said they wished they had waited longer to lose their virginity. Few said they should have done it sooner.

Most had had sex by the time they were 18 – half had done it by the time they were turning 17.

Nearly a third had sex before turning 16.

The survey also looked at sexual competence or readiness – whether a person could reasonably make an informed decision about whether to have sex for the first time. For example, they had to be sober enough to have consented and should not have been acting on peer pressure.

Around half of the young women and four in 10 of the young men who responded failed this measure.

When is the right time?

These questions would help:

• Does it feel right?

• Do I love my partner?

• Does he/she love me just as much?

• Have we talked about using condoms to prevent STIs and HIV, and was the talk OK?

• Have we got contraception organised to protect against pregnancy?

• Do I feel able to say "no" at any point if I change my mind, and will we both be OK with that?

If you answer yes to all these questions, the time may be right. But if you answer yes to any of the following questions, it might not be:

• Do I feel under pressure from anyone, such as my partner or friends?

• Could I have any regrets afterwards?

• Am I thinking about having sex just to impress my friends or keep up with them?

• Am I thinking about having sex just to keep my partner?

Source: NHS Choices

Isabel Inman from the sexual health charity Brook said: "We firmly believe that age and stage appropriate relationships and sex education (RSE) should start early in order to empower young people to make positive decisions that are right for them. We hope the introduction of mandatory RSE will provide this opportunity."

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