You go to great pains to choose a car.
You’re picky about the clothes you’re seen in.
You’ll even wrestle with that resume until it’s just right. And you won’t accept just any old job.
So why be so indifferent about the next person you get sexually involved with?
With all the thought and care you put into boosting your self-image and impressing others, why be so careless with your most valued possession, the one who really counts the most?—YOU!
STIs (including AIDS), unintended pregnancy, not to mention the broken heart resulting from a relationship that doesn’t work out, are some of the reasons people take the time to enjoy their intimate relationships while postponing sexual relations.
Taking care of yourself means more than getting the right amount of sleep and eating the right foods. It also means upholding your personal and social values, taking time to reflect on the connection between your emotional and physical state. Your self-esteem has a lot to do with how you treat your body. Knowing how to value yourself requires self-exploration and knowledge. It involves more than having sexual and reproductive freedom. It means taking responsibility for them, too, as well as achieving a sense of comfort and fulfillment in your gender role. It also includes participating, or refusing participation, in sexual behaviors to be consistent with an evolving value system that takes into account your individuality and not some other person or group’s expectations.
Postponing sexual activity does not mean sacrificing passion and intimacy from your relationships. It simply means you value yourself enough to recognize and creatively explore the options you have in relating to your partner. It means taking the time for you and your partner to measure carefully your mutual investment in an ongoing intimate relationship. Ultimately, it means taking advantage of the many choices you have for expressing closeness toward your partner, while upholding your value system, being as tender and bold—but more thoughtful—in your approach to intimacy. Just because you have had sex in previous relationships, or even a current one, doesn’t mean you are obligated now if you are reassessing your approach to relationships.
There are sound reasons for postponing sex (including oral, anal and vaginal sex) in a developing relationship. AIDS is on the rise, and the surest method of avoiding HIV infection is to not have sex.
Other sexually transmitted infections, previously thought to be under control, are at epidemic proportions. In Georgia alone, over one million individuals have had an STI in the last year. The majority occurred in people ages 25 and under. Some sexually transmitted infections pose lingering health problems—even if treated—including:
Having control over when you become pregnant is another reason to consider other sexual options. Sex without intercourse is the only absolute method of contraception. Although condoms, IUDs, diaphragms, foam, and the pill all provide various levels of prevention against unintended pregnancy, most are not foolproof. For those seeking intimacy without the potential issue of unintended pregnancy, postponing vaginal sex is a sound choice.
Being comfortable with your physical and emotional expression in the presence of another and being comfortable with your partner’s self-expression, takes trust and confidence on your part. This trust takes time, effort and a thoughtful consideration of what the relationship is all about before involving sexual activity. Being sexually active is too important and personal a decision to let someone else, alcohol or drugs, loneliness or depression, peer pressure, previous sexual behavior, an ultimatum, or fear of rejection decide for you.
If you are experiencing any kind of fear or apprehension about sexual activity, plan ahead: don’t let sex just “happen.” Plot your own script. Because no matter what you read in novels, see in videos, or watch at the movies, great romance doesn’t just spontaneously ignite. It takes patience and creativity. It is planned ahead. After all, someone had to write those chapters, plot that script, and shoot that scene.
Deciding whether you are willing to wait for the person you deserve and want in a healthy relationship is a vital consideration that requires self-reflection. How much time and energy are you willing to commit to a relationship? It could just be a sign of how much you value yourself and, therefore, your relationships.
Uncertain or Developing Commitment
Making the decision to postpone sexual activity takes time and personal resolve, especially if you are in the process of rethinking your values. It may be just as difficult in the age of AIDS to accept the fact that having casual relations isn’t a safe option anymore. It is important that you make your own decision about your intimate relationships and not let the expectations of others, or resentment at the perceived limitations imposed by AIDS and other STIs, pressure and anger you.
Some aspects to consider in safeguarding your decision are:
If you are resolute in your decision to postpone sex, but are feeling pressured, the following troubleshooting responses could help you out of awkward or intimidating situations:
Line: Come on, everyone’s doing it!
Response: If everyone’s doing it, then it should be easy to find someone else.
Line: I’m glad I’m on the pill, just in case we hit it off tonight.
Response: I’m glad you’re glad, but I’m not interested in sex tonight.
Line: If you’re on the pill (or other contraceptive) then there is nothing to worry about.
Response: There are always STIs and most importantly, that’s how I feel.
Line: I just bought you dinner, etc.
Response: You’re right. You bought dinner—not me.
Line: You had sex with ________, why not me?
Response: What does my relationship with ________ have to do with us?
Line: Everyone else is having sex, what’s your sexual hang-up?
Response: Why does my not wanting to be with you mean that I have a hang-up?
Line: I really want you.
Response: I’m turned on too, but I’m just not ready to have sex with you.
Line: I think I am in love with you.
Response: I am not ready to have sex yet, but if I was, you’d be the person I would want.
Line: You owe it to me. You get me all worked up and then you say no.
Response: I’m sorry you feel that way but I enjoy kissing you; I’m just not ready to have sex with you.
Line: My roommate’s away tonight, maybe we’ll have time to be by ourselves.
Response: I enjoy your company, but I’m not looking for a lover.
Delaying sexual activity doesn’t mean foregoing the physical and emotional satisfaction so necessary in close, intimate relationships. It does mean rethinking your expectations—reshaping them, not lowering them—to meet your and your partner’s needs. It means recognizing your self-worth and recognizing the choices you have in expressing your closeness to someone. With all the effort you put into improving your quality of life in other ways, you owe it to yourself to explore alternative expressions of intimacy.