Once You Start Having Sex...

Once You Start Having Sex...

There’s a scene in classic YA book Forever where main character Katherine’s mother tells her, “Once you start having sex, you can't go back to holding hands.” When I first read Forever I was a pre-teen myself and thought of that statement as some kind of profound truth that I was being clued in to. Because sex was, like, this monumental thing, right? This line in the sand – you’ve either done it or you haven’t – and once you have, it changes you. Forever.

kissWell, actually, not necessarily, no. It’s potentially physically and emotionally risky and those are risks everyone should take seriously (and deal with appropriately) but sex, on its own, isn’t likely to change who you are if you’re comfortable with what you’re doing and you’re doing it responsibly and safely. And once you start having sex you can, of course, go back to holding hands (or whatever else) if you want to. And, yeah, there are people out there who want to do just that (no matter what popular culture or Katherine’s mother says) so rest assured if this is how you feel, you’re not the only one and you shouldn’t feel there’s anything wrong with wanting that. Likewise if you haven’t had sex yet but things are going too fast for you sexually with a partner you shouldn’t feel pressured to keep up. We have some pretty messed up, unhealthy ideas about sex in this culture and the once you start having sex you can’t stop idea is one of them, which is why I’m so happy to see that sex ed guru Heather Corinna has written an article called “Whoa, There! How to Slow Down When You're Moving Too Fast” for the ever awesome Scarleteen website.

Whenever I talk about sex ed I inevitably bring up Scarleteen and its founder Heather Corinna and I hope if you’re looking for honest comprehensive information about sex delivered with a non-judgmental attitude you’ll drop by the site and have a look around.

In this brand new article Corinna writes:
“A lot of young people think that sex is like Pandora's Box: once you open it, you can't ever close it and everything you took out of it can't ever be put back in, whether you like it or not. But that's just not true: just because we've done something once sexually never means we have to do it again or always have to do it. Just because something felt right once, or in one situation, doesn't mean it feels right now or always will in every situation. And sometimes what felt like the right pace for a while can later feel way too fast in hindsight. If and when that happens, we never have to stay at a given pace: we always have the choice to slow things down and only do whatever it is that feels right for us at a given time, even if that's nothing at all.”
Corinna also offers a handy list of warning signs that things may be moving too fast for you or a partner:
“· Sex feels more like something that "just happens" rather than something you or your partner actively choose to do

· You or your partner are experiencing anxiety, fear and/or regret during, after or about sex

· You or your partner don't, can't or don't feel able to really talk about sex together

· You or your partner feel pushed sexually or like one person is always leading sexual activities

· Sex feels physically painful, uncomfortable or just really blah for you or your partner

· Sex feels like it starts and ends too fast or too soon

· You or your partner are taking risks you don't really want to or don't feel ready for

· You or your partner are skipping or being inconsistent with safer sex and/or birth control

· You or your partner feel unable to be assertive with limits and boundaries or like limits and boundaries aren't respected

· You are being dishonest or feeling like you can't be totally honest with friends and family about
the pace of your sexual relationship

· You or your partner feel dissatisfied with sex, or like sex is very one-sided

· And the easiest clue of all: things feel like they are moving too fast”
The article then moves on to offer practical advice on how to slow things down and reminds us that, “Obviously, there are other things in our lives that we have to do even when the timing doesn't feel perfect or when we'd rather be doing something else, but sex should never be one of those things. Sex should always be 100% optional.”

There’s just so much good information in this article that I hope you’ll head over there and read the whole thing (and then send out the link widely) but in the meantime I’ll leave you with this final thought from “Whoa, There! How to Slow Down When You're Moving Too Fast:”
“It's a pretty good rule of thumb that if you or a partner aren't able to talk about what you're doing well or at all, then you probably shouldn't be doing it. Try and make sure that whatever you're doing, you're talking about it first before acting on it, rather than the other way round.”
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