Becoming sexually active is a big deal – make sure you're thinking carefully before deciding whether you want to lose your virginity.
- TIP: Two condoms do _not_ protect better than one; in fact, doubling up increases the risk that one or both will fail.
- Step 1: Make sure condoms are made of latex and have not expired; the date is stamped on the package and on each individually wrapped condom. Don't use a condom that's been exposed to heat or has been kept in a cramped place, like a wallet; it could be damaged.
- Step 2: Keep expectations in check. If you're expecting the Earth to move, your life to change, and your partner to be with you forever, you may be disappointed. The first time can be a little awkward. But when you're really ready and you're with someone who cares about you and respects you, it also can be amazing.
- Step 3: Always remember you can change your mind about having sex, even if you're right in the middle of it. It's your body, and your legal right.
- FACT: According to one survey, 55 percent of boys and 70 percent of girls wish they had waited longer before having sex.
- Step 4: If you've decided to have sex and plan to use condoms, discuss who is going to bring them and whether you are going to use another form of birth control as backup. If you're too embarrassed to buy or even discuss birth control, you may not be ready to have sex.
- TIP: Ask your parents or a doctor about getting vaccinated against the HPV virus before you become sexually active.
- Step 5: Now ask yourself if you really know your partner. Do you trust them to stop if you suddenly change your mind? Not to hurt you, physically or emotionally? Not to blab to the whole school the next day? It's important to trust the person you're thinking of having sex with.
- Step 6: Find out if you and your potential partner are on the same page. One of you may think that taking this step means you're in love, or officially a couple, while the other may just think of it as a hookup. These are not the kind of crossed signals you want to discover afterward.
- Step 7: Listen to your gut. Does the thought of having sex make you feel happy and comfortable, or scared and anxious? Scientists say our subconscious can give us the right answer to a dilemma through a "gut feeling."
- Step 8: Protect yourself from sexually transmitted diseases. Ask your potential partner to get tested; it may be a slightly uncomfortable conversation, but it's the only way to make sure they're clean. Some STDs have no symptoms, meaning your partner could have one without knowing it. Condoms, which offer some protection, are not 100 percent effective, and other forms of birth control don't protect against STDs at all.
- Step 9: Ask yourself why you want to have sex. Are you hoping to get someone interested in you – or keep them interested? Are you trying to prove that you love them? Do you think sex will make you more grown-up? More popular? Is it because everyone else is doing it? None of these are good reasons.