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Dear Sexpert,

I met a lot of friends in my ’zee group and Outdoor Action and stuff, and was excited to go out with them during frosh week. It was a lot of fun, but most of them would take people home and then talk about all their hookups and stuff. I’m still a virgin, but I have been thinking about sex. I just don’t know if I’m ready, but I feel like it’s part of college. I need some advice, but I feel awkward talking about it with my RCA.

Please help,

Worried

Dear Worried,

The decision to have sex is an extremely personal one. While there isn’t any right or wrong time to become sexually active, it’s important that you think about your values and priorities when it comes to sex and sexual relationships. What worries you about losing your virginity? Is it because you’re unsure of what will happen, or is it perhaps because you don’t want to lose it to the “wrong” person? Is it important to you that your first experience with sex to be in a committed relationship?

All of these questions are things to consider when determining whether you are ready to have sex. Again, it’s important to carefully weigh what you value, and to not let that be muddled by what others are saying. Having sex is a major step, so you want to be sure that you’re not rushing into a decision just because of outside pressures or what you think the “norm” is on campus. In fact, surveys of Princeton undergraduates tell us that about half of current Princeton undergrads have not had any sexual partners in the past year; likewise, about half of current Princeton undergrads have had at least one sexual partner in the past year. Either way, you won’t be the only one. People may talk a lot about “hooking up,” but what they mean by that can vary from person to person. The decision is yours and yours alone, and is not to be based on feeling pressured by friends, a sexual or romantic partner, or anyone else.

If and when you do decide to have sex, you should understand the responsibilities and consequences (physical and emotional) of being sexually active. Physically, you want to be absolutely sure that you’re being as safe as possible, by using methods of sexually transmitted infections and/or pregnancy prevention. Be aware that the only way to 100 percent protect yourself from the risk of both STIs and pregnancy is abstinence, and that you should always be using a barrier method (i.e. condoms and dental dams) when engaging in sexual activity in order to protect yourself (and your partner!) from STIs. It’s important to feel comfortable telling your partner what you need and what you’re comfortable with. Both of you should also feel comfortable saying “stop” and “no” in any situation. Sex before you’re ready, sex without trust or respect, or sex that doesn’t feel good can result in some really stressful feelings. And a healthy sex life shouldn’t be stressful. Being in a sexual relationship might also change the way you feel about yourself, your partner or the way you view relationships and sex in general. So, it’s important that you feel ready to tackle these changes in feelings and emotions — and not just ready for the physical changes!

That being said, if you have any questions or concerns about the physical and/or emotional responsibilities and consequences of becoming sexually active, or if you’d just like to talk to someone about how you’re feeling, Sexual Health and Wellness at University Health Services is a wonderful resource. While in the end this will be a decision that only you can make, there are plenty of people here on campus who can help guide you towards making the decision that’s right for you.

- The Sexpert

Information on STI prevention and birth control methods: http://bedsider.org/en/methods

Helpful Q&A and information resource center for all things sex- and relationship-related: http://sexetc.org/sex-ed/info-center/stories/

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