"I wasn't going to feel pressured into doing it. I wanted time to make my own decision."

By teenwire
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"Am I ready for sex?" Sooner or later, it's likely you'll ask yourself this question. Or maybe you already have. Deciding whether and when to have vaginal intercourse — or any other kind of sex play — requires a lot of thought from you and your partner. If you are uncertain about your decision, or simply don't know where to start, here are some things to consider.

Check Your Values

Before having any kind of sex play, it's important to explore your values about sex and sexuality. Values are people's thoughts and feelings that are influenced by their families, their moral beliefs, and for many people, their religion. "Because of my religion, I don't believe in having sexual intercourse until marriage," says Aimee, 18. "My parents and most of my friends totally support my decision, which makes it easier for me to stick with it."

Aimee is clear about where she stands, but to get your own values in check, ask yourself these questions:

* Do you think that sexual activity needs to be part of an intimate relationship?

* What are your moral views about sex? What are your family's views?

* Does a religion influence how you feel about sex? If so, what does your religion say about it?

* Do you think that you need to be in love before having sex?

If you find that your values conflict with your decision to have sex, then you are probably not ready. Give it some time until your values and your actions are more in sync.

Examine Your Relationship

It's important for you and your partner to be on the same page when it comes to having sex. If you can't talk to your partner about whether or not you're ready to have sex, then you're not ready.

What if one person wants to have sex, but the other one doesn't? "My boyfriend said he was ready for sex way before I was," says Sabrina, 17. "But I wasn't going to feel pressured into doing it. I wanted time to make my own decision." Let your partner know that you need support no matter what you decide. And if you feel like your partner isn't giving you the respect that you deserve, then it may be time to say adios.

If you and your partner decide that you are both ready for sex, one thing you'll want to consider is how it could change your relationship. "Sex can make everything in your relationship much more serious," says Michael, 18. "You need to talk about how you will handle it." On one hand, having sex with your partner can increase feelings of intimacy and commitment. On the other hand, it can make people feel very vulnerable, and they can get hurt.

Be Prepared

You are definitely not ready for sex play if you and your partner haven't talked about protecting yourselves again pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. You need to make decisions about protection before you engage in vaginal, anal, or oral sex — don't wait until the heat of the moment to bring it up. Learn about your options and decide together what methods you will use before the situation arises.

Remember: latex and female condoms are the only methods of birth control that also reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections.

If your partner doesn't want to talk about protection or brushes you off — then you'll know that she or he is not ready! "My boyfriend came with me to my appointment at the health clinic when it was time for us to get protection," says Allie, 19. "It made me feel like he was committed to keeping us both safe."

Sex play can be part of a healthy, committed relationship, but many intimate relationships don't include sex. It may seem like everybody's "doing it," but the truth is, about half of high school students in the United States aren't having vaginal intercourse, and many teens have decided to hold off on having other kinds of sex play as well. "Am I ready for sex?" is a question that only you can answer, so take your time and talk things through with your partner if you're thinking of taking this big step.