What is peer pressure?
Peer pressure is the pressure that your friends and people you know put on you to do something you don't want to do, or don't feel ready to do, such as having sex.
You might be thinking about sex, but the reality of it can be confusing. You're not the only person who feels this way. It takes time to understand what sex is all about, and just because you want to know more doesn't mean that you have to rush into anything.
If you're feeling pressured into having sex, you're not alone. You might feel like the only virgin, but the average age that teenagers start having sex in the UK is 16 years. This is true for boys and girls – gay and straight – so not everyone who says they've had sex is telling the truth.
You might feel pressured to have sex, but good relationships start with friendship, and trust builds from there.
Good reasons to wait
The pressure that your friends put on you is sometimes worse than the pressure you put on yourself. Most of us have to deal with it at some point, but it's difficult when friends brag about having sex.
Not everything you hear is true. Friends could be exaggerating to make themselves look more experienced than you. Rushing into sex just to impress your friends or partner could leave you feeling like a fool because you didn't make your own decision.
It might help you to remember that:
- being in love or fancying someone doesn't mean that you have to have sex
- if you don't want to have sex, it's fine to say no
Making your own decision
Having sex won't make your boyfriend or girlfriend like you more, or stay with you. Your first time is important, so think carefully about it and get support from those who care about you and what you want.
It’s okay to say no
Don't feel awkward about saying no to sex (or kissing, touching or any other sexual activity). Nobody has the right to make you go further than you want to, and you have every right to say no - at any point, and whoever you're with.
If you don't want to have sex, anyone who really likes you will respect your decision, even if you've had sex with them before. If your boyfriend or girlfriend says something like, "If you loved me you'd do it," don't fall for it. It's emotional blackmail. However much you love or like them, you don't have to have sex with them to prove it.
Likewise, if you want to have sex but your boyfriend or girlfriend or friend doesn't, you must respect their feelings.
If you both agree to have sex, make sure that:
- you use condoms to protect yourselves from STIs
- you use a second form of contraception to prevent an unintended pregnancy