Relationship FAQs

It’s YOUR Sex Life, which means you have the power to take control and make decisions for yourself. But sometimes relationships bring out complicated emotions and it can be hard to sort through what we want and feel. Get answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about sexuality, confidence, relationships and making decisions about sex including deciding if you want to wait or are ready below.

Making Decisions About Sex

How do I know when I am ready?

Everyone is different, and when it comes to your body, you are the only one who gets to decide what feels right to you. There are lots of ways to feel close to someone without having sex and there is no need to rush anything. You get to set your own limits—both physical and emotional, and if you just aren’t feeling ready follow your gut and listen to yourself.

If you are thinking about having sex, start by being informed: get the facts about how to protect yourself from STDs and unplanned pregnancy. Knowing the facts can help you start a conversation with your partner or hookup about what you are ready to do, or not ready to do, and a protection plan. Being informed can help you have the confidence to share what you have been thinking, then listen to what they have to say. Yes, communicating about sex can be awkward, but this is something you need to discuss and come to an agreement on. The only way to know that they will respect your boundaries, take responsibility and be safe is to talk about it. And have that conversation before things get heated and clothes start to come off!

I feel like I’m being pressured to do more than I want to sexually, what should I do?

You are in charge of your body, and it’s important to only do what feels right to you. If someone is pressuring you to go further than you want to, tell them that you feel uncomfortable and you want to stop. Then set some boundaries that feel right to you. If they keep pressuring you, that’s not cool and it may be time to consider ending the relationship. In relationships, people need to listen to each other, and you deserve to be heard and respected. Stand tall and speak up for yourself.

How do I bring up using protection?

The fact that you’re asking that question means you’re taking steps towards being responsible about your sexual health and the health of others! Taking precautions so you won’t have a baby anytime soon or get an STD is something to be proud of (condoms are the only method that protect against unintended pregnancy and STDs). The person you are involved with will probably be relieved you decided to bring it up, and if it feels a little awkward it’s ok to laugh about it. Just be straight forward–whatever gets you through the conversation is a good thing.

Read up on What Works and What Doesn’t when it comes to protection and make a plan that works for both of you. Having this conversation before the clothes come off will help you both think clearly and rationally. This is NOT about not trusting the other person, this is about you wanting to make the safest choices possible for everyone’s future.

What if he/she doesn’t want to use a condom?

A lot of excuses get thrown around when someone doesn’t want to use a condom — “don’t you trust me?” “but I want to really feel you” and “they don’t work anyway” to name a few. It’s hard to believe that someone might want to put their whole future at risk by not using a condom, but it happens. And it’s hard to believe the excuses because, well they are just wrong! Using condoms isn’t about trust, it’s the smart thing for everyone, no matter how many partners a person has had. Condoms are the only method that both protects against pregnancy AND helps protect against STDs, so the benefits of that far outweigh any temporary sensation. And when condoms are used consistently and correctly, they are highly effective in preventing the sexual transmission of HIV.

This conversation is easier to have before you are in the heat of the moment, so talk beforehand and make a plan to always use a condom. That way you have a plan to depend on and can say, “We already talked about this and promised to use condoms to be safer.”

If they are still coming up with excuses, there is only one thing left to say: No condom? No sex.


How do I start a conversation about getting tested for STDs?

Start by explaining why it’s important to you that you both get tested. STDs are really common, 1 in 2 sexually active people will get an STD by 25 and most won’t know it. It’s not about trust, most STDs have no symptoms so getting tested really comes down to common sense. Getting tested is the ONLY way to know for sure. You can’t tell by looking. If you or he/she test positive for an STD there are things you can do–ALL STDs are treatable and most are curable.

Find more ideas for bringing up testing in the Get Yourself Tested “Talk” section, including this video from MTV, and these talking tips.

Sexuality


How does someone know they are gay?

Some people say they have known about their sexuality since they were kids, and others go through a period of questioning before they feel sure. The Gay and Lesbian National Hotline provides peer counseling at 1-800-246-PRIDE. If someone is questioning their sexuality and feels overwhelmed or suicidal, help is available from the Trevor Project 24-hours-a-day:  1-866-4-U-TREVOR

Are there support organizations for people who are coming out?

Absolutely. Many schools and universities have Gay-Straight Alliances that create a safe space for students. The Human Rights Campaign also has resources and FAQs on coming out here. A longer list of available resources is here.

Are gay and bisexual men at a higher risk for HIV?

Gay and bisexual men have accounted for a disproportionate share of new HIV infections since the early days of the epidemic. According to a recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 1 in 5 gay and bisexual men in some of the largest U.S. cities are HIV positive – and half of them do not know it.

If you are having sex of any kind, protection is important. For gay and bisexual men, consistent and correct use of condoms, with lubricant, is the most effective way to reduce the spread of HIV, as well as other STDs.

Bullying and Confidence

What can I do if someone is starting rumors about me at school?

Stand tall and don’t let anyone make you feel bad about yourself. Document what is happening so that you have proof: If someone leaves a note in your locker, keep it so you have evidence. Your school should have a harassment policy to protect you. Learn what it is and tell a trusted adult what’s going on.

I’ve heard a lot of people talk about sexting. What’s the big deal? It’s just a naked picture.

Before you whip out that phone, take a minute to think about what might happen after you press send. Whoever you send it to could forward the pic to somebody, then they could show it to a friend, and it could keep going from there. Pretty soon, you might feel, well, exposed. You wouldn’t walk down the street naked, would you? So why would you do that digitally? Be protective of your bod and who sees it!

Is it normal to not like the way my body looks?

Stop beating yourself up! There are all kinds of bodies out there and they are all beautiful. Some are curvy, wiry, thick, or strong, but they all deserve respect. You deserve respect too. You only have one body and you can protect it by making smart decisions about your health and sexual health.

If you are getting down on yourself, talk to a friend or trusted adult about it.

And stop looking to magazines and television shows for your standard of beauty. Nobody is perfect. Even celebs have flaws, they just use tricks like lighting and airbrushing to hide them.

People are saying things that aren’t true about me on Facebook, and it’s getting out of control. How do I defend myself?

Close to a third of all teens have had a rumor spread about them online or by text. That doesn’t make dealing with it any easier, but it does mean you aren’t dealing with it alone. If people are hating on you or spreading gossip online, there are things that can do to stop it. Start by reporting it to the site admin or the police. De-friend and delete the people who are responsible, and up the privacy settings to the max. Striking back will just make it worse. Instead, take some time to vent. This sucks, and letting feelings out by talking with someone you trust can help.

Relationships

What is a healthy relationship?

Healthy relationships have a few things in common: respect, trust and communication. In healthy relationships, people spend time together, but they make their own decisions and have their own lives too. They build each other up, support each other and they trust each other.



In a healthy relationship, you can talk about any issue even if it’s awkward or hard, like talking about your limits when it comes to sex – what you are ready to do or not do, talking about protection, and bringing up getting tested for STDs. It’s all about listening to the other person and respecting their point of view!


What is an abusive relationship?

Abuse can be physical, like pushing or hitting. It can also be sexual, like if one person pressures or forces another person to do more than they want to. Abuse can be emotional too. Constant insults and put downs, making someone feel bad about themselves or humiliating them in front of their friends is abusive. Abuse doesn’t usually happen right away. These dynamics take time to build up in a relationship, and there are warning signs, like super controlling behavior, extreme jealousy or possessiveness.

Sometimes my relationship makes me feel worthless, is that normal?

No, and it’s not ok either. The next time this person says something mean or degrading, tell them how it makes you feel and ask them to stop. If they don’t take it seriously and they don’t stop, then it’s time to consider ending the relationship. It might be hard to do, but you deserve to feel good about yourself, and your relationship should make you feel good about yourself too.

If I have a friend in an abusive relationship, what should I do?

Every year, almost 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse in a relationship. In college, more than half of the women say they know someone who has experienced physical, verbal or sexual abuse.

If you have a friend experiencing very controlling behavior in their relationship, being pressured into sex or hurt with words or violence, there is help available but they may need someone to help encourage them. To start, you can listen in a non-judgmental way. Then offer to go with them to talk to a trusted adult. You can find out more information, hotlines and resources here.

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