How to say no to sex

Feeling pressured to have sex? Or to go further than you're comfortable with? Don't be afraid to say NO, or "not yet".

Girl with no on her pants

Your body, your decision.

Sex. Yes, according to the media/your mates/the universe, everyone who’s hit puberty is plonking their body parts into each other. But that doesn’t mean you have to – whether it’s this week, month, year, before you’re married or EVER.

Don’t worry. We’re not here to shove abstinence-is-amazing propaganda down your throat. Sex can be brilliant if you’re ready and willing to have it. But if you’re feeling pressured into doing stuff you’re not ready for, how do you say no?

Why say no to sex?

Aside from the same old reasons you hear trotted off repeatedly – risk of unwanted pregnancy or STIs – why else might you feel like saying no? Not just to penetrative sex, but to any act you’re not comfortable with.

Maybe you’re actually not sure if you fancy them. Or maybe you feel massively pressured into losing your virginity. Maybe you’re only doing it to make them like you. Maybe you’re terrified you’ll get caught by your hard line religious parents. Or maybe, just maybe, you want to wait until you’re actually ready.

“For girls especially, sex is what’s expected of you the moment you get a boyfriend,” says Andrea Boden from sex and relationships education organisation Romance Academy. “There’re not many people saying, ‘actually, you don’t have to have sex’.”

Yes, it’s hard to rebel against peer pressure and put the brakes on, but if you’re not sure you’re ready, it might pay self-esteem-wise in the long run.

Andrea says she’s seen lots of teenagers who’ve had sex, only to regret it later. She also says teenagers who reject peer pressure find it actually increases their self-confidence. Whatever you decide, it’s ultimately about taking charge of your own sex life and making your own decisions about what you want to do. Not anybody else.

What are you ready to do sexually?

If you really fancy someone, or if you’re drunk or high, it can be hard to stop sexy stuff in the heat of the moment. So it’s worth deciding what you’re comfortable with BEFORE a potentially-penetrative situation arises.

Andrea recommends setting your boundaries before any sex opportunity. “Deciding what your boundaries are before you’re in a difficult situation makes it much easier to say no later on,” she says. “Sometimes you need some space by yourself to decide these. It’s worth putting aside a bit of me-time to work out what you feel comfortable with.”

It may sound a bit clinical, but having a specific mental tick-list of what you are and aren’t willing to do sexually isn’t a bad idea. For example, touching over clothes = fine. Under clothes = not yet, thanks. Then, in a future heated moment, if someone tries to cross your pre-determined line it’s easier to think “hang on, I’m not comfortable with this,” and say no.

How to say no

So you’re decided you’re not ready for sex/oral/touching – but how do you go about actually saying “no”?

Being direct is the key. Simply remove the offending body part and say, “I don’t want to do that,” and explain your reasons if they ask. Try not to compensate for their disappointment by launching into a passionate kiss, as this may confuse them.

If they’re still pressurising you say “NO” more firmly and tell them they’re making you feel uncomfortable. Get up and leave if possible – you can talk it through tomorrow when they’ve cooled down.

And if they try any of these lines, here are some useful responses.

“If you loved me you’d do it”

If you loved me you, (a) wouldn’t have just said that, and (b) would respect my decision

“Everyone else is doing it”

I’m not everyone else

“You’re frigid”

No. I’m just comfortable with who I am and what I want

I’ve already had sex a few times, do I have to keep having it?

No. If you don’t want to continue having sex then you don’t have to – even if you’ve done it once, twice, or hundreds of times before. It’s your body and your choice.

If someone tries to use your past exploits to pressure you, then good call for not sleeping with them yet. Anyone who tries this isn’t worthy of your body, love and attention.

“But you did it with Tony!”

That doesn’t mean I have to do it with you.

My boyfriend/girlfriend won’t have sex with me. What should I do?

If you’re on the receiving end of an abstaining partner then it can be frustrating – especially if everyone else you know is having sex. But this is no excuse to try and push things or get them to change their mind. You need to respect their decision and not make them feel guilty. Plus, do you really want to sleep with someone who doesn’t feel ready? Waiting may take some patience, but it will be worth it.

Next Steps

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By Holly Bourne

Updated on 29-Sep-2015