How to say no to sex

Sex. According to the media/your mates/the universe, everyone who’s hit puberty is suddenly ripping each other's clothes off. But that doesn’t mean you have to – whether it’s this week, month, year, before you’re married or EVER. Everyone has a different timeline so it’s pointless comparing yourself to others. It’s your body, your choice and The Mix is here to keep it that way.

A young couple is sitting on a sofa. The boyfriend has his head on the girlfriend's lap. She is saying no to sex. This is a wide-angle image.

Why say no to sex?

Let’s get one thing straight – if you don’t want to have sex, you don’t need a reason to justify that. When, where and with whom you have sex is completely your choice. But why might you want to wait?

Aside from the same old reasons you hear about everywhere – the 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. Check out our safe sex resources for more info.

Maybe you’re actually not sure if you fancy them. Or maybe you feel massively pressured into losing your virginity. Maybe you think it will make them like you. You might even be terrified you’ll get caught by your hard line religious parents. Or maybe, just maybe, you just want no sex until you’re ready. 

“For girls especially, sex is what’s expected of you the moment you get a partner,” 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 go against peer pressure and put the brakes on, but if you’re not sure you’re ready, it’s not worth it 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 anyone else.

What sexual activity are you ready to engage in?

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

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 say, “I don’t want to do that,” and explain your reasons if they ask.

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 doing 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 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 significant other 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, and you’re having some sexual desires yourself. But that isn’t an excuse to try and push things or get them to change their mind. You need to respect their boundaries and not make them feel guilty for their decision. 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. 

Want to chat about saying no to sex? Start a chat on our discussion boards.

Other VALID reasons for saying ‘no’

Sometimes it’s not as simple as just waiting. There are literally dozens upon dozens of reasons why someone might not want to have sex. For example, you might suffer from medical conditions such as high blood pressure or high testosterone levels. Any of these may lead to you having lay off sex temporarily. Another reason might be because you have sexual problems that you’re not ready to discuss with your partner yet. These could include erectile dysfunction, hypoactive sexual desire disorder or loss of sexual desire. If you need help with any of these issues, click here to find out where to get some support. 

And for the finale: you might just have no interest in sex whatsoever *shocker*. That’s right, Asexual people exist (despite largely being erased from the media) The world is not as sex-crazed as you might think. There are plenty of people who just want an emotional connection and nothing physical. To find out more, read this article.

Read our article on consent and how it can be sexy.

Next Steps

  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

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By Holly Bourne

Updated on 17-Oct-2021