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Dating and sexual feelings

a young couple

Thinking about romance, starting to date, and feeling attraction all can be incredibly cool — and a little intense.

As you start dating, think about what you’re looking for. A solid relationship comes from being with someone who supports you, trusts you, and appreciates you for who you are. You want someone who deserves you!

As you start thinking about love and sex, don’t forget to focus on feeling good about yourself. Take good care of your body. See a doctor if you are having sex. Talk to your parent or guardian, doctor, or another trusted adult if you have questions.

When it comes to deciding about kissing and more, remember that so much of what you see on TV and hear in songs is not real or healthy. And remember that there are lots of ways to show affection other than sex. Don’t do anything that makes you uncomfortable. You’ll probably remember these exciting days for many years, and you want to remember them happily! Keep reading to learn more.

Love or leave?
Learn about relationships, and take a quiz to find out if your relationship is one to love or leave.

What teens are saying about sex arrow. top

You may get lots of messages about sex in everything from music lyrics to religious rules. Here’s what some young people are saying about waiting, staying safe, and respecting their bodies.

African American girl smiling.“I don’t want to get pregnant at a young age, nor do I want to do something that I will regret later in life. Even if you don't end up getting pregnant, you can still be left very hurt emotionally.”

Girl with long dark hair.“I think you should wait until you find the right guy — the guy that really loves you back, the one that is special. Once you find the right guy, of course you should wait for the right age also. If I choose to have sex, I will use birth control.”

Girl with short layered hairstyle.“It is best to wait. The guy may tell people about it, and the girl will be labeled a nasty name. And don’t let your boyfriend ever pressure you. A guy like that does not respect you.”

Blonde girl wearing a braid.“My boyfriend and I decided we are both ready to have sex. We know the consequences, we love each other, and it did not change anything. He would still love me just as much if I didn’t want to have sex anymore. We are using condoms because we don’t want to risk anything happening. However, we discussed what to do if a condom fails, and we both know that we will get through it together.”

Girl with large hoop earrings.“I have decided not to have sex at a young age because I would never want to have a child while I am still one.”

Young girl wearing a headband.“The best way to not get pregnant or STDs is to stay abstinent. Abstinence is a harder promise to keep as you get older because there’s so much pressure to be sexually active. Talk to your parents and guidance counselors. They’ll help you keep your promise.”

Talking with your partner about sex arrow. top

Anyone you’re seriously thinking about having sex with should be someone you can talk to about it. Talk about what kind of birth control you would use to protect yourselves from pregnancy and STDs (sexually transmitted diseases, also called sexually transmitted infections).

Are you worried that you’ll sound like you’re accusing your partner of having an STD? You can focus instead on protecting your health and respecting each other’s feelings.

It’s a good idea to talk about all this at a time and in a place where you’re comfortable and won’t be interrupted. It’s a great idea to do this while your clothes are still on!

Learn more about talking to your partner about sex.

It’s not too late to stop having sex arrow. top

Some people feel like once they’ve had sex there’s no turning back. That’s not true. You don’t have to feel bad about yourself if you regret having sex. Everybody makes mistakes — that’s just part of learning. But it doesn’t make sense to keep doing something that feels wrong to you.

Could I be gay? arrow. top

If you’re having feelings of romantic or physical attraction to other girls, you may wonder if you are gay. It’s natural as you develop to wonder about these feelings, and it may take time to figure out whether you are attracted to guys, girls, or both. Keep in mind that being attracted to girls is normal. Also, keep in mind that having a gay or lesbian parent or sibling doesn’t mean you are gay. Read more about sexual orientation.

If you’re feeling concerned about your sexual orientation, talk to someone you trust. Also, if you’re feeling stressed about telling others you’re gay or if you’re being bullied about being gay, you can get help. If you feel like you are going to hurt yourself, reach out right away to an adult, a friend, or a counselor. Things can get better. You can visit The Trevor Project or call 866-488-7386 for help.

If you are going to have sex with another girl, keep in mind that women who have sex with women are at risk for many of the same STDs as women who have sex with men. Also, if you are a lesbian, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about protecting your overall health. Lesbians are more likely to have certain health problems, like obesity, smoking, and depression, so make sure you learn how to stay healthy and strong.

Dating older guys arrow. top

If you date someone even a few years older than you, the chances go up that your partner will want to have sex before you feel ready. Also, if you have sex with a man who is legally an adult and you’re underage, he could go to jail. Laws for this are different in each state.

Staying safe when dating arrow. top

You should always feel physically and emotionally safe in a dating relationship. Consider some of the advice below to take good care of yourself.

Remember that you deserve to make your own decisions about sex and not feel rushed or pressured. You don’t owe anyone sex, whether they pressure you by being nasty or by being nice! Sometimes in an unhealthy relationship a partner may try to get you pregnant even though you’re not ready. Remember that it’s your body and your future! Learn about getting out of unhealthy relationships.

When you go out on a date, take your cell phone and cab money with you. That way you can leave if you start to feel uncomfortable. It is also a good idea to make an agreement with your parents that you can call them at any time, no questions asked, if you need help or are feeling unsafe.

Sex you don’t agree to is rape, whether it’s with a stranger or a date. Rape includes forcing a body part or object into your vagina, rectum (bottom), or mouth. Learn more about rape and sexual assault. If someone forces you to do anything sexually, tell a trusted adult or call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673 (HOPE).

To stay safe in a dating situation, it’s a good idea to avoid drugs and alcohol. They make it more likely you’ll do something you would never otherwise do, like have unprotected sex. And remember that someone can slip a date rape drug into your drink, so keep it with you at all times.

Protect yourself on the Internet and in text messages. You may think “sexting,” or sending sexy photos or messages, is private. But messages can be traced back to you, and you can even get in legal trouble for sending or forwarding them. Whatever you send can get passed around and can stay out there forever. Keep in mind that your parents, classmates, teachers, and possible future employers could wind up seeing it. If someone dares you to send this kind of message, think about why they’re doing it — and what you have to lose!

Treat your body with the respect it deserves — and make sure others do, too!

What about masturbation? arrow. top

You may have heard about or tried masturbation (which basically means giving yourself sexual pleasure). There are lots of opinions about masturbation. From a medical point of view, experts say it’s almost always not a problem — unless it’s interfering with your responsibilities or your social life. Plus, they say, it can be a way to release tension and learn about your body.


Content last reviewed April 15, 2014
Page last updated November 25, 2015