I came across a quiz in Seventeen magazine (don’t ask why I was reading it) – asking the question, “Are you ready for sex?” I was intrigued, so I took the quiz. Thankfully, the quiz determined that I was in fact ready. So how did Seventeen magazine determine that I was able and ready to take this step in my life? I was asked questions like:
– How long have you been with your boyfriend?
– Have you ever discussed birth control or condoms?
– You know your guy loves you because…?
A twelve year old could have answered these questions and the quiz would have determined that they were ready to “go for it.” I think a better criteria was needed for the quiz to impart any real wisdom.
Have you ever noticed the lack of clarity around this question? It would seem like an important question to have an objective answer to. When is a relationship ready for sex? Regardless of where your opinion falls, most everyone would agree that sex has the power to bring a man and woman together in love and is a very important part of a romantic relationship between a man and a woman. At the same time, everyone could probably think of many couples who were “in love” before a sexual relationship drove them apart or created great conflict in their relationship.
The most common response to this question about sex tends to be, “it’s different for everyone. You have sex when you and your partner both feel ready.” But what does that mean? That would appear to be too subjective to give any real clarity. Biologically, your body is “ready” for sex when you reach adolescence. But that doesn’t mean that’s when you should start having sex. There is great emotional responsibility involved in entering into a sexual relationship. What happens if the relationship ends and the two people have now given of themselves in deep intimacy and now they no longer want anything to do with one another? What happens if they conceive a child and they are only teenagers? Trusting your feelings and following emotions would not appear to be the best criteria for making such an important decision. Although feelings are misleading, the responsibilities that follow sexual intimacy are very real. It would seem that sex should be reserved for two people who aren’t simply in love, but who are in a lifelong relationship and are ready to accept responsibility.
It’s not enough to be “in love.” After all, there are varying degrees of love. What if you are “deeply in love,” and you “just know” that you will be together forever? You may feel “ready” for sex, but you could fill an ocean with the tears cried by people who had sex and were deeply in love, only to find themselves separated months later.
Is there an objective criteria to answer this question? Is there a full-proof measurement to determine when you are ready to have sex? I think so, or at least, I know when I knew that I was ready.
When I loved a woman in my life so much that I could proclaim that love to her father and asked for the responsibility to care for his daughter for the rest of my life – I knew I was ready. When I loved a woman in my life so much that I could proclaim my love to her – in front of all of her friends and family and God Himself – I knew I was ready. When I could vow my entire life to a woman’s service and to the service of our future children, in good times and bad, sickness and health – I knew I was ready. My love for her had to be so strong and so devoted that it could only make sense in the context of a lifelong self-gift. I found that a commitment of our bodies to one another must be preceded by a commitment of our entire lives to one another.
How do you know if you are ready to have sex? Is there an objective criteria to answer that question? I think there is.
If you are not married, you are not ready for sex.
Everett Fritz works in Catholic Youth Ministry and enjoys speaking on the topics of chastity, discipleship, and youth evangelization. He is the Content Development Coordinator for YDisciple at the Augustine Institute and holds an MA in Pastoral Theology with concentrations in Catechesis and Evangelization from the Augustine Institute. He also holds a BA in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville. Everett resides in Denver with his wife Katrina and their three children.