What Are My Personal Values About Sex? How Are My Values Shaped?
Before you ask yourself whether you’re ready to have sex, it’s helpful to understand what personal values you have about it. Personal values are the core beliefs, attitudes, or standards that matter to you. Your personal values, whether about work, family, or sex, guide how you live your life every day. Whether or not you are aware of it, you can express your personal values through actions, thoughts, feelings, and words. You may feel strongly about some values and be more flexible about others. A lot of times, you may not be fully aware what your values are, even if they dictate how you behave on a day-to-day basis.
The personal values you have about the topic of sex, specifically, may be influenced by a number of factors, including:
- The time and place you live in history
- Societal and cultural expectations
- Portrayals of sex in the media
- Religious beliefs
- The beliefs of your family and friends
- Your age*
- Your gender
- Your academic, career, and personal goals
- Your past sexual experiences
*Age can impact your values in several ways. Some people’s values change as they grow older. For example, at age 20, you might decide that you are not ready for a serious, long-term relationship, but you may be ready at age 25.
Societies and families have different expectations for different age groups. For example:
- In our society, teenagers are rarely expected to be married or raise children of their own.
- You may hear parents say that their child is “too young to date.”
Sex (and whether or not to have sex) is a sensitive or even controversial topic, in part because people do not always agree or share the same values.
For example, people may agree or disagree with the following value statements:
- “Sex is only acceptable within marriage.”
- “You should only have sex with someone you love.”
- “It’s okay to stay with a partner who cheated on you.”
Since sex is a sensitive topic, you may experience a considerable amount of inner turmoil or conflict with others if you disagree on what values are important.
For this reason, it is helpful to recognize…
- what your values are and why they are important to you,
- how your values may differ from others’,
- how your values are shaped,
- how your values change over time, and
- whether or not you are willing to compromise on your values when challenged.
You may find that you agree with some standards about sex and disagree with others. Based on your personal values about sex, you may decide to behave in ways that go with or against people’s expectations. You may also find that your own values may change over time or vary across certain situations.
Why Do I Want to Have Sex?
Before considering all the different factors that impact whether you feel ready to have sex, it helps to think about why you want to have sex. You should only have sex if you want to, so it’s good to understand why you feel that way.
In general, people have sex either because they want something or because they want to avoid something. People who had sex because they genuinely wanted to have sex usually report more satisfaction than those who had sex because they were afraid of what would happen if they did not, or if they were trying to avoid social stigma by not having sex, for example:
Reasons related to wanting something:
- I want to have sex to connect with someone or express love to someone I care about.
- I want to have sex to feel good, have fun, or release sexual tension.
Reasons related to avoiding something:
- I want to have sex because I think most other people my age have had sex.
- I want to have sex so that people will think I’m cool.
- I want to have sex to “get it out of the way”.
- I want to have sex because my partner says they will break up with me if we don’t.
- I want to have sex to prove that I’m straight.
You should never be pressured into having sex. Likewise, you should never pressure your partner into having sex before they are ready. Try to make sure you and your partner both are having sex because you want to, not because you are trying to avoid negative feelings or prove something to others.