Peer pressure

Sometimes it feels like everyone's trying to push you into having sex: your friends, your boyfriend or girlfriend, films and TV. But it's up to you when you have sex, and it's OK to say no. Find out how to resist the pressure.

Watch a video about teens and unsafe sex

One minute you're playing kiss chase in the playground and sex doesn't come into it. The next minute your friends are obsessed about when everyone will lose their virginity.

You might be thinking about sex, but the reality of it can be confusing. It takes time to understand what sex is all about. Just because you want to know more doesn't mean you have to rush into anything.

If you're feeling pressured into having sex, you're not alone. You might feel like the only virgin, but the average age teenagers start having sex in the UK is 16. This is true for boys and girls, so not everyone who says they've had sex is telling the truth.

Good relationships start with friendship, and trust builds from there.

What is peer pressure?

Peer pressure is the pressure friends and other people you know put on you to do something you don't want to do or don't feel ready to do, such as have sex.

There are different types of peer pressure:

  • obvious peer pressure – "Everyone's doing it, so should you."
  • underhand peer pressure – "You're a virgin, you wouldn't understand."
  • controlling peer pressure – "You would do it if you loved me."

Good reasons to wait until you're ready

The pressure your friends put on you is worse than the pressure you put on yourself. Most of us have to deal with it at some point, but it's difficult when friends brag about having sex and criticise you for being a virgin.

Not everything you hear is true. They could be exaggerating to make themselves look more experienced than you. Rushing into sex just to impress your friends or partner could leave you feeling like a fool because you didn't make your own decision.

It might help you to remember that: 

  • being in love or fancying someone doesn't mean you have to have sex
  • not having sex is not a sign you're immature 
  • saying no to sex is not bad for anyone's health

It's fine to say no or to say you want to wait a while, even if you've had sex before. Find out 15 things you should know about sex.  

Making your own decision

Don't do something you're not ready to do just to please other people. You're more likely to regret your first time if you do it under pressure.

You're also more likely to forget about contraception and condoms, which help prevent pregnancy and protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as chlamydia.

Having sex won't make your boyfriend or girlfriend like you more or stay with you. Your first time is important, so think carefully about it and take it slowly.

Everyone – girls and boys, lesbian, gay, straight or bisexual – deserves to make their own decision in their own time. Sex can be great when both people like each other and feel ready. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

How to stand up to the pressure

Standing up to peer pressure means deciding whether to go along with everyone else or make your own decisions. Your friends might say things that put you under pressure.

Here are some things you can say back to them to keep them quiet:

They say: "You haven't had sex because no one fancies you."
You say: "I haven't had sex because I'm not afraid of saying no", or "I'm waiting for the right person."

They say: "You'll get dumped if you don't do it soon."
You say: "We like each other for more than just sex."

They say: "We've all done it loads of times."
You say: "And Santa really climbs down the chimney every year."

They say: "You must be gay."
You say: "As if waiting for the right person means anything about my sexuality. Gay and straight people can wait for the right person", or "So what if I am?"

They say: "You'll get a reputation for being frigid."
You say: "Waiting for the right person makes me smart, not frigid."

If you want to talk to someone in confidence, you can call the Sexual Health Helpline on 0300 123 7123 (for under-25s).

Find out more about:

The 15 methods of contraception

Girls' bodies growing up

Boys' bodies growing up

How to say no

Page last reviewed: 08/10/2015

Next review due: 08/10/2017

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