What to Have Before Having It

No, this is not a detailed foreplay list.  This is a list of things you should do before you hit the sheets.  www.scarleteen.com has a comprehensive sexual readiness checklist.  Here’s an abridged version if it.   These things apply to sexual intercourse, but can apply to oral and anal sex, too.  Clearly these things are guidelines, but I think they are useful ones with plenty of common sense.           

Material Things to Have

            Many of these items can be found for free on campus or places such as Planned Parenthood.  (Read resources for more details.) 

·   Condoms:   more than one, because you might mess up the first few by opening them wrong, putting it on wrong, or accidentally throwing them out the window, etc. Even if the first one goes on without a hitch, it might be a good idea to have spares in case you want to have more than one go.  You should know how to put one onAs in, both the man and the woman should know how to put on a condom, so both of you can check to see it has been put on correctly.  (read more about condoms later on in contraceptives) 

·   Lube:  Lubrication can make the difference between a comfortable sexual experience and a painful one, especially in the cases of anal  and PIV sex.  Sometimes it isn’t necessary—but it can lessen pain by a lot.  Also, since the anus does not self lubricate, it is always a good idea to use lubrication for anal sex to prevent tearing.  Make sure the lube you use is latex safe or it will eat your condom aliveBe especially wary of lubricants that contain oil or petroleum, such as vegetable oil, hand lotion, and Vaseline.  Read the label and make sure it won’t stain or cause nasty allergic reactions, etc.  Don’t use anything that doesn’t indicate that it is safe for condom use.  There are two types of lube, water soluble and silicone based.  Be advised that silicone based lubes can disintegrate sex toys and are harder to wash off, while water based lubes have a tendency to become sticky unless you continually add water. 

·   Secondary Method of Birth Control:  It is very ideal to have a secondary method of birth control, anything from birth control to pulling out (pulling out applies only if you have at least ONE OTHER METHOD).  Especially if you are going to have sex often.   (See the birth control section) 

·   Something to Clean Up With: In short, a towel is easier to clean than bedsheets.  Paper towels, Kleenex, absorbent stuff is always good.  If this is the girl’s first time, she might want to have some menstrual pads to collect any bleeding from the hymen.  (For hymen bleeding, do not use a tampon, it might exacerbate pain)  NOTE: Do not use roommate's bath towel or clothing. Also, a bathroom so you can go to pee and shower afterwards.

·   Doctor Info: Know where to find a doctor.  Sexually active men and women should regularly visit a clinician or gynecologist.  The Ashe Center provides sexual health services, as do local Planned Parenthood clinics. 

·   Money:  A budget to pay for condoms, lube, birth control, STI testing and medical check ups.  Sex can be pricey.  For example, say you get a yeast infection—over the counter treatment can cost you $30.     Having at least $500 is ideal.  You probably won’t use that much unless something truly goes wrong (to pay for the termination of an unwanted pregnancy or expensive antibiotic treatment for an STI, etc) but it’s better to be safe than sorry.  

·   Health Insurance: Many different services are covered by the UCLA insurance plan, SHIP, including sexual health services.  Ideally, an insurance policy should cover pregnancy and neonatal care, gynecological visits, STD testing and birth control.  If your health insurance does not completely cover all of these, or if you are covered under your parents and don’t want them to see that you are getting checked for gonorrhea, know where you can get these services confidentially and whether or not you can afford to pay for them.   Understand having a safe, healthy, and responsible health life requires periodic medical check ups. 

Physical Things to Have

·    Be in Good Physical Health:  Both partners should be in good physical health, with regular checkups and disease and infection testing.  Also, if either partner is on any sort of medication, understand its effect on sexual health.  For example, women’s yeast infection medication can greatly reduce the effectiveness of condoms, and MAOI inhibitors (medications used to treat depression) can decrease libido, making it difficult for men to maintain erections and women to reach orgasm.  Many drugs may weaken the effectiveness of birth control or facilitate STI transmission.  Also study any recreational drugs you take in case there are side effects.  For example, some people say that sex while on certain drugs can affect the future effectiveness of sex without drugs, etc.  If you are on birth control, know that being on the pill can heighten the effects of alcohol.  Heavy drinking may make it difficult for men to sustain erection and difficult for women to produce lubrication or reach orgasm.

·    Knowledge of basic anatomy: Know which parts are which, what does what, and what goes into what.  As in, know your own body and your own partner’s body.  Understand the basics of intercourse, a general knowledge of STIs (as in, if either person is covered in sores, sex is a bad idea), and human reproduction.

·    Ability to identify arousal: Know when your body is or isn’t ready for sex.  Yeah, um, it’s probably a bit easier for guys to tell than girls.  Knowing when your partner is physically ready is also important; it can prevent awkward situations and even physical pain.  Know when it is prudent to keep going and when to stop.

·    Ability to relax: Being seized by nervousness, fear, guilt or shame will not facilitate fun times.

·    Ability to Handle Mild Physical Pain:  The first time might hurt, especially for the woman.  There might also be pain if the man has a relatively large penis and the woman has a small vaginal canal.  It can hurt for men, too—depending on positions, the woman’s anatomy, etc, or in the case of anal sex.

 Relationship Things to Have

In a relationship, these items are ideal.  This might not apply for hookups. 

            A Brief Hookup Disclaimer

I am not going to write anything here condemning hook up culture—your sex life is your sex life.  However, be responsible, understand the risks, get tested, and know your emotional limits.  Also understand that some people are not as vigilant about their sexual health as others are.

            That said, in a relationship, these concepts are important whether you are just starting out or if you are married.  People invested in a significant emotional relationship will have a healthier sex life if these factors exist.

·   Limits:  Or, at least, the ability to create limits, and enough respect in the relationship for these limits to hold.  One person in the relationship should be able to comfortably say no, and the other person should be able to completely respect them.

·   Separation of Needs:  In a relationship, each person should be able to assess their own personal needs and wants and separate them from the needs and wants of their partner, family, and friends.

·   Trust: To have trust in your partner, and to be trustworthy yourself.

·   Communication: The ability to tell one another what you want both sexually and emotionally, and the ability to express likes and dislikes.  The ability to communicate in a straightforward, honest, and comfortable manner.

·   Concern About Each Other:   Concern about each other’s health, emotions, and general wellbeing, and the willingness to improve all three.

Unless these factors are unimportant to you, only people who meet this criteria should be worthy of sleeping with you.  If these factors are present, negative emotional repercussions will be lessened, if not nonexistent.  Sex should, at the very least, be consensual.  If it is consensual, it should be constructive not only to the relationship, but to each individual’s own emotional well being. 

Emotional Items to Have

·   Lack of Guilt Factor:  If you have strong religious, cultural, or family beliefs and convictions that sex (at the time or at any time) is wrong, you might want to consider not having it to avoid personal guilt trips later.

·   Responsibility: Ability to take full responsibility for your own emotions, expectations, and actions.

·   Ability to Take Disappointment:  Among other things.  Essentially, if things don’t go as well as you thought they would go, the ability to handle being disappointed, confused, or upset.  This might not necessarily happen, but clearly not all relationships work out, and sometimes it’s not as good as you imagined it would be.  This is especially true for the first time—approximately 30% of people never have sex again with the partner they lose their virginity to, and only 25% of women enjoy their first time physically (emotionally is different.)  The chances of disappoint are greatly reduced if both partners are well prepared emotionally, physically, and mentally to have sex, especially if they do not have unrealistic expectations.

·   Someone to Talk To:  Someone besides your partner whom you trust who you can go to for emotional support.  Ideally a family member, but if not, a close, trusted friend is best.  Of course, at UCLA there are physicians, counselors, RAs, and SHAs, but friends are cool, too.  Don’t believe the rumor mill, though—one girl told me that peeing after sex prevents pregnancy.  (Um, news brief, pee comes out of the urethra, babies and semen travel the vagina?  Different holes?)  For more information, check out the resources page on this website.

·   Ability to Separate Sex from Love: Okay, ideally, sex does not happen without love; realistically, the ability to separate the act of sex from love is wise and an emotional safeguard.  Sex should not be used to manipulate yourself, your partner, or other people—but unfortunately this can still happen.  When it does happen, it can only end badly.  If sex is everlastingly tied to love, it can be used against you, or you can use it against other people.  “If he loves me, he should have sex with me.”  Or, “She had sex with me, that must mean she loves me!”

·   Understanding of Change:  Sex will change the dynamics of a relationship, for better or for worse.  Have the confidence to handle the change and the have a support system if you start to lose confidence.

·   Emotional Strength:  Can you handle a possible pregnancy, disease, infection, or rejection, whether it happens to you or your partner?