A young couple embraces

Love vs. Sex

Love and sex are NOT the same thing. Love is an emotion or a feeling. There is no one definition of love because the word “love” can mean many different things to many different people. Sex, on the other hand, is a biological event. Even though there are different kinds of sex, most sexual acts have certain things in common. Sex may or may not include penetration.

The Differences Between Love and Sex

Love:

  • Love is a feeling (emotional).
  • There is no exact “right” definition of love for everybody.
  • Love involves feelings of romance and/or attraction.

Sex:

  • Sex is an event or act (physical).
  • There are different kinds of sex, but all kinds of sex have some things in common.
  • Can happen between a male and a female, between two females, between two males, or by one’s self (masturbation).

Ways to express love without sex

There are countless nonsexual ways to show someone you love them. You can show a person you care for them by spending time with them. Go to the movies. Or just hang out and talk. If you are with someone you really like, then anything can be fun.

There are also ways to feel physically close without having sex. These include everything from kissing and hugging to touching each other. Just remember that these activities can lead to sex. Plan beforehand just how far you want to go, and stick to your limits. It can be difficult to say “no” and mean it when things get hot and heavy.

Deciding whether or not to have sex

The decision of whether or not to have sex is up to you, and you alone. Therefore don’t be afraid to say “no” if that’s how you feel.

Having Sex for the First Time

Having sex for the first time can be a big emotional event. There are many questions and feelings that you may want to sort out before you actually get “in the heat of the moment.”

Before choosing to have sex for the first time, ask yourself:

  • Am I really ready to have sex?
  • How am I going to feel after I have sex?
  • Am I doing this for the right reasons?
  • How do I plan to protect myself/my partner from sexually transmitted infections or pregnancy?
  • How am I going to feel about my partner afterward?

The best way to prepare for the decision to have sex is to become comfortable with communicating about your needs. If you don’t feel right about something, say so! Anyone who challenges your choices about whether or not to have sex is not giving you the respect that you deserve. Pay attention to your feelings, and don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for making decisions that are right for you.

Again, only you can decide if you’re ready to have sex. No one ever has the right to pressure you into having sex. If you’re not ready–even if you and that person have had sex before–remember that you are the only person who should have control over your body.

It can be hard to say “no,” even if you want to; you might feel bad about hurting someone else’s feelings, or feel that there are expectations about what is supposed to happen. But you always have the right to say “no.”

It is best to be prepared

If you decide you are ready, make sure you and your partner are prepared. Be prepared to protect yourself against sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy. While condoms (used correctly and consistently) can protect against both STIs and pregnancy, other forms of birth control (such as the pill) may protect against pregnancy but NOT STIs. Taking care of your sexual health is essential.

Having sex is a major step. Don’t be too embarrassed about asking questions and communicating your thoughts with your partner. They may be feeling the same way and are unsure how to approach you. If you feel you are comfortable enough to have sex with them, then you should be ready to have a conversation about it!

A note about drugs and alcohol: The effects of drugs and alcohol can make it hard to think clearly, let alone make the best possible decisions about sex. While you’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it is easy to make a decision you’ll regret later. Even worse, some people will use the effects of alcohol and other drugs to force you into having sex with them. Avoiding alcohol and recreational drug use reduces the risk of contracting an STI, having an unintended pregnancy, or being coerced to have sex.

Learn more about sexual health