How Do You Tell Someone You're Not Ready to Have Sex?

How to Know You're Ready for Sex

TheHopeLine has posted before on the topic of consent and its utmost importance when it comes to sex, and there’s a lot out there on how and why consent is so important. But how in the world do you actually say “no” when you find yourself in the situation of NOT wanting to give consent to a sexual encounter? This is one of those moments when you may not know exactly what to say, but you do know how you feel. Where’s a handy dandy script when you need one? Have no fear. Let’s try to figure out some phrases you can look toward if you’re ever in the situation of needing to communicate to someone that you are not ready to have sex.

Factors of Readiness

Of course, the first step to telling someone you’re not ready is knowing whether or not you’re ready. Setting your personal boundaries ahead of time and sticking to them when you are caught up in a moment is crucial. 

How do you know if you’re ready for sex? There are a number of factors to consider here, but I’ll start with three big ones: age, beliefs, and goals.

First Big Factor - Age

Have you heard of the age of consent? Humans have enough experience with the negative consequences of certain sexual encounters that we’ve written into law that nobody under the ages of 16-18, depending on which state you live in, can legally consent to have sexual contact. Period. That may sound arbitrary to you but do your research. There are good reasons for that stipulation, ranging from teen brain development stages to protection from abusers. If you’re under 18, it’s a good idea to wait. If your partner is under 18, and you’re older, you could even be convicted of statutory rape if it is discovered you’ve had sex with your underage partner.

Age is a pretty clear-cut way to determine whether or not you’re ready for sex.

Second Big Factor - Beliefs

A second big factor when it comes to sex: your beliefs. What do you believe about sex? Does your faith or spiritual beliefs consider sex a sacred bond between two married people?  If you’re considering having sex with someone, take a moment to ask yourself whether doing so would align with your beliefs about sex and intimacy. If you’re thinking about having sex, despite your beliefs, ask yourself why. Peer pressure? To please your partner. To make yourself feel better. Those reasons don’t sound like a recipe for enthusiastic consent to me which means you are likely not ready.

While saving sex for marriage may not be a popular opinion today, there are a number of important advantages in waiting for protecting your heart and your body. God wasn’t being mean when he designed sex for marriage. He was being loving. He created sex for pleasure, to have babies, and to bond a husband and wife together.  Soul ties are very real and even scientifically based. So, if your faith encourages saving sex for marriage, know that comes from a loving God.

Third Big Factor - Goals

The third big factor we’ll discuss here: your goals. Do you have goals in life? Finishing high school, going to college, traveling the world, going to outer space? Remember that sex can, even if you’re protected with condoms or birth control, result in pregnancy.

Do you have a plan for if that happens? Do you trust that your partner would support you in that situation? Do you have adequate health care at the moment, in case of pregnancy or STIs? By no means am I saying that someone with a baby or an STI can’t achieve their goals, it’s just something you should consider before you take the leap into sexual relationships––are you ready to face the potential consequences that come with sex? If not, wait.

There are plenty more factors to consider, but in my honest opinion, if you’re still wondering whether you’re ready, to the point where you’re thinking about it all the time and googling articles like this to help you decide, you’re probably not ready. You’re still very much in the process of exploring who you are and what your beliefs about sex are! And that’s an okay place to be. It’s also a perfectly good way to explain to someone why you’re saying “no.”

No Explanation Necessary

Not that you have to explain anything! Let’s get that straight. You don’t have to explain anything. A simple “no” is always enough when it comes to sexual consent, and someone who demands an explanation isn’t respecting your boundaries. But if you want to explain, your potential partner might appreciate it, and it could end up being a very bonding conversation for the two of you.

 If you’re not sure where to start with your explanation, here are a few “scripts” you can look at to get started. Feel free to make these your own and use them as a jumping-off point for what you’d like to say. If you’re nervous, you can even practice saying these out loud to yourself! Sometimes the very act of getting the words out of your mouth is the most intense part of these conversations, so don’t be afraid to allow yourself a little rehearsal.


If you’re still struggling to come up with what to say, here are a few helpful scripts that might get you started. First, you can keep it simple: “No, I’m not interested in sexual contact.”

Anyone who won’t accept that boundary at face value is not worth your time. Read that again. If they “need” or demand sex after you’ve drawn that line, they are not a good relationship match for you, nor you for them. It may be time to consider whether you and this partner are good for each other. If they are accepting of your boundary, you want to explain that you are interested in continuing the relationship but not ready for sex, you can start with this script, and follow-up with one of these examples of how one or more factors go into your decision to wait: “I really like you, and I’m attracted to you, but I’m not ready to have sex with you because…


I’m waiting until I reach the age of consent to consider sex, and that’s for both our safety.”


I’m waiting for marriage because of my religious beliefs, and I would really appreciate it if you could respect that.”


I’m not ready or interested in the potential complications sex can bring into our lives, like pregnancy or STI’s, and abstinence is how I’d like to stay safe from those things.”

You can even have this conversation with someone at the very beginning of your relationship, if you’d like to make sure you’re both on the same page from the start. To do that, try saying: “Before we get too serious, I want you to know that I’m waiting to have sex. Is that going to be a problem for you if we start dating?”

While you’re having a conversation about physical boundaries, remember that you’re not the only person involved who deserves to have those boundaries respected! It’s always good to check in with your partner on whether they have any they’d like to discuss, and then… respect them!

“I’ve explained my boundaries to you. Do you have any that you’d like me to respect?”

Finally, there’s always the chance that the person you’re talking to will push back or try to talk you out of your boundaries. In this case, I suggest you run away at full speed, but if you’re more of a walker, you might try saying this first to make it extra clear that you’re serious about your decision: “I’ve told you before that I’m not ready for sex. If you keep pressuring me like this, I’m going to leave.”

Just remember that if you say that, you’ve got to respect your own words and follow through. If they push back on your boundaries again, stand up, grab your things, and leave the situation. Go to a safe place and seriously consider whether or not that person still has the right to be in your life.

You’re Never Alone

Now, these scripts don’t cover everything you might need or want to say, but I hope they help you figure out how to tell your boyfriend or girlfriend that you’re not ready to have sex. If you find yourself still needing more time or help to parse through your thoughts on whether you’re ready or what to say, you can reach out to TheHopeLine and chat about it right now. This can be a stressful topic and a difficult time in life, but you’re not alone! We’re here if you ever need someone to talk to.

If you're not ready to have sex, you are not alone, read this article about rethinking "casual" sex and what to do.

Dawson McAllister
Dawson McAllister, also known as America's youth pastor, was an author, radio host, speaker, and founder of TheHopeLine. McAllister attended Bethel College in Minnesota for undergraduate work where he graduated in 1968, began graduate studies at Talbot School of Theology in California, and received an honorary doctorate from Biola University.
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One comment on “How Do You Tell Someone You're Not Ready to Have Sex?”

  1. Remember, condoms do not protect against genital warts or herpes. Think about how that affects your future...

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