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Sex: Peer pressure or not?

Which of these situations are examples of peer pressure, and which ones aren't?

Can you spot which of these situations show peer pressure being played out? If you think the scenario is an example of peer pressure, select ‘True’. If you don’t think the scenario is an example of peer pressure, select ‘False’.

true or false
You're with a group of friends discussing relationships, when one of your friends asks you a question. Before you can reply, someone else shouts "They’re a virgin, they wouldn’t understand!" Everyone starts laughing, and you feel really embarrassed and uncomfortable, even though you know you’re not the only one in this position.
TRUE FALSE
Correct, in this example, you are experiencing peer pressure. The hurtful comments are designed to make you feel left out, implying that being a virgin is a bad thing. You may then feel pushed into having sex just to be like your friends.
Incorrect, in this scenario, you are experiencing peer pressure. The hurtful comments are designed to make you feel left out, implying that being a virgin is a bad thing. You may then feel pushed into having sex just to be like your friends.
true or false
You and your boyfriend/girlfriend are enjoying a relaxing night in watching a movie when he/she leans in for a kiss. You’re both enjoying it, but then they push to take things up a level. You say you don’t feel comfortable with that, but they then say "If you really loved me, you’d have sex with me."
TRUE FALSE
Correct, in this situation, you’re being manipulated into feeling guilty so you’ll have sex even though you don’t feel ready. It’s important to remember that there’s no pressure in consensual sex. Consensual sex is when you’re both ready and feel happy and relaxed about the situation.
Incorrect, this is a scenario highlighting peer pressure. In this situation, you’re being manipulated into feeling guilty so you’ll have sex even though you don’t feel ready. It’s important to remember that there’s no pressure in consensual sex. Consensual sex is when you’re both ready and feel happy and relaxed about the situation.
true or false
You and your friends are having fun hanging out together when the conversation moves on to relationships. One of your friends says how pleased they were to have waited to find the right partner before having sex for the first time as it made the experience feel more special for both of them. You say that you want to wait until you meet the right person before having sex, and your other friends also agree.
TRUE FALSE
Incorrect, this isn't an example of peer pressure. In this situation, friends are just talking about sex and relationships. No-one is pressurising anyone else or making anyone feel bad for having had sex or not having had sex. Everyone agrees that sex is about feelings and you need to take the next step in a relationship only when the time is right.
Correct, this isn't an example of peer pressure. In this situation, friends are just talking about sex and relationships. No-one is pressurising anyone else or making anyone feel bad for having had sex or not having had sex. Everyone agrees that sex is about feelings and you need to take the next step in a relationship only when the time is right.
true or false
Your phone beeps with a Whatsapp message from your girlfriend/boyfriend saying how much they are looking forward to coming over to see you later. The last time you saw each other, you agreed to take your relationship to the next level and have sex for the first time. In the next message, your partner says they don’t think you should bother with a condom as their mates say it spoils the experience. You message back to say you think it’s important, only for them to reply that they won’t bother coming round at all then.
TRUE FALSE
Correct, in this situation, you’re being pressured into having unprotected sex, and you’re absolutely right to hold your ground. As well as preventing unwanted pregnancy, condoms also protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) so you are quite within your rights to refuse to have sex without one.
Incorrect, this is a scenario highlighting peer pressure. In this situation, you’re being pressured into having unprotected sex, and you’re absolutely right to hold your ground. As well as preventing unwanted pregnancy, condoms also protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) so you are quite within your rights to refuse to have sex without one.
true or false
You're chatting with your friends about whether you should have sex with your partner or not. You explain to them that you feel ready, but are feeling quite nervous as it will be your first time whereas your partner has had sex before. Your friends each offer you advice and discuss their own situations, and some of them say they wish they had waited longer. Others say they wish they hadn’t waited so long before having sex.
TRUE FALSE
Incorrect, this isn't an example of peer pressure. Friends should be supportive of your decisions and be there to talk things through with you in confidence. In this example, they’re just sharing advice based on their own experiences without putting pressure on you to make particular choices. Remember, you can also talk things over with a public health nurse (school nurse). Make an appointment to see them at school to discuss things in confidence.
Correct, this isn't an example of peer pressure. Friends should be supportive of your decisions and be there to talk things through with you in confidence. In this example, they’re just sharing advice based on their own experiences without putting pressure on you to make particular choices. Remember, you can also talk things over with a public health nurse (school nurse). Make an appointment to see them in school to discuss things in confidence.

How to get help

Did you know there’s a confidential text service called Chat Health for getting in touch with a public health nurse (school nurse)? The box at the bottom of the page, ‘Find Help in Your Local Area’, will show you if it’s available where you live. You can also find out more here:

 

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Scenario One

Pressure from friends to have sex can be tricky to handle. If you’d like to talk to someone about how you’re feeling, or how to get around the pressure and feel ok, your public health nurse (school nurse) can help.

You can make an appointment to see them in school – your school office will know the times of their clinics, and you can discuss any concerns or worries you have with them in complete confidence.


Scenario Two

You should only have sex in a relationship when both of you are ready. It doesn’t matter whether your partner is pushing you to do it, don’t say yes until you feel you’re ready, it’s not something that should be forced. The animation, ‘6 simple ways to understand consent’, explains this really well.

The legal age to have sex in England is 16. This applies to young men and women having sex together and also to young people of the same sex. You can find out more about the law and consenting to sex in this article, ‘The law and consenting to sex: Just the facts’.

You might also want to read this article, ‘4 ways to say no or not yet’, which gives you some ready responses you can use if you aren’t ready for sex or want to say no to your partner.


Scenario Three

Everyone’s different and will feel ready to have sex at a different time. There are no set timescales to say when you should have sex – it all comes down to when you feel ready, comfortable and are with someone that you want to have sex with.

According to a study by FPA, the sexual health charity, the average age of first time sex is 16 for both boys and girls. There will be some who have sex earlier than this, and others who have sex when they are older, it all depends on when you are ready and with someone you feel completely comfortable with.

You may hear your friends talking about having sex, but most of them won’t actually be doing it. Never feel pressured into doing anything, especially sex, just because it sounds like all of your friends are doing it. Take your time and don’t rush something which should be very special to you and the person you’re having sex with.

This ‘Checklist for when you might be ready for sex’ can help you think about when you might be ready to have sex with your boyfriend/girlfriend.


Scenario Four

It’s really important that you talk about contraception before deciding to have sex with your girlfriend/boyfriend, and there are many different contraceptive options available. You should never be pressurised into having unprotected sex.

This article, ‘Condoms-Just the facts’ provides lots of useful information on using condoms, how they work and how effective they are. Not only do they prevent unwanted pregnancies, but they protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) too.

Protect Against STIs, Use a Condom is a new campaign which highlights the importance of using a condom to protect you from getting a sexually transmitted infection. Find out more on the campaign website.

Your public health nurse (school nurse) will talk to you about contraception, the different types available and how to use it. They will discuss this with you in complete confidence.


Scenario Five

Friends provide a support network that you can rely on for advice whenever you need it. Friends shouldn’t ever put pressure on you to do anything that you’re not ready to do and should keep information you tell them in confidence private.

If at any point you think you’d feel more comfortable talking to a public health nurse (school nurse) rather than your friends, go along to one of their drop-in sessions in school. They’re there to support you with all aspects of your physical and emotional health and wellbeing, and will talk to you about any concerns you have related to sex, contraception and sexual health, no matter how old you are.

Find help in your local area

Find out what services are available to you in your area. Remember your school nurse is always there to give you confidential help and support.