Q: I'm a junior in high school, and my boyfriend, a senior, wants us tohave sex. Some of my friends have had sex with a few guys. Some feel,for religious reasons, it's very important to wait until marriage. Butthat's probably going to be years and years away for me--maybe not untilI'm 30. Do you think I should wait?

Dear Unsure,

Should you have sex with your high school boyfriend? My answer issimple: No. You should wait. This is not for the reasons that you have likely heard from priests andparents--dictates of morality and virtue. Rather, it is for a reasonthat should strike you as much more relevant and worthy. I advise youto wait because you will be a happier and healthier adult for havingdone so.

Please do not write this off as a religious figure telling you what theBible says is best. On the contrary, my response derives from years andyears of speaking with young women who decided to have sex much earlierthan they actually wanted to, with men they weren't sure loved themor with whom they weren't sure they were in love. It comes from sittingin on many a tear-ridden epiphany when a girl realized she had sleptwith her boyfriend for precisely the reason that you offer in yourletter--"because he wanted to"--and that this reason had completelyeliminated her needs from the equation.

Keep in mind that life is meant to happen in stages. When we skip aheadto reach a stage that we are not yet ready for, we suffer repercussions.In your situation, the consequences range from an unwanted pregnancy (atan age when you should be focused on college and soccer games and theprom) to the wish that you had your full physical self to give to theman you will eventually love and share your life with. Another very realaftermath of engaging in sex before one is ready is the risk that youwill learn not to enjoy it. Sex for sex's sake causes many women todread the act. They come to view it as an obligation. Gauging thetentative language in your letter, I can only deduce that you yourselfare not ready to take this major step.

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Is this boy aware that you are hesitant to become sexually active? Doesyour hesitancy register with him, or is he only intent on satisfying hisphysical urges, allowing his desires to eclipse all else? A situationlike this could be a very accurate measure of this boy's character. Aman who does not respect the wishes of the woman he is with does nottruly love that woman. If you express your wish to wait, and hecontinues to push his agenda, what does this say about him?

Physical intimacy will not have a solid foundation until true emotionalintimacy has been established. This progression is relevant whether youare 16 or 60. If physical intimacy is attempted before anemotional base is well-established, the chances of a lastingrelationship are slim. Do not skip steps. Lay your foundations--in lifeand in your relationships--and then build up.

I am also a bit troubled by your reference to "waiting until you are30" for marriage. I hear this statement more frequently every day.I find it genuinely troubling that an entire generation of young peoplehas decided en masse that love and relationships fall way down on theirpriority list. Sure, they will spend untold hours at work--sacrificingsleep and well-being in order to get ahead--but they will not commit tomore than 60 minutes of chitchat at Starbucks when meeting a potentiallove interest. To simply declare, when you are only 16 years old,that you will not marry until 30 seems to be ruling out all thepossibilities for love you may encounter over the next 14years.

What happens if at only 23 you meet the man you know you wish to spend yourlife with? Do you say, "I must waituntil 30 because that is the resolution I made"? What chancesfor happiness you will miss if you stick to your "rule"! Besides,deciding that love is a luxury and not a need will close you off to everfinding it. I have seen this happen time and again. If you are notopen and willing to accept the feeling when it comes, it will bounceright off you, and a potentially wonderful opportunity for a permanentcommitment will be missed.