Dear DOLLY DR,
I've been with my boyfriend for about six months and he keeps pressuring me to have sex, but I'm not sure if I'm ready. Also, I'm really hairy downstairs and I'm scared to shave, and my flaps are really long. Is this normal? I'm scared he will laugh and it will make it really awkward.
Catarina Your feelings are common and natural, although it seems a pity that getting ready to do it for the first time should be fraught with so many worries! You should only have sex if and when you want to, whether it's the first time or the hundredth time. Sexual relationships need respect and understanding from both partners, all the time.
So, first of all, have a really decent conversation with your boyfriend about both your feelings before you go any further. People who have sex because they feel pressured almost always regret it, or don't enjoy it, and it can have a negative effect on the relationship. If he can't accept that, he's not worth it, and it's better to find out now than a few months down the track.
But the other side of the story is to look at your own fears, particularly the way you feel about your body. Pubic hair is normal, can be a real turn-on and there is absolutely no need to remove it. Labia ("flaps") come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and long ones are just as normal as short ones.
It sounds to me as though your self-consciousness is either unnecessary, and stopping you from enjoying a more intimate relationship, or it's a sign that you're not ready to share your body with someone else just yet. Most young people don't jump straight into sexual intercourse and it might be better to spend time getting to know each other's bodies through a bit of touching and exploring before trying to go any further. If and when you do decide you're ready for intercourse, make sure you're also prepared: have condoms and lube, think about other contraception, and try to relax!