Having sex for the first time, penetrative or otherwise, can feel pretty daunting. It’s a big thing for some people, and a not so big thing for others. It can be exciting, intimate and loving. It can also be scary, pressured or even painful.*
The only thing that matters is that all people involved feel happy and safe to proceed. Some choose to do it in a relationship, some don’t. What’s important is that everyone feels comfortable and content with their decision to have sex.
The first time I had penetrative sex, I was 18. It was with a partner I’d been dating, and it was not his first time.
On the face of it, the situation seemed fine. I’d made the decision that it was the right thing for me to do, and we were in what I thought was a safe environment. But in the years since that day, things have niggled in the back of my mind. Little things that turned out to not be so little after all. I’ve come to realise that not everything about my sexual relationship with that person was positive. In fact, a lot of things were not.
So here they are, the 10 things I wish I’d known before I had sex.
- Condoms DO fit everyone.
If he says the condom won’t fit him, he’s lying. Condoms can stretch over lampposts. They come in various sizes, colours, flavours.. hell, you can even get bacon flavour or ones that will fit 8 inches of GIRTH!. So surprise, surprise, there will be out there somewhere, a miraculous condom that will fit his miraculous penis. In my case, he actually placed one on the tip before announcing proudly ‘see? I’m too wide.’ Spoiler alert! He wasn’t. If he refuses to use one, then you are under no obligation to carry on with the encounter. Even if you’re naked. Even if you’re on birth control. Even if up until five seconds before, you were raring to go. It’s YOUR BODY, YOUR RULES.
- It’s nothing like the movies.
I’m sure for some people, that dreamy encounter on a bed of roses with a well camouflaged harpist playing delicately nearby is a daily occurrence, but for most of us, sex is nothing like it is in the movies. It can be messy, sweaty, sticky, noisy and just plain awkward. You probably won’t know what to do with your hands, let alone any other body part. And should you make noise? Silence doesn’t seem such a great option, but what are your other options? Grunting? Imitating the sounds you hear in porn? Oh, and the playlist you’d made? You won’t even remember to hit play, resulting in a lively jumble of whatever iss on your phone at the time. Let’s just hope one of you at least forked out for Spotify Premium, because bumping uglies to a Pepsi advert is NOT the one. A lot of movies portray first-time-sex (generally heterosexual) as this life-affirming step into adulthood – a bridge between one part of your life to the next, hmmm.. not likely. My first non-virginal words were actually ‘so… am I not a virgin anymore?’
So, you may get that perfect lifetime movie moment, or it may just be a nice thing to do in-between lunch and dinner. No biggie.
- He won’t die if you say no.
Too many young people (not just girls) feel pressured into doing things they’re not ready for by partners who act as though the world is ending because they didn’t get a blowjob IMMEDIATELY. I certainly was. There were things within the sexual side of my first relationship that I wasn’t immediately comfortable doing, and I made this clear. However, my boyfriend eventually decided that he’d been quite patient enough, and one lovely occasion culminated in him sitting in his car, wailing at the sky ‘PLEASE GIVE ME A BLOWJOB’. Nice, right? This continued throughout our relationship until I felt as though I had no choice. People, this is abuse. The word ‘no’ is always yours to use, and you should use it at will!. Looking back, I wish I’d simply gotten out of his car and walked home or called someone to pick me up. Hindsight is a glorious thing, but the reality is that I felt I would lose him if I didn’t meet his standards of sexual behaviour. Feeling coerced or pressured into doing anything sexual – be it kissing or sexual intercourse – means you are unable to truly give consent. If you feel like they are trying to convince you, or you need to be asked more than once to engage in any kind of sexual activity, it is not okay. It’s not ‘normal’, and it is abusive behaviour.
- You can stop at ANY point.
It doesn’t matter if your partner hasn’t reached their climax. It doesn’t matter if they’re ‘almost there’. If you feel any discomfort (physical OR emotional), pain or any other negative feeling while having sex, you should tell them to stop. The same goes both ways. If you are ever in any doubt as to how the other person is feeling, check in! Asking how they feel or if they’re okay is absolutely key to a good sexual experience. Oh, and if they make you feel bad for wanting to pause or stop altogether, get out of there. Seriously. That’s your alarm bell ringing to let you know they don’t deserve another second of your time. My early sexual experiences did not involve this kind of communication, and if I ever tried to broach the subject of pausing I was ignored. Only now, years later, do I understand that this was assault. If you ever want to stop having sex and your partner carries on, then it is rape. Sometimes it can feel really confusing because lots of young people feel that if they are already having sex, it’s unfair of them to stop, but this is total crap. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing; if you want to stop, that should be respected IMMEDIATELY.
- Go and pee afterwards!
Just do it. Seriously, UTI’s aren’t fun, and not peeing after sex is a pretty sure-fire way to get one. Drink your water, pee when you’re done having fun times and do NOT just go to sleep straight away. Future you will not be your friend!
- Foreplay is your best friend.
You wouldn’t go down a waterslide dry, so for the love of GOD don’t expect to just get down and dirty without warming up first. Take your time and don’t feel like you have to rush to the end goal – foreplay isn’t a means to an end, and if you’re partner is trying to rush you then tell them to slow down. Even a quickie requires some level of prep, so allow yourself to get turned on before the actual sex bit. Also, whilst it’s great that some people can simply hear the word ‘boob’ and be ready to go, a lot of us take a little longer to get going. So take your own sweet time, relax and focus on what feels good for the both of you. I rarely draw inspiration from fables about hares and tortoises when discussing sex, but it’s true. In this case, slow and steady actually does win the race.
- Tell them what you like.
It’s super important to know what turns you on so that you can actually have a good time with your partner. So if you’re comfortable with it, then explore your own body first, it will give you A LOT of information to help you enjoy this moment with a partner. And if you are in the act and not feeling it? Suggest changing positions or talking through what makes you feel good. Hell, have a little google for something new you both like the look of and give it a go! Life is too short for rubbish sex, so spare yourself the faux ‘yeah you rocked my world’ speech and be honest. It’ll be so worth it.
- You probably won’t orgasm the first time.
The first few times you have sex, it can take a while to find exactly what works for you, especially if you don’t masturbate. That’s totally normal! But it makes it unlikely that you’ll have an orgasm the first time you get down and dirty. Have no fear, this is the case for most people. A combination of nerves and not really knowing what you’re doing means that it can take a few tries to hit the spot. If you find that you’ve been having sex for a while with no luck, however, it’s worth trying to figure out why that is. Communication, trust and respect for each other is key in order to reach that happy place, but if you’re uncomfortable during sex or still not hitting the big O, it could be worth speaking to your doctor just to make sure everything is a-okay.
- Educate yourself and ask for help.
We live in a world where movies, magazines, young adult novels and TV shows generally portray one kind of sex – heteronormative, or straight. Think American Pie, Easy A, The First Time. All of these movies focus on straight young people as they navigate having sex for the first time. Heterosexual sex, like I’ve described above, is often so badly represented that most young people have no idea what to expect or how to spot a healthy, respectful relationship. As for the portrayals of LGBTQ+ sexual relationships? Up until recently, they weren’t even on school sex education curriculums and in many places, still aren’t. In fact, sex education (which can often solely focus on preventing pregnancy and conception) can really exclude non-binary and LGBTQ+ young people.
Many people think ‘sex’ means penetrative sex involving a penis and vagina, but what if that doesn’t apply to you? How do you address and navigate the often overwhelming world of having sex for the first time? There are many LGBTQ+ inclusive charities or organisations that have great some info, check out the links below; and try to talk openly with your friends and family if you can.
Also, PLEASE DON’T rely just on porn for your info (this goes for everyone)!!
- Numbers DO NOT MATTER.
I was 18 when I had sex for the first time, and whilst I was considered a late bloomer by a lot of people, I still found that some of my friends were less than impressed with my decision to do the dirty. (Spoiler that really isn’t a spoiler: it’s literally no one else’s business what you do with your body).
Whilst it’s best to have sex only when you’re emotionally and physically ready, no one should shame you for your choice to take that step, or when you do, or how many times.
Only had sex with one person? Fine. Can’t remember how many people you’ve been with? Okay. Did it once and don’t want to do it again any time soon? Totally up to you! Having sex doesn’t take anything away from you or change who you are as a person. You are not your sexual history, and you don’t need to explain it or discuss it with anyone if you don’t want to. When sex is truly concentual and respectful you don’t lose anything by choosing to have sex, you simply gain what is hopefully a happy and empowering experience.
So there you have it! A little insight into my own thoughts on having sex for the first time, and how my understanding of a healthy sexual relationship has changed over the years. My first relationship that involved intercourse unfortunately for me turned out to be abusive and coercive, and it took me a long time to understand the damage it had caused and how it warped the way I saw sex and relationships. I am on my way to a much healthier and happier relationship with sex. I set my own boundaries, I value myself and I don’t just hope for respect, I demand it.
You should too.
*NOTE: if it hurts to have sex, then don’t do it. Take your time, try to relax and don’t do anything you don’t feel ready to do. If you bleed heavily, stop. Don’t do anything just because you feel like you should, or you’re worried it’ll be awkward if you ask to stop. Any decent person will respect your boundaries, and expect you to respect theirs in return.
*NOTE: Like I mentioned before, I am straight and my only sexual experiences have involved men, so I cannot claim to be as well-versed as I could be on LGBTQ+ sex but I have tried to make this list as inclusive as possible no matter how you identify or who you choose to get funky with. The above list is not exhaustive, and not all of them will apply to everyone, but hopefully it gives you an idea of what you can expect and what you should never accept as okay. The main thing is that you are happy and safe, never feel pressured and be able to communicate your desires comfortably.
By Ruby McMahon
Image Credit @Sophiewinderr