Being nervous about having sex for the first time is totally natural. And even if you know you’re ready, so much about your sexual debut can feel like a mystery. You might be thinking about when and with whom you’d like to experience sex for the first time, whether or not it will be painful or pleasurable, and what even qualifies as sex. To assuage some common first-time fears, I asked three experts for sex tips for your first time. They offered specific, super-empowering bits of advice, but generally, the main takeaway is to prioritize your comfort, no matter what.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you should try one specific position or particular sex act. Prioritizing your comfort is about honoring what you want to try, what your boundaries are, and being honest about it — even if that means changing your mind. Remember: Consent is always reversible. "Just because you’ve decided to try having sex for the first time, does not mean that you’ve committed to having sex ‘to completion,’ whatever that means to you," therapist Casey Tanner, LCPC, tells Elite Daily. "You can absolutely pause or stop midway through if you decide that the timing, feeling, or person is just not right. You can also stop midway through simply because you want to."
Below, six more tips to help you feel comfortable and confident when you’re ready to have sex.
1. Check In With Yourself
"Are you ready to make your sexual debut because you want to or because someone else wants you to?" asks Shamyra Howard, LCSW, a certified sexologist. She recommends really thinking about why you want to have sex, and what your expectations are. Communicating these expectations to your potential partner is just as important as being clear on them yourself, Howard says. Ask yourself, "Does my partner know this is my first time? If not, why?"
2. Focus On Your Own Unique Experience
Try not to fall down the rabbit hole of Twitter or Reddit reading about other people’s first times. You might end up psyching yourself out. "I remember being told that I should expect pain and lots of blood during my sexual debut of penis-in-vagina sex," Howard says. "I think bracing for the pain contributed to the discomfort I felt. While you might experience some discomfort, you shouldn’t have pain. If you’re in pain, that means you need to readjust, and possibly stop."
3. Lubrication Is Key
Explaining that your body may take time to adjust to penetration, Tanner suggests using plenty of lubricant. "Even if you’ve experienced penetration through fingering, the use of tampons, or a trip to the gynecologist, penetrative sex with a penis is different. You may need more lubrication than you’re used to, or to move more slowly than you’re used to," they say. "Be patient with yourself, and don’t settle for a partner who will be anything less than patient with your process."
4. Protection Is Key
Along with finding a partner who’ll respect your pace and your needs, make sure they also respect your desire to use protection. "Be sure to talk about what type of contraception you will use, and make sure that safe sex practices are being followed," says relationship specialist and author Collette Gee. This can look like condoms or dental dams to protect against STDs and STIs, as well as against pregnancy.
(Additionally, birth control pills, IUDs, and implants are effective ways to prevent pregnancy. Talk to your OB-GYN about birth control to determine which contraceptive is best for you.)
5. Orgasm Isn’t Necessarily The Goal
Tanner emphasizes the importance of not defining "successful" sex by whether or not you orgasmed. "It’s actually quite unlikely that both you and your partner will orgasm during the first time — not because sex can’t be beautiful and connective, but because you’re still learning what works for your body," they say. "If you don’t orgasm, it doesn’t mean you or your partner did something wrong. Try defining successful sex as sex that is connective, pleasureful, or something else that you have more control over, than whether or not both people come."
6. Porn Is Not Real Life
Fantasies, porn, erotica, or cinematic sex scenes aren’t intrinsically bad. But engaging with media and taking it as the end-all, be-all of how sex "should" be can be harmful. "Many of us enter sex with the idea that there are certain noises, movements, or facial expressions we are supposed to portray. If those certain ways of being work for you or make you feel good, great," Tanner says. "But they may not actually feel authentic."
And that’s OK! This is one of many chances to start figuring out what feels genuine to you, they say. "Your sexual debut can be fun without you trying to break out the tricks and do the moves you saw on the videos," Howard adds.
"Be gentle, go slow, go even slower, and most importantly, listen to your body! You can work your way up to the tricks," she continues. "The great thing about sex is that even when it’s good, it’s still a work in progress, so you have time to get better."
Remember, sex should be fun! If you keep in mind that it’s all about consent, comfort, and pleasure, your first time will be much less intimidating, so you can focus on what feels good.
Collette Gee, relationship specialist and author
Casey Tanner, LCPC, therapist, writer, and consultant
Shamyra Howard, LCSW, sexologist and author of Use Your Mouth: Pocket-sized Conversations To Increase 7 Types of Intimacy In and Out of the Bedroom
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