TW: Discussions of sex, sexually transmitted diseases, consent
I first had sex with my long-term boyfriend, and it was terrible. Not because he was mean, but because I felt like I was woefully unprepared. It was nothing like I had expected it to be, and it took me many times to get used to it. Sure, it was special, but it wasn’t sex on the beach at sunset. So, to better prepare you for your first time, here are some things I wish I had known. My experience is with heterosexual sex. This article is based on my experience, but these don’t only apply to heterosexual sex.
- Lubrication is key
I first thought that it was awkward to use lubrication and that it would somehow ruin the mood or be an imposition. But having sex without lubrication is far worse than pausing for a second to get some. And good lubrication isn’t even necessary. Publix personal lubricant works just fine. Or if you’re looking for a natural source, pure coconut oil also works great – plus it tastes like coconut.
- Beware of odd noises
I tend to get distracted easily in bed (especially if my partner is boring), so whenever I hear a strange, squishy sound, I completely lose my focus. I wasn’t expecting it. In movie sex scenes, music plays in the background. I expected silent sex or for some type of intense personal soundtrack to play. That’s not at all how it happens. So, try your hardest to ignore them, accept them and try to play into them. Now, I try to talk during sex. I don’t have a full-blown conversation but just some encouragement here and there. Either that or I focus on the sound of breathing (mine or my partner’s). It’s like white noise that’s not complete silence but also fades into the background when other things begin to distract me more.
- Ensure you trust them, respect them and ensure they feel the same way
Sex seems casual, but it puts you in an incredibly vulnerable position. Everything is physically and emotionally exposed, and it is a privilege to see someone like that. Not everyone is worthy of that privilege. This isn’t to say that I didn’t trust or respect the first person I had sex with – I felt very safe with him. But I didn’t understand how important it was to have sex with someone I trust until I had sex with a partner I didn’t trust and who didn’t respect me. When I was single and marginally sexually experienced in college, I went through my causal sex phase and realized that I was ridiculously lucky because of my previous partners. They were caring and respectful and incredibly loving. So, be picky because it’s better to sleep with someone who genuinely cares than someone who thinks of you as nothing.
- Don’t be afraid to have the hard conversations
I feel like a sexual education middle school teacher talking to a class, but sexually transmitted diseases are very real. Some are fixable, but some are life-altering. Although it may seem awkward, it’s vital to have a hard conversation before having sex. Before the first time I have sex with someone, I ask the same questions:
1. Do you have any STDs, and do you have a recent negative test?
2. What type of aftercare do you need?
3. Have you had sex before?
4. Is there anything specific you need during sex?
5. Do you want or need me to spend the night?
All of these, if not talked about, can create issues if you and your partner aren’t on the same page. So, rather than creating angst about whether he will or will not do something in bed, I have a short conversation with my partner and work out everything before, so I can enjoy myself.
- Don’t be so afraid, contraception works
I could have had sex for the first time much earlier, but I waited because I was terrified of getting pregnant. Some worry around pregnancy is warranted – a child could very well derail my future. However, birth control methods, if used properly, consistently, and as prescribed, work and should prevent pregnancy. This goes along with No. 4 – discussing contraception should be part of that hard conversation. Personally, I don’t like using condoms because they irritate my skin, but I insist on condoms the first time I have sex with anyone just in case they lied about a negative test, or they unknowingly have an STD.
- Partners won’t always be so kind
I was lucky to have a kind, caring, respectful and trustworthy first partner – all the things you could want in a first experience. I think that experience severely skewed my view of men and set my standards high. I found that the men who followed were severely lacking. Most of the men I’ve been with since (it’s sad to say) haven’t been so kind. I’m not trying to hate on men, but in my personal experience, some of them were manipulative, insincere and cruel. Women can also be all these things, but I haven’t dated any women, so I can’t speak to that. I truly hope you don’t have the misfortune of meeting a partner like that, but be aware that manipulative people exist.
- It’s better to be open about it then not
Sex is confusing, and odd things can happen when you’re not expecting it. So, rather than bottling up those questions, talk to someone about them. Most likely, someone else has experienced the same things as you, and they don’t want to feel alone either. You can speak to your best friend, parent or a classmate you feel particularly safe around. Whoever it is, I would advise choosing someone of the same gender just because it’s more likely they will understand and empathize more. My roommate is the person I divulge all my sexual anxieties to, and she has calmed all of my curiosities of anxieties and answered all of my questions. It can be intimidating or embarrassing to talk openly about sex, but it does make it less stressful when you do have sex and easier to have those hard conversations with your partner. And, apparently, easier to publish articles about it and share my sex life with all of you lovely readers.
- Bleeding is real
Sex for the first time in movies and shows range anywhere from scenes from “Carrie”, to not feeling anything at all and having a wonderful time, like in “Bridgerton.” In my personal experience, I bled several times having sex my first time and even occasionally after. Usually, it’s just some tearing after not having sex for a significant amount of time, or I bleed because I wasn’t lubricated (see No.1). I knew sex could be painful, but I wasn’t expecting to bleed so much! After talking to my designated sex-topic-friend (thanks again roomie), I realized it was completely normal. I give a more in-depth discussion of my experience with vaginal bleeding in this article, including some resources on campus.
- Orgasm doesn’t always have to happen and doesn’t always have to be the goal
I was under the impression that if my partner didn’t orgasm it was a failure, but if I didn’t orgasm, then it was fine because I was just being difficult. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that it wasn’t a “me” problem, but a “them” problem if one of us didn’t orgasm. But it’s not a problem at all. Sometimes, it just doesn’t happen. Whether you’re tired, or biology is actively working against you that time, whatever. Is orgasm a great bonus? — yes! Should it be the goal? – yes! Is it OK if sometimes the goal doesn’t get met? – yes!
- Don’t do it drunk, at least not the first time
Drunk sex can be fun and forgettable (that is if you’re 21. I am not advising drinking underage), but you don’t want to forget your first time having sex. It should be memorable and usually a story you reminisce on with your friends much later in life. But after that, sure go for it. Have a blast.
- Shake off the pressure
Don’t go in with expectations (other than basic expectations of safety). Try not to romanticize the event or think that it will be magical because odds are it won’t be. It will most likely be awkward and uncomfortable, but that’s OK. Don’t be nervous about being “good” in bed, because you shouldn’t be, and if your partner expects you to be “good,” then they shouldn’t be your partner.
Unfortunately, I acquired most of my knowledge of having sex and through life experiences. I’m hoping that you can learn from my many mistakes and fumbles, and your first time is far better than mine. If this article makes you not want to have sex, that’s a valid choice that I fully support. If what you’re doing is safe and done with consent, that’s all that matters.