Firsts are freaky, but they don’t have to be. In Her Campus’ series My First Time, we’re answering the burning questions you might be uncomfortable asking about IRL. In this article, we tackle exploring your sexuality for the first time.
I was obsessed with Megan Fox as a child. I remember watching her in Jennifer’s Body — literally eating men — and being completely and utterly enamored with this woman. I would look up edits of Megan Fox in the middle of the night on my Kindle Fire HD and watch them for hours. Especially the ones that included that scene of her and Amanda Seyfried. IYKYK.
It wasn’t until high school that I realized that I didn’t want to be Megan Fox. I wanted to be with Megan Fox. And since I dated and flirted with boys my entire life, I felt uncomfortable with this newfound side of myself. Yeah, I wanted to kiss Megan Fox. But if some beautiful, dark-haired maneater was standing in front of me, I wouldn’t know how to act. And if she wanted to hook up, I would freeze.
My first time exploring my sexuality was in college. (No, it wasn’t with Megan Fox.) And even though college can be a liberating time, especially when it comes to sex, it can also be an extremely confusing time. What if I want to kiss a girl? How do I flirt with girls? Am I not… straight?
Don’t worry, I’ve been there. Exploring your sexuality in college is a fantastic experience, but it can be hard to know where to start. I talked to Dr. Jenn Kennedy, PhD — a licensed Marriage and Family counselor specializing in LGBTQ+ , sex, and couples counseling — and Marla Renee Stewart, MA — a sexologist at Lovers.com — to learn how to explore your sexuality in college for the first time.
Do some (pleasurable) research.
You’re used to studying in college. And, like school, exploring your sexuality requires a whole lotta learning. Luckily for you, this kind of research isn’t boring — although it can be vanilla, at the least.
When you’re exploring your sexuality for the first time, start small and start slow. You don’t have to jump into bed with that hot person who sits behind you in your humanities class, or hook up with that co-worker at your work-study job. Like getting into a pool, you sometimes have to ease yourself into it instead of diving right in.
“Your exploration can start with self-pleasure,” Kennedy says. “Try touching yourself with your hand and possibly with toys. You might also try reading erotica or watching sexy-themed media (it doesn’t have to be porn).” While your roommate is out at their night class, consider searching the internet for ethical porn, reading smut, and listening to erotic audio that caters to your fantasies, whoever they may be with.
According to Stewart, there are so many ways to learn more about your sexuality outside of masturbation and stimulation. “Take a human sexuality class, a pole dancing class, volunteer with a sexuality organization or company, be a TA for a human sexuality class, go to the library and read books in the sexuality section, go to sex shops and check out the toys… the options are out there.”
Stewart also adds, “Learning more of what you like and what you don’t like is a great way to understand who you are as a person, and allows you to tap into things that feel good to you and ultimately help you to understand what is pleasurable to you.”
Start meeting new people.
After doing a bit of research into your pleasures, wants, and desires, you might be ready to start acting on them (consensually, obviously). Remember what I said about the pool? This is the time to finally take the plunge.
Consider popping onto a dating app and changing your preferences. Getting drinks or hanging out with a new person can already be intimidating — and if this is your first time doing so with someone of a different gender identity, it can be that much more nerve-wracking. However, after breaking the ice, it’s bound to feel just like any other date. The more you look at it like a terrifying experience, the more it will feel like it.
If dating apps aren’t your thing, consider hitting up a gay bar or club close to campus. These spaces are designed for LGBTQ+ people to mix, mingle, and form an overall community. However, you can find communities just like this in your college’s LGBTQ+ clubs, events, and other activities. There are opportunities, but it’s up to you to find them.
“Express interest in others around you and try out different approaches to see what feels right,” Kennedy says. “Set limits in advance so you don’t go too far too fast sexually, however. There will always be new opportunities to play more.”
Don’t worry about a label.
From experience, coming to terms with your sexuality is a battle. There are times when you doubt yourself and how you’re feeling, and that can lead you to invalidate your very own identity. Before exploring your sexuality, it’s important to know that your wants and desires relating to your sexuality are valid. As such, you deserve to explore them — regardless if you label yourself or not.
“If you are curious about both men and women, lean into both,” Kennedy says. “You do not need to label yourself, but rather, you are trying on different identities and seeing what feels good to you.”
That being said, take some time to read about different sexualities and what they mean. And if none of them speak to you, that’s 100% alright. You are you, and that’s valid.
Exploring your sexuality in college can be an amazing experience, but it can also be incredibly tough. If you’re feeling confused and even scared in regard to your sexuality, know that you’re not alone. Whether you grew up obsessed with the star of Transformers, like me, or just started feeling differently about what you’re attracted to, you deserve to be happy — especially in your love life.
Exploring anything for the first time can be — for lack of a better term — freaky. And if you can get through that, the second time won’t feel so scary at all. Trust me.