First-time sex: a beginner's guide

   

Couple kissing

When’s the right time for your first time? The answer to that is different for everyone, but one thing’s for sure: you don’t have to rush.

Sure, maybe your mate reckons they’ve already done 'it' at least three times, but that doesn’t mean you’re playing catch-up. 

Besides, they’re probably not getting that much action anyway. Figures from relationship charity OnePlusOne reveal most young people overestimate the amount of sex their friends are actually having. Just because someone says they’re doing it doesn’t mean they actually are.

For some people, sex will happen after a couple of dates, for others, it won’t be until they’ve said their vows. Most of us fall somewhere in between the two once we have established a relationship with someone we feel intimate and comfortable enough with to take it to the next level.

Am I ready for sex?

Maybe you’ve decided you’re ready for sex or maybe you’d rather wait. Either way, if you’re in a relationship, then talk to your partner about it. Chat about how you feel and whether you are both ready as well as about practising safe sex. Sounds like an awkward conversation? It might be a bit weird at first, but if you don’t feel able to have such a conversation then it might just be a sign that you should wait a bit longer. Ultimately, only you can decide if the time is right.

Reasons why you might be ready to lose your virginity

  • You feel emotionally ready
  • You’re in a committed relationship
  • You’re curious about sex
  • You are in love
  • You think it will feel good
  • You understand how it works and are ready to practise safe sex
  • The thought of sex is exciting and interesting
  • You’re looking forward to experimenting with sex

Reasons why you might wish to wait:

  • You feel pressurised into having sex
  • You don’t feel emotionally ready
  • All your friends are doing it
  • Religious or cultural reasons
  • You’re only casually dating
  • You don’t think you’ve found the right person
  • The thought of sex makes you feel anxious not excited
  • You don’t want to look immature
  • Your partner tells you, “If you loved me you would”.
Couple cuddling

What can I expect?

There are plenty of myths surrounding first-time sex and it is important to know the facts before you go for it. 

"The first time will be perfect"

Television and films have a lot to answer for, creating romantic scenes of candle-strewn rooms, soft satin sheets, lilting music and a memorable experience that will last a lifetime. In reality though, not everyone’s experiences are so great.

Some people will find sex fun and comfortable from the off; for others, it might be awkward. Don’t be embarrassed if it does seem a bit weird, especially afterwards. It’s good to talk it through with your partner and explore your feelings so the next time round it is better.

"First time sex hurts"

For some, sex will be pleasurable straight away. For others, it might be a little uncomfortable or even painful, particularly for women, though this shouldn’t last long.

If you do find it's painful, it might be because you're nervous, so try to relax. Water-based lubricant such as KY jelly is likely to help, but do not use oil-based lubricants such as Vaseline, as these can damage condoms. It also helps to make sure you're in an environment where you feel comfortable as well.

If it’s still hurting, stop and talk to your partner. Pain during sex shouldn’t last and you may need to try a different position, ask your partner to take a break or get them to go slower. If pain persists over time, pop in and see your GP as - in very rare cases - there may be a physical problem.

"You can’t get pregnant or an STI on your first time"

It’s a common but dangerous myth that you can’t get pregnant or catch an STI the first time you have sex. You can, so it’s important to protect yourself during sex. The contraceptive pill, IUD, implants or injection will all protect you against pregnancy. But they won’t protect you from STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, herpes or HIV.

Condoms are the safest option to protect you from STIs as well as pregnancy, plus they won’t diminish the enjoyment of sex, despite what you may have heard.

 

Couple chilling

FAQs

If it's your first time, chances are you have a couple of niggling worries swimming around your head. Here's a couple of frequently asked (or wondered) questions.

What if I'm no good?

It's your first time - nobody is expecting you to be a sexual mastermind!

Be honest with your partner, as bragging about your colourful (and non-existent) sexual history won't do you any favours... But speaking candidly about any concerns beforehand will help put both yours and your partners minds at rest, especially if you're both virgins.

When the time comes, try to relax and allow yourself to get into it. Don't put pressure on your performance, as it always takes a few times for new partners to adjust to each other anyway - just try not to take it all too seriously!

What if there's a problem?

It's highly unlikely that anyone's first time will go smoothly without at least one little blip. Often nerves are to blame, which is why said blips can seem much more prevalent during the first time. 

Communication can put a stop to most problems, along with patience and understanding. Be respectful, honest and don't pressure your partner or make them uncomfortable. Talking things out always helps.

How will it change my relationship?

If you’re in a committed relationship, sex can add a new dimension to it, both physically and emotionally. Not only does it give you a physical sense of satisfaction and well-being, it can also increase the intimacy between you and your partner.

It may also stir up a whole host of emotions, and it’s perfectly normal to experience some unexpected feelings. Losing your virginity is a big change and one which might take some time to adjust to. If you feel like this, talking to your partner or close friends can offer you reassurance.

What about the age of consent?

If you're all set to have sex, it's important to know the law surrounding it.

In England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland you must be 16 or older to have sex, no matter what your sexual orientation.

Here's a breakdown of the law according to the Sexual Offences Act 2003:

  • If you are 16 or older and have sex with a minor (someone under 16) you could be convicted of a sexual assault.
  • If you are both under age, it is unlikely that any prosecution will occur but it is still considered illegal as you are unable to give informed consent.
  • If a person under the age of 18 has sex with a person in a position of trust (e.g. a teacher or doctor) this is a criminal offence, despite being old enough to give consent.
  • Even if a person under 16 agreed to sex, this is irrelevant as they are unable to give informed consent at this age.
  • Any sexual intercourse with a child aged 12 or under is rape.

This isn't meant to scare you, of course, but it's important to be fully clued up before making a big commitment.

Do you have any questions about first-time sex? Anything not covered in this guide? Join in with the conversation below.

Other useful resources on TSR:

Everything you need to know about contraception

What to expect at the GUM clinic

STIs - the lowdown

What is sexual assault?

Cystitis - causes and symptoms