12 Tips to Help You Prepare for Your First Time


Will it hurt? Will I bleed? What if I don’t bleed? How do I know if I’m doing it right? Is this what it’s supposed to feel like? Is he enjoying it? Do these questions sound familiar?

couple holding hands

Will it hurt? Will I bleed? What if I don’t bleed? How do I know if I’m doing it right? Is this what it’s supposed to feel like? Is he enjoying it?

Do these questions sound familiar? 

The truth is that they are all valid, and they can also cause distress or nervousness around first sexual experiences. Indeed, you don’t need to go into your first time feeling like a “blind cat,” as the Arabic saying goes.

Although we often think of sex as a physical activity, it is very much a psychological experience too, especially your first time. Feeling relaxed and connected helps remove many of the anxieties that can undermine sexual arousal. The more informed you are, the less nervous you will be and the more likely you are to enjoy it. 

With that in mind, we’ve put together some tips to help you mentally and physically prepare. 

Tip 1 – Get to know your body first. 

Getting to know your body first is a great way to prepare for your first time. Start by holding up a mirror to your vulva and familiarizing yourself with all of your different parts. If you’ve never seen your vulva up close, you may feel funny, uncomfortable, or awe-struck. Whatever your initial reaction, it’s perfectly normal to feel the way you’re feeling. Try locating all the different parts: vagina, urethra, inner and outer labia, clitoral hood, and clitoris.

Tip 2 – Consent and mutual trust are key.

Sex is one of the most intimate experiences and, without trust, it’s difficult to allow yourself to be vulnerable, fully present, and open to your partner. For that to happen, there needs to be a foundation of mutual trust. Your first time is about you and your partner and when you’re both ready. You’re ready when you feel desire (when you’re mentally into it) and when you are turned on or horny (physically feeling it).  

Tip 3 – Communicate. 

Talking about sex before the first time is always a good idea. It helps remove some of the potential nerves around it; expressing to your partner what you’re feeling and thinking helps the both of you strengthen your intimacy before getting physical. Openly and vulnerably share information that you think would help prepare you more, and don’t be shy to ask your partner questions or ask for specific things for your first time together — whether that’s sharing how you’d like to start, where you like to be touched or not, or any fantasies or concerns.

Talking to your partner openly about how you feel and about your concerns, desires, and needs is so important. You also have to practice asking and giving consent, and remember that consent can be withdrawn at any time. 

Communication allows you and your partner to share your likes and dislikes, but don't worry if you don't know what those are; that's okay too. You will discover that with time and practice. 

Tip 4 – The experience is not like what you see on TV. 

We receive a lot of messages about sex from the media (including porn) and society, which can lead to very unrealistic expectations. Try not to fixate on what you’ve learned from TV, movies, or even your friends, and stay focused on your own experience instead. In real life, people’s experiences can vary greatly. 

Tip 5 – Warming up is a must. 

Before your partner attempts penetration of any kind, you need to make sure you are sufficiently aroused first. Spend a lot of time fondling, kissing, touching, and stroking each other so that you're naturally lubricated and feeling good by the time you start having sex, which will make it feel so much better. Being lubricated (wet) will make penetration much less painful and more pleasurable. 

Tip 6 – Relax in mind but be very present in body. 

As nervous as you may feel, try to relax your mind and prevent your thoughts from taking over.  Instead, channel your energy and focus on the sensations you’re feeling and experiencing. Be present with your partner.  

Tip 7 – Comfort is key. 

Setting the mood is an essential part of the experience. Do what you can to create the most conducive environment for you to focus all your attention on enjoying what you’re about to get into. 

That means minimizing any distractions from your surroundings, whether it’s switching off the lights, turning on some music, or whatever will make you feel comfortable. Orgasms only come when you feel so comfortable, both physically and mentally, that you can shut everything else out.

Tip 8 – Allow yourself to be vulnerable. 

Intimacy is about feeling safe enough and secure enough in a person’s presence to be able to reveal and express vulnerability. Not all sex is intimate; you can have sex without intimacy. However, intimacy generates a sense of closeness through sexual connection, which makes it worth the work. 

“If you’re anxious about sex, you’re not going to be able to experience intimacy. If you’re watching yourself having sex and you’re thinking about your sexual performance, then you’re not going to experience intimacy. If you’re angry at your partner or feel that your partner doesn’t understand you or care to understand you, then you’re not going to be able to experience intimacy. Anxiety. Anger. Stress. Resentment. Indifference. Boredom. Those are all roadblocks to intimacy.”

Dr. Ian Kerner, PhD, psychotherapist, and sex and relationship specialist

Tip 9 – You have a right to pleasure. 

Sex is about pleasure. It’s one of the greatest experiences of the human body and it’s your birthright. Sex is a beautiful opportunity and invitation to get to know yourself and your body better.

Pleasure is the goal for both partners. Don’t measure your satisfaction with sex by your partner’s level of pleasure or satisfaction. You are entitled to measure it by your own levels of pleasure, arousal, desire, orgasm, love, intimacy. 

 “I want our girls to see sexuality as a source of self-knowledge, creativity, and communication, despite its potential risks. I want them to be able to revel in their bodies' sensuality without being reduced to it. I want them to be able to ask for what they want in bed, and to get it.”

Peggy Orenstein, researcher and author

Tip 10 – Practice makes better. 

Remember that this is your first time. Lower your expectations, don’t seek perfection, allow yourself to enjoy it, and know that there is plenty of time and opportunities for it to only get better and better. You can keep going and trying until you’re enjoying it more and are sexually satisfied. Don’t let the pressure get the most of your experience.

Tip 11 – There are tools to help. 

If you’re experiencing some vaginal dryness or want some extra support in lubrication, we recommend using a lubricant to make it more pleasurable for all parties involved. Make sure to choose a lubricant that works best with your needs, especially if you have any skin conditions or allergies. If you’re using a latex condom, make sure to buy lube without oil, as this could damage the condom. Opt for water- or silicone-based lubes instead, like Sayl

Tip 12 – Always practice safe sex. 

Before you have intercourse, decide on which safe-sex measures are right for you and your partner. Educate yourself on the appropriate contraceptives and talk to your partner about it too. Remember that preventing pregnancy and protecting yourself from STIs are two different things and may require different forms of contraceptives.

A final note

These are just a few tips to get you started. As you explore your sexuality and partnered sex, you will find what other tips or guiding principles also work for you. Wishing you lots of pleasurable, consensual, safe, and fun sex.

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