Sex

A Guide to Your First Sexual Experience

#intimacy #sex #firsttime
A Guide to Your First Sexual Experience

Synopsis

In a region where sex education is not part of the school curriculum, we are left to our own devices to find out what sex is, what happens physiologically and emotionally, and how to be prepared for it. This leads to misinformation, built-up fears, and sometimes even pain and regret. Sex is meant to be safe and pleasurable for both partners. The more you know about it, the better prepared you are, and the more enjoyable the experience is.

Key Takeaways

Sex

A Guide to Your
First Sexual Experience

#intimacy #sex #firsttime

Synopsis

In a region where sex education is not part of the school curriculum, we are left to our own devices to find out what sex is, what happens physiologically and emotionally, and how to be prepared for it. This leads to misinformation, built-up fears, and sometimes even pain and regret. Sex is meant to be safe and pleasurable for both partners. The more you know about it, the better prepared you are, and the more enjoyable the experience is.

Key Takeaways

  • What actually happens during vaginal penetrative sex
  • What to expect if it's your first time
  • Tips on how to prepare for it
  • The importance of consent and safe sex
  • How to communicate with your partner
Introduction to the Female Orgasm
Disclaimer

This guide does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only.  It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on this website.

Intro: Unlearning What We’ve Heard About Sex

In our part of the world, a young woman’s understanding of sex before marriage is either minimal or negative. Or both. In an attempt to protect us, the lack of conversation and education around sex ends up leaving women in the dark, extremely unprepared for sexual relationships and often times fearing them.

We are not suggesting that anyone change their values, nor are we encouraging pre-marital sex; we are asking that we change the way in which we talk about and therefore think, feel, and have sex.

Sex is about pleasure, desire, warmth, affection, arousal, touch, and intimacy. Sex is one of the most intimate acts that you can experience with another person, and the first time is and can feel very sacred.

Knowledge turns the tide

The more informed you are, the more prepared you will feel and the more your mind and body can relax into it and enjoy it. All outcomes are expected and normal, just like the first time you did anything else.

So, wherever you are on your journey – whether you’re married or not, or whether you’ve engaged in other non-penetrative sexual acts before – we hope that this guide will provide you with some of the information and reassurance before your first experience with intercourse.

Defining Your First Sexual Experience

Your first sexual experience is a big deal. It is a milestone to be cherished. Whenever it happens in your life, it can feel like a big step, and that's because it is. It's important that you take your time deciding when you're ready, better educate yourself about what actually happens, and talk to your partner about your feelings. Before we dive in, here are a few important things to lay out.

It's yours to define.

It’s entirely up to you to decide what you consider to be “sex”. There is no right or wrong answer — or real or less real one. You might see your first time as the first time you got naked with a partner, had oral sex, had an orgasm with a partner, had a consensual sexual experience, had vaginal penetration, or something else. You get to decide what counts. Having sex for the first time is a very personal decision, and one that only you have the right to make. You should never feel pressured into having sex.

Virginity is a social and cultural construct.

Contrary to popular belief, virginity is not a medical term, which means that physiologically there is no such thing as virginity and you can't tell if someone is a virgin through a medical examination.

The term "losing your virginity" refers to breaking the hymen, a thin membrane that surrounds or partially covers the external vaginal opening. However, hymens don't just break; rather, they stretch due to their elasticity. Some women's hymens stretch due to physical activity, others don't tear during sex, and in very rare cases some women are born without one.

Check out The Vulva & Vagina Guide for more on Hymens.

Language is powerful.

Language plays a role in how we perceive bodies, and more specifically our hymen and its link to virginity. In Arabic, the hymen is most frequently called ghisha'a al-bikara, meaning the virgin membrane. "Ghisha'a" literally translates to a coating or covering layer, which connotes that the membrane is sealed, closing the opening of the vagina. Physiologically, however, this is rarely the case, so the name just further perpetuates the notion that the hymen is something that can be torn open or broken. A more popular alternative among health experts and women today is the name “Al'iiklil Almahbili” (الإكليل المهبلي) , which translates to “vaginal crown”.

The hymen is not an indicator of virginity.

In spite of that, the hymen is being used to discredit women today, both socially and politically. The link between hymens and virginity is one of the oldest myths, even though medical institutions and doctors around the world have refuted the accuracy of virginity tests. Given the variety in hymens, they simply cannot be used as proof of sexual activity. We repeat, there is NO medical way to tell if someone has had sex.

The World Health Organization even declared it illegal to perform virginity tests due to the fact that medical examinations cannot accurately reveal a woman's sexual activity.

Fun Fact
The absurdity of virginity testing was illustrated in a study conducted on 36 pregnant teenagers. When doctors examined their hymens, they could find clear signs of penetration in only 2 out of 36 girls. If that's not enough proof that hymens are no indication of virginity, then we have nothing else to say.
Source: Nina Dølvik Brochmann and Ellen Støkken Dahl, "The Virginity Fraud," Ted Talks, 2018.

Only you can define what virginity means to you.

Linking virginity to the hymen means defining sex as purely penis-in-vagina intercourse. However, just like sex means different things to different people, so does virginity. It is something that only you can define for yourself based on your preferences and choice of sexual activity with your partner. For some, the first time they have sex doesn't necessarily include vaginal penetration but rather other forms of sexual activity, such as oral sex or non-penile vaginal penetration.

Virginity is not something that you lose.

The term virginity serves to categorize us by our sexual experiences. It implies that we "lose" part of ourselves when we start having sex. Talking about virginity as something that you lose connotes that something is being taken away from us the first time we have sex. In reality, nothing is taken away; we only gain experiences from consensual sex with our loved partner, forming a deeper connection with them and with ourselves.

Similarly, our honor is not something we lose or that can be taken away from us. Your honor belongs to you and no one else.

What Actually Happens During Vaginal Penetrative Sex?

For women, it starts with our brain. There is such a strong brain-vagina connection in women that many neuroscientists call it "a single system". Women have a biological desire to have sex, caused by hormonal changes in the body. The first part of your body to be triggered is the brain, the limbic system (your emotional center).

It's a similar action to eating your favorite food, gambling, receiving a compliment, or listening to your favorite song

It becomes a sensory experience you seek out. The more reward (in this case, sex), the more dopamine and the more you continue to hunt for it. If it makes you feel good, you want more.”

- Dr. Jamin Brahmbhatt

When you start to experience desire, as in you start to really want sex, many incredible physiological changes occur in the body. Your heart rate speeds up, along with your breathing, your skin flushes, and more blood is sent to your vagina and cervix. For some, it happens within seconds, and for others, it may take longer.

The vagina begins to dilate, making room for penetration. The vagina is an elastic hollow organ that stretches and expands immensely in all directions when you are turned on. It is flexible enough to dilate to make room for a penis, and can stretch enough to release a human baby.

Anatomy of the vulva

The clitoris then erects once it begins receiving extra blood flow. The labia minora (inner vaginal lips) and vaginal walls swell with extra blood. This all increases the vaginal lubrication, making insertion happen more easily and feel better.

All bodies are different; some women get very wet, very easily, and others not so much. It’s all normal. We are naturally, on a regular basis, somewhat wet — as the vagina is a little damp. When women are turned on (horny) our genitals often react by producing more moisture. This slick fluid serves as the body’s natural lubrication.

If you are very stressed or nervous, it’s difficult to get turned on and wet. This can happen even if you’ve decided that you want to have sex. The nervousness can cause the muscles in your vagina to tighten, making it harder for anything to get in there, which can make penetration hurt.

If you’re dry or are involuntarily tightening your vagina, it’s easy to get small tears in the vaginal wall that may bleed a bit. This isn’t dangerous, but it can be unpleasant and sting. The key is to take it easy the first time. Spend time on kissing and foreplay, so that it’s easier for your muscles to relax. Give yourself time to be really turned on and, that way, you’ll also produce more moisture.

So what does sex actually look like?

This is a very common and normal question to ask, but there’s no one answer to it. There’s no one way that sex should look or feel. It’s a very personal experience shared between two people. It’s all about finding what works best for you and your partner. There’s no right or wrong way, no specific sequence to follow, no ideal time frame or duration, no real beginning or end goal. That’s what makes it so fun and pleasurable; you can mix it up and do whatever you like. No two times have to be the same.

Nothing beats the education of your own journeys and our experiences to create our own expertise

- Dr. Sameena Rahman

Feeling Ready for Your First Time — Now What?

Feeling ready for your first time - Now what?

These are all valid questions that can cause distress or nervousness. The more informed you are, the less nervous you will be. First-time sex is a hugely psychological experience, and feeling relaxed and connected helps remove many of the anxieties that can undermine sexual arousal. Here are some tips to help you mentally prepare.

Tip 01

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. Check out our Vulva & Vagina Guide for more on this.

Tip 02

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 03

Communicate. Talking about sex is healthy.

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 04

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 05

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 06

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 07

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 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 08

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

Tip 09

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. To read more about the Female Orgasm, click here to check out our guide: An Introduction to the Female Orgasm.

sexuality as source of knowledge

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 Ornestein

Tip 10

Practice makes better.

Remember that this is your first time, just like your first time doing anything else. 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 it. Opt for water or silicone-based lubes.

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. More on contraceptives in the section below.

First-Time
Beginner Positions

The more you have sex, the more positions you will explore and the closer you will get to finding what feels best for you and your partner. Again, there is no right or wrong when it comes to sex. It's about finding what feels pleasurable.

Below are a couple of recommendations to try out the first time you engage in vaginal penetrative sex that will help you ease your way into it. As you get more comfortable, you can try variations and positions — there’s a whole world of pleasure for you to explore.

Missionary
On Top
The Spoon
On Your Stomach

Myth Busting

Because of the stigma, fear, and misinformation around the female body, a number of myths and misconceptions have made their way into our cultural discourse. We're here to bust them, once and for all.

Myth 01

The first time has to hurt.

Thinking that first-time penetrative sex will hurt leads to the self-fulfilling prophecy of painful sex. It's common to experience some pain, but that doesn't need to be the case. It varies very much from person to person and can be related to your mental state at the time. The more relaxed, mentally prepared, and turned on you are by your partner, the less it will hurt. The more anxious and nervous you are, the more your body and vaginal muscles will tense up, making penetration uncomfortable or painful. Be gentle with yourself, take it easy with your partner, talk about it before it happens, and work your way up to penetration. When you take certain precautions, you can reduce your discomfort and have pain-free, pleasurable, and enjoyable sex.

Myth 02

Women bleed the first time they have sex.

Hymens can tear during sex or they might rip a bit to make room for the penis, but they can also be elastic enough to handle vaginal intercourse without sustaining any damage. The hymen is a membrane with relatively few blood vessels that - even if torn - may not bleed significantly. Many medical studies have proven that bleeding doesn't routinely happen after the first time a woman has vaginal penetrative sex. In first time experiences women often experience lack of vaginal lubrication, and sometime forced penetration, which can cause small cuts in the vaginal wall and lead to bleeding. This bleeding is what causes the “blood-stained bed sheets” and not actually the “tearing of the hymen.”

Myth 03

All sex ends with orgasms.

Although this is what we see in mainstream media, it is not always the case, especially not the first time. Orgasm is something that comes with practice; the better you understand your body, the more comfortable you get with your partner, the safer and more vulnerable you feel, the easier it will be for you to reach orgasm. Don't expect it yourself or your partner from the first try.

Myth 04

Your vagina loosens up the more sex you have.

The vagina is a powerful muscular tube made of elastic tissue, supported by pelvic floor muscles, that temporarily change shape. During sex, "tightness" is determined by the pelvic floor. When you're aroused, the muscles relax to “loosen” the vagina and expands to make room for the penis before, during, and after sex and then returns to its usual shape. There is no evidence that sex causes a loosening of the vagina over time.

Fun Fact
The size of your vagina changes throughout your cycle.

Myth 05

Pregnancy isn't possible the first time you have sex.

Pregnancy is possible anytime there is vaginal penetration with a penis, even if it's your first time. It can happen if a person with a penis ejaculates inside a vagina or outside, but near, the vaginal opening. Using contraception is the best way to prevent pregnancy.

Myth 06

Women cum like men.

Not all women ejaculate when they orgasm. Female ejaculation, which is fluid expelled from the urethra, occurs when a woman becomes sexually aroused, but it is not necessarily associated with orgasms. The amount can vary widely from woman to woman. Some women release just a little fluid; others may wet the sheets. Some experts believe that all women ejaculate, but most aren't aware of it because the fluid often flows backward into the bladder instead of outside the body.

Myth 07

Size matters.

As long as both parties are satisfied, there is no need to worry about the size of your partner's penis. Size only matters when it comes to picking a condom.

Myth 08

Sex = penis-in-vagina intercourse

Sex is yours to define. There is no right or wrong answer - or a real or less real one. You might see sex as getting naked with someone, receiving or giving oral sex, having an orgasm (alone or with someone else), having a consensual sexual experience, vaginal penetration, or something else altogether. You get to decide what counts.

Painful Sex

Painful sex can be caused either by a physical condition or by a psychological condition that leads to physical manifestations.

Physical Causes

Physical causes may include an overactive pelvic floor or hypertonic floor muscles, endometriosis, painful bladder syndrome also known as interstitial cystitis, skin conditions of the vulva, and chronic vaginal infections. They can be nerve-related, muscle-related, skin-related, hormonal, or inflammatory.

Some of the most common physical conditions include vulvodynia and dyspareunia. Vulvodynia is chronic pain in the vulva, the area on the outside of a woman’s genitals. It is usually described as a sensation of burning, stinging, itching, or rawness. Vulvodynia is defined as pain that lasts more than three months and doesn't have a clear identifiable cause, such as an infection or a skin disorder.

Dyspareunia is the term for recurring pain in the genital area or within the pelvis during sexual intercourse. The pain can be sharp or intense. It can occur before, during, or after sexual intercourse. It has many possible causes, but it can be treated.

Psychological Causes

Painful sex can also be attributed to psychological conditions or causes. Social conditioning and cultural narrative around sex can make it difficult for women to have intercourse, even after marriage. They translate into a fear of penetration, a psychological block that manifests physically during intercourse.

One of the most common of these conditions, and the leading cause of unconsummated marriages in the  Middle East, is called vaginismus. Women suffering from it will experience unexplained pain during sex. It is very closely linked to the psychology of more conservative upbringings.

Vaginismus manifests as a recurrent or persistent involuntary spasm of the vaginal muscles, where the vagina “locks" (closes up), making penetration extremely painful or even impossible. While it manifests as a physical symptom, it is a psychological condition.

Many studies have shown that insufficient sexual knowledge is a major potential risk factor to developing vaginismus. Factors that predispose women to vaginismus are a history of sexual abuse, fear of pain with intercourse, familial religious and cultural taboos, generalized anxiety, and other traumas.

There are solutions, so seek help when you need t

It is important that you consult your healthcare provider — a gynecologist, a doctor specializing in sexual dysfunction, a pelvic floor therapist, or a sex therapist — who has a deeper understanding of these conditions and who can provide you with the best treatment possible. Your doctor will be able to perform a proper physical examination to determine the root cause of your sexual pain and recommend the right treatment accordingly. There are solutions, so don’t be afraid to speak up.

If you’ve experienced sexual trauma in the past, sex might feel emotionally or even physically distressing. Discussing your boundaries with your partner before engaging in any sexual activity, and then taking your time and building up to penetration, over time, may help. Don’t underestimate the power of your support system when going through this. Find someone you can confide in, whether it be your friend, family member, or therapist.

Practicing Safe Sex: Contraceptive Options

Our safety and protection are our responsibility alone, and it's our right to demand safe sex. Whether it's because a pregnancy is not in the plans, or because you are seeing a new or more casual partner, the first step is to understand the options that are available to you. There are more choices out there today than even before, making it easier to find a means of contraception that suits your body, needs, and lifestyle.

Some contraceptives are designed to prevent pregnancies only, while others serve to protect against STIs. Some are made to be taken daily, while others are administered monthly. There's no one-size-fits-all, so we encourage you to explore and find what works best for you.

We advise that you consult your doctor to discuss your options.

Hormonal contraceptives

CONTRACEPTIVE INJECTION

CONTRACEPTIVE INJECTION

94% effective

The contraceptive injection is a progestin-based shot that requires a quarterly visit to your doctor.

CONTRACEPTIVE IMPLANT

CONTRACEPTIVE IMPLANT

91% effective

The contraceptive implant is a small plastic rod that’s inserted into your arm and prevents pregnancy for 3 years by releasing progestin.

HORMONAL IUD

HORMONAL IUD

99% effective

An intrauterine device (IUD) is a T-shaped piece of plastic that is inserted inside the uterus. Hormonal IUD release progestin.
Hormonal IUDs release progestin, are effective from 12-3 years, and can be removed at any time.

THE PILL

THE PILL

91% effective

The pill, also known as the birth control pill or the combination pill, is a hormonal contraceptive that delivers both estrogen and progesterone (two types of hormones) into the female body to prevent ovulation.

While on the pill, your monthly bleed is not a "real" period. It's known as breakthrough bleeding and is caused by the sudden drop in hormones that happens when you stop taking the pill or replace it with the placebo pill, as instructed, for seven days.

There are several side effects to the pill, and it's important for you to educate yourself on them before deciding on this form of contraceptive.

The pill is one of the most effective contraceptives on the market when it comes to preventing unwanted pregnancies; when taken correctly and as instructed.

CONTRACEPTIVE PATCH

CONTRACEPTIVE PATCH

91% effective

Composed of the same hormones as the pill (estrogen and progestin), the patch is like a sticker that is placed on an approved part of your body and needs to be replaced once a week.

VAGINAL RING

VAGINAL RING

91% effective

This is a small, flexible ring placed inside the vagina that releases estrogen and progestin and needs to be replaced monthly.

Hormone-free contraceptives

MALE CONDOMS

MALE CONDOMS

98% effective

This is the only form of contraceptive listed here that protects against both unwanted pregnancies and STIs if used correctly.
Used alone, condoms are 98% effective in preventing pregnancy. However, the reality is that they are not used correctly all of the time, which reduces their effectiveness to about 85% in real life.

COPPER IUD

COPPER IUD

99% effective

An IUD is a T-shaped device inserted inside the uterus. It’s made of plastic and copper, which is toxic to sperm. It can be effective for 3 to 12 years and can be removed at any time.
A copper IUD can also be used as an emergency contraceptive.

FERTILITY AWARENESS METHOD

FERTILITY AWARENESS METHOD

Also called “natural family planning”, the fertility awareness method involves tracking your menstrual cycle and specifically ovulation, developing a better awareness of your body, and using a variety of non-pharmaceutical methods to detect ovulation.

This method is used to avoid pregnancy or to conceive, based on where you are in your cycle. The most effective one is called Symptothermal Fertility Awareness Method. This daily practice requires women to monitor and chart their primary fertility signs – cervical mucus, basal body temperature (waking temperature), and cervical positioning - and is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy when done correctly and ideally with the help of a qualified instructor.

Emergency contraceptives

MORNING AFTER PILL

MORNING AFTER PILL

There are currently two pills available on the market, Levonorgestrel and Ulipristal Acetate, that are used for emergency contraception, i.e. to prevent a pregnancy after unprotected sex has happened. The morning-after pill needs to be taken within 72 hours after intercourse, but the earlier you take it, the more effective it is.

Emergency contraceptives are not as effective as regular contraception and sholdn't be used as a form of birth control. They do not protect you against sexually transmitted diseases.

*All effectiveness percentages are based on FDA estimates.

Sources

Special thanks to Dr. Deemah Salem for her guidance and support.
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