Defining Your First Sexual Experience


Your first sexual experience is a big deal. It’s a milestone to be cherished. Whenever it happens in your life, it can feel like a big step, and that's because it is.

couple embracing

If you're preparing for your first time, 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.

Here are a few key points to learn and remember as you embark on this exciting journey. 

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.

Language is powerful.

Language plays a role in how we perceive our 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”.

Did you know?

Hymens are just as unique as you are. Just like vulvas come in different shapes and sizes, so do hymens. They look very different from vagina to vagina, and the shape, size, and flexibility of a hymen can change significantly across a woman’s lifespan due to changes in estrogen levels and physical activities. The elasticity of the hymen can also allow it to retain its shape even after penetrative activities, depending, again, on the person’s body. Therefore, the shape of the hymen is no indication of sexual activity.

More importantly, just because you have a vagina doesn’t mean that you have a hymen. Some women are in fact born without one, and you might never know if you have one or not. 

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 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.

A final note

If you’re thinking of exploring your first sexual experience with a partner, or if you’ve been exploring for a while, remember that you and only you can define those experiences for yourself. 

  • Hymen

    The hymen is a rim of tissue (thin skin) at the outer opening of the vagina. It usually has a doughnut or crescent shape with a large, central hole. However, this varies a lot, and sometimes hymens can have fringes or several holes or can consist of lobes.

    Hymens are just as unique as you are. Just like vulvas come in different shapes and sizes, so do hymens. They look very different from vagina to vagina, and the shape, size, and flexibility of a hymen can change significantly across a woman’s lifespan due to changes in estrogen levels and physical activities.

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