This is a great question!
First, keep in mind that not everyone defines “sex” the same way. To some people, “sex” refers only to vaginal intercourse. To others, it includes oral and anal intercourse. To others still, “sex” includes mutual masturbation and sex toy play. For your first sexual experience, focus on exploring each others’ bodies in a way that feels comfortable to both of you, and don’t worry too much about what you’re “supposed” to do.
It’s always possible for vaginal intercourse to be uncomfortable, whether for the first time or the millionth. Here are some tips that can help keep intercourse pleasurable and safe.
- Make sure both partners are fully aroused before beginning intercourse. Engaging in foreplay—kissing, oral sex, or mutual masturbation, for instance—stimulates blood flow to the genitals, which allows the tissue in the vaginal canal to stretch. A person’s cervix actually lifts toward the uterus during arousal, elongating the canal by several inches. Also, most vaginas self-lubricate when aroused, making it easier to accommodate a penis.
- Some people have a thin membrane, called a hymen, blocking the entrance to their vaginas. Hymens can be broken by fingers, tampons, penises, or other things inserted into the vagina. Not all people are born with a hymen, however, and some are broken in childhood by everyday activities like sports. If you are engaging in vaginal intercourse for the first time, it is possible to feel a brief pain as the hymen breaks. A small amount of blood may be present. Know that this is normal and involves no lasting damage!
- Use lubrication. Some bodies self-lubricate quite a bit; some don’t at all! Lubrication will lower the amount of friction during intercourse, allowing the penis to slide in and out without catching on the vaginal tissue. Even if your body does self-lubricate, it’s great to have a bottle of water-based lube on hand just in case things become dry and uncomfortable. (Lubrication is especially important when having intercourse with a condom, since the latex can create extra friction in the vagina.)
- Stay positive. You may be nervous about whether or not vaginal intercourse will hurt. There’s nothing wrong with this, but remember that the vagina is a muscle. If you’re tense, it might be, too! Sometimes people who are stressed out will feel pelvic pain during intercourse instead of pleasure. This is a good signal to take a step back. Check in emotionally with your partner, return to foreplay, or listen to what your body needs instead of sex. If you find that sex of any kind makes you anxious, talk to a trusted adult about your concerns. Share dinner and conversation with your partner. Pamper yourself with a long bath. Remember that relationships can be meaningful and intimate without sexual activity, and try intercourse again when you’re feeling confident and aroused.
Another important thing to think about is consent. Consent is when people agree to a sexual activity without pressure, force or without being tricked. Anyone involved in the activity must be comfortable and feel safe. Another thing to think about is your “readiness.” It’s important that someone feels emotionally and physically ready for any type of sexual activity. Knowing the risks, knowing a partner and knowing yourself are key parts of readiness.
Know that you have the right to change your mind at any moment. Even if you’ve consented to an activity once, it doesn’t automatically mean you consent every time after that! And if you’re sexually active, be sure to prevent unplanned pregnancy by choosing a reliable birth control method (if you are engaging in the type of sex where pregnancy may occur). Also, remember to protect yourself from STI transmission by using condoms and dental dams. These are an important part of well-being, too. Before you decide, it would be a good idea to get tested! Teen Clinic provides low-cost and confidential STI testing and birth control consultations.
At the end of the day, it’s your body—and you have the right to make decisions that work for you. Teen Clinic encourages everyone to talk with a trusted adult – whether that’s a parent, another relative, a teacher, coach or clinician – if they are thinking about becoming sexually active.