February 12th 2021
Sex & Gynae
What I wish I’d known the first time I had sex
April 29th 2018 / 0 comment
Seven women speak candidly about what they would tell their younger selves and how their feelings about body and sexual confidence have evolved
A person’s ‘first time’ can mean many different things to different people, with experiences ranging from the good to the bad to the purely ‘meh.’ It can be a little fumbly, a bit awkward and definitely nervy and while it leaves a lasting impression on some, for others, not so much. The one thing they do share in common though, is that they’re all unique.
Today, we have more control over our sex lives than ever - much more than previous generations - and considering that with age, comes greater sexual confidence, we wondered, what piece of advice would we give to our younger selves given the chance? This was the question we posed to seven women. From insights on contraception to how to have better body confidence, here's what they said.
“Don’t worry so much about having killer moves on the first attempt”
“My first time was something I'd thought about a lot before it happened. But the long build up and anticipation for the big night turned out to be more exciting than the event itself - which was something of an anti-climax. It was mid-summer, the night was warm and love (and nerves) were in the air. It was his first time too which, in hindsight, made for a rather clumsy affair but at the time we thought we were on top form!
“While the physical effects were short-lived, the emotional shift was permanent. We had stepped through a new door in life at the same time, together, and now saw the world as fully fledged adults. (Or so we thought!). One thing I wish I had known then, was not to worry so much about having killer moves on the first attempt, particularly when we both had no idea what we were doing! I am glad I took it seriously, though, and waited for someone who it would mean something to too.
“Going the distance definitely helped raise my body confidence as I quickly realised the other person was perfectly happy with (if not totally oblivious to) all my foibles. I do wish I hadn’t been so quick to jump on the contraceptive pill however - I suffered a lot with skin issues, not to mention emotional rollercoasters, which I'm sure had something to do with pumping my body full of hormones everyday, which I regret.
“I don’t think my first time has impacted materially on my sexual encounters since but I do think it set the tone for me and a want for a meaningful, safe and healthy physical relationship.”
“Try to enjoy it rather than just focussing on getting through it!”
I think the date was Friday 12th December 2003, but I’m not sure because, despite religiously noting everything in my diary, I've glossed over this event, marking it with a heart sticker, a smiley face and the comment ‘Brick’ scribbled in the corner. The two days either side state, in enormous letters, ‘PASSED DRIVING TEST’ and ‘SADDAM HUSSEIN CAPTURED’, so, on reflection, I don’t think this day held too much significance for me.
“The event was with my four-month boyfriend who I had spent a lot of time with and really fancied. One of our friends had lost her virginity that summer and I just wanted to hit that milestone too with someone I liked and trusted. He was that person and we discussed having sex and the fact that I was a virgin. He put me at ease. We used protection, (I was, and always have been, very cautious), it lasted probably a few minutes and it was pretty awkward (hence the ‘Brick’ comment), but we had a cuddle afterwards – perfectly normal in my mind and I didn’t really have any different expectations. We dated for a couple of years after that so it was a good, intimate experience for me, but not something I look back on as a landmark in my life and development. I was fairly well-informed and very laid back...and confident(!) back then. I'm glad I didn't place too much emphasis on the event. If I could tell my younger self anything though, it would be to try to enjoy it rather than just focussing on getting through it!”
“The sexiest thing is being comfortable in your own skin”
“Growing up gay brings with it certain unique features of your virginity. Firstly, I’ve been asked on occasion, ‘what constitutes sex for lesbians?’ and the answer is...well I’m not sure 100 per cent sure of the answer, but let’s just say that I knew when the first time happened what it was!
“My first time was overall a positive experience. We were about 17, there were a lot of nerves but it was both our first time and that made it sweeter, like we were in it together, both nervous and fumbling. She was a girl in the year below me at school and it happened at her house after we went to a gig together. She was my girlfriend and it was a relationship that lasted about a year and a half.
“In the years that have followed, I’ve learned that the sexiest thing is being comfortable in your own skin. Back then, I was probably much more concerned with having a flat stomach but I wish I’d known that a perfect body isn’t necessary. You enjoy sex more when you’re not so hung up on how your body looks in the moment. I’d probably tell my younger self that the first time isn’t how it’s going to be forever, each time will be unique because with each partner comes a different dynamic. Sex is like an ongoing learning curve.”
“Sex gets steadily better with age”
“I lost my virginity aged 19. I’d spent six months going to bed with my boyfriend Liam in full-body armour – i.e. a tracksuit zipped to my neck (I must add that we did plenty of good stuff through that layer of stretchy polyester). So why the odd sartorial choice? I reasoned that nudity would rapidly lead to sex and sex must wait. I needed to be ready.
“I’d grown up with a lot of guilt around sex. My parents married young and had firm ideas of right and wrong. Skimpy dressing, an overly active social life, promiscuity: wrong! But more significantly, I’d had unpleasant sexual experiences as a child, and this had haunted me throughout my teens. I was 11 when it first happened and the boy responsible was three years older. My mother walked in on us the first time. We were lying naked on a bed in my home, touching each other’s bits. My mother stood at the door and pronounced those blood-chilling words dreaded by every child of my generation, ‘Your father will be hearing about this.’ I remember howling with terror, hurling myself at my mum, begging her not to tell. I believe she kept my secret, recognising that my Italian Catholic father would likely flip, but the messing around continued for at least a year after that because the boy had witnessed my fear and I was an easy blackmail target. The first fumble had been pure pre-pubescent experimentation – sort of fun, sort of euww – but after my mother’s walk-in, I hated every moment of it. For the next decade, I lived in constant terror that my dirty secret would become known to both my parents. Getting my first proper sexual experience morally ‘right’ therefore became a priority.
“Patient Liam was five years older than me and probably a virgin too, though he never owned up to it. Our first episode of full sex was exciting but mostly on a mental level – as in, ‘Whoopee, I’ve finally done it!’ Liam was hung like a horse (even then I seemed to know it) so sex had to be approached with a degree of moderation – full-throttle thrusting would have left me screaming for all the wrong reasons. There was no pain on my first go but no orgasm either. The sex got steadily better but was never amazing – I don’t think my body was ready for fireworks.
“Thankfully sex has improved dramatically over the years, though I believe this has less to do with the talents of the men I’ve slept with and more to do with improvements in my own systems. Everything is more efficient. Orgasms come almost too easily and they’re a lot stronger than they once were. I wish I'd known sex would get steadily better with age. It's not that I lacked confidence then or was more body conscious - just that my body needed to mature and my response to sexual stimuli needed fine-tuning. All of this happened over time. I believe it happened at a biological level rather than a mental/emotional one - my body and its responses simply needed extra time to develop."
“There really is no rush”
“I was around 16 years old and had been with my boyfriend of the time for about six months. He had already lost his virginity before we got together, so I put personal pressure on myself to step our relationship up a bit too fast. He had never pressured me into having sex but it was always something I was aware that we were not doing. We didn’t forward plan anything or discuss anything before it happened, it just happened one evening when I was round his house. I remember afterwards mainly feeling relieved that it was out of the way, like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. After that night though, I put off doing it again for a couple more months, as I knew I hadn’t really been ready.
“My boyfriend and I continued our on and off relationship for another year, and each time we briefly broke up he would sleep with someone else. Looking back now I can see that this was because I wasn’t giving him something he felt he needed from our relationship at that time, and unfortunately in the end he wasn’t willing to wait for me to be ready. If I could tell my younger self anything, it would be that everyone is ready at different times. It’s also so important to feel as though you trust your partner and they understand you, which is what was lacking from my first experience. I wish I had known that there really is no rush - if they’re not willing to wait until you are ready, then they are simply not worth it and having confidence in yourself and how you feel towards the experience is hugely important. With every partner I have been with since, I’ve made sure that not only did I feel ready to sleep with them, but that I actually wanted to, as at the end of the day sex is supposed to be an enjoyable experience for both parties involved. There really is no point in doing it if you really don’t feel ready, or don’t want to.”
“Not to rely so heavily on alcohol”
“I knew my ‘first’ for about two years just as friends. I was originally waiting for marriage. Him and I started dating and we were drinking heavily on a regular basis. About a month after I turned 21, I was very drunk and we decided to have sex. I woke up frustrated that he didn’t care I’d waited so long and was okay that I was so drunk. And mad at myself for letting it happen. We ended our relationship shortly after and I lost a lot of respect for myself. There were a lot of drunken regrettable encounters after that. I actually told my first serious boyfriend that I wished that he’d been my first because he would’ve made a bigger deal out of it and respected me and it probably would’ve changed a lot of stuff down the road. But that’s neither here nor there at this point. It took a lot of bad relationships for me to finally turn it around and realise I still deserve a happy and healthy relationship even if I made some bad sexual decisions at a young age. I still have hang-ups around it, wanting to please my partner and being more worried about their pleasure than mine. But now I can say no to people even if they feel like they’ve been lead on whereas when I was young, I'd feel bad if a guy thought they were getting something so I’d just go along with it even if I didn’t want to at all. Which is sadly the case I think still for a lot of girls.
“If I could go back, I’d tell myself to not rely so heavily on alcohol and to handle my issues with men in a sober and healthy environment. I wish I’d known that I deserve the world and to tell any guy who didn’t see that to hit the road. I also wish I’d been more informed about STDs and condoms back then too, it would’ve prevented so much anxiety - I now appreciate how important communication about protection is and that it’s as much their responsibility as it is mine.”
“Not to be so shy about my body”
“I was 19 and it was with my boyfriend at uni. I’d had relationships before this, but I’d never felt ready to have sex up until that point. I remember thinking I wanted it to be special and it was, because we loved each other - it felt right.
“When it happened, I remember thinking I couldn’t quite believe that we’d done it. I felt happy and it brought us closer together. Whether it met expectations physically, I’m not sure - I know there was fumbling and nervousness on my part, I assumed there was more practise to come. He definitely had to guide me, almost like a sex teacher! I think though that because we loved each other, emotionally I was happy to have had my first time in this way.
“One thing I wish I’d known more about though was contraception, particularly the pill and how it affects your body. Having pregnancy scares at a young age is quite daunting. I also wish I knew that your body is beautiful no matter whether the lights are on or off! I’d tell my younger self not to be so shy about her body - no matter what shape or size you are or what your lady garden looks like, be proud!”