So you’re ready to have sex for the first time. Let’s start with the basics: For one, it’s absolutely normal to feel a little nervous or timid about your first time. You’re not alone in that feeling.
It happens to pretty much everyone because, hi, sex can be awkward—and unfortunately, that doesn’t really go away the more experienced you get.
Secondly, there’s no right or wrong way to have sex. That’s because sex is all about exploration and discovering your desires, which takes time. Maybe you won’t know right away what exactly you’re into— and that’s okay.
That said, it may help to explore some of your own needs and wants via a one-on-one session with yourself prior to engaging in partnered sex (more on that later).
But, basically: Relax, breathe, and take it all in stride. We’ve enlisted the help of amazing experts who will guide you as you navigate sex for the first time. You’ve got this.
1. Get familiar with your own pleasure first.
The best thing you can do before you have sex for the first time: masturbate. “Take time to explore your own body and find out what you really like when it comes to how you like being touched, what areas feel pleasurable to you, and what areas don’t,” says sex and relationship coach Azaria Menezes. This can be very empowering and make room for lots and lots of pleasure when it comes to time for partnered sex, she confirms.
2. Foreplay, foreplay, foreplay. Did I mention foreplay?
The more aroused you are, the better sex is likely to feel, so don’t neglect foreplay — including oral sex, manual sex, and, yes, good, old-fashioned kissing. “Resist the temptation to think of these activities as the things you do before moving on to the ‘main event,’” says Marin. Whether or not you do orgasm the first time you have sex, clitoral stimulation is the key to most women’s pleasure, and vaginal intercourse doesn’t usually provide very much of it.
3. Don’t limit yourself with a time restraint.
Hopefully, this goes without saying but no need to schedule this like an appointment. Allotting only a certain amount of minutes in your day for first-time sex sounds like unnecessary stress you shouldn’t pang yourself with.
“Give yourself time and go slow,” says Menezes. Have sex when you know you don’t have any plans afterwards to make room for not only the sex itself but cuddling. You may want to engage in some pillow talk, too.
4. Always have a condom ready.
If there’s even the slightest possibility of sex potentially happening, you should already be prepared with a condom, suggests ob-gyn Tamika K. Cross, MD. Since condoms help prevent unwanted pregnancy and STIs, take responsibility into your own hands and don’t expect your partner to provide them. “Why to put your faith in someone else’s preparedness?” says Dr Cross.
5. Take the pressure off of orgasming.
The sole purpose of sex does not need to be experiencing an orgasm, says Astroglide’s resident health advisor Angela Jones, MD. Especially the first time you do it.
Sure, it’s great—and should be something both partners actively work toward as they become more familiar with their own needs, but take the pressure off. Think about sex as a way to connect with your partner on a deeper level, via all its emotional and mental benefits. “An individual’s worth is not tied to whether or not they climax during sex,” says Dr Angela.
6. Temper your expectations.
Teen movies and TV shows sold us a pretty unrealistic vision of what having sex for the first time looks like. It’s always perfectly choreographed and mood-lit and romantic and ends in an implied simultaneous orgasm. As if.
Don’t expect fireworks the first time you have sex—sex is messy and human and flawed and often awkward, no matter how many times you’ve done it. It’s the practice and the exploration that make sex fun.
7. Communicate what you want.
Talking about sex with a new partner is a must.“In order to have good sex, you need to communicate your wants, needs, and desires to your partner,” says SKYN’s sex and intimacy expert, Gigi Engle. This includes talking about what this sexual encounter will mean to you if you are in a casual or serious relationship if you and/or your partner are planning on being monogamous, and whether or not you are sleeping with other people.
And don’t worry, you don’t have to bring up this convo the moment you match with someone on Tinder, but you should bring it up before you take that trip to pound town, says Engle.
8. Be comfortable asking questions.
Whether it’s your first or fiftieth time having sex, the worst thing you can do is go into it with the assumption that you know everything about what your partner wants. No amount of slumber party gossip about blow jobs and giving massive hickeys can prepare you for what your partner is actually gonna be into. The only way to find out is to ask them: Do they like oral sex, or would they rather leave that off the menu? Would they rather have the music on or off? Not only does asking questions show your partner that you care, but it may also encourage them to do the same—making the whole experience better for everyone.
9. Enthusiastic consent is a prerequisite for everything you do.
“Make sure you enthusiastically consent to each and everything the two of you do together,” says sex therapist Vanessa Marin. “‘Enthusiastic’ is a key part of that sentence. Don’t just go along with something—make sure you’re excited about it.”
Remember that just because you start an activity—for example, sex—you don’t have to finish or continue it: You have the right to pause or stop whatever it is. No. Matter. What. Same goes for your partner, of course: Check in with each other as things progress to make sure you’re both enthusiastic about what you’re doing.
10. Caring about your partner’s pleasure matters more than your technique.
It’s natural to worry that you won’t be “good” in bed your first time, but trust, what matters most is that you are invested in how your partner feels and vice versa and that you two are communicating about it.
“A lot of people get anxious about sexual performance, but perhaps the best quality in a lover is enthusiasm,” Marin says. If you’re genuinely enjoying giving your partner pleasure, they’ll notice it, and have more fun, she says. Need some guidance to get you started? Simple questions like, “How does that feel?” and, “Do you like when I [fill in the blank]?” give your partner a chance to express appreciation for what you’re doing or (gently) ask for something a little different.