Masturbate, read erotica, conduct online research, and speak with a therapist to understand what you want.
Articulate your needs, desires, and expectations to your partner during a sit-down conversation long before you actually have sex.
You should also create spoken boundaries and discuss STD status before engaging in sex.
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I’m almost 23 and, for religious reasons, I haven’t had sex.
But my feelings and opinions on sex before marriage have changed this past year, and I’m looking forward to eventually having sex with someone, regardless of whether we’re married or not.
I’ve been seeing someone virtually (thanks, pandemic) and I don’t know how or when to tell him that I’m a virgin and I need to take sexual intimacy slower.
I’m usually very direct, but because I’ve never had sex before or had to talk to partners about it, I’m feeling incredibly stressed and worried. I don’t want my partner to run for the hills when he learns I’m inexperienced.
I have no idea how to even have sex, so this conversation is super important to me. How do I tell him, and what do I say?
It’s normal to feel stressed and anxious about your first time having partnered sex, considering how much emphasis our society puts on the idea of losing virginity.
But with a little soul-searching, research, and communication, your first time with your partner could be the start of an empowering and pleasurable new adventure.
Before you broach the topic with your partner, you should figure out what you want out of the experience, Ric Mathews, a New York City-based psychotherapist and sex therapist, told me.
“The most important thing in this situation, whether it’s in a pandemic or not, is for the person to get comfortable talking about sex and talking about what it means to them,” said Mathews.
In addition to educating yourself with science-backed online resources like guides Planned Parenthood and Center for Young Women’s Health, Mathews suggested speaking with a therapist or trusted doctor who can help you prepare for what to expect emotionally and physically.
Read more: I’ve never been able to orgasm during partnered sex, and I’m afraid it’ll ruin my relationship. What do I do?
Once you’re armed with this information, it’s time to focus on what brings you pleasure, and how that could translate during sex with your partner.
Your first experience doesn’t have to involve penetrative sex if you don’t want it to and there’s a whole menu of other fun sex acts with which you could experiment, like oral sex or fingering, Mathews told me. To figure out what you like best, think about how you like to touch yourself when you masturbate.
He said reading or listening to erotica, rather than watching porn, could help you zero into what turns you on since porn films aren’t always the most realistic sex portrayals.
How to talk to your partner about it
Give yourself ample time for this self-discovery, and then bring what you learn to your partner long before you decide to have sex together. This way, you’ll be on the same page when the time comes and won’t have to worry about the conversation itself.
When you sit down together, be upfront about your lack of experience and how it makes you feel. Then share what you’ve learned about yourself, what having sex for the first time means to you personally.
It’s also important to think about your sexual health, so you should ask your partner about their sexual history, the last time they were tested for sexually transmitted diseases, and their STD status in general, according to Mathews.
Read more: 4 hard conversations about dating that should be normalized – and how to have them
Creating a safe space
Last, discuss ways you can make the environment safe during sex.
“I think it’s helpful for them to say to the other person, ‘I want to do this, but before we do I want to make sure that you understand when I’m feeling safe or when I’m not. Can we agree on some language?'” Mathews said.
He said designating phrases like, “This is OK, “This is not OK,” “I’m not sure yet,” and “I don’t like this” ahead of time will help you and your partner communicate and respect each other’s needs in the heat of the moment.
After you’ve done it for the first time, the conversation about sexual wants and needs doesn’t stop. Following sex, talk with your partner about how you both thought the experience went, and what you’d like to take and leave for next time.
“It doesn’t have to be deconstructing the act step-by-step, but having a conversation about what was it like, how did it feel, anything that surprised you, I think those are the main ones to keep it on a positive or optimistic note,” Mathews said.
He also recommended journaling about your experience, so you can continue to reflect on your desires and newfound sexuality.
As Insider’s resident sex and relationships reporter, Julia Naftulin is here to answer all of your questions about dating, love, and doing it – no question is too weird or taboo. Julia regularly consults a panel of health experts including relationship therapists, gynecologists, and urologists to get science-backed answers to your burning questions, with a personal twist.
Have a question? Fill out this anonymous form. All questions will be published anonymously.
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