How and when you “lose your virginity” depends on how a person defines sex. Some may include oral sex, penetrative sex, or anal sex in their definition while others may not.

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There are a lot of myths around sexual activity, one being that your first time having sex will hurt.

Although minor discomfort is common, it shouldn’t cause pain — whether that’s with vaginal, anal, or even oral stimulation.

Here’s what you need to know to help calm your nerves, minimize discomfort, stay protected, and have a good time.

It’s important to remember that there’s no concrete definition of “virginity.”

Many people assume “losing your virginity” means “having penile-vaginal sex for the first time” — but the definition of sex is fluid.

Some people consider sex to be an act where a penis penetrates a vagina.

Others may include oral stimulation, fingering or handjobs, or anal penetration in their definition.

Your definition could also include stimulation or penetration with a sex toy.

It’s entirely up to you to decide what you consider sex.

Because everyone’s definition of sex is different — and because everyone’s first time is different — we’re going to look at a few different sexual activities and discuss how you can minimize discomfort with each.

Regardless of the type of sexual activities you want to try, there are a few general tips or rules you can use to make your first sexual experience more comfortable.

Get familiar with your own anatomy

Masturbating can help you figure out what feels good during sex, and it can help you feel more familiar with your body.

If you’re planning on being vaginally penetrated during sex, for example, you might use your fingers or a sex toy to figure out how it feels.

You might find that certain angles or positions are uncomfortable for you while others are pleasurable.

By arming yourself with this knowledge, you’ll be able to tell your partner how to pleasure you.

Talk to your partner about your concerns

The person you’re having sex with for the first time could be anyone — your spouse, your partner, a friend, or even an acquaintance.

No matter who you choose to have sex with and their relationship to you, it’s important to practice open and honest communication.

If you’re nervous, talk to them about it. Tell them if you’re concerned that it will hurt.

Together, you can take precautions to ensure that you’re both as physically and emotionally comfortable as possible.

Set realistic expectations around performance and orgasm

If you have a penis, you may feel that you have to “last long” during sex — that is, have sex for a long period of time before you orgasm and ejaculate.

While that may happen, it’s also perfectly normal to not last very long at all.

You might feel the pressure to give your partner — or yourself — an orgasm. Many people do give and receive orgasms the first time they have sex, but not everyone does. And that’s OK!

Sex is a skill that you can get better with over time. Much like driving, or even walking, you might not be brilliant at it immediately.

But you can improve your skill over time through practice and theory — that is, reading up about it.

Your first time having sex might be good, bad, or average when it comes to the actual sexual pleasure part — but this isn’t a reflection of what sex will always be like for you, nor is it a reflection of your worth as a partner or human.

Setting realistic expectations when it comes to sexual pleasure and orgasms is important, as it can take off some of the pressure.

Go slow

Sex can be super exciting, so you might feel the need to go fast — especially if you’re nervous! But slow and steady wins the race, no matter what kind of sex you’re engaging in.

Use slow and gentle motions at first, and change it up if you both like.

It’s a good idea to go slow when it comes to penetration of any kind, as it can give your vaginal or anal muscles time to relax and grow accustomed to the feeling of being penetrated.

Slowing down also gives you a chance to savor and enjoy the experience.

Spend time on foreplay

Foreplay is a great way to relax your mind, increase body awareness, and experience sexual pleasure.

If you have a penis, you might become erect during foreplay. If you have a vagina, you might get “wet,” which is when your vagina secretes a liquid that lubricates the vagina before sexual activity.

No matter what body parts you are or aren’t planning on using during sex, foreplay can be fun.

Foreplay can look different to different people. It might include:

For some, the line between foreplay and sex is blurry — remember, we all have our own definition of sex!

Use lots of lube!

If you’re planning on having sexual intercourse, lubricants can be helpful. It simply makes it easier and less painful to slide in and out.

This is especially true if you’re planning on penetrating the vagina or anus with a dildo or penis, your fingers, or other sex toys.

You should avoid oil-based lube if you’re using a condom. Oil can cause a hole to form in the condom, making it useless.

In other words, ditch the Vaseline and get a water-based lubricant.

Lubricants can be bought online or in pharmacies or grocery stores.

Try different positions

If one sex position is uncomfortable for you, you could try another.

Simple sex positions for first-timers include:

  • missionary
  • girl-on-top
  • doggy style
  • 69

Don’t be overly concerned with the name of the position, though — just find whatever feels comfortable.

Of course, the position you choose will depend on the kind of genitals you have, your partner’s genitals, and the sort of sex act you want to engage in.

You might feel the need to try adventurous or even acrobatic sex positions to make your first time truly memorable. But there’s no need to try something that’s potentially uncomfortable.

Often, it’s best to keep it simple and do what feels right for you and your partner.

Check in as it’s happening

Sexy, silent montages in movies might make it seem like people never talk to each other during sex other than a few moans of ecstasy.

In truth, communicating during sex can make it more fun and more pleasurable.

Ask your partner how they’re doing during sex. You can ask things like:

  • Are you enjoying this?
  • Does this feel comfortable for you?
  • Would you prefer it if we did XYZ?

If you’re feeling uncomfortable, you can ask them to stop, take a break, or change positions. If you’re not sure what to say, use phrases like:

  • I’m not comfortable. Let’s stop.
  • I’m not enjoying this. Let’s change positions.
  • Can we try going slower?

Bottom line? Communication is key.

Avoid using your teeth on your partner’s genitals, as it can be painful (unless they specifically ask for it, as some people do enjoy the sensation!).

Gentle kisses, licks, and strokes can be pleasurable, no matter whether you’re doing it to a penis, vagina, or anus.

If you’re giving someone a blowjob, it might be uncomfortable for you to stick it right at the back of your throat. Go slowly, and don’t feel pressured to put it in too deeply if you don’t want to.

Use lube, especially if your vagina isn’t very wet. Lube can make penetration easier, whether you’re using sex toys, fingers, or a penis.

If your partner is going to use their fingers to penetrate you, make sure they clip their nails and wash their hands before. Long nails can make the experience uncomfortable.

Go slowly when it comes to penetration. Gentle, shallow strokes with a finger, sex toy, or penis can help the vagina relax and loosen slightly.

If you’re using a dildo, try a small one at first. If you’re being penetrated by fingers for the first time, your partner can initially use one or two fingers and slowly build up to more, if you wish.

You can also prop a pillow underneath your pelvis and lie down before you’re penetrated. Many people find this more comfortable.

You might have heard that being vaginally penetrated will cause your vagina to bleed because it “breaks your hymen.” This is a myth.

In truth, most vaginas -— 99.9 percent, in fact — already have a perforated hymen. Think about it: How else would blood get out during your period?

If you’re concerned about bleeding, lie on an old towel or blanket during sex. However, not everyone bleeds the first time their vagina is penetrated.

When it comes to having anal sex for the first time, lubrication is a must. Unlike the vagina, the anus doesn’t produce natural sexual lubricants of its own.

If you’re using a sex toy, start with a small one at first. There are sex toys that are specially designed for anal sex.

If we’re talking about a penis penetrating an anus, it could be helpful to use fingers or small sex toys before working your way up to penile penetration. This can help you physically and mentally relax.

Slow, gentle movements are key. The anal tissues are quite delicate, and fast or rough sex can result in pain.

STIs are possible the first time you have sex

It’s possible to contract a sexually transmitted infection (STI) every time you engage in sexual activity.

STIs can be spread through:

  • blood
  • semen
  • vaginal secretions
  • genital-to-genital or other skin contact

Yes, you can even spread STIs through hand jobs. In rare cases, HPV can be spread from the hands to genitals, and vice versa.

If you want to have penis-in-vagina or penis-in-anus sex, the best way to prevent STIs is through using a condom. For oral sex, use a dental dam.

If you’re using sex toys, sanitize them properly before using them on another person, as they can also spread STIs if shared.

Condoms, dental dams, and other barrier methods are the only way to reduce your risk for STIs. However, they aren’t 100 percent effective — even with perfect use. Make sure you and your partner are routinely tested for STIs.

And if you’re having PIV, so is pregnancy

If we’re talking about penis-in-vagina sex, you can get pregnant (or get someone else pregnant) the first time you have sex.

There are a number of contraceptive options available for you if you want to avoid pregnancy. These include:

It’s best to discuss birth control methods beforehand with your partner, and possibly a doctor or other healthcare provider.

Sometimes, pain during sex is caused by an underlying condition. Certain issues can make genital stimulation or penetration uncomfortable.

This includes:

In addition, the following STIs can make sex uncomfortable:

If you’re experiencing painful sex, especially if the pain continues after the first time you have sex, see a doctor or other healthcare provider.

They can review your symptoms and advise you on any next steps.

Having sex for the first time doesn’t have to be painful.

When you take certain precautions, you can reduce your discomfort and have pain-free, pleasurable, and enjoyable sex.

Using a condom or other barrier method to help protect against STIs — and potentially pregnancy — can also help set your mind at ease.