virginityShare on Pinterest
Illustrations by Ruth Basagoitia

There is no one definition of virginity. For some, being a virgin means you haven’t had any kind of penetrative sex — whether that’s vaginal, anal, or even oral. Others may define virginity as never engaging in vaginal penetration with a penis, despite having had other types of sex, including oral stimulation and anal penetration.

However you define it, the most important thing to remember is that you decide when you’re ready to have sex and that you’re comfortable with that choice. And when that time comes, try not to think of it as “losing” or “giving” something away. You’re actually gaining a whole new experience.

Many people believe the only way to “lose” your virginity is through vaginal penetration with a penis, but that’s not the case.

Some people may no longer call themselves a virgin after engaging in anal penetration or penetration with a finger or sex toy. Others may reconsider their virginity status after receiving or giving oral stimulation. When it comes to virginity and sex, there’s so much more than just P in V.

Oh, the hymen — the stuff of legend. You’ve probably heard the myth that if you have a hymen, it will break during vaginal penetration. But that’s all that is: a myth.

The average hymen isn’t a piece of flat tissue that covers the vaginal opening, like the myth claims. Instead, it’s usually a loose — and not at all intact — piece of tissue that hangs around the vagina.

Depending on its size, a hymen can be torn during penetrative sex, exercise, or some other physical activity. But it won’t “pop,” because it simply can’t.

Your hymen — like your finger or your ear — is just a body part. It doesn’t determine whether or not you’re a virgin any more than your toes do. Plus, not everyone is born with a hymen, and if they are, it may be a very small piece of tissue. You — and you alone — decide the status of your virginity.

Your body doesn’t change after you have sex for the first time — or second, or third, or fiftieth.

However, you will experience certain physiological reactions related to sexual arousal. This may include:

These arousal-related responses are only temporary. Your body isn’t changing — it’s just responding to the stimulus.

Share on Pinterest

After you’re finished having sex, your body will slowly return to its regular state. But this cooldown period only lasts a few minutes.

In other words, there’s no way another person would know that you’re no longer a virgin. The only way they would know is if you decide to tell them.

Everyone experiences sex differently. But you shouldn’t expect your first time to be like what you see in the movies.

Sex scenes in film and television don’t happen in one take — actors often have to reposition themselves, and directors may reshoot certain parts so that the scene looks good on camera.

This means that what you see on the silver screen typically isn’t a realistic picture of what sex is like for most people.

It’s completely normal to feel uncomfortable the first time you have sex. Friction may happen with penetration, and that could cause discomfort. But your first time shouldn’t hurt.

If having sex does hurt, though, that could be because of a lack of lubrication, or possibly a medical condition, such as endometriosis. You should see a doctor if you experience pain every time you have sex. They can assess your symptoms and help treat any underlying conditions.

If you have a vagina, you may produce lubrication — or become “wet” — naturally. But sometimes, there may not be enough vaginal lubrication to reduce friction during penetration.

Using lube can help make vaginal intercourse more comfortable by minimizing irritation. If you’re engaging in anal penetration, lube is an absolute must; the anus doesn’t produce lubrication of its own, and penetration without lubrication can result in tears.

There may be some light bleeding the first time you have sex, but don’t expect a scene from “The Shining.”

If you have a vagina, you may experience minor bleeding if your hymen stretches during penetration. And if anal canal tissue tears during anal penetration, mild rectal bleeding may occur. However, this typically doesn’t produce enough blood to leave a mess on the sheets.

Vaginal penetration isn’t the only way that STIs are spread. STIs can also spread through anal penetration and oral stimulation, regardless of whether you’re giving or receiving. That’s why it’s important to use condoms and other forms of protection each time, every time.

Pregnancy is possible anytime there is vaginal penetration with a penis, even if it’s your first time. It can happen if a person with a penis ejaculates inside a vagina or outside, but near, the vaginal opening. Using a condom is your best way to prevent pregnancy.

Orgasms aren’t always a guarantee, and there’s a chance you may not climax the first time you have sex. That could happen for a number of reasons, including comfort levels and medical conditions. In fact, research suggests that 11 to 41 percent of people with a vagina have difficulty reaching orgasm with a partner.

It isn’t uncommon for a person with a penis to climax faster than they expected — or wanted — during sex. Studies show that premature ejaculation can affect as many as 1 out of 3 people.

If you orgasm quickly each time you have sex, consider talking to a doctor. They may be able to prescribe medication or recommend other therapies.

Conversely, it’s also possible that you may not experience an orgasm the first time you have sex, even if you ejaculate.

You may find that you’re unable to get or keep an erection firm enough for penetration. Although you may feel embarrassed or upset, know that occasional erectile dysfunction (ED) isn’t uncommon.

ED can happen for a number of reasons, such as stress and anxiety. And because this is the first time you’re having sex, you may feel a lot of anxiety.

If ED persists, you may find it helpful to talk to a doctor about your symptoms.

Share on Pinterest

You’re more likely to orgasm when you’re comfortable with your body, your partner, and the experience as a whole. When you’re comfortable, you become more receptive to sexual stimulation. In turn, you’re more likely to feel pleasurable sensations throughout your body. And, throughout the course of sex, those feelings could build up into an orgasm.

Don’t get it wrong — orgasms are great! They cause waves of pleasure throughout your body that make you feel really good. But having an orgasm isn’t always the point of sex. What matters most is that you and your partner are both comfortable and equally into the experience you’re having.

Don’t ignore your own desires. If you have certain wants and needs, make sure to tell your partner — and vice versa. It’s important to be open and honest about what you’d like to happen the first time you have sex so that the experience is the best that it can be.

No means no. Full stop. If there’s something you aren’t comfortable with doing, you don’t have to do it. Your partner doesn’t have the right to coerce or force you into having sex —and vice versa. And this doesn’t only apply to your first time — this goes for every time you have sex.

If your partner says no, this isn’t an invitation for you to keep asking. Asking someone to do something over and over in hopes that they’ll give in is a form of coercion.

You don’t have to continue having sex if you’re no longer comfortable or interested. You have the right to change your mind at any point. Again, your partner doesn’t have the right to force or coerce you into continuing to have sex if you don’t want to.

You may feel pressure to have sex sooner than you’re really ready to. It’s important to remember that you’re the only one who can decide when you want to have sex for the first time. If the timing feels off, that’s OK. Wait until it feels right for you.

Believe it or not, everyone else is not doing it. The rate of people having sex is actually going down. According to one 2016 study, 15 percent of Millennials haven’t had sex since they were 18 years old.

Plus, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that more teenagers in the United States are waiting to have sex for the first time. The average age today is now around 17 years old, up from 16 years old in 2000.

Sex, like running, is a physical activity — and nothing more. It isn’t the same thing as intimacy, love, romance, or an emotional bond. How you view sex, though, is a bit more complex. Some people may only have sex with partners whom they love, while others may have sex with no strings attached.

In other words, you should make sure you’re comfortable with that fact that you’re having sex, and that the other person may not share any moral or emotional value you may place on the experience.

Some people may have strong religious beliefs around sex. Others may not. Either way, you won’t blemish your soul from having sex, nor will you forever be bound to your partner. In the end, sex is just that — sex. It’s a normal, healthy activity that doesn’t define or determine your moral or spiritual foundation.

You and your partner both may be left asking new questions, such as “Do we have to do this every time we see each other?”; “Is sex always going to be like that?”; and “What does this mean for our relationship?” Some of the answers may be complicated, but as you talk through these issues, make sure to remain open and honest about your feelings.

The great thing about sex is that it’s a different experience every time. Your first time having sex may not live up to your expectations, but that doesn’t mean the second, third, or fourth time will too. The type of sex you may or may not go on to have will depend on the partner, level of experience, willingness to try new things, and so much more.

Your first time having sex doesn’t have to be a one-and-done activity unless you choose so. If the experience isn’t what you wanted or expected, you can always try again — and again, and again, and again. After all, as the saying goes: Practice makes perfect.