Dear Sexually Inexperienced,
Before I can provide you with any tips whatsoever, I need to make one thing crystal clear: You’re going to have to tell her you’re a virgin.
The first time I attempted to lose my virginity (not a great sign that it was an attempt), I couldn’t get hard. That had never happened to me before with my girlfriend. I had a million thoughts running through my head—“What if I’m bad at it? What if I come too quickly? What if she hates it?”—that I couldn’t be present in the moment. I ended up making some bullshit excuse for why I needed to head home and then proceeded to cry the entire drive back to my house.
Not my proudest moment, but did we break up? No. We gave it another try. Then another. Before we knew it, we were fucking like jackrabbits. Was the sex great even then? Not by any technical standards. We did a total of three positions total, and I usually lasted five minutes, but it was great because we liked each other. Now, we were both virgins and we both knew it, but I still initially freaked the fuck out. Your first time having sex can be nerve-wracking without lying and pretending, so you definitely need to be honest, so you can at least have a shot of having a fulfilling experience.
I get it. You’re feeling insecure. But what kind of advice columnist would I be if I were like, “Yes, let’s lie to cover that shit up! Vulnerability is lame!”? For one, deceiving your partner is typically not the answer, just from a moral standpoint. As we know, relationships are built on trust and all that shit. But second, it hardly ever achieves the desired outcome long-term. If you date long enough, it’ll somehow come out that you haven’t had a girlfriend or sex prior. How can it not? Odds are, she’s not going to be thrilled that you lied to her.
And remember, this experience is as much for you as it is for her. I don’t think you’d have a rewarding time losing your virginity if you’re in your head worrying, “Shit, am I doing this right? Does she know I’m a virgin? Damn, I’m messing this up.”
There are ways to make the “I’m a virgin” convo less of a hoopla. First, let’s not use the word virgin. The term carries so much stigma, and just saying it out loud, you may experience some level of shame. Instead, you’re going to say that you’ve never had sex before.
Second, you’re not going to break the news as if you’ve been diagnosed with terminal cancer. If you present your virginity as this huge deal, you’re going to make it a big deal. And the truth is: It’s not that big of a deal. Yes, you’re losing your virginity a little late compared to most men in the United States (the national average for males is 16.8 years old, according to the Kinsey Institute). But also, the CDC reports that 14.3% of men ages 20-24 are virgins. So you’re not alone.
We asked Venna Pharaon, a licensed marriage and family therapist, for additional tips on how to prepare for the conversation. She suggests that you be “mindful of your assumptions of another person and the beliefs you’re entertaining.” In other words, don’t assume she’s going to respond negatively to the fact you’re a virgin. Don’t automatically get defensive, and for the love of God, don’t somehow turn it around on her, slut-shaming her for your insecurities. If you do that, I swear to god…I will find you.
I’d say something along the lines of: “So, I’m really excited to start having sex, but I want to let you know that I haven’t had sex before. I’m a little nervous, but I like you, and am really looking forward to it if you’re interested.”
BOOM! Short and sweet. You hit all the key points honestly and without shame. You address the fact that you’re a little nervous—it would be weird if you weren’t—but that you’re ready if she is. You also don’t tell her why you’re a virgin because frankly, that information is unnecessary. You don’t need to justify why you haven’t had sex.
Now, if she broke up with you right there, then clearly she does prioritise sexual experience. But that’s one of the things you were hoping to find out by being upfront with her, Pharaon points out. If her priority was strictly sexual pleasure, then you two aren’t a match. (But then also, why would she have been dating you for a month already? She could have found another guy if gold-medal sex was all she wanted.)
She may say she’s a little uncomfortable with the idea of taking your virginity. That’s fair. Do your best to let her know that there really isn’t anything to worry about, and you’re happy not to rush. Or, most likely, she’ll reply, “Okay, thank you for letting me know.” Then you have sex, and she takes the lead a little bit more than she normally would. You’re able to feel comfortable and actually enjoy having sex because you feel less pressure to perform—and no pressure to deceive her.
As for how to feel more confident about your first encounter?
First, figure you out what you (think) you like sexually. While we all know porn isn’t realistic, and it can have a negative impact on your sexuality if you think it is real, porn can still be a great way to explore some aspects of your desires. While you won’t know if you like it until you try it, you can still go into the situation with a sense of what you like. Maybe you’re really turned on by booty, so doggy style is the way to go. Or if you find yourself getting aroused by kissing, a more intimate position where you can make out, like missionary, should be how you start off.
Second, Pam Shaffer, a licensed psychotherapist, recommends educating yourself on some of the more standard sexual practices. There are plenty of great articles (many of which were written by yours truly) that provide more detailed steps for sexual acts like what to do with your fingers during sex. Read up. “Porn is exciting but it’s designed for entertainment, not education, so get nerdy and research the ways you can give and receive sexual pleasure,” Shaffer says.
Last but not least, have a positive coping statement that helps you reframe your outlook when you’re feeling nervous. That way if you start getting in your head before or during sex, thinking, “I’m going to mess this up,” you can get out of your feelings and get back to boning. Luckily, nervousness and excitement are often two sides of the same coin. So instead of thinking, “Shit, I’m about to have sex,” your coping statement will help you think, “Shit! I’m about to have sex!” (See the difference?)
Tell yourself something that expresses how fucking excited you are to lose your virginity. Think about it: How long have you been waiting for this day? Probably for many years, and now it’s finally going to happen. Woohoo! Think, “I’m ready to be a fucking sex god,” or, “I’m about to have some goddamn sex!”
Get pumped! You’re about to start a new, stimulating chapter of your life—the one where you get laid. This is just one of many sexual experiences to come. So get excited, be honest with your partner, and have fun.
This article originally appeared on Men’s Health