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Having sex for the first time

There can be a lot of pressure to lose your virginity – that is, to have sexual intercourse for the first time. Having sex just because you want to lose your virginity, or because you think all your friends are doing it, is something you may regret later. Sexual intercourse can lead to pregnancy. So, before having sex you should think about whether you need to use contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancy, and condoms to prevent Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs).

You might feel lots of anxieties, especially the first time you have sexual intercourse (often referred to as ‘having sex’). You may feel embarrassed about how you look without your clothes on, or worried about your privacy being disturbed. It’s natural to worry, but good communication can really help. You should be able to talk to your partner about your concerns and how you feel about having sex for the first time. Your partner might be worried too, and talking can really ease the tension. If you’re too shy, or you’re not able to talk about these things with your partner, then you probably shouldn’t be having sex!

Can a girl become pregnant the first time she has sexual intercourse?

Yes, a girl can become pregnant the first time she has sexual intercourse. So, you must use contraception the first time you have sexual intercourse, if you don’t want to risk becoming a parent.

What about the law?

The age of consent, that is the age at which it is legal to have sex, depends on which country you are in, and in the United States the law is different in different states (see our sex laws page for further details).

In England and Wales, the law says it’s illegal for a boy or a girl to have sex with a girl or a boy who is under sixteen.

Sexual intercourse and love

For some people sexual feelings are bound up with love and close relationships. Some people think sexual intercourse should only happen within marriage. For other people sex and love are two different things.

What is important is that you feel good about yourself and what you are doing, and that you keep yourself safe. Being safe means not only thinking about physical risks such as pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). But also emotional risks such as the regret you may feel afterwards.

When are you ready for sex?

There is no absolute right age to start having sex. What matters is whether it is the right time for you. It also depends on what you mean by ‘having sex’. There are many ways in which you can give and receive sexual pleasure without having sexual intercourse.

Giving each other massages, kissing and hugging can be very passionate. It’s a way of sharing and showing love. For some people these activities can be more fulfilling than sexual intercourse.

You may feel that you are not ready emotionally. Being pushed into having sex could mean you regret it later on.

You get pressure from people talking about sex. You think, ‘I’ve got to go and see what it’s like’. It’s hard, but you’ve got to resist and do what you want.

It’s very important not to feel pressurised into having sex when you don’t really want to. Just because your friends say they are ‘doing it’ doesn’t mean they are.

Thinking through all the implications of having sex can be a useful way of helping you arrive at a decision. There are lots of reasons why people don’t want to have sex. You may feel that you are not ready emotionally. Being pushed into having sex could mean you regret it later on. Some people have quite strong religious or cultural beliefs. Others just want to wait.

Some people call this decision to wait ‘abstinence’. The decision to abstain from having sex can be either a long-term decision or a short-term one. Some people decide that they do not want to start having sex until they are married or in a significant long-term relationship. Other people may decide that having sex isn’t the right thing for them at this particular time. Later on they may meet a person who they want and feel ready to have sex with. The decision whether to have sex or not is an important one. You should do what is right for you. It should be an informed decision, and not one based on fear or pressure from others.

But when a boy and girl do decide they want to have sexual intercourse, they should think about using a contraceptive unless they want to become parents. Gay men should also think about using condoms. Condoms can help stop infections like HIV as well as reducing the risk of getting pregnant.

If you’re thinking about having sexual intercourse, why not read our ready for sex questions to help you decide if you’re ready?

How exactly do you have sexual intercourse? What position is best?

Sexual intercourse between a boy and a girl starts with both of them getting sexually excited as a result of kissing, stroking, caressing rubbing and touching each other. This sexual excitement will result in certain physical signs of sexual excitement. For the girl, the vagina, the sexual opening between the legs, begins to moisten. The boy will get an erection, which means his penis will get bigger and harden. It is important that this stimulation goes on for long enough, because if the girl is not sexually excited enough, then her vagina will not be lubricated and moist enough, and it will be difficult for the boy’s penis to enter the girl’s vagina.

There are quite a number of different positions in which you can have sexual intercourse. One very common position involves both the boy and the girl lying down, with the boy lying on top

When the couple are both ready to have sexual intercourse (and this includes the boy putting a condom on if he is going to use one), it is probably easiest if either the boy or the girl uses their hand to guide the penis into the vagina. Then, once the penis is inside, the couple need to move their bodies so that the penis pushes into the vagina and then pulls partly out again. After a while this movement can lead to orgasm (coming or climaxing) for one or both of them.

There are quite a number of different positions in which you can have sexual intercourse. One very common position involves both the boy and the girl lying down, with the boy lying on top (This is often referred to as the missionary position). Alternatively the girl can be on top or both the boy and the girl can lie on their sides. It is probably easiest to choose one of these positions if you are having sexual intercourse for the first time. However, you can also have sexual intercourse with both the boy and the girl sitting down, one on the other, or both can be standing up. What is most important about whichever position you choose, is that it provides stimulation and enjoyment for both of you.

Will first time sex hurt?

Many boys and girls are concerned that it will hurt the first time they have sexual intercourse. It can hurt and some girls do bleed a little bit. The bleeding usually occurs because the girl has a hymen which breaks the first time she has sexual intercourse.

The hymen is a small piece of thin skin which goes across the opening of the vagina and protects it when she is young. It has some gaps in it where the blood can come out when she has her period. Sometimes a girl might already have broken her hymen without knowing about it. For example, this can happen as a result of playing sports or horse riding.

AVERT.org has more information about having sex for the first time and losing your virginity.

Am I ready for sex?

Almost everyone asks themselves “am I ready to have sex?” at some point in their lives, but unfortunately not many people will be able to answer it with a definite “yes” or “no”.

Having sex for the first time can be a very special experience, but it can also lead to all sorts of complications. Sex without a condom or other form of contraception can result in pregnancy, and if your partner has HIV or a sexually transmitted infection (and you might not always know they do), you can become infected too. There can also be emotional consequences to having sex with someone – it can really change a relationship, and not always for the better. Sex can be enjoyable with the right person, but it’s very easy to make mistakes and end up hurt, which is why people advise you: “don’t have sex until you’re ready!”

Of course it’s all very well saying this, but how do you know when you’re ready? Legally, you aren’t allowed to have sex with anyone until you’re over the age of consent. But it takes more than just being a legal age to make you ready for sex – you need to be emotionally ready too. Here are some questions to help you work out if you’re ready to have sex.

1) Are you doing this because YOU want to?

Or are you thinking about having sex because someone else wants you to? Maybe you’re not sure you’re ready, but your partner is keen? Or perhaps there’s a bit of ‘peer pressure’ – all your friends seem to be having sex, so you feel you should be too?

Do any of the following sound familiar? –

  • You would if you loved me!
  • It’s only natural!
  • Everyone else is doing it!
  • Don’t you want to make our relationship stronger?
  • You’ll have to do it sometime – why not now, with me?
  • I’ll be gentle, and it’ll be really great, I promise!
  • I’ll only put it in for a second…

If you recognise any of these phrases, then you should think carefully! These are not the right reasons to have sex. A partner who says things like this is probably trying to put pressure on you and might not really care whether you’re ready or not – this person doesn’t respect your feelings, and they’re probably not the right person to have sex with.

Nor should you have sex just because your friends are saying things like :

  • You mean you’ve never done it?!?
  • I lost it when I was twelve. . .
  • Yeah, I’ve had sex loads of times. . .
  • You’re a virgin, you wouldn’t understand. . .
  • No-one’ll be interested in you if they hear you’re frigid.
  • It’s amazing – you don’t know what you’re missing!

It may feel like your friends are all more experienced and knowledgeable, but we guarantee they’re probably not! Many of them will only be saying this sort of thing because they think everyone will laugh at them if they admit they’ve never really done anything! Besides, being sexually experienced at a young age doesn’t necessarily make someone mature or sensible – in fact, it usually indicates the opposite.

2) Do I know my partner well enough?

If you’ve only just met your partner, haven’t been going out with them very long, or perhaps don’t even really know them, then sex is never going to be a really good experience because there won’t be much trust between you. If you’ve never even kissed the person you’re with, then you’re definitely not ready to have sex with them!

Sex can leave you feeling very vulnerable afterwards in a way you might not be prepared for, so it’s better to be with someone that you know is likely to be sticking around. Usually, you’ll have better sex with someone you know really well, are comfortable with, and who you can talk to openly about relationships and feelings. Sex will be best with someone you love.

3) Is it legal?

The age of consent differs between countries. In most states of the U.S, for instance, it ranges between 16 and 18. In the UK and India it’s 16. In Spain, it’s 13 while in some Muslim countries, sex is illegal unless you’re married. Have a look at our age of consent page to find out exactly what it is where you live.

So why do countries have a legal age for having sex? Because this is the age when the government believes young people are mature enough to handle the responsibilities that come with having sex. All too often people think they are ready when they’re not. Age of consent laws are also designed to prevent older people from taking advantage of children and young teenagers who may not understand the consequences of having sex, or even what sex is.

4) Do I feel comfortable enough with my partner to do this, and to do it sober?

It’s natural to feel a little embarrassed and awkward the first time you have sex with someone because it’s not something you’ve ever done before. Your boyfriend or girlfriend will probably feel the same. But if you don’t trust your partner enough not to laugh at you or you don’t feel you can tell them you’ve never had sex before, then it’s far better to wait until you can.

And if you think you’ll have to drink a lot of alcohol before you do it so you feel relaxed enough, or you only find yourself thinking about having sex when you’re drunk, then that suggests you’re not ready. A lot of people lose their virginity when they’re drunk or on drugs, and then regret it. So if you’re worried that you’re going to be in a situation where you might be tempted to do something you wouldn’t do normally, restrict your drinking, keep off the drugs, or make sure you stick with a sober friend who can look after you! Have a look at our drink, drugs and sex page for more information.

5) Do I know enough about sex?

Do you know what happens during sex? Do you know how it works, what it’s for and how and why a woman can get pregnant? Do you know about sexually transmitted infections? Lots of people worry that they’re going to make a fool of themselves or do something wrong. Well, you shouldn’t have to worry if you’re with a partner who cares about you – (s)he won’t laugh. And if you’re not with a partner who cares, you probably shouldn’t be doing it! Physically, sex is actually quite simple, but the more you know, the more comfortable you’ll feel. Have a look at our teens pages for more information.

6) Will I be glad when I’m older that I lost my virginity at the age I am now?

Imagine that you’re looking back at yourself in ten years time. What do you think you’ll think then about how and when you lost your virginity? Is there any way in which you might regret it? The answer should be ‘no’ – if it’s not, you’re probably not yet ready for sex.

7) Can I talk to my partner about this easily?

If you can’t talk about sex, then you’re not ready to have sex. It’s as simple as that. Being honest about how you’re feeling will make it easier for both of you, and will make sex better in the future.

8) Do I know how to have sex safely?

It’s really important that you know how to protect against pregnancy, STIs and HIV. Again, this is something you need to talk to your boyfriend or girlfriend about before the event, so you’re both okay about what you’re going to use. Have a look on our teens’ contraception options page for more details.

Especially with things like condoms, it’s good to have a bit of practise putting them on, and to feel okay about doing it – it’s not enough just to get a condom if you’re not confident enough to use it – they’re no good if they stay in your pocket the whole time!

9) Do we both want to do this?

You may decide that you are ready to have sex, but it might be that your partner isn’t, even if they have had sexual partners before. For sex to work, you both have to be willing to do it. Don’t ever pressure anyone to have sex if they’re not sure – this is very wrong, and it’ll cost you your partner’s respect and the respect of other people.

Also – there’s a fine line between pressuring someone to have sex and forcing someone to have sex – if you put too much pressure on someone, it can become force – and if you force someone into sex, you can be prosecuted for rape.

10) Does sex fit in with my/their personal beliefs?

It may be that you, your partner or your family have beliefs that say sex at a young age (or before marriage) is wrong. Do you feel comfortable going against these views? Will it cause you unnecessary worry and guilt if you do (or frustration and heartbreak if you don’t!)? Some young people will have sex simply because their family has banned them from doing so, even if they don’t realise that this is the reason. Having sex as an act of rebellion may feel great at the time, but if anything goes wrong, you face a very difficult situation, as you may not be able to rely on your family’s support.

Even if everything goes well, keeping sex (and all the emotions that go with it) a secret can be very hard – so, if possible, you should make sure you have someone else to talk to that you can trust to keep it to themselves. But remember, the decision to have sex should be an agreement between you and your partner, and while other people may help or influence your decision, they shouldn’t make it for you.

So, are you ready for sex?

If you answered “Yes!” to all ten of these questions, then you’re probably pretty much ready, as long as BOTH of you feel okay about it.

If you didn’t, then there are probably some issues you need to work through first, because all of these questions are important.

First time sex is always going to be scary whatever age you are when you have it. It can sometimes seem like losing your virginity is the most important thing in the world. But you can’t get your virginity back once it’s gone, so what is really important is that you have enough respect for yourself to wait until you’re truly ready, and can truly trust the person you’re with.

Good luck, have fun, and stay safe!

So what does the age of consent mean?

The age of consent is the age when the law says you can agree to have sex. In most countries, until you reach this age you can’t legally have sex with anyone, however old they are. Sometimes the law is slightly different when the partners are of a similar age, but there is usually still a minimum age below which sex is always illegal.

But our parents say it’s okay. . .

That doesn’t make any difference – your parents don’t make the law. Teens can’t get around the laws for smoking, drinking or driving because their parents say so, and it’s the same with sex. The age of consent laws always apply, whether you’re in love, or you’ve been together for ages, or you’ve had sex before.

But it’s no-one else’s business. Why do we have these laws?

Although many young people are mature enough to know how to deal with it if someone tries to get them to have sex, some teens are not grown up enough to know what to do. Age of consent laws are there to stop young people from being exploited by adults.

What is the age of consent?

What the age of consent is depends on where you live – there are different age limits in different places, and in some places the age of consent is different for boys and for girls. To find out about the age of consent in your country or state, please see our age of consent chart.

Is there an age of consent for gay men and lesbians?

Yes. Some places have different age of consent limits for gay men and lesbians and in other places this sort of relationship is against the law. To find out about your area, check our age of consent chart.

What is ‘statutory rape’?

If you are under the age of consent and you choose to have sex with someone who is over the age of consent, then they can be charged with the crime of ‘statutory rape’. Some countries have different names for this crime, and some states in the US call it ‘unlawful sexual penetration’ or just ‘rape’.

And what’s sexual abuse?

This is when a person is pressured into any type of sexual contact that they do not agree to. If you know anyone who is being pressurised in this way, you should tell an adult that you trust what’s going on. Telephone helplines in your country should also be able to give you advice and information about what you should do and who you should contact. Try our help and advice page for some suggested resources.

What is casual sex?

“A sexual activity where those involved do not define it as romantic or their partner as boyfriend or girlfriend.”

This is one of many different definitions of casual sex. What links all the definitions of casual sex is a focus more on physical rather than emotional satisfaction. Casual sex can refer to one off sexual encounters with strangers or agreements that stretch over a longer period of time. Casual sex also doesn’t necessarily mean heterosexual intercourse; it can involve any sexual act with anyone. The point is that it is done in the context of an agreement where the sex is an activity that mainly satisfies a sexual desire or physical attraction.

Casual sex lacks the emotional ties that come with relationships – sex without any commitment or ties may sound appealing, and for a lot of people it can seem very attractive.

What’s attractive about casual sex then?

“It was like heaven. When he was done, he simply rolled over next to me and hugged me.”Grace

Firstly it’s important to make the point that casual sex is not for everyone and there are many who would say it is wrong or simply don’t want to do it. Agree with it or not, this is not the point.

“I didn’t really know who I was and found myself craving the company of men and having sex with them without knowing their name or who they were. Sex with them gave me a momentary fill.”

Chris

Whatever you think, it is a fact that casual sex is very popular and for a lot of people it’s something that either satisfies a desire or serves a purpose. It is therefore an issue that affects many young people today.

It could be said that because we are often brought up to see sex outside of a long term, serious relationship as wrong, we develop a sense of casual sex being more exciting, a feeling that it is naughty or an act of rebellion that can be very appealing.

The excitement of mystery and unfamiliarity can add to the appeal of casual sex and, as often there is a low chance of meeting again, inhibitions can be cast aside. It is also made easier by the fact that the majority of the time both parties are aware that the sex is not going to lead to a relationship and are therefore more likely to be able to relax and just have sex for the pure pleasure of the actual act.

No matter how much we analyse the reasons why though, if you were to ask most people they would simply say that casual sex is attractive simply because it can be a bit of enjoyment.

So, what’s the worry?

There is nothing wrong with thinking that sex should be fun. Due to the nature of casual sex though it’s quite likely that you won’t know the sexual history of your partner and what Sexually Transmitted Diseases they could potentially have. It could also be the case that they are unaware themselves of any infection they might have or, possibly, are just not going to tell you.

“I thought I was invincible and that nothing could ever go wrong. I was aware of the risks, but sometimes during the act I didn’t care enough to stop.”Sincerely, Resilient

Sex should be enjoyable for all concerned, whether it be in a long and loving relationship or in a one off drunken mistake with some vague face from your college. What’s important is to remember that just because you may approach the situation as ‘just a bit of fun’ it doesn’t mean you don’t need to think about what you are doing.

You have to be realistic and unfortunately there are these diseases and infections around and if you are going to have casual sex then you are as likely to get them as anyone else.

But everyone’s doing it

There is probably a very strong chance that either directly or indirectly there has been pressure to have sex from those around you.

When there is a lot of pressure around you to have sex it’s very easy to just do it because you think everyone else is and it’s the normal thing to do. It can take a lot of will power and a strong sense of self-respect to not give in to peer pressure and there is strong evidence around to support the view that it is often better to wait.

It’s also quite often not true that ‘everyone is doing it’ and even if everyone is ‘doing it’ it doesn’t mean you have to. A lot of people don’t want casual sex and will make a point of abstaining from it.

This can be for moral or religious reasons, or for the fact they simply prefer sex in a loving relationship and want to wait for that.

So what if you are someone who has casual sex?

Love it or loath it, either way what’s important is that if you are going to go and have casual sex you approach it in the right way.

As a young person exploration and experimentation can be very appealing and you have a right to have fun when you’re young and to experience things that are unfamiliar and different. The key to doing this though is to go into these situations prepared. Being prepared will also allow you to carry on enjoying yourself and not have to stop due to some horrible STD, or becoming infected with HIV. Quite often casual sex is a result of being drunk or doing drugs, or it could just be that you are on holiday, at a party or at university and just generally feel uninhibited and care free. Whatever the reason for having casual sex, just make sure you protect yourself.

Being responsible doesn’t mean being boring!

But if we use a condom, there’s no problem right?

It’s very easy to go on about the very real physical consequences of casual sex such as pregnancy, STDs and HIV but casual sex can also have emotional repercussions. People often think that as casual sex doesn’t have the emotional ties that a long-term relationship does, there is less chance of getting hurt emotionally.

With casual sex you need to think not just about physical harm but emotional harm also.

Casual sex offers only a moment of emotional intimacy. It does not provide the trusting and meaningful ties that you get with someone from being in a serious relationship.

It has been seen in various studies that not having these close emotional bonds and only pursuing casual encounters with various partners can lead to signs of depression and low self-esteem, especially amongst young women.

Important skills are not developed, like trust and communication. There is security and less anxiety in long term relationships, where each partner makes the other feel more valued.

If you wait until you are in love, it will be a much better experience.”Dawn

After a while people who have been in casual sex relationships may not feel worthy of being loved in long term relationships, they are used to being abandoned or moving on after a short period of time and therefore can lack the skills and faith in themselves that are needed to have a long term relationship.

Another study showed that while most young people evaluated their early sexual experiences positively, those who had less control over their sexual encounters were more likely to have negative experiences. Basically, if you have lots of casual sex with random people you are more likely to have bad experiences and the sex wont be as good as it would if it was with someone special.

“It was the worst experience of my life. I felt like I was missing a part of me. I didn’t love her. Not at all. It was horrible.”Jeremy

A look at our ‘first time’ stories will give you an idea of what some of the emotional consequences can be when you’re just having sex for the sake of it. The stories on there are not edited at all in what they say and are the only ones we receive. A lot seem to echo a general feeling of emptiness and regret, something that applies to not only first time experiences but also casual sex in general.

Have Confidence. Have Respect.

These are some useful things that would be worth thinking about if you want to remain active, healthy and having sex!

Respect yourself and respect your body

  • Only you can do this.
  • Unprotected sex will put your body at risk.
  • The risks involved can have very serious consequences.

Respect others you meet

  • Make sure you are in it for the same reasons as each other.
  • Make sure all involved are happy with the situation.
  • Think not just about your emotions but the other person’s also.

Have the confidence to make the right choices

  • Don’t do anything that you don’t want to do.
  • If you’re not comfortable with something don’t do it.
  • Protect yourself; be confident enough to suggest using a condom.

If you follow these simple suggestions you are more likely to be able to continue having fun and enjoyment.

You make the choice

This page is not here to dictate to people how to live their lives, but is here to provide information.

Casual sex can be risky, to not only a person’s physical health but to their mental health also. People who have casual sex need to take these things into account when making decisions regarding their sex lives and personal health.

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