A guide to first time sex

Graphic shows a yellow book with some heart covered underwear on the front cover representing a guide to first time sex. The background is pink and there are illustrations of contraception, hearts and plus signs

Your first time having sex

We’ve teamed up with the experts at Young Hounslow Sexual Health to talk about having sex for the first time – here are their tips for doing it when you’re ready, and without pressure! This article was written by Wil Allin, Tey Jimmie and Leah Gillespie from the Young Hounslow Sexual Health team.

Have you lost your virginity yet? 

We’ve all asked or been asked this question at some point; Whether it’s at a sleepover with friends, at a party or when we’re hanging out with someone we fancy. 

For women, girls, and those with vaginas, there is a weight attached to losing your virginity; the idea that losing it means it’s something you were meant to keep, to look after and cherish – that now you’ve “lost” it, you’re careless or somehow less than a person.  

For men, boys, and those with penises, first time sex is often portrayed as a triumphant moment to be celebrated, to be shouted about from the rooftops, rewarded with a pat on the back and just the beginning of their sexual conquest.  

However the idea of virginity is a sexist one!  

Regardless of what’s in your pants, being a virgin doesn’t equal pure, clean and careful, the same way having sex doesn’t make you impure, dirty or reckless. In fact, having sex does very little (or nothing!) to change to your physical body, and shouldn’t change how you or anyone else views you as a person! 

What happens during first time sex? 

Got a vagina?  

Your hymen is often thought of as the ‘cherry’ that pops, or something that breaks but really, the hymen is like a doughnut, and it can stretch, and it will usually tear at some point in your life. There are lots of types of hymens and this is why someone may bleed during penetrative sex if there isn’t enough lubricant, or some may tear it in other ways, such as during childbirth. 

Got a penis?  

Nothing happens to the penis during sex that is unique only to having sex for the first time, other than the sensation potentially being a bit ‘too good’, overwhelming you and causing you to finish sooner than you’d like.  

Since there isn’t anything specific that happens to those with penises, this is where the idea that losing virginity is a bigger event for women than men. 

It’s also worth noting that ‘losing your virginity’ is a very heteronormative (i.e., only has straight people in mind) concept because many people having sex may not have hymens at all and some may never engage in penetrative sex. 

So, I’m still me? 

Of course you are!  

When you have sex, you are not actually losing any part of yourself, you are still you! The only thing you need to worry about is whether you actually WANT to have sex with someone, because the only thing ‘losing your virginity’ may do is make you feel a bit regretful or sad. It’s ok to feel sad after sex, lots of people do, but make sure you think about why this is.  

Some people may feel shame, confusion or relief; some may feel the dopamine levels going down and that’s why they feel some sadness or low feelings, but this should regulate again.  

Does sex hurt the first time?

As long as you take it slowly and gently, it shouldn’t hurt, although like all new experiences, it might feel a bit strange at first! If you are experiencing discomfort during penetrative sex, a water-based lube can help. If you are having anal sex then you may need a lot of lube as the anus isn’t self-lubricating. If sex is always painful, you may need to speak to your doctor.

How do I stay safe?

Make sure you have contraception on hand to avoid STIs and unwanted pregnancy. You might want to practice putting on condoms first as it can be a bit tricky the first time. Contraception is the responsibility of everybody who is planning to have sex.

What if I change my mind?

If you ever start to feel a bit off, change your mind about having sex, or just don’t feel in the mood anymore, ask to stop or pause, take a minute or go back a step (e.g., go back to just kissing). In any form of sexual activity, you should have the enthusiastic consent of anyone involved, including yourself.

If you don’t want to have sex, do not have sex. If you are feeling pressured to have sex when you don’t want to or are unsure, contact someone you trust to get out of that situation. 

Everyone else is having sex – should I be as well? 

Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing – you are your own person, and therefore should take things at your own pace.  

Don’t rush sex, as it should be something you feel ready for. It’s ok to be nervous – you can be nervous before a rollercoaster and still want to do it. You can feel nervous before trying a new food and then decide you don’t want to try it anymore – no one should be angry with you for saying no. The same applies to sex – it’s a big deal for some people and that’s totally ok, and for some people, it won’t be! 

There is no guide or time frame for having sex for the first time, the same way there isn’t one for when you should have your first kiss or have your first date. However, something to note is that in the UK, the age of consent (the age at which a person is considered to be legally able and competent to consent to sexual acts) is 16 years old.

Need support? 

We’re here for the young people in Hounslow, supporting them with their sexual health and relationship questions and queries. You can visit our webpage, or email us at [email protected] for access to our service.  

If you aren’t living in Hounslow, not to worry! You can still get helpful sexual health and relationship tips, pointers and advice on our social media. We’re on Instagram and Twitter @YHSexualHealth or on Facebook @YHSHealth. You can also head to brook.org.uk for helpful first time sex tips.

You can also find lots of helpful information on The Mix’s sex and relationships page, such as this guide to premature ejaculation.

Losing your virginity might seem like a huge moment at the time, but it is important to note that it is just that – a moment. There are many more moments in your life you’re yet to experience, so there is no need to put pressure on just one out of so many.  

Next Steps


Updated on 20-Oct-2023

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