6 Important Things I Wish I Knew About Losing My Virginity Much Earlier

My first time was... well... it was a disaster. I went to a school where we didn't have sex ed, we had "sex respect." So, instead of learning useful facts about human sexuality that I could, you know, actually apply when I decided to lose my V card, I learned all about the wonders of abstinence. And while there are several really important things to know about losing your virginity, I wasn’t exposed to any of them. Instead of learning about how to prevent STIs, I was taught about how condoms never work. Can you believe that? But most of all, The environment I grew up in taught me to be ashamed of sex, to be ashamed of my natural desires, and to be afraid of what the world would think of me if I allowed an unwed P anywhere near my V.

Naturally, I lost my virginity pretty soon after I was taught all of these things, and I had no idea how to protect myself physically or emotionally when it came to being sexually active. I got lucky and didn't have to deal with an unwanted pregnancy or with an STI, but that’s all it came down to — luck. My education hadn't properly prepared me for being sexually active, especially for losing my virginity. Mainly, I wasn't prepared for the fact that, after losing it, I would be just fine. I was just me, but with one more life experience under my belt (pun intended). Here are six more things I wish I had known about losing my virginity when I was younger.

1. It Doesn't Have To Hurt

Popular culture will tell you that there are two types of experiences you will have the first time you have sex (if you have a vagina): excruciatingly painful or magically orgasmic. But the truth? Yeah, not so black and white.

Yes, your first time can be painful, but not if you know how to avoid it. Basically, two ways to prevent a painful first time are to incorporate lots of foreplay and to use lots of lube. "The way the vaginal canal works is, once you're aroused, something called 'ballooning' [or 'tenting'] occurs, which opens it up and allows for penetration," relationship and sex expert Kristen Mark, PhD, told BuzzFeed Life. "If there's no arousal prior to penetration, it can be painful."

It’s also normal to be nervous the first time, which can lead to both mouth and vaginal dryness, so having some lube on hand to help things along will also go a long way toward making your first experience pain-free.

2. You May Not Come The First Time

Sorry, I know a lot of TV shows and movies might say differently, but the first time you have sex, if you have a vagina, is probably not going to result in a mind-blowing orgasm, if you have one at all. And guess what? That's OK. It takes time and practice with a partner (or on your own) to figure out what exactly works for you when you're trying to reach orgasm.

You may feel let down by your first time if you're expecting the best orgasm of your life, so instead, make the goal of your first time to be about connecting with your partner, figuring things out together, feeling good about yourself, and having a good time. And remember, your first time isn't all about the other person’s experience. You have every right to enjoy the experience as much as they do, so don't be afraid to speak up for what you want and need, too.

3. There is More Than One Way To Lose Your V Card

Not everyone is straight, and not every woman has a vagina, so the definition for what qualifies as "having sex" is highly subjective. "There’s no universal consensus on what behaviors constitute having sex," Mark told BuzzFeed Life.

So if you're not in a heterosexual relationship, losing your virginity might not mean having penetrative sex. "'Virginity' is very heterocentric," Mark continued. "It really excludes a large number of people who may consider themselves as having lost their virginity, but that definition is going to be very different for them."

4. Yes You Can Get Pregnant Or Contract An STI The First Time, So You Have To Plan Accordingly

No matter if it's your first time or your 51st time having sex, if you don't take any preventative measures (i.e. forms of contraception and plenty of STD tests) you are at risk for an unwanted pregnancy or for developing an STD. So please, please, please take care of yourself. Always use a condom to prevent STDs and unwanted pregnancies, unless both you and your partner have been tested for STDs, understand the risks of getting pregnant, and voluntarily agree to go without one. As an extra step in preventing unwanted pregnancies, a backup form of contraception, like the pill or an IUD (which, according to Planned Parenthood, are 91 percent and 99 percent effective, respectively), is always a good idea, if you're comfortable with it.

And of course, once you become sexually active, regular STD tests should become part of your routine. It's always better to be safe than sorry, and regular testing will ensure your own safety and peace of mind as you continue to be sexually active.

5. The "Right" Time To Have Sex Is When You're Ready

If it seems like everyone and everything around you is trying to dictate when you should be having sex, it's because they are. Whether it’s your family or community telling you to wait, or your friends or partner pressuring you to hurry up, there is a ton of unnecessary pressure about the timing of losing your virginity.

But guess what? Whenever you decide you're ready to have sex is none of their business. Only you will know and feel when the time is right. Obviously, that’s not to say you should rush into it. You'll want to make sure you've thought through all the risks and repercussions for you, both physically and emotionally. However, once you understand everything associated with becoming sexually active, trust yourself to know when the time is right and that you are doing it because you consent to it and "you yourself want to — not that you feel pressure from a partner or that all your friends are doing it," Mark said.

6. You Can Change Your Mind At Any Time

This is so true. At. Any. Time. For whatever reason. Period. Point blank. End of story. No matter if it's right before you're about to have sex, or in the middle of doing it, you can put a stop to it, and your sex partner should respect that decision without question.

Yes, your first time can be scary, but it's going to be OK. Just be sure you take care of yourself, you continue to educate yourself, and you only do what feels right for you.

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