You may not have had penetrative sex, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t had sex. Think about it: have you experienced sexual pleasure before? Have you masturbated? Fooled around? Okay, then you’ve had sex.
Here’s the thing: sexual acts are not hierarchical. And penetration is not the end goal. It’s just one thing that could happen when you’re having sex. However, we live in a world where penetration is the deciding factor between virgin and non-virgin. But what is sex, really?
You, and only you, define sex for yourself. To do this, ask yourself what feels like a sexual experience to you. Is foreplay sex? And if so, what is foreplay? For some, flirting is foreplay, dancing is foreplay, and sexting is foreplay. If these experiences are all sexually pleasurable then who said that sex begins at the moment of penetration?
Why is there such a hard line (no pun intended) and who put it there?
Penetration Is Not The End Goal
The concept of virginity is an ancient, misogynist tool born from purity culture. And virginity depends on whether or not the person has engaged in penetrative sex. This is also where we get the incorrect idea that the hymen breaks during penetration (it doesn’t).
Cut to today: we don’t sell off our daughters, we don’t wait until marriage, and we define sex as the act of experiencing sexual pleasure. Not the act of penile-vaginal penetration.
For many people, penetration really is not the main event. Really, really not. So don’t let your idea of sex be limited to it. You can have sex with yourself. Or with a toy that is shaped like a river stone. You can masturbate beside your partner; that’s still sex. Oral sex is sex.
Fixating on penetration keeps many women from actually experiencing pleasure. After all, study after study has shown that most women don’t reach orgasm just by vaginal intercourse alone. When it comes to female pleasure, the clitoris is the real shining star, but pleasure can be found all over the vulva.
Think about it like this: if sex is the act of experiencing sexual pleasure, and penetration doesn’t give you pleasure, then by this definition, penetration is actually not sex.
Your First Time Doesn’t Have To Hurt
That being said, penetration can be a really fun way to have sex with your partner (or your dildo). And a lot of people love it. But all of this cultural messaging makes it a source of anxiety for those who haven’t done it yet.
The myth that the hymen breaks during sex--and causes bleeding and pain--is so harmful. It incorrectly teaches young women to accept pain as a normal part of sex. But sex is not supposed to be painful, and bleeding during penetration is not caused by a broken hymen.
Instead, it’s caused by friction from a lack of lubrication or rushing into penetration without foreplay. This causes tears in the vaginal wall, soreness, and bleeding. And while the vagina is an intelligent sex organ that can self-heal, this discomfort can and should be avoided.
How To Make Your First Time Feel Good
Here’s what purity culture doesn’t teach us: sex is supposed to be pleasurable. Sex is for you to enjoy. And there are things you can do to ensure that your first time with penetration (and all the ones that follow) feels good.
The days of lube-shaming are gone so stock up! Needing lube doesn’t say anything about your vagina’s badassery or your partner’s skills. But every vagina is different, and some don’t self-lubricate as much as others. Not all of them get wet during arousal, and sometimes they need a little outside help to get things feeling nice and juicy.
When it comes to lubricant, you don’t want to go cheap. Invest in a product with high-quality ingredients for a better experience and happier vagina.
There are three types of lube to keep in mind when you’re shopping:
- Water-based: Safe with condoms, silicone toys, and people.
- Silicone-based: Great for sensitive skin, but it will erode your silicone toys, making them less safe to use.
- Oil-based: Long-lasting but runs the risk of tearing latex condoms and can stain your sheets.
So get a good quality lube, and break it out with a Beyoncé-esque confidence. Your partner will get on board.
Communicate as much as you lubricate.
Communication is key in all relationships, and this does not stop at sexual relationships. Talk with your partner before, during, and after penetration. This is a great time to introduce your trusty lube. Make sure your partner is prepared to slow down or take a break if penetration stops feeling good, and be ready to do the same for your partner.
Talking about sex can be scary, especially if you’re new to it. Sometimes it helps to listen to other people talk about sex to gather the courage. Listening to something together is a great way to open up the conversation about having sex. Try the Never Had Sex series on Emjoy.
Never Had Penetrative Sex Before? Read This.And if sex hurts, speak up! Slow down or start over with more lube and more foreplay. Remember, you’re doing this to enjoy it.
Change the way you talk about sex.
Now that you know that virginity is a made-up idea, stop using the word “virgin”. Instead, say things like “I had sex for the first time” or “I’m sexually active.”
And don’t be afraid to refer to an experience that didn’t involve penetration as sex. If it felt like sex, then it was sex. When you’re talking about sex, center the idea of pleasure rather than penetration.
Foreplay, foreplay, penetration, then more foreplay.
Sex does not equal penetration. So don’t jump to it, ever. Be willing to be present with your partner or yourself in all the ways that are pleasurable including kissing, touching, teasing, sucking, flirting, playing, and everything in between.
And don’t be afraid to return to those things after penetration. Sex doesn’t have to end there, it can just be another part of the experience. You may find that your end goal is something entirely different. But you won’t know unless you remain curious and open-minded.
Discover What You Like
Masturbation is a great way to engage in foreplay. You can do it by yourself or with your partner/s in the room. It’s also an excellent way to find out what you like.
Sometimes finding what you like can be tricky. This is because sex education doesn’t teach us how. Start keeping a list in a journal of things that give you pleasure, whether they’re sexual to you or not. Let it be anything from eating a brownie to being teased with your partner’s tongue. This will help you get in the habit of recognizing what you like.
You can also download Emjoy and follow along Discover What You Like to start identifying what gives you pleasure in four easy sessions.
You’re Worth It
Your worth is not defined by whether or not you’ve had penetrative sex. Your worth isn’t defined by what you do and don’t enjoy, or who you do and don’t enjoy. The truth is, you’re a sexual person. There’s a part of you that wants to express itself through your sexuality. When and where you choose to do that is up to you. How you do it is up to you. You call the shots here; you decide what’s best for you.
So let the line between what is and isn’t sex become a bit blurred. Once you do that, you’ll find that there are so many ways to experience sex and to have pleasure.