Having sex for the first time in a while can be both intimidating, and a bit confusing. The thought of starting things with a new partner, whether it'd be physically, emotionally, or all of the above, is scary enough in itself, but knowing you've been out of commission for months now has you ready to forget the situation all together. You've doused yourself in perfume, you've smelled your breath 10 or 20 times and you've scoured the internet for some innovative sex positions, but then it hits you: does your body change if you haven't had sex in a while? Will it hurt?? Or worse yet, is there any way, physically that I became a virgin again?
Well, chances are you're not the only one who has had these questions so, to figure out the ins and outs of our ins and outs, I spoke with Dr. Tracy Hicks, a Richmond, OB-Gyn from St. Francis Hospital who helped us break down what is fact versus what we've created in our heads. To top it all off, she also had some great tips for navigating a new sexual relationship, and I am eternally grateful to her! (Spoiler alert: Lube is key.)
Can You Become A Virgin Again?
When I asked Dr. Hicks this question, the answer was pretty straight-forward: no, you cannot become a virgin again physically, no matter how long you've gone without sex. As to whether or not you experience a tightening within your vagina over that period of time mostly depends on whether you're pre- or post-menopausal.
“In a pre-menopausal woman, no they do not go back to being virginal. They remain the same as before. The caliber of the vagina, the elasticity of the vagina doesn't change,” she tells Bustle. “In a post-menopausal woman, however, who doesn't have estrogen, the vagina loses its elasticity and the vagina can get tighter over a long period of time.”
I guess if you don't use it, you do not, in fact, have to re-lose it.
And as for your hymen... “[It] does not grow back,” she said. The hymen is also not the tell-all sign you've lost your virginity, says Dr. Hicks. In fact, the hymen can be torn way before having sex, in a million other ways. “You can disrupt the hymen just by putting a tampon in.”
But what about hormones, does anything change with that? Can I be kicked off balance just because it's been a while?
“Hormonally, everything should remain the same,” she assured me. “If the patient is pre-menopausal, they are making all their hormones, their vagina should stay the same, and there shouldn't be a change in the physical aspect of their anatomy.”
Is There A Reason It Hurts, And Can You Prevent It?
Once I found out that no, your body doesn't really change if you've gone through a dry spell, I couldn't help but wonder, well then, why does it hurt ? This is where Dr. Hick's most fascinating point came in: when we have sex with someone new, our nerves tend to kick in (hence the compulsive need to ask all your sexually active friends for tips). After spending way too much time in our own heads, worrying about the experience and whether or not we still have “it”, whatever “it” is, we have a hard time getting aroused in the first place. Then guess what happens? Our natural lubrication never kicks in, and you guessed it...sex hurts.
“Arousal is a big deal for women, so if they're worrying or thinking, then its uncomfortable,” she says. But luckily, Dr. Hicks had a solution.“I tell patients that they need to use a lubricant. If it's uncomfortable, almost always that fixes the problem. And sometimes women are self-conscious, and don't want to bring up using lubricant during intercourse but studies show that more than 60 percent of women use lubricant. I [also] tell them you can use coconut oil, olive oil – and you can just go to the grocery store and purchase those natural remedies if you're embarrassed to buy a more obvious one.”
When You're Starting A New Sexual Relationship...
Dr. Hicks also noted that worrying which often prevents us from getting excited in the first place extends beyond doubting our abilities after being out of practice.
“You gotta wonder too, why has someone not been sexually active?” she asks. “They could have been recently divorced or experiencing a break up, and they just haven't had sex in a while.”
Whether you're still in the grieving process over a past relationship, or you just simply haven't met anyone that makes the cut, when you finally do decide to engage in sex with someone, it can be just as terrifying as it is exciting. Not knowing this person too well could mean you have yet to establish a sense of comfort, so you're a bit worried about doing the deed. Or maybe you're just being practical, and you're afraid this person's sexual past may leave you with an undesired visit to your doctor.
One of Dr. Hick's biggest words of advice: do not be afraid to be vocal, especially about your new partner's sexual health. “When a patient comes to me and they're thinking about getting sexually active, I encourage them to get tested and have their partner get tested,” she says. “And not just for HIV – the big ones are chlamydia, and gonorrhea and herpes.”
Talk It Out
But above all, to ensure that your new experience is pain-free (both physically and mentally), as well as safe and comfortable, it's essential you guys talk it out.
“Make sure you have good communication, because if it has been a long time you have to make sure that everyone understands what you're okay with and what you're not OK with,” she explains. “Communication clears the air. Have it before, and not in the moment.”
So no, you do not have anything to worry about coming out of a dry spell. Sure it's been an impossibly long time since you and someone special took a turn in the sheets, but that does not mean you've suddenly returned to your former 16-year-old self. Not much changes within our bodies if we haven't had sex in a while; in fact, we're just as ready to go for it, as we were when we were doing it consistently. Keep an open dialogue, and plenty of lubricant handy, and your next sexual encounter will be one that Nora Roberts feels inspired by.
Want more of Bustle's Sex and Relationships coverage? Check out our video on sex positions for small penises below:
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