Years ago, when I broke up with my first serious boyfriend — who I'd been in a relationship with for nearly four years — he wasn't just a guy I dated for a long time; he was the first guy I ever had sex with as well. He also became sexually abusive over time, and sexually assaulted me on more than one occasion, so having sex with someone new after all of that was both freeing and frightening.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.
During the months following our breakup, I mostly had a lot of fun sleeping with new people; but I also found that, as fun and exciting as having sex with a new partner can be, it can also be kind of stressful. I mean, you're naked, something hilariously awkward is bound to happen before the sex is over, and even if you're just trying to have a casual, one-time hookup, sex with someone new still requires a certain level of trust that's not always easy to give — especially if your sexual history hasn't been the happiest.
Fortunately, though, there are ways to make sex with someone new awesome. To learn more, Bustle asked Angela Skurtu, M.Ed, LMFT, a St. Louis-based sex therapist and podcaster, her tips for making first-time sex with a new partner a fun and healthy experience. I've also added a few of my tried-and-true (and medically-backed) tips for easing those first-time nerves.
Here are 17 tips for having sex with someone new:
1. Talk About Any Anxiety You're Feeling
"To be honest, I think you have to learn to be vulnerable more often," Skurtu says. She suggests practicing your pre-sex conversation beforehand, or even having the conversation via text first if that helps. "Many times people can feel scared or awkward in person. You can use text to discuss some of these things without as much worry," Skurtu says. "The truth i[s] you just have to learn to have the conversation. I might consider picking partners who are good at the conversation but leaving partners who make you feel bad or ashamed when you bring these things up," Skurtu says.
2. Take A Walk Or Do Some Yoga
I get that this item doesn't apply if the sex you're having is totally spontaneous. However, if you're going on a date and you're feeling anxious about it, I highly recommend you go for a walk beforehand. In fact, I highly recommend walking to cope with any type of anxiety you may be dealing with, sex-related or not. So do the mental health experts over at CalmClinic.com. In a medically-reviewed post, they said: "Walking works, and it works well. It may not control all your anxiety producing thoughts or prevent all of your anxiety symptoms, but walking is a type of remedy that can actually make a very real difference on your ability to cope with anxiety."
For me personally, walking helps calm any nervousness I might have, without wearing me out like a trip to the gym would. And the yoga? Well, you just never know how creative you and your partner might want to get with positions. In my experience, limbering up pre-sex just makes the whole night far more comfortable.
3. Wear Lingerie That You Feel Comfortable In
Honestly, this tip isn't exclusive to having sex with someone new. This is basically just a good way to live your life, because if you feel good in what you're wearing, it stands to reason that you're going to feel more confident and relaxed overall.
Stick to lingerie that you feel both sexy and comfortable in. Personally, I like to pair a lightly-lined, underwire-free bra (or no bra at all) with some soft panties.
4. Toss Some Mouthwash And A ToothBrush In Your Purse Before You Head Out
Again, this applies to everyday life, too. But I find that this tip is particularly applicable to having sex with someone new. Making out is just a lot more fun for everyone involved if your breath isn't rancid. On top of that, if you're sexy time turns into an adulthood sleepover, you'll have a great way to deal with your morning breath. Additionally, a recent study published by the National Institutes of Health suggests there could be a link between good oral hygiene and reduced risk of contracting an oral HPV infection.
5. ...And A Fresh Pair Of Undies
Dirty underwear is bad for your vagina — it can make you itchy, or give you a rash or infection — and sometimes going commando just isn't a feasible option. Plus, it's generally a good idea to change your undies at least once a day, if not more. (And keep in mind that natural fabrics, like cotton or bamboo, tend to be the best options for sensitive skin.) So pack a spare pair. You may not end up needing a fresh pair of undies, but you definitely won't regret being prepared.
6. Make Out First
I know, I know, this one should be a given; but I also know that when you're having sex with someone new, it can be hard not to rush through the pre-sex make out session, due to either anxiety or major horniness.
But I'd urge you to slow down, and make out for as long as you can stand it. It's relaxing, it should help you get wet, and unless your partner is a horrible kisser, it will only make things hotter. Plus, kissing — even when it's not sexual — is a bonding behavior for human and nonhuman animals alike. Kissing is also considered "a sensual meditation," since it can reduce anxiety and help you be in the present moment.
7. Bring Protection
I know you don't need me to stress the importance of using protection, but I am going to stress the importance of packing protection. You should not rely on your partner to be the prepared one. If they don't have protection on them, you're either going to have to halt sexing to go get some, or you're going to end up having unprotected sex. Neither of these scenarios are ideal (and one is extremely bad). So just be prepared.
Skurtu suggests taking this a step further and discussing with your new partner when each of you were last tested for STIs. "Talk about safety, birth control, and condom usage and the last time you both were checked for STIs," Skurtu says.
8. Lube Up
Everything from excessive stress to depression to rigorous exercise can cause vaginal dryness, but whatever you're dealing with, lube can make sex so much more comfortable. If you're using condoms, lube will prevent your vagina from being rubbed raw. If you're turned on but having trouble getting wet, lube can help with that, too. And if you're having sex with someone who has a penis, and they're well-endowed (or you're using a large toy), lube is your savior.
So even if you don't think you'll need it, toss a small bottle of lube in your purse before you embark on your next sex adventure.
9. Do Whatever You Think Will Help You Relax
Hopefully, deploying the above tips already has you feeling super relaxed. In case they're not enough to chill you out, though, listen to your body. Whether that means focusing on your breathing or asking to stop for a rest. You can also check out this article to learn more about how to relax during sex. Whatever you need to do to relax, your partner should understand. If they don't, then get out of there!
10. Start Off Slowly
I understand how satisfying a quickie can be, but when you're having sex with someone new, starting off slowly is usually the best bet. I mean, you and your new partner need time to get used to each other's bodies, styles, and preferences. So going hard and fast from the beginning will probably not be the ideal move for the both of you. Plus, foreplay can increase arousal for all genders; and it can even replace penetrative sex altogether, if you want it to. Additionally, Skurtu suggests talking and cuddling both before and after sex.
11. Don't Be Afraid To Speak Up
Skurtu tells Bustle she encourages both verbal and nonverbal communication during sex. "Verbally ask, 'Do you like this?' or 'How do you enjoy being touched[?]' or 'Show me on my nipple how you would want me to suck on your clitoris.'" Skurtu says she suggests the nipple because it's similar in size to the clit and it's close enough to the face to visually see what's going on. "It's also kind of a [...] flirtation," she says. She also says you shouldn't assume you know how to give oral sex for every new partner. "The reality is that everyone likes something different. Try a few strokes and see how a partner responds, ask if they enjoy this, if it's too rough, soft enough, etc." Skurtu says.
So if your partner is doing something you don't like, tell them. If they're doing something you really like, tell them. If you're worried they don't like what you're doing to them, ask them! Also, pay attention to body language and nonverbal cues.
12. Don't Be Afraid To Laugh, Either
Sometimes, sex is funny. When this is the case, Skurtu says it's OK to laugh. "Don't laugh at each other, but make a silly statement like, 'Don't you love sex noises?' and say it with a big smile so you also nonverbally communicate to your partner you are being genuine and playful," Skurtu says. She says she even gets in the habit of pointing out the awkward moments and either joking about them or saying it's normal. "Like after a queef I might say, 'She said hello, and I'm enjoying your company!' I say it with a big smile and maybe a quick kiss," Skurtu says. She says awkward moments can become flirtatious moments when we let go of the expectation that sex has to be perfect. "It's silly, messy, and wild," Skurtu says.
Personally, I've actually found that laughing with a partner during sex can make me feel closer to them. Plus, it sure beats awkward silence.
13. Avoid Talking About Past Lovers, Unless You And Your Partner Are Comfortable With That
While this isn't always the case, most people don't like being compared to past sexual partners, or hearing about how many sexual partners you've had before them. You're also under no obligation to share these details unless you want to, because your past is, well, yours. So make sure you're being sensitive about your partner's feelings, and don't feel obligated to share these details from your sexual history unless you and your new partner are comfortable discussing them.
14. Do Talk About What's Worked For You Sexually In The Past, Though
"Talk before you have sex about what you want to do with each other. Share your yeses, nos, and maybes," Skurtu says. She also recommends talking bout what's worked for you sexually in the past. "Talk about what you have enjoyed from previous partners and ways you can learn and grow together," Skurtu says.
You can certainly talk about what you like in bed without talking about who you've liked in bed — and you should. Your new partner will appreciate it, and there are ways to do so while remaining sensitive to your new partner's feelings.
15. Try To Forget About Your Appearance
I know it's hard, but try not to focus on what you look like too much. This person is having sex with you, so you already know they're attracted to you. Focusing too much on your looks will probably take away from your enjoyment, and there's just no reason. Additionally, according to the findings of a recent scientific research review that was published on ScienceDirect.com, there appears to be a positive link between body image and sexual well-being. According to this review, people — and women in particular — who feel good about their bodies typically report having more positive sexual experiences.
16. Don't Put Too Much Pressure On Your Orgasm, Or Your Partner's
I'm not suggesting you shouldn't try to orgasm, and I'm certainly not suggesting your partner shouldn't try to help get you there. You should both be trying to get each other off, of course. But it's OK if neither of you can orgasm during sex. Even if you can orgasm during sex, don't let orgasm be your main goal. Because if your focus is on the big finish, you probably won't enjoy yourself during the act nearly as much as you could; and people with vaginas, in particular, don't necessarily orgasm as easily as people with penises. In fact, some people with vaginas suffer from anorgasmia — a condition that makes it difficult to orgasm, even after lots of foreplay.
Further, A US study that was published in The Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy in 2017 — in which 1,055 American women from the ages of 18 to 94 took a confidential survey via the internet — found that only 18.4% of women are able to orgasm through vaginal penetration alone, while approximately 36.6% require clitoral stimulation. And for people with penises, everything from performance anxiety to daily worries can release stress hormones that narrow blood vessels, which makes it more difficult to become erect, much less ejaculate. And some people with penises suffer from delayed ejaculation — a condition that causes some to require a much longer time than average to reach orgasm and ejaculate, while others with the condition can't ejaculate at all.
Of course you want you and your partner to orgasm, and that's a good thing. But don't feel bad if one or both of you just can't get there. It doesn't mean you're bad at sex. It doesn't mean they aren't crazy into your body. It might mean they're nervous, or they drank too much, or they have a medical condition, but whatever the problem is, it's probably got nothing to do with you.
17. Don't Forget About After Care
"We all need a little aftercare once we finish sex," Skurtu says. "I would touch each other gently, leave a hand rested on a penis (if one is involved) and just caress each other." Skurtu also suggests talking about things you appreciated about the night or the experience. "Share something you did that was new. 'I've never had someone pull my hair like that or kiss me like that. That was really sexy, different, fun, etc.'" she says. Above all, Skurtu tells Bustle to be real and honest. "You don't have to say the perfect thing or be the perfect lover. You just need to be coachable and willing to share what you like as you go along," Skurtu says.
And since sex is kind of exhausting sometimes, I've found it's always a good idea to keep a glass of water for you and your partner nearby.
Dalla Torre, D., Burtscher, D., Sölder, E., Rasse, M., & Puelacher, W. (2019, January). The correlation between the quality of oral hygiene and oral HPV infection in adults: a prospective cross-sectional study. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29574499.
Debby Herbenick, Tsung-Chieh (Jane) Fu, Jennifer Arter, Stephanie A. Sanders & Brian Dodge (2018) Women's Experiences With Genital Touching, Sexual Pleasure, and Orgasm: Results From a U.S. Probability Sample of Women Ages 18 to 94, Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 44:2,201-212, DOI: 10.1080/0092623X.2017.1346530 Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/0092623X.2017.1346530.
Gillen, M. M., & Markey, C. H. (2018, December 21). A review of research linking body image and sexual well-being. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1740144518304030.
Angela Skurtu, M.Ed, LMFT, Missouri Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Nationally (AASECT) Certified Sex Therapist. http://www.therapistinstlouis.com/
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