How To Have Sex For The First Time With A Partner, Especially If You’ve Been Building It Up

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In this week's Sex IDK column, Emma McGowan, certified sex educator and writer, answers your questions about how to enjoy penis-in-vagina sex for the first time.

Q: Me and my SO have been together for two years and have not had PIV sex yet due to health issues. Issues are gone and we're both nervous now. How do we get out of our heads and enjoy?

First of all, congratulations on resolving the health issues you were dealing with! I totally get how putting off PIV — which is a sex act that a lot of people hold up above other sex acts — could mean you and your SO might be a little more nervous to have sex than you would be otherwise. No worries — we got this.

First of all, let's talk about some of the psychological barriers that people might run into that keep them from having sex. While some barriers — like trauma, for example — may require professional help to get through, others may disappear as soon as you acknowledge them. Some people are nervous about sex because they're scared of being judged or rejected, or they're insecure about some aspect of their body or experience, or maybe they just don't want to do it! Point being: It's not uncommon for people to be nervous about sex in general, and PIV in particular.

To help you and your SO get down to business, I have a few suggestions that might seem all over the place, rather than a list you can follow from one to infinity. That’s because everyone is super different when it comes to the things that help them relax. These ideas may have totally different results from person to person, so do what you feel comfortable with. If one doesn't ring true to you, keep reading! And no matter what you do, take a deep breath, relax, and know that you're going to figure this out.

1. Try To Think About PIV Differently

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I know that the culture often puts PIV sex on a pedestal, way above oral or anal or any other kind of physical intimacy. So the very first thing I’m going suggest is that you kick it off that pedestal!

Placing PIV above everything else is a remnant of a time when a woman’s value — literal, monetary value as well as moral value — was directly tied to her status as a "virgin." With one act, a girl became a woman and a woman became a wife. (Or a “whore,” if she wasn’t married or was assaulted.)

You didn’t say, but I’m guessing that you and your partner have been doing “other stuff” over the past two years. Were those things fun? Sexy? Intimate? Did you enjoy them? I’d say it’s likely, or you wouldn’t be interested in adding PIV to your sex life. And if all of those things were joyful and orgasm-inducing and brought you closer together, then why should PIV be such a big deal?

So think a little bit about why you’ve put PIV way up there in the clouds, lording over the other types of sex you’ve already had with your partner. You may find that you have your own set of values and reasons why you’re prioritizing it. But you may also find that the only reason it’s so exalted is because of messages you’ve absorbed from a sex-negative culture. If that’s the case, it may be time to scrap them.

2. Work Towards It With Other Sex Acts

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Another way to make PIV feel like NBD (or, at least, not as big a deal) is to systemically work toward it. If you’re especially organized and systems-minded, maybe agree to doing a certain order of sex acts that you and your partner are already comfortable with. Take one week and every night add a sex act that you and your partner consider to be an escalation of sex. (Something like: first night we just kiss, second night we add under the shirt, third night hands on the genitals, fourth night oral, etc.) Make PIV the end of the schedule. That way, both you and your partner know it’s coming and when.

If you’re not one for sex schedules (and no shade on sex schedules! I think they’re great) then try adding something else to sex every time you do it. Maybe one time you have a type of oral sex (like oral to anus, for example) that you don’t usually have, or give each other hand jobs. Do that for a while and then, one time when you’re already really turned on, ask your partner if they want to do PIV. You might find that the combination of doing different things and your arousal makes it much, much easier to get out of your head.

3. Make It An Event

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On the total flip side, why not make it an event? For some people, planning something out can help them get used to the idea that it’s going to happen. It can also be fun to make a really big deal out of something, even if it’s not in actuality a huge deal. (See: Every birthday party ever.) Think 100 candles. Think scattered rose petals. Think very expensive champagne and French lingerie.

If that sounds like you, pick a time and a place and start planning! What are you going to wear? What decorations do you want? Lighting? Smells? I don’t know what’s important to you — but you do. Work with your partner to create exactly the environment and situation that will work best for both of you.

And finally, remember, have fun! PIV sex can be whenever and however you and your partner want it to be.

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