This article on things to know about sex originally appeared on Blood + Milk.
What should you know when you just started having sex?
Congrats on this new chapter of your life! I’m so glad you asked this question at the start of your sexual journey. There are so many myths out there that hold people back from finding freedom in pleasure. Your commitment to avoid those shows me that you’re bound to have an intimate, exciting, and fulfilling sex life that lasts.
Whether you just started having sex, have been with your partner forever, or enjoy your singlehood, here are 12 things to know about sex.
Your pleasure matters…
The pleasure of everyone involved is important. One partner’s pleasure is no more important than another’s, and each person gets to decide what that looks and feels like for themselves.
…and you get to define what pleasure means for you
- Do you feel satisfied?
- Connected to/with your partner(s)?
When you focus on maximizing pleasure, you break free of rigid ideas about what good sex looks and feels like, and it helps you have an intimate, exciting, and fulfilling sex life that lasts.
NEED HELP TO DISCOVER YOUR DESIRES? DOWNLOAD OUR POPULAR YES/NO/MAYBE CHECKLIST, ‘SO…YOU THINK YOU’VE TRIED IT ALL?‘
Explore different condom and birth control options
Not all condoms are created equal. And I don’t just mean ingredients, but smell, texture, thickness, etc. Start out with trying variety packs to see which ones you like.
My favorite condoms from the last few years are these ones from Maude, as the latex smell and taste is muted and they come in cute, easy to open, and hard to accidentally rip open packages. The only downside is that they are on the smaller side. If that’s a problem, and especially if your partner is well-endowed, give these Skyn condoms a try. I also recommend the internal condom, which is non-latex can be used for vaginal or anal intercourse.
Finding the right birth control also takes some trial and error. If you’re using a form of birth control besides condoms (which I highly recommend), are you happy with it? If not—or you aren’t using one but want to be— go explore your options on Bedsider.
Arousal and desire aren’t the same
Let’s start with arousal. You could be physically turned on—as measured by wetness and/or hardness—but not into something. The opposite is also true: you can be totally into it, but not wet and/or hard. About 50% of cis women and 10% of cis men experience this phenomenon, called arousal nonconcordance. Your body tells you whether something is sexual; your brain tells you whether you like it and if you want more.
If this sounds complicated, don’t worry. You already experience nonconcordance—in the kitchen when cutting onions. Do your tears say anything about your mood? Not necessarily. They represent your body responding to a stimulus. Your genitals work similarly. They get wet and hard because they notice sexy things…but they don’t imply anything about your wants, desires, or feels.
Onto desire. In her book, Come As You Are Emily Nagoski defines desire as “arousal in context.” When the mood is right, you want more of that thing you like! When the mood isn’t right, you’re less inclined to keep going. Its like when tickling or a pillow fight goes from lighthearted, giggly fun to “OMFG STOP NOW.”
Lube is your friend
Lube enhances sex in so many ways! It heightens sensation, protects the vagina and anus from irritation and micro-cuts, and helps keep the condom from breaking. And, as discussed above, it doesn’t say anything about how turned on someone is. Some vaginas just don’t get that wet—and butts don’t self-lubricate at all.
Silicone lube is best for intercourse, as it doesn’t dry up quickly and stays slippery, meaning you can keep having fun alllll night long. Uberlube is a longstanding fave amongst sex educators and for good reason—it isn’t sticky, doesn’t stain, has no taste or smell, and the bottle it comes in features an easy-to-use-in-the-moment pump.
Sexpert tip: If using external condoms, put a drop or two into the tip before rolling it down the penis. This heightens the sensation for the wearer.
Pee after vaginal intercourse
It helps prevent urinary tract infections, which can be especially common if you just started having sex and are going at it like rabbits.
Foreplay matters—and yes it’s “real” sex too
For the best sex, especially long-term, slow down and savor foreplay. It’s fun, helps shift you from the stresses of the moment into connection, preps your body for any sort of intercourse, and feels really damn good! Plus, many people with vulvas experience orgasm more easily during foreplay than intercourse—that’s because sex acts like oral and fingering more easily stimulate your most sensitive spots.
Give mutual masturbation a try
Mutual masturbation is exactly what it sounds like: having solo sex, together.
In addition to being wicked intimate, it’s especially great for those moments where you don’t have a ton of time or you want to get off quickly. Check out the other benefits here.
Your desires will change over time
And more than once.
And this isn’t true just for sex, but for every part of your life. For example, you probably eat a bit differently now than when you grew up (I’m looking at you kale and Brussels sprouts) or have different hobbies. That’s not to say abandon what you used to like, but you add to it.
Think of your sex life as a tool kit that you get to draw from. Some tools get used more often than others, new tools get added, and old tools get tossed or replaced. This may sound scary but it’s a good thing: growth is good.
There is no “normal,” only more or less common
Certain sex acts are done by many people—spanking, intercourse, etc. Others are less common—playing with candle wax, elaborate rope bondage, etc. All are normal.
The only preferences that matter are yours and your partner(s)’.
Fuck the shoulds
There are so many expectations, stereotypes, ideas, etc., about what your sex life “should” look like. Forget it all. Use this time to explore—both solo and with partner(s)—what feels good and what doesn’t, what you like and what you don’t, what sounds interesting and what you’d prefer to pass on.
Need some inspo? Look to feminist porn, romance novels, and other sex blogs to get a sense of all that sex can be. You can also check out our So…You Think You Tried It All? checklist. This quick + simple worksheet helps you discover and uncover your desires.
Of all the things to know about sex, the most important is this: most of what impacts your sex life has nothing to do with the sex itself
It has to do with how stressed you are, your relationship to your body, and everything else that impacts your mental and physical state. Are you tired? Dehydrated? Dealing with physical or mental health issues?
The more you nurture these parts of you life, the more you can lean into and enjoy your pleasure.
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