Open letter to my teenage self about sex

April 21 | Guest post by Anonymous
By: jonathanrolande – CC BY 2.0
By: jonathanrolandeCC BY 2.0

My "official" first time was pretty much by-the-book. It was with my partner of around five years. We were both virgins. Over the preceding years we had done a heck of a lot of exploring each other's bodies and foreplay. And still, it went something like this:

Ok… let's try this… Gently! Slower! I can't go any slower, I'm already stationary!… Ow, that hurts! That really hurts… Okay, we have to stop… Alright, are you alright?… Yeah, I'm okay… How is there so much blood, I didn't even get fully in? Do you want me to get a towel?… Maybe in a bit, just hold me for now… Hey, we just gave each other our virginities… Yeah, we did. *goofy grins*

Not exactly what you'd expect from your first time based on media representations. There was no thrusting, and nobody had an orgasm. The enjoyment was more cerebral than physical — the joy of knowing we were choosing to do this together, rather than the actual joy of doing it.

It got better with practice, but I wish someone had spoken with me more honestly about what to expect. If I could write a letter to my teenage self with some advice about how to go about sex, this is what I would say:

Dear Me,

Sex is a big deal. Decide carefully what you want to do with your body, and who you want to do it with. Act so that you can always look back and say "whatever I did, even if I'm not sure now if it was the right choice, was the best decision I could have made at the time."

If you're having sex with a person of the opposite sex, no matter what birth control method you are using, there is a non-zero chance that you will conceive. If you're not ready to face the consequences of that, whatever that means for you, then you're not ready for sex.

You'll find a lot of advice on the internet about how to have a healthy relationship, and a lot of advice about how to do sex well. If you find a community where you can get both of those things, stick around. These are the people worth knowing.

You're a cis woman, which in some ways is a bit like drawing the short straw. Your body is not as easy to operate as a cis man's. This is not your fault, and it is not his fault. It just is. Find a partner who is okay with this.

Your body is not simple to operate, but the person who most has a chance of learning how to do you is you. Your partner can be involved in this process, but especially if they are inexperienced, and not in possession of a vagina and clitoris themselves, they'll have a really hard time figuring it out without the help of the feedback that your brain gets. Find a partner who wants you to enjoy your own body, and celebrates when you do. Experiment.

Talk to your partner. Talk about sex, talk during sex, talk after sex. Say what you want. Listen to what they want. Don't lie or mislead. When it's funny, laugh. When your emotions get so tangled up in each other that you can barely breathe, cry.

You can have great sex that makes you feel extraordinarily close to your partner without having an orgasm. You can have meaningless orgasms that are mostly physical relief and don't engage your emotions at all. Both are okay, and fun.

Be open to exploration, but know your boundaries and don't go beyond them. Make decisions about what those boundaries are with a clear head. That thing you didn't want to try previously can still be tried next time if you don't feel the same way.

Everyone involved always has power of veto on sex. That doesn't mean there isn't value in having sex sometimes when you're not in the mood or too tired to get properly turned on, as an act of love for your partner. But that is your decision, not theirs. The same goes the other way around. Sometimes you'll find that you were wrong about your tiredness levels. Intimacy does not always have to mean sex.

If you go to the toilet after sex, you'll be less likely to contract a UTI. If at any point you start to feel even the vaguest of tingling sensations when you urinate, get a cystitis relief packet from the pharmacy. You dissolve a sachet of powder in water and drink it three times a day for a couple of days. Trust me, it's a lot better than the alternative of leaving it untreated for a week.

Lube, lube, and more lube. Seriously, even in the middle of sex if you start to feel the tiniest bit dry, stop and apply more lube. Apply it to him, apply it to you. Lube, everywhere, all the time.

You're going to have a lot of fun.

Sincerely, You

What sex advice would you have given your teenage self?

  1. I love this letter!!

    I would add that for some, Love and Sex are mutually inclusive, inexorably twined, one and the same. Such is the case for me – I can't have one without the other. For others, the opposite is true and love and sex are unconnected. Your first time you won't know where you fit between these two extremes and that's OK. But once you do know, protect yourself and others when you can.

    I remember loosing my virginity on exactly my terms, but not realizing the emotional impact within me until much later. I didn't realize until I looked back with hindsight how many other choices and decisions I made based on the simple truth that we had already done it. That relationship would have gone very differently if I had a clearer understanding of myself, and how the physical melted into the emotional for me.

    Don't feel bound by any *external* forces because you've had sex.
    Instead – feel what YOU feel.

    Don't feel guilty, or ashamed, or embarrassed about enjoying your bodies together.
    Just enjoy – that's the whole point.

    Be careful. Take good care of your heart, and your body.

    9 agree
    • Agreed completely. I'm in the first extreme as well and it's an important thing to acknowledge with yourself and any potential partner.

      1 agrees
  2. Sex is messy! There are a few things that can help to keep the mess in check.

    – For the dreaded "wet spot," keep a supply of puppy pads on hand.You can also use incontinence pads if you need a larger size (if you are a girl who produces a lot of liquid, like me). These pads will protect your sheets and mattress from the usual fluids, and are good for when you want to have sex (of any kind!) while you are on your period. If you like anal sex, these keep anything yucky off of the sheets too! I know there was a thread previously posted that addresses this, but I don't know the link offhand.
    – Latex/Nitrile/Rubber Gloves! Keep these things handy for sex AND for yucky tasks around the house (i.e. cleaning the kitty box). You want to make sure that you and your partner(s) are not allergic to latex or rubber before using those substances, so keep that in mind. But if your partner likes anal play, yet you creep out when anything gets on your hands, these babies will make it all work out for everyone!
    – I SERIOUSLY second the last point in the above article, LUBE, LUBE, LUBE!! Make sure the kind of lube you use does not break down the latex/nitrile/rubber. Also, some lubes do not work with silicone toys, some can cause yeast infections, and some are hard to wash off. Look for a vegetable glycerin based lube and you shouldn't have too much of a problem, but everyone is different, so you'll need to experiment with what works for you (oh darn!).
    – As a note, whether you have sex with a small number of people, everyone you ever meet, or something in between, safety is primary. ALWAYS use a condom, even on toys (it makes cleaning them easier afterwards). The less fluid exchanged, the less chance of exchanging anything else. Any cut or scrape on your hands can be a place of infection. To test this, rub a lemon on your hands and if it stings ANYWHERE, wear gloves!

    5 agree
    • Just want to second the use of Puppy Pads! My husband and I have always said if we owned a sex shop we would stock puppy pads.

  3. • If you're feeling embarrassed or shy or unsexy or intensely self conscious, STOP. You're not going to enjoy this if you can't let yourself go or be more mentally present than this. Think, think, think about why that is. If it's because you're not really comfortable with this partner, put your pants on and go home.

    • You're going to like sex. That's something you should anticipate, appreciate and accomodate. As long as you treat your body and heart with care, have fun.

    • Sex changes things, except for all the things sex doesn't change. How you feel about a person you've had sex with is always at least a little different after. You never look at them quite the same way. But sex isn't a magical salve for broken parts of a relationship or the parts of a person you want to ignore.

    • Yoga. You'll thank me later.

    8 agree
  4. The quality of the sex is not synonymous with the quality of the relationship. Good sex won't fix a bad relationship, and bad sex won't break a good relationship.

    Everyone has different sexual tastes, and it is never, never your place to make someone feel bad about what they like in bed. Your place is merely to decide whether or not you want to be in that bed with them.

    You don't have to have sex with everyone that you want to have sex with. You can, but you don't HAVE to. You control your body, not the other way around.

    Sex ALWAYS has consequences. They may be good or bad, physical, emotional, or legal, but there are always consequences.

    16 agree
  5. I second the sharing your desires and talking about what is good/bad/neutral with your partner. However, as much as I was aware that this was a good thing to do as a teen (and a partner who consistently asked for feedback!), it was rare that I was ever able to give much verbalization. I ended up trying to rely a lot on body language, which works sometimes, but other times you really need words. What I realize now is that speaking up requires confidence in yourself that your body is normal and natural and not gross, and that your desires are not ridiculous or dumb. Not a lot of teens have that kind of confidence, so it can be hard to speak up. I really wish there was a solution to that.

    3 agree
  6. Sex is a lifelong journey and you never stop learning/figuring it out. Don't be shy to rewrite the rules about yourself, your partner and your sex life at anytime. Things change (for good and for bad) as your life changes. Its a life-long exploration. Have fun!

    4 agree
  7. All of the above is excellent.

    I have no regrets about my first time, it was the right time with the right partner, so I don't know that I would really tell my younger self anything other than "You got this, listen to yourself and all will be good."

    After my first time, I remember being surprised that I really didn't feel any different. I had, completely sub-consciously, been expecting the experience to change me somehow. So if anything, maybe I would tell myself this:

    "Decisions about sex need to be made with both your head and your heart. Both have veto power. Think about what you might want to do, and what you don't want to do, well ahead of time, when you're not even aroused, and make sure your logical brain has had a good crack at it. But if your heart isn't into something at the time, no matter if it's what you decided ahead of time, stop. If you're worried that your partner will be angry or upset that you changed your mind, you should not be with that person at all. A worthy partner will never try to guilt or pressure you into anything you're not sure you want to do, and will care more about you having a good experience and no regrets than any disappointment that he or she might feel at having to put on the brakes. That doesn't mean there won't be disappointment, but a good partner will rather deal with that disappointment than having you do something you're not sure you want. In addition to finding a good partner, strive to be a good partner.

    "Talk, talk, talk. Talk with your partner at length and often. Talk openly. If there's anything you're not ready to talk about, that's okay. But never try to do something with your partner that you can't talk about with him or her. Wait and work at it until you can talk about it first. Talk logically when you're both calm and collected. Talk passionately too. Talk about sex, and about things unrelated to sex. Talk about potential consequences and what to do to prevent things you don't want to happen. Talk about what you'll do if they happen anyway. Be on the same page.

    "When you have sex for the first time, and every time after that, you're still you. You are the same person, with the same mind and heart and voice. Your partner is also the same person. You can, and should, talk during the experience. Give feedback, and listen to feedback. Experiment. Don't expect yourself or your partner to be perfect. Sex takes practice. If something doesn't feel right, or if something hurts, speak up! Sex might occasionally involve some transient discomfort, but it should not stay uncomfortable and it should not hurt. If it does, something is wrong. Stop and figure out what it is before continuing. Likewise, if something is awesome and you love it, speak up! Neither of you is a mind reader.

    "Don't let the advice of well meaning elders or strangers trip you up. Much of what they say is true, and much of it might be true sometimes. But they are not you, they don't know you like you know yourself. If someone tells you that it's not possible for a 15 year old to fall in love and have it be true love, don't listen to them. It's totally possible. Listen to your heart. Listen to your brain. Know yourself.

    "And have fun! Sex should be fun. Don't underestimate it, but don't take it too seriously either. Don't be afraid to laugh."

    1 agrees
    • I love the "talk" paragraph! But what Erin said above was something that I felt too. As a teen it was really hard for me to express myself verbally, so I can see how this would be difficult. However, knowing what I know now, I think I would have tried to figure this one out earlier 🙂

    • I would also add that if you are a female and your partner is male, there is a stereotype that your partner will have much simpler, more straightforward feelings about the process than you will. Heterosexual men and boys are expected to just want sex and have few or no hangups or complicated feelings about it. This is, of course, very often not true. Don't assume that your partner doesn't have any worries, misgivings, or insecurities. Heterosexual men are just as human and complicated as everyone else.

  8. You're not going to know you're having sex until your (also female) partner says, "Are we having sex right now?" Thanks, heteronormative sex ed classes.
    When you say no, and the other person keeps going, that's rape. You're not going to realize that for several years, and that delay will do more to mess with your mind that the actual events do. This is not your fault. Really.
    You'll need multiple towels for any sexual activity. Accept this fact as soon as possible. Remember, good sex is messy in many ways, and preparation is sexy.
    Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. You're going to doom so many relationships. This is not entirely your fault : Cracked.com will publish an article a decade too late for you, titled "5 Ways Growing Up in a Broken Home Screws Your Love Life."
    Plan ahead. Not just the towels, but make sure there's enough time, and water is nearby. When you get older, you can't consistently lose that much sleep time and still function.
    Make sure your dog will be suitably amused by herself or asleep when you attempt to have sex; whining/howling is a perfect mood-killer.

    2 agree
  9. I'd tell myself that G-d loves love, and that how I love, and who I love, and how many I love is all okay. Would have saved myself a lot of sadness and confusion if I had known about polyamory. Hating yourself because you can't stop having somewhat more than crushes, even if they were never acted on, in the context of a monogamous relationship hurt.

    2 agree
  10. I'm big on these points:
    – enthusiastic consent, and that consent can end at any time
    – taking care of yourself – physically emotionally mentally
    – being kind and patient with partners
    – even for drunk unplanned sex, there is time to say "I have a partner" "in in an open relationship" "I leave the country tmro" "I don't like anal" or any important information that may affect the other persons decision to consent. You can take half a minute to mention these things and avoid mess afterwards.

    Don't think TOO hard on sex. It's iust one of the many activities in life and it won't always go right. You may sleep with people and wish you hadn't but just think of it as a lesson and move on. Or just a good story for later.

    I have a decent sized list of sexual partners and ridiculously silly situations and whilst plant people have expressed concern and tried to be ashamed FOR me, I have no issues with it. I am very happy expressing myself sexually and it became a huge source of confidence for me as a young adult.

    Go forth and boof!

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