Some people’s first time may hurt, while others report no pain at all. Certain strategies, such as a slower pace and lubrication, can help ease pain and make a person’s first time as pleasurable as possible.

People’s experience of losing their virginity will differ significantly. Virginity is not a medical term, so a person’s first time means different things for different people. For many, it refers to penetrative vaginal sex. Penetrative vaginal sex can hurt for many reasons, not just due to the loss of virginity.

Some people believe that tearing the hymen, a thin layer that often covers the vagina, explains the pain that some people experience when they first have sex. However, not everyone has a hymen, and even when they do, it may not tear during vaginal sex.

The pain may instead come from inadequate lubrication, anxiety that causes muscle spasms, or a partner who rushes or is too forceful.

In this article, we provide tips to help make a person’s first sexual encounter less painful, whether it involves oral, vaginal, or anal sex.

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Each person’s experience of losing their virginity is different.

No matter what type of sex a person has, open communication and consent are key.

Discussing what feels good and what does not with a partner can ensure that both parties enjoy the experience. People who do not feel comfortable talking to their partner may not yet be ready to have sex.

The likelihood of this is high if the person fears that their partner will become angry or aggressive if they offer feedback. A person should never assume consent or pressure another person into any sexual activity. People should stop any sexual act if any participant feels discomfort or pain or withdraws their consent.

Some things that are important to discuss include:

  • the preferred type of sex
  • what sensations each partner has previously enjoyed if they have engaged in foreplay, masturbation, or other types of stimulation
  • any fears or anxieties about having sex

There are many reasons why some people may experience pain during sexual intercourse. Some tips that may help avoid this include:

  • Going slowly: A slower pace allows the body to adjust to the sensations and makes it easier to communicate about what specifically feels good and what does not.
  • Using plenty of lubrication: Even if a person is very aroused, they might not produce enough lubrication, particularly if the sex lasts for a long time. As the anus does not produce its own lubrication, people who have anal sex will need more lubricant.
  • Trying different positions: Sometimes, the angle of penetration causes pain, such as by hitting the cervix or irritating sensitive skin.
  • Talking about consent and comfort: All participants should fully consent to each activity and agree that sex stops if anyone feels pain or does not want to continue.
  • Including lots of foreplay: Foreplay helps relax the muscles, and it can also produce more vaginal lubrication, making sex more comfortable.
  • Taking care of any chronic pain or other symptoms: Yeast infections, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and injuries to the genitals can all make sex intensely painful. People who experience pain, burning, or itching should see a doctor before trying to have sex.
  • Understanding basic anatomy: Many people focus on penetrative vaginal intercourse, but research consistently finds that the clitoris is often central to sexual pleasure. In a 2017 study involving a survey of more than 1,000 women, just 18.4% of the respondents said that vaginal intercourse alone is sufficient for them to orgasm. More than one-third reported that clitoral stimulation was necessary.

For many people, having penetrative vaginal intercourse for the first time is synonymous with the loss of virginity. Tense pelvic floor muscles, anxiety, lack of lubrication, and pressure on the hymen can all cause pain. People can make vaginal sex more comfortable by:

  • using clitoral stimulation to increase pleasure and relax tense muscles
  • using lubrication, especially if sex lasts a long time
  • going slowly and changing positions if initial penetration hurts

Most people experience pain when having anal sex for the first time. The anal sphincter is much tighter and narrower than the vagina, and the anus does not lubricate itself. A person who feels anxious about the experience may involuntarily tense their muscles, making sex more painful.

To reduce pain, people can try:

  • starting with other forms of penetration, for example, using fingers or toys
  • using plenty of lubrication
  • relaxing the anal muscles by bearing down as though having a bowel movement

It is best to avoid attempting anal sex if the bottom partner has hemorrhoids, feels constipated, or has diarrhea.

Oral sex does not typically hurt, and it may also provide some additional lubrication. If oral sex does hurt, it may be because a person has a wound on their genitals or an infection, such as a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis.

Sometimes, too much stimulation of the head of the penis or clitoris can be painful. If this is the case, people should talk about what hurts and try changing the position, technique, or speed.

Manual stimulation comes in many forms, from stimulation of the clitoris or penis to penetration of the vagina or anus. As with vaginal or anal sex, the pain is usually due to insufficient lubrication or stimulation that is too forceful or fast.

The following may be beneficial:

  • talking about what feels good and what does not, as there are many different types of manual stimulation
  • using plenty of lubrication
  • using fewer fingers, penetrating less deeply, or going slower

There is no way to remove the risk of infections or injury completely, but several strategies can help reduce the risk:

  • Undergo testing for STIs before having sex.
  • Talk openly about expectations, including whether partners will be monogamous and use contraception, such as condoms, every time.
  • Know that it is possible to get pregnant the first time a person has sex, even if they are getting their period or do not orgasm.
  • Clean hands and sex toys before and after sex to avoid transmitting bacteria and other infections.
  • Do not penetrate the anus and then any other part of the body without changing condoms or thoroughly cleaning up first. Doing this can move dangerous bacteria from the anus to the vagina or mouth.
  • Know that sex always requires consent. The fact that a person seems aroused, has had sex before, or seemed interested earlier does not mean that they want to have sex.
  • If pain feels intense, know that this might be a sign of an injury or another problem. Stop having sex, and if the pain continues, see a doctor. It may also be beneficial to see a physical therapist specializing in pelvic floor functioning.

Many people may believe that losing their virginity will hurt, but it does not need to be painful. Open communication, clear consent, and a slow, deliberate approach can make the first time more pleasurable.

People should not feel any pressure to lose their virginity and should only do so when they are comfortable and with a consenting partner.