It’s supposed to be fun, exciting and meaningful like something out of the movies, but anyone who’s lost their virginity knows that it doesn’t always go quite like that.
The average age that a person loses his or her virginity is roughly 17 years old, according to the Kinsey Institute. But it’s normal to lose it at any age past the teenage years.
Before getting into the particulars, a cautionary note: never have sex before you’re ready. Don’t get pressured into it and don’t feel obligated to go along with it because you think that’s what you should do. Don’t be embarrassed to say you’re a virgin regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman. Do it when you feel it’s right and when you’re truly ready.
Now for the nitty gritty. Socially, it’s a much bigger deal for a woman to lose her virginity than for a man to do so thanks to a little piece of tissue called the hymen that lines the vaginal opening. The hymen used to be the marker for a woman’s virginity because of its inevitable destruction during sex.
“But having a hymen and being a virgin are not the same thing. There are other ways that a woman can stretch her hymen, including using tampons, insertive masturbation, riding a bicycle or doing gymnastics. And some girls are born with so little hymenal tissue that it appears they have none,” according to the Planned Parenthood website.
Perks to having little or no hymenal tissue during sexual intercourse for the first time include a lack of blood during penetration and far less pain, although most women shouldn’t worry if they experience either of these during their first time.
“Some women experience pain the first time they have vaginal intercourse. They may have so much hymenal tissue that stretching it open during first intercourse may cause pain and bleeding,” the Planned Parenthood website states. “Women with a lot of hymenal tissue can prepare for first intercourse by slowly stretching the tissue with their fingers.”
See a doctor if you experience overwhelming pain or discomfort, or excessive bleeding during your first time. Fortunately, once the hymen is broken it can never grow back on its own.
Men, on the other hand, do not go through anything nearly as biologically intensive during their first bout of sexual intercourse.
“Sex should not be painful for them unless something is wrong,” according to Planned Parenthood. “For guys, pain during sex can be caused by an infection, an allergic reaction to spermicide or latex, by a physical condition such as having a foreskin that is too tight, or by an irritation from previous sexual or nonsexual activities. If a guy is experiencing pain during sex, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with a clinician to check it out.”
Up until that point, a man losing his virginity is pretty much the same as every other sexual experience, at least biologically.
“There aren’t really any physical changes that men experience after losing their virginity. Men and boys can theoretically have penetrative sex as soon as they are able to achieve an erection, but it’s thought that most children don’t start to have erotic feelings about others until they’re about 10 years old,” said associate professor Chris Moffatt, who teaches human sexuality at SF State.
Emotionally, however, sex is different for everyone. As anyone who has lost their virginity can say, the first time is special, but not always in a good way. Unless you’ve had an incredible amount of sex with a blow-up doll or other inanimate object, it’s highly possible that you won’t really know what to do to make it a mind-blowing experience for both parties involved. You might fumble around and you might feel very awkward and kind of unsatisfied when it’s over.
That’s the hard part. Once the cherry is popped, the sky’s the limit! But always remember to use contraception. STIs and pregnancy are very real possibilities whenever having sex.
“A woman can get pregnant anytime she has sex with a man. It doesn’t really matter if it’s the first or the 1000th time, as long as she’s having sex around the time of ovulation. One reason it seems like young women get pregnant so frequently — that number is dropping, by the way — is that young adults tend to use contraception less often than older adults when they have sex,” Moffatt said.
So use condoms and other protective measures, make sure the roommates or parents are out of the house, and keep having sex! Remember, practice makes perfect.