ask maude: fear of first-time sex

05 24 19 — ask maude
How do I get rid of the fear of doing it for the first time? I’m a 24-year-old-virgin and I’m still afraid.
—Fearful First-Timer, Vermont

Dear Fearful,

It’s always natural to feel some apprehension about doing something for the first time, especially when it comes to having sex.

Like with any fear, it’s helpful to try to get to the heart of it. For example, are you afraid that it will hurt? That’s understandable—for the person being penetrated, both vaginal and anal sex can be quite painful the first time you do it. But there are ways to help make it less painful, such as taking things super slowly and using lubricant, which can help reduce friction and make insertion of the penis easier.

Another way to get more comfortable with sex is via masturbation. You can use your fingers to help your body become accustomed to penetration, and you will be in complete control of things so you can stop if it begins to hurt too much (you can also try using a vibrator). Another thing to keep in mind is that sex needn't include any kind of penetration. 

If your fear is that you won’t be good at it or that you won’t know what to do, masturbation can also help you become more confident and in tune with your own body to understand what brings you pleasure (our guide to solo sex can help). But communication is also an essential part of good sex, so letting your partner know that it’s your first time can help take the pressure off—who knows, it may be their first time too. Foreplay is another great way to ease into things and help you deal with any nervousness.

Also remember that having an orgasm is not the defining factor in good sex and should in no way be a measure of performance. So try not to focus on that and just enjoy the intimate connection with your partner. 

There can be many other reasons why you might be afraid of having sex for the first time. If you’re in a relationship with someone who you’re smitten with romantically but don’t feel sexually attracted to them, for example, there may be another underlying factor. So the best thing to do, Fearful, is talk to someone about it—a counselor, therapist, doctor—to help you identify what exactly is causing your fear.

Your partner in pleasure,