Welcome to the VICE Guide to Life, our imperfect advice on becoming an adult.
A wise man (Spider-Man’s uncle) once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” This is especially true in the sexual arena, and especially especially true when having sex with someone who has far less experience than you. Because our firsts are etched into our memories, and because they may even shape our sexual outlooks for years and years to come, it’s incredibly important for experienced partners to take their part seriously. How do we do that? How can more seasoned partners ensure that newbies have an incredible time that they won’t regret?
A lot of these guidelines apply to sex you might have with any new person—and can also be broadly chalked up to “be a decent human being”—but because the sexually inexperienced can feel very vulnerable, here's a checklist to run through when you want to make sure that you're approaching an inexperienced partner with the utmost respect, maturity, and care.
When to do it
One of the most important elements of sex with inexperienced folks is to do it on their timeline. If you pressure a partner to do something before they’re truly ready, at best they might resent you and at worst they might be outright traumatized. So don’t do that. This doesn’t mean you can’t state your sexual desires—you can and you should!—but remember that sex is a two-way street, and you should not settle for anything less than enthusiastic consent. And, even after they’ve given you the go-ahead-triple-thumbs-up, let them know that they are 100-percent allowed to go back on their decision, even during the sex itself. Everyone has full autonomy over their bodies and consent can be revoked at any time. Don’t sulk if this happens. If the situation was reversed, wouldn’t you want the same care and respect given to you?
Show them that safe sex is hot
Per Dan Savage’s “campsite rule,” which applies to relationships between much older and much younger folks, you should leave the person better off than you first found them—like a campsite. That means “no STIs, no fertilized eggs, no restraining orders, no emotional trauma, and improved sexual skills.”
To unpack that tall order, let’s focus on STIs and pregnancy, both of which are greatly reduced if you use protection. If you’re the experienced partner, not only should you be the one to bring the barriers (condoms or dental dams), but you should wear them enthusiastically and happily. Don’t guilt-trip, pressure, or cajole an inexperienced partner into not using protection because it “feels better.” Because you know what also feels better? Not having to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. So sack up, and sack up.
While you’re at it, bring lube, too. (See my last How to Sex/Vice Guide to Life for more suggestions on memorable first-time sex props.)
Don’t be wasted
It also helps to be sober or soberish. It won’t be a memorable experience if the person literally can’t remember it, and/or feels terrible because they went further than they wanted to while under the influence. I’m not saying you have to be Stone Cold Steve Sober, but, like, don’t plan to bone for the first time after a kegger.
Once you’ve gotten the basics of ethical, safer sex on lock, it’s time to create as judgment-free an environment as possible. This should start long before you’re deflowering anyone—but if it hasn't, there’s no time like the present.
A judgment-free environment means no disparaging or passive-aggressive comments about their inexperience, about their bodies, about their Hanson poster—anything! The inexperienced partner already has enough to worry about, they don’t also need to be parsing why you made fun of their “Ke$ha Night-Night Jams” sex playlist.
If your partner is worried about how they look or how they’re performing, they’re going to be too in their head to enjoy whatever amazing sex thing is happening. So dim the lights, let them leave some clothes on if they want, offer verbal praise and reassurance throughout, and let them know you’re ecstatic to be doing this with them.
Don’t assume anything
There are many, many different kinds of “experience.” Don’t assume the inexperienced person hasn’t done anything. Or, conversely, wants to do everything. Talk openly and honestly with them beforehand (and during and after!). Find out what their sexual fears are and then, by jove, don’t make them come true!
Giving the inexperienced partner most of the power will do a lot to take the fear and insecurity out of sex. Tell them that they hold the reins, and that if they want you to slow down or stop at any point, you will. Tell them to let you know if they feel weird or uncomfortable about anything, and that you won’t do anything they’re not on board with. And then make good on those promises.
Be aware of your partner’s body cues
If your partner is exhibiting signs of discomfort, strain, or checked-out-ness, then back off or stop entirely. Pay more attention to them than to your own pleasure. I’m not saying that every time they groan you have to ask, “Are you okay?” because that’s excessive and annoying, but pay attention to overt signs, like if they’ve stopped moving entirely, if their breathing is erratic, if they're wincing in pain, if they’re crying (you’d be surprised!), and so on.
Use your words
As the experienced partner, don’t be afraid to take the lead or give instructions. If your partner wants to please you and doesn’t know how, guide their hands or mouths in the ways you like to be pleased. When taking the lead, be sure to leave room for the inexperienced partner to try their hand at leading, too. If you’re not sure, ask. Even a simple, “Do you want to be on top for a bit?” works.
Take your time
In the immortal words of Usher: “Ain't gotta rush. I just wanna take it nice and slow.” I know that lust has the ability to make us careless and frenzied beasts, and that definitely has its place, but don’t forget to also slow down and savor the moments the way you would an amazing meal. Besides, no first-timer ever wants to have to later tell their friends, “That was the most amazing … two-and-a-half minutes of my life.”
Don’t be afraid to laugh. If/when something embarrassing or awkward happens, laugh it off. Sex is hilarious. Just look at these squelching, excreting sacks of flesh! They’re absurd! And miraculous and beautiful, but also absurd. Laughing together lightens the mood and shows the inexperienced partner that sex doesn’t have to end just because you accidentally sneezed into their crotch or your bellies smooshed together and made a farting noise or you slipped off the bed entirely or you accidentally stabbed your girlfriend in the vulva with your nails or you got pubes in your teeth and then had to floss because it was driving you crazy. Hypothetically.
Convey to your partner that having sex with someone for the first time is very rarely the BEST TIME. Amazing, transformative, life-changing sex comes from practice and repetition and knowing yourself and your partner very well and trying weird things and continuing to surprise yourself.
The “be realistic” rule applies to experienced partners, as well. If you go into sex expecting to rock someone’s world, you may wind up disappointed. Be caring and gentle with yourself, as you just were to your inexperienced partner.