Although we've long since acknowledged that virginity is a social construct, there is a first time for everything — including penetrative sex. And your entrance into the world of P-in-V or D-in-V or P-in-A or any other kind of penetration out there can be nerve-wracking, especially since it's so often hyped up as a super-painful experience.
Mary Jane Minkin, MD, a practicing OB/GYN and professor at the Yale School of Medicine, tells Refinery29 that the notion that sex always hurts the first time for people with vaginas is mostly mythical. "Embryologically, there is a sheet of tissue that does cover the opening to the vagina. The old myth was that it was always there until you had sex for the first time," she explains. "With modern women being as active as they are, running around, riding bikes, and using tampons, there are very few women who have the hymen still intact."
If it's still around, though, having something enter your vagina might be uncomfortable. Hymens range in thickness; if yours is on the thicker end, it might be a little more painful. But even then, Dr. Minkin says the pain or soreness should only last about an hour or so after sex.
Besides the hymen issue, Dr. Minkin said post-sex pain mostly comes down to penetration method. A lot of the porn out there shows the old jackhammer technique. While hard and fast penetration has a time and place, it's not great every time — maybe especially not someone's first time. "Unfortunately, many young people are watching this stuff, and they think that porn sex is normal sex, and that it has to be violent and things like that for it to be real sex," she says. If you're being penetrated with a ton of force, you'll probably feel a bit uncomfortable during or after your first time.
Another reason porn shouldn't be seen as the guide book to sex: It almost never shows foreplay. "That's not the way sex should be," Dr. Minkin says. "The equivalent of an erection for a [person with a vagina] is basically lubrication." You most likely know it as "getting wet." "If they're not aroused and are not moist because there's been no foreplay, then it probably will be uncomfortable for them," she says. Having penetrative sex when you're dry, especially for the first time, will be painful during the experience and after.
While hard and fast penetration has a time and place, it's not great every time — maybe especially not someone's first time.
The antidote? Using lube — yes, even during your first time. But be on the lookout for lube that works well with condoms (water-based and silicone-based) which yes, you should be using all the time. But lube isn't a substitute for foreplay. Also make sure you and your partner spend some time relaxing together and exploring each other's bodies with your hands and mouths, figuring out what feels good and getting excited about what's ahead.
Dr. Minkin says that even if everything goes wrong for your first time, you still should only feel vaginal discomfort for an hour tops. That's true even if the person penetrating you is "exceptionally well-endowed," as the doc puts it. If you're feeling any kind of discomfort for longer, don't be afraid to call or go to the gynecologist just to get yourself checked out.
If you're having penetrative anal sex for the first time, Dr. Minkin says you definitely want to be using a condom with a good amount of lubricant. "Most people will find it uncomfortable, at least initially," she says. You may feel discomfort after having anal sex for the first time for a couple of hours, she says.
In all, having penetrative sex for the first time shouldn't be so pain-inducing that you're doubling over in agony for an entire day. (If you're ever in that much pain, go to the doctor STAT.) If you take the right approach, you should be feeling completely fine — you might even be ready for another round sooner than you think.