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“Is Something Wrong With Me?!” Discerning the Reality of Sex from Fantasy

I was quiet. My first thought was “I’m not a virgin anymore.” The second: “Did I do it right? Was I okay?” My mind raced with a stream of questions that continued throughout many of my initial sexual experiences.

I was constantly questioning myself in the beginning, my confidence either sky high or crazy low. My gauge for normal came from my generation’s biggest resources – the television and the internet. “I should make this sound, do this move, look this way.”  Sex felt more like a mimicry of what I imagined sex should be rather than an enjoyable physical experience.

The anxious build up to sex was a huge factor to why I waited so long. When I finally did lose my virginity, a flood of uncertainty and questions bubbled up. As I began to compare my experiences, my conversations were often coupled with a sigh of relief and a “you too?!”  Talking with my girlfriends, doctors, and ultimately, getting more experience allowed me to “let down my hair” and enjoy sex.  Realizing what was realistic versus what I had fashioned from fantasy was the biggest confidence boost.

My Misconceptions

I needed to be having sex. The pressure to lose my virginity was real - I was one of the few in my friend group who hadn’t. I felt behind. It turns out I wasn’t just a late bloomer among my friends but among all Americans. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention stated the average age for both males and females to lose their virginity is 17.5.  A fellow-virgin and I would often talk about how we were ashamed we hadn’t had sex yet. In hindsight, I don’t regret when I had sex, but I wish I hadn’t felt like I needed to do it to fit in with my peers.

It should define the relationship. Though sex has a different level of importance for different people, I used to feel it was a marker for where my partner and I were in a relationship. Friends often asked, “How far did you go?” or “Did you have sex?” – It seemed like taking this step would somehow ‘seal the deal’ or heighten other aspects of the relationship. Physical intimacy is important, but you can’t get around getting to know someone on a personal level. Now I often take it slower and build the relationship in other ways before having sex.  

It will always feel good. A friend of mine lost her virginity soon after me, and one of her first comments was, “I don’t know, it kind of hurt? Is that normal?” It is normal, but it doesn’t always have to be painful. There are several reasons why it might be uncomfortable – including not enough lubrication, hitting the back of the cervix or not being relaxed enough.

When sex didn’t feel good, I would often pretend it did. I felt as if I had a responsibility to make sure my partner was satisfied, which included making sure his ego wasn’t hurt. According to Psychology Today, half to two-thirds of women have faked an orgasm at one point. Be real, ladies — being comfortable enough to address what’s going on, while it’s happening is crucial.  

Some Realities Women Need to Know

Sometimes you’re just not in the mood. And that’s totally okay. You should only have sex when you want to.

Sex can mean different things for the people involved. Things aren’t always mutual. If you’re aware of what the encounter means for you – whether it’s a hookup, a make-it-or-break-it factor in your relationship or something else altogether, be honest with yourself and your partner.  

Being drunk is a buzzkill. Granted, yes, you might be more willing to try things out. But you might also take risks when you wouldn’t normally have (that time you had sex without a condom, anyone?!). Plus, alcohol is a depressant which lessens stimulation and well, let’s be honest, makes everything and everyone a bit sloppier.

You are dealing with human bodies – weird things will happen. Blood on the sheets? Need lube? Whoops, there goes a queef. It happens. Being mature enough to recognize and appreciate the body in all its glory (even when it’s not glamorous) is a huge step toward sexual confidence.

How I Got My Groove Back

Communication is key and takes practice. Sex can be awkward, but being comfortable enough with yourself and your partner will make it much more enjoyable for both parties. 

Enjoy the ride and listen to your body. Learning what you need in order to get in the mood (Psst, it can take women up to 15 minutes to get to a point of orgasm. Take your time!) and what you like will heighten the experience and hopefully lessen your self-consciousness. Let yourself have fun.

You define your normal. There is no universal rule book for sex. It’s your body and your experience. Experiment (or don’t, if that’s not your thing!) and define your own comfort level.  

Ultimately, it was gaining perspective and acknowledging the learning curve with every partner and relationship. Whether you wait to have sex or jump right in, it doesn’t have to be an anxiety-ridden ride like it was for me. Relax, have fun and be realistic. Discerning the reality of sex from the fantasies we’ve been led to believe takes practice.


Liisa Kann is a writer based in Seattle, Washington.  

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