The first time effect

Whether you lost your virginity with your first serious boyfriend or it was a one-night stand that’s best forgotten, the first time can affect your love-life forever…

The first time effect

Are you happy with your sex life? Do you feel in control, and comfortable to experiment and get the love-life you deserve? Or do you lack the confidence to ask for what you want in bed?

Whichever camp you’re in, the key factor behind it could be how you lost your virginity.

A recent US study, Gone but not Forgotten: Virginity Loss and Current Sexual Satisfaction, investigated how influential our first time can be. “We found those who’d had the best experiences had the most fulfilling sex lives now,” says co-author Carrie Smith. “Whereas people with more negative memories were less happy with their current sex lives.”

Writer Kate Monro spent over a year gathering anecdotes for her book, Losing It: How We Popped Our Cherry Over the Last 80 Years, and her blog, The Virginity Project. “If there was one theme that linked most of them, it was disappointment,” she says. But, of course, your first time is unlikely to go smoothly – after all, you’ve never done it before, and your partner might not have, either.

Laura Carpenter, author of Virginity Lost: An Intimate Portrait of First Sexual Experiences, identified the three groups we fall into when it comes to our first time:

● Pragmatists, who know it won’t be the best experience, but manage their expectations and have an OK time.

● The stigmatised, who feel embarrassed by their virgin status and are determined to lose it as soon as possible, however possible.

● Gifters, who see their virginity as a precious item to be handled with care.

“I found gifters were more likely to have felt devastated if anything went wrong,” says Carpenter. “Likewise, those who felt virginity was a ‘stigma’ also took a ‘negative’ experience to heart, and often waited longer before having sex again.

“But the pragmatist sees it as just another life stage, and is more likely to have been satisfied, or at least learnt from it and so stood a better chance of getting what they wanted next time.”

Learn from experience

✽ If the sex was a disaster

It needn’t dictate your sexual future. Shawn Wickens, author of How to Lose Your Virginity (and How Not To), says, “Most first times are underwhelming, but it gets better. The best cure is time – it can turn dreadful experiences into something we can laugh about later.”

Talking to people normalises the situation. “There’s a chance most will have had a less-than-brilliant first time too,” says Kay. “The first time is just the first time – you’ll go on to experience much more, and realising that will help you move on.”

✽ If you felt your virginity was “taken” from you

For some of us, our first time may have happened when we weren’t planning it or didn’t feel ready. “As a result, it can feel like your virginity was ‘taken’,” says Carpenter. “The most natural reaction after is a lack of trust in the bedroom. So focus on finding partners who you respect or are friends with first.

“Don’t feel guilty about holding back until you’re ready. In my research, the people who knew their partner well before, either as a boyfriend or a good mate, can share any nerves with them. In all cases, they chose someone they knew would respect them. That shows that they value themselves and want to have a good experience.”

✽ If it was planned, with someone you trust

This shows you had respect for yourself and your body, but if your sex life after that has followed a similar pattern you might question whether you should be more “on the edge” sexually.

However, “don’t feel you should push the boundaries of what you are comfortable with just for the sake of it,” says Carpenter. “Be happy you’re confident in knowing what you like, and are doing it with people you trust.”

✽ If you waited until you were older (or the last in your group)

“Women may berate themselves for being older than their friends when they lost their virginity, but they shouldn’t,” says Carpenter.

“In fact, this shows that they didn’t and won’t bow to pressure. Use this strength to your advantage – never compromise your values and always feel confident to ask for what you want in the bedroom. It’ll lead to fulfilling sex.”

However your first time played out – whether with a sexy stranger or a trusted friend – it’s important not to have any regrets. Just remember that even the less mind-blowing experiences help you to find out what you like and what to ask for. Sex is meant to be fun, after all.