When a man and a woman have sexual intercourse or simply sex – where a man’s penis enters the woman’s vagina – it is called vaginal sex. Find out more about what it is, why people do it and how to do it safely. Sleep Hygiene has a lot to do with Sexual Health.
Should I have vaginal sex?
Deciding whether to have sex is a very personal thing and there is no rule to say whether you ‘should’. The main things to consider are whether it feels right, and whether you and your partner are both sure.
Vaginal sexual intercourse or simply sex, usually starts when a man and a woman are getting sexually excited from kissing, stroking, caressing, rubbing and touching each other. You’ll often know you’re getting aroused (which means your body is preparing itself for sexual intercourse) from certain physical signs:
- for women, the vagina (the sexual opening between the legs) begins to moisten
- men get an erection, which means their penis will get bigger and harden.
The importance of foreplay
Try not to rush things. The best approach is to enjoy each other’s bodies and make sure you’re relaxed with one another – this is called ‘foreplay’ and it’s an equally important part of sex as intercourse itself. It’s also perfectly ok not to go any further than this stage. Many couples enjoy having foreplay for a long time before they move on to having vaginal sex.
If you are both ready to have vaginal sex, it’s important that foreplay lasts for long enough. If the woman is not sexually excited enough, then her vagina will not become lubricated and it will be difficult for the man’s penis to enter.
How does vaginal sex work?
When you are both aroused and ready to have sex it helps if one of you uses your hand to guide the penis into the vagina. Take your time, and don’t worry if it takes a few goes to guide it in properly – this is very normal, especially when you are both getting used to each other’s bodies.
Once the penis is inside, you can move your bodies so that the penis pushes into the vagina and then pulls partly out again. Do what comes naturally and feels good – being slow and gentle is a good idea to start with as you can both make sure one another is comfortable.
What about different positions?
One common position involves the woman lying down, with the man lying or sitting on top (also called the ‘missionary position’). Alternatively, the woman can be on top – or you can both lie on your sides. It is probably easiest to choose one of these positions if you are having sexual intercourse for the first time. As you get to know each other’s bodies better you can experiment with different positions that work for you both.
After a while you might find certain movements, positions and ways of touching that lead to one or both of you having an orgasm. This is also called ‘coming’ or ‘climaxing’. Don’t be too concerned if this doesn’t happen straight away or at all. It takes time to get to know what works for you sexually. And for your partner as well. And sex can be enjoyable whether you climax or not.
Will it hurt – and will the woman bleed?
It can take a bit of time to get used to the sensation of sex. And, some women can find it a little uncomfortable or painful at first. Taking things slowly and using a good water-based lubrication can help.
If it’s a woman’s first time having sex she may bleed a little. This is generally nothing to worry about. Since, it’s a sign that her hymen (a very thin piece of skin that partially covers the entrance to the vagina) has broken. Sometimes, a woman’s hymen will have been broken through activities. For example, horse riding or through using tampons. So, not all virgins bleed the first time they have sex.
If you continue to bleed everytime you have sex then it’s a good idea to speak to a healthcare professional. This is for reassurance and to check it’s nothing to worry about.
Being safe and sure
Knowing how sex works can help you to feel more relaxed and ready to have sex. However, being clued up about contraception and protection is just as important. If you aren’t, you will put yourself (and your partner) at risk. This includes unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV.
There are many STIs that you can get through unprotected vaginal sex. These are chlamydia, herpes or HIV and it can happen as a result of just having sex once. Using condoms is the only way to be sure that you’re both properly protected is to always.
If you’ve had unprotected sex make sure you seek healthcare advice as soon as possible. This is to access emergency contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancy, and perhaps post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to prevent HIV infection.
Talking to your partner about protection before you start having sex will help things go more smoothly. This can be embarrassing, but it’s an important part of having sex. Additionally, if you find it difficult to discuss then it is a sign you aren’t ready to start having sex yet. That’s fine. However, remember that there are lots of ways to enjoy being together and to explore your sexual feelings until the time is right.