this isn't at all what i expected

I’ve been attempting to catalogue the questions I get asked – partly for my own reference and partly because I routinely get asked, “What’s the most common question you get asked?” Indeed I’m asked this question so regularly that I’ve begun wondering if it might not BE the most common question I’m asked.

(Actually the most common question I’m asked is some variation on “Am I normal?”)

As I document the questions I’m asked, I notice that I’m asked a lot of questions about vaginal penetration – orgasms with penetration, the g-spot, the hymen, why you might feel like you have to pee… anything and everything to do with sexual pleasure derived from putting something inside the vagina.

I work primarily with college students. Many of them – the national statistics would indicate that about HALF of them – experience their first penetration during these years. So their vaginas are these new, uncharted territories, and there’s all this cultural HYPE about what it’s like, what it ought to be like. And the thing is, it isn’t at ALL what they’ve been led to believe.

To illustrate, collection of “first intercourse” moments, as described in romance novels:

Beyond Innocence, Emma Holly

It felt like her soul was tearing down the middle, not with pain but with gladness. With this act, her whole being made room for him

Lord Carew’s Bride, Mary Balogh

It was – yes, it was by far the most wonderful experience of the day. Perhaps of her life…. There was no pain except for one brief moment when she thought there would not be enough room and then felt him breaking through and realized it had just been the loss of her virginity. There was no other pain, even though there was an unexpected tightness and stretching. He was far bigger than her imagination had anticipated. When he was finally fully embedded in her, she felt very – married, although she knew that this was not all.

As You Desire, Connie Brockaway:

She lifted her hips and there – oh, there – a pressure, not quite pain, not sharp, but a stretching, a deep final ache and – and the promise of ecstasy.

Perhaps least incorrect, Flowers from the Storm, Laura Kinsale:

He came into her, delicious burn, more hurt; her husband – all heat and dark fire; her wicked husband, who knew corrupt worldly things, who held her tight and kissed her and kissed her again while it hurt, stretched his beautiful body over hers, pushing harder, creating pain and soothing it at once, more pain, until she cried out with anguish at the peak. […] She gulped for air, her tense muscles slow to realize that the sharp piercing hurt had subsided.

What do we learn? That it hurts so good. (I’ll do another post on pain with penetration.) That it, like, kills you softly. That it’s an intense and moving experience.

Well. Sometimes.

I’ve talked a lot on the blog about the importance of context in sexual experience – a sensation in a non-erotic context may hurt while a sensation in an erotic context will feel good. I often use the example of tickling: sometimes tickling can be fun and playful and sometimes it’s annoying and irritating, depending on the context.

Well, with first penetration, you’ve got all these sensations that you’ve never experienced before, so you and your brain and your body are searching for context – past experience, cultural expectations, current circumstances (like your partner and the relationship) – trying to figure out whether this is the fun and playful kind of tickling, if you will, or the annoying and irritating kind. Because really it’s just sensation, and with sensation, “there’s nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”

Penetration takes practice, and it’s often an acquired taste, like coffee or whiskey or asparagus. Maybe it demands a more sophisticated palate than, say clitoral stimulation.

I don’t want to underplay the importance of a moment when you let someone put part of their body INSIDE your body. It’s a BIG DEAL; it takes trust and communication and affection and a willingness to open yourself. It doesn’t matter who’s being penetrated, where or with what: it’s a BIG DEAL to let someone put something inside your body. Yeah.

But it’s not NECESSARILY a very sexy sensation, the first time you decide to do it. Indeed, the first FEW times will not necessarily feel that way.

Unsolicited advice: Come to your first penetration with curiosity and openness to new experience. Don’t expect to feel your soul open or to experience the greatest thing of your life. Expect novelty, expect intensity. Let it be interesting without forcing it to be earth-shattering.