I starkly remember my first sexual encounter. 

Though the first part of the evening was faithfully close to a rom-com—with my date buying me a beautiful dinner, bringing me over to his house, and even serenading me—the second half proved to be awkward, painful, and evolved into a core memory of mine. I now see the night as a warped fairy tale, and a reminder of promises unfulfilled. 

When I was younger, I had absolutely no idea that my romantic partners could prioritize my pleasure. Similar to most of the young women around me, I was conditioned into thinking that there was one goal in any heterosexual hookup: to make the boy finish. It wasn’t until my first actual relationship that I realized how skewed my thinking actually was. 

There is a long list of sex advice I wish I could give my younger self; wisdom I wish I had before my first time. Here are the most important points. 

I would encourage my teenage self to explore what makes her feel good. Self-pleasure was never really in my repertoire, which meant that I had no idea what I liked when I started hooking up or performing sexual acts. The whole scene was chaotic and unpredictable—and not in a good way. 

I now have the experience and understanding of what makes me feel good, both inside and outside of an interaction with another person. I know my pressure points, my turn ons, and my turn offs. This kind of understanding can only be honed through self-pleasure and embodied reflection.

I would also tell my stubborn younger self to slow down. I felt an innate pressure to be sexually active and go out with people who I really didn’t feel an emotional connection with. Part of it was external, from the romantic interests I had in my life, but I also felt an internal pressure to show my maturity. At twenty-one, I can navigate the world of casual sex and hookup culture with ease and patience, but for a fragile high school student, it was absolutely too much. 

There is no shame in slowing down and waiting until your emotional maturity matches your sexual drive. I also learned that sex is most enjoyable when my mind matches my body’s intentions. If I had heard this, I likely would have been saved from a few experiences I wish had never happened. 

I’m a vocal person. In normal life, I know what I want, and I’ll do anything to get it. Yet, as I was so unsure of what to expect in a romantic and sexual setting, my voice became completely lost in my sexual encounters and hookups. I would encourage my younger self to find the courage to speak during intimate moments—whether you tell your partner to go faster, quit rubbing your thigh, or even stop altogether. This kind of communication is necessary in sex, and necessary in situation where you may not have complete control.

Coupled with the idea of being vocal during sex is learning what consent actually entails. I held a belief when I was younger that agreeing to hook up with someone, getting in the backseat of their car, or taking off their shirt marked a point of no return. This is simply false. Saying no at any point during a sexual experience is completely justified, and you do not have to give any reason for your hesitancy or discomfort. If your partner tries to persuade you or has an issue with you saying no, this is a major red flag. 

Run, and don’t look back. 

My last tip would be to indulge in sex talk with the girls. This is a part of my life that has always been interesting, hilarious, and fulfilling, but has primarily been concentrated in the last few years. Listen to your friends’ sex horror stories and beautiful experiences, and ask them for advice when you need it. These conversations are where I am able to safely explore the concepts of consent and pleasure, learning more each time.

Sex talks make you feel less alone, and even though your questions might seem embarrassing, you can feel comfort knowing no one has any idea what they’re doing anyway.

HEADER IMAGE SOURCE; BY SADIE LEVINE (instagram: sadiesartthings)

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