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It should come as no surprise that we live in a society where pop culture and the media have the power to brainwash us into believing anything they choose. For many years, the topic of sex and sexuality has been at the media’s disposal, to create a stigma around what exactly it means to be a ‘virgin’ and what to expect when losing your virginity.

Films like The Forty Year Old Virgin and The Virgin Suicides depict just how embarrassing and demeaning it is to be a virgin. Television shows including The Bachelor and The Bachelorette single out their ‘token virgin’ each season. This only encourages the pre-existing social stigma around being a virgin.

Portrayed in films as either the most romantic, picture perfect first time, or a total disaster, we are left with nothing but a mound of unrealistic expectations around what losing our virginity is supposed to be like. As fate should have it, it’ll never happen exactly how you’ve planned it out in your head. Sure, there may be some people who lose their virginity to the ‘love of their life’, in a room lit with candles and adorned with rose petals. But losing your virginity isn’t a moment you can plan out and pencil in your calendar. It’s also not something that should be rushed, so for most people it’ll happen when the timing feels right.

I decided to ask a few people to describe their first time and most referred to their experience as ‘awkward’ and ‘frustrating’. One person I spoke to said the entire time they were overthinking every little thing they were doing. They constantly pondered over whether the other person was enjoying it and felt weird afterwards for not loving it.

For most people, it takes a couple of times to enjoy it, figure out what they like and just to feel comfortable with the idea of having sex. A friend of mine told me she wished someone had told her that her first time wouldn’t be this “amazing experience”. She said she would have liked to have known that it would be a little awkward, may feel totally unusual and might even hurt a bit. The truth is, that’s totally normal and after a couple of times it gets a whole lot better.

The ugly truth – your first time is going to be messy and strange no matter what. Despite how many Cosmopolitan articles you may read or quizzes you answer, you’re never going to be prepared for the experience you’re going to have. My advice to anyone reading: as long as it’s with someone you’re comfortable with and despite all the awkwardness you’ll be able to get through it together, because chances are, they’re feeling just as weird about it as you are.

In today’s society, there are some quite deep issues attached to losing your virginity. These go beyond having that moment when you feel you are ready. Thanks to the media portrayal of men and women, the simple act of losing your virginity (and sex in general for that matter), has become more complicated than ever before. Why? Simply put, we get wrapped up in our thoughts around how we expect that moment to play out. The act of having sex for the first time has been hyped up and over sexualised within the media so much so that the reality often creates a sense of disappointment and insecurity among individuals.

The world of online pornography hasn’t helped. Studies have shown that people are turning to porn for a ‘how to’ tutorial before their first times. Understandable, yet this still sets unrealistic expectations in one’s mind about how their first time will be. Ultimately, having sex is about finding what’s right for you and finding your own groove with the person you are being intimate with.

Conversations amongst peers surrounding the topic of sex and virginity often contribute to individuals feeling the societal pressures to lose their virginity before they are ready to. In an attempt to maintain social status and keep up appearances, some people feel the need to give up their ‘v-card’ before they’re ready. Someone who has faced the brutality of peer pressure told me first hand, “It got so bad that to stop the constant teasing and judgement about still being a virgin I made up a story to get people off my back. It is an incredibly personal thing and I didn’t want to be pressured anymore so I made up a story to save face.”

There is a certain extent to which societal pressure has programmed us to think that our first time should be perfect. Everyone is different and some people will remember their first time forever. For others, it will be nothing but a blip in the past. Sex is complicated, sex is messy, and for most people, the first time having sex is going to be far from perfect. It’s important to remind yourself that your first time won’t be your last. As long as your first time happens when you’re ready and it’s with someone you want to share that intimate moment with, no matter how it plays out it will be an experience to remember. All I want you to hold on to, if nothing else, is to not pressure yourself before, during, or after your first time. It doesn’t have to be in a picture-perfect setting with roses and candles. You create your own version of perfect. Expectations are only as daunting as you make them.

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