How long will it hurt after having sex for the first time?

Although we have long recognized that virginity is a social construct, there is a first time for everything — including penetrative sex. And entering the world of P-in-V or D-in-V or P-in-A or any other type of penetration out there can be nerve-racking, especially since it’s so often presented as a hyper-painful experience.

Mary Jane Minkin, MD, OB/GYN and professor at Yale School of Medicine, tells Refinery29 that the perception that sex always hurts the first time for people with vaginas is mostly mythical. “Embryologically, there is a sheet of tissue that covers the opening to the vagina. The old myth was that it was always there until you had sex for the first time,” she explains. “With modern women being as active as they are, running, cycling and using tampons, there are very few women who still have their hymen intact.”

However, if it’s still there, having something enter your vagina can be uncomfortable. The thickness of the hymen varies. if yours is on the thicker end, it may be a little more painful. But even then, Dr. Minkin says the pain or soreness should only last about an hour after sex.

Aside from the hymen issue, Dr. Minkin said pain after sex is mostly due to the method of penetration. A lot of the porn out there shows the old jackhammer technique. While hard and fast penetration has its time and place, it’s not great every time — maybe especially not someone’s first time. “Unfortunately, a lot of young people watch this stuff and think that porn sex is normal sex and that it has to be violent and stuff like that to be real sex,” she says. If you are penetrated with a ton of force, you will probably feel a bit uncomfortable during or after your first time.

Another reason why porn shouldn’t be seen as a guide to sex: It almost never shows foreplay. “Sex shouldn’t be like this,” says Dr. Minkin. “The equivalent of an erection for a [person with a vagina] it’s basically lubrication.” You probably know this as “wetting”. “If they’re not stimulated and they’re not wet because there hasn’t been foreplay, then it’s probably going to be uncomfortable for them,” she says. Having penetrative sex when you are dry, especially for the first time, I will be painful during the experience and afterwards.

While hard and fast penetration has its time and place, it’s not great every time — maybe especially not someone’s first time.

The antidote? Using lubricant — yes, even the first time. But look out for lube that works well with condoms (water based and silicone based) which yes you should use all Time. But lube is no substitute for foreplay. Also make sure you and your partner spend some time relaxing together and exploring each other’s bodies with your hands and mouths, figuring out what feels good and getting excited about what’s next.

Dr. Minkin says that even if everything goes wrong the first time, you should only experience vaginal discomfort for about an hour. This is true even if the person who penetrates you is “extraordinarily gifted,” as the Doctor puts it. If you feel any kind of discomfort for a longer period of time, don’t be afraid to call or go to the gynecologist just to check yourself.

If you’re having penetrative anal sex for the first time, Dr. Minkin says you definitely want to use a condom with a good amount of lube. “Most people will find it uncomfortable, at least initially,” he says. You may feel discomfort after having anal sex for the first time for a few hours, she says.

All in all, first-time penetrative sex shouldn’t be so painful that you’re doubled over in agony for an entire day. (If you’re ever in that much pain, go to the doctor STAT.) If you take the right approach, you should feel completely fine — you might even be ready for another round sooner than you think.

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