When I decided to stop waiting until I was married to have sex, at age 26, I was faced with a question: If not only my future husband, who should I have sex with? Where do I draw the line, when I don’t have a black-and-white rule that’s wrapped up in a legal process?
It’s a question everyone has to answer, no matter their background or morals. I’ve learned that relying on external rules and advice only goes so far in protecting you, and to experience true intimacy, you have to experiment to find out what you like and don’t like, and what is right for you. Personally, I didn’t know how to recognize a good partner until I dated and slept with a few bad ones.
But before you start, it’s important to de-stigmatize sex. Sexual activity does not irredeemably bond you to other people or lessen your ability to one day have an amazing relationship with your spouse. Secondly, there is nothing wrong with not having sex before you are married, either — only you know your own preference.
Each time you open yourself up to another person, you learn a little something about yourself. So if you’re like me and inherited fears around intimacy from religion or otherwise, I’ve put together a handy list that should help you discover what you want and need. Always use protection!
The partner you’re in love with
I enjoy sex more when I’m in love and in a committed relationship. In fact, it can be difficult to orgasm when you don’t feel safe. A first step is to be on the same page with your partner in what the physical intimacy means — does it mean you love each other? That you are exclusive? When these things are agreed upon it can make the sex more pleasurable.
The first date
They say never put out on a first date. I’ve barely gotten a second drink on most first dates, much less gone home with someone. But if I had a strong personal connection on a first date, I absolutely would. Besides, why not try it at least once, and prove “them” wrong.
The travel acquaintance
There’s nothing like being in a strange new setting to bring out your adventurous side. If you’re traveling, you might be empowered to do things outside your character, or outside what others expect from you. Also, you meet cool people when you travel who you might never see again. The sex could either be really good or really bad, and either way, you win.
Studies show people have more sex in hotels because there is less stress. When you’re on a work trip and your cute coworker is just a few floors up, what better time to make a move. Because of the foreign setting, you also reduce the assumption that anything intimate between you will continue when you return back home (coworker dating is complicated, to say the least).
The one-night stand
When people on dating apps imply they are specifically looking for sex, it can make you wonder if they’ve slept with lots of people and have lots of weird diseases. There is an easy answer to that: Use protection! When you sleep with someone new, many times they introduce new moves into intercourse, like a way they touch you or position your bodies. When you encounter something you like, you can make it your own and all future intimate relationships will benefit.
“Let’s ruin the friendship,” Demi Lovato sings. There has long been criticism around dating or hooking up with a friend. The narrative is that one person will want more out of it and you won’t be able to be friends anymore. But if you’ve seen Seinfeld, you know this isn’t always the case. It’s possible you could communicate upfront about your expectations and be transparent about how you are feeling. This reduces the chance someone will get hurt. Plus, sometimes you have hot friends and want to sleep with them.
The person you’re not remotely attracted to
I was always taught in church that sex has an irreversible bond, a scientific fact that seems to not apply in the case of someone who remarries after a spouse’s death. The truth is humans ascribe meaning to things. Decorating a Christmas tree can mean a million things to one family and nothing at all to another. When I slept with someone I wasn’t attracted to, but enjoyed hanging out with, I thought the physical intimacy would help me develop an attraction. Nothing changed. So just to prove to yourself that sex will not irredeemably bond you to every person you sleep with, try sleeping with someone you don’t even like.