By Yana Tallon-Hicks
I recently began a new relationship and am something of a late bloomer (I’m in my mid-20s), so I have very little actual experience when it comes to physical intimacy with a partner. My boyfriend and I have discussed it a bit, and he’s very conscientious of my boundaries and says that how far we go and when will be completely up to me.
The thing is, while I want to become more physically intimate and could see myself being ready for sex fairly soon, I feel very nervous and unsure about baring my body to my boyfriend. I’m worried that I need to lose some weight first (I have a bit of a tummy), that I don’t know what kind of underwear he’ll find sexy or, what I might find sexy but might be a turn-off for him. I don’t know whether I need to shave or trim my nether-region first or whether he’ll find unshaved a turn-off, etc.
How do I approach this subject with him and ask what I need to do to make our first time good? I still feel shy talking about these kinds of things, but want to be ready to take the next step in our relationship.
Ready to Bloom
Congratulations on approaching this exciting new chapter in your sexual journey! Discovering what you like and your partner likes sexually, intimately, and romantically is a fun rollercoaster and can be both nerve-wracking and thrilling, sometimes at the exact same time. I can hear this emotional mash-up in your wonderings and I’m so happy to give you my two cents.
It sounds like via the conversation about boundaries that your boyfriend has made himself available to talk to you about sex. This is a crucial first step and will take you far — if you’re both open to talking about all of these things outside of a sexual context (meaning, not when you’re in the middle of having sex but, rather, over lunch or text), then the rest of this gets a whole lot easier.
My first piece of advice is to do just this. He’s well aware that this is a new experience for you and so it should be no surprise that you’ve got some questions. Talk to him just like you’re talking to me right now. You don’t have to have it all figured out or the answers to your questions before you talk to him. Let him in on the process so you can collaborate on this experience together.
The one shift I recommend you make is to not only talk about what he wants in terms of personal grooming, underwear, or what he thinks is sexy or a turn-off. What do you want, Bloom? You’re not a sexual product getting ready for your big debut, needing to (literally) reshape or package yourself according to what the consumer (here, your boyfriend) might want. You’re a person! With a real body and personal preferences and yep, pubic hair. What makes you feel sexy? What kind of shave-job makes you feel confident and taken care of? What kind of underwear do you feel smokin hot in? How do you feel about your tummy?
Of course, because you are brand new to all of this, you might not yet know the answers to these questions. But, why would you? You’ve never experimented with different pubic hair styles and how each one feels during sex. You’ve never flaunted your body in lingerie to your boyfriend. You’ve never experienced your feelings about your own body while in a sexual context. Give yourself the permission and the leeway to figure this out as you go and make adjustments accordingly because that is exactly what sexual experience is — learning about your sexual self and partners as you go, over time.
Don’t package sex or your sexual self as a pass/fail exam and definitely don’t treat yourself like a sexual product — this will just set you up for a disingenuous sexual experience. You don’t have to know all of the answers or completely rid yourself of body self-consciousness before allowing yourself to experience intimacy, pleasure, or sex. You’re a human and therefore deserving of pleasure, full stop. Enjoy the ride!
Yana Tallon-Hicks is a relationship therapist, sex educator, and writer living in the Pioneer Valley. You can find her work and her professional contact information on her website, yanatallonhicks.com.