Asking for a friend

Asking for a Friend is a weekly Sex and Relationships column hosted by Arts and Culture writer Dana Sparks and fueled by your curiosities.

Asking for a Friend is a weekly Sex and Relationships column hosted by Arts and Culture writer Dana Sparks and fueled by your curiosities. Click here to anonymously submit questions regarding sex, relationships and sex education. 

Question: “I think I will lose my virginity soon, but I can't even handle getting fingered without saying that's too much. How should I prepare or what can make the process hurt less? I am fully aroused usually, but the pressure is just a lot and obviously new for me.” — Sensitive Susie


Dear Sensitive,

I believe your body is telling you to slow down!

Having something or someone penetrate you is a very interesting feeling. I don’t think that’s really an experience that is comparable to anything other than penetrating yourself during masturbation, so it makes sense that you aren’t really used to it.

As I have said before, it’s really hard to tell someone else what to do to you if you aren’t clear on what you like or what’s comfortable.

Following that, I would say that you should masturbate (and try toys). Find a nice lube that you like and proceed with other people slowly as you get acquainted with these new sensations.

I have seen masturbation treated as a “less than” experience, or a mere substitute for partnered sex. You should just throw that idea out the window right now.

Masturbation allows you to get to know your body, pleasure yourself and maybe even get inspired for pleasuring others, too. In fact, before your first time having sex, you could try mutual masturbation with the person that you want to have sex with.

Allowing them to watch how you pleasure yourself could be a very informative and sexy experience — plus, it allows you to practice these sensations at your own pace. You could introduce toys — dildos, vibrators, nipple stimulation, etc. — to the situation and break the ice with the other person on how to use these on your body specifically.

I’m glad to hear that you’re paying attention to your body and exploring what arousal even is to you. Occasionally, when I talk about lube, some folks immediately write it off and assume that it won’t help them because they feel they are adequately lubricated by their own bodies. This could be true — each individual is different, of course — but I think it is important to consider how having a little extra help is really valuable in this situation.

Some lubes are more effective when you need it the most, and there’s nothing wrong with a little store-bought help. Additionally, if you’re using condoms or dental dams, lube can make using protection a more pleasurable process for all parties involved.

Ultimately, I am intrigued by your mentioning pain. A lot of women and people with vaginas experience chronic pain associated with sex — sometimes they end up needing to see a doctor about it. But this is no reason to freak out.

For more information, I would visit my guide for navigating sex with pain. This could help you figure out if there’s some specific things you and your partner could do or if you should further consider seeing a doctor.

This is going to be some trial-and-error, but it will be worth it to slow down and figure things out. Don’t push through the pain.

Yours truly,


Photojournalist and Sex and Relationships columnist

Dana is a photojournalist specializing in long-format storytelling — particularly regarding gender and social justice topics. She is the Daily Emerald Sex and Relationships columnist. This is her third year at the Emerald.

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