Advice For Those Who Are New To Sex (Or Who Want To Love It Again)

new couple kissing

Give up worrying about how you look, how long you can last or with what speed (or how far) you orgasm. Take off your clothes. On second thought, leave them on. Leave them on for far longer than you ever thought people should leave clothes on if they are going to have sex.

Then, kiss. And kiss some more. Kiss in at least 10 different ways – long kiss and then a lip nibble; short little nibbles and the daintiest dribbles; passionate and hungry; gentle and longing; nostalgic, now. You get the idea. And make sure to kiss in at least 4 different places: the eyelids are a good and tender, unexpected, often underappreciated spot. So is the forehead. The neck is a good standby. Careful near the ear, though: some love it, others loathe it, and it may be worth a try (start off gentle on those ear lobes, though, just in case). Consider her breasts, his chest, your partner’s thighs, a pillow if you’re alone, your partner’s tummy if you’re not.

Leave your clothes on even longer. Trust me.

Touch your partner outside of their clothes. All along their body. When you’re older and more experienced you might forget what it feels like to explore in this way. You might even wish you could trade in some of your wisdom or money or your leased car or city view terrace for a moment of what this feels like now. So touch and be touched. Breathe in and let yourself bask in What This Feels Like Right Now. Tuck it away so that when you’re older and in your routines you might get creative one night and suggest to your partner that you leave your clothes on and make out like you’re young or new to each other once again.

Let go of tomorrow. Stop worrying if you can stand to be with this person for The Rest of Your Life.  Pay attention to what it feels like right now, in this moment: his eyes, her freckles, his smile, her kiss. Forgive whatever you are holding against them if it’s within the normal range of mistakes or transgressions. Focus instead on their lips, their skin, the fact that a living, breathing, wonderful body of humanity is inside of that lovely skin: that there’s a soul in there who likes you at least enough to leave their clothes on with you. And yes, maybe to get naked with you too. For all that clothes are good for, being naked and pressing your skin together can be breathtakingly beautiful.

Be safer than you think you need to – unless, of course, you’re trying to create a blessing of a baby together or prone to being a hypocondriac, then let go a little. Use reliable birth control if you’re both not ready to be parents. Use condoms from start to finish if you’d like to reduce your risk of infection. Slather a little water-based lube on the outside of the condom (it’ll feel good for you both). Get over your fear of talking to doctors or partners about sex. Let your partner know what you like. If you don’t know yet what you like, then touch your body when you’re alone. Play music while you pleasure yourself. Touch yourself slow, fast, with lube, without it, while enjoying romantic dreams or basking in dirty, hungry thoughts.

Learn about sex. Read at least 3 good quality books about sex that help you learn about your body, relationships and ways to bring pleasure into being. When you read the books, take pauses and think how what you just read matters and how it can make sex better, help you connect, give you the courage to talk to your partner about something hard, or help you love sex, kissing, intimacy or making out in ways you haven’t yet explored.

Above all, be gentle, be kind, open your heart. Know that the person who has left their clothes on or taken them off with you has put some level of trust in you: to keep them safe, to make them feel good, to help them escape, to make them feel loved, to help them feel young or feisty or courageous again.

Take a chance. Don’t hate yourself. Don’t hate your partner. Let yourself feel good and good and more good. Stay in bed all day together or alone if you want. Bathe together with or without candles lit nearby. Let your dog or cat watch (or not). Stop over-worrying if you look good or sound right or smell decent: sex smells musky, feels quirky and tastes salty, sweet, yeasty or acidic in turns. Embrace it all and try to not frown when he or she asks you to do something that feels weird. Know that they’ve put themselves out on a limb by asking you and be gentle as you decline. Or consider if it’s within the realm of ideas you might accept and try together.

And finally, find the love and the hope and the wonder in the ways your bodies – with or without clothes, with or without love – connect. Stay in bed longer. Get up early and kiss. Sneak away and make out. Hold hands walking down the street. Strip or dance for your partner and hold them longer than either of you expected to. But keep your clothes on longer than you planned. It’s that good.

[Inspired by the poem "Do You Have Any Advice For Those of Us Just Starting Out" by Ron Koertge, via Poetry 180]

About Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick is a sex researcher at Indiana University, sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, columnist, and author of five books about sex and love. Learn more about her work at