Sex isn’t fun.
At least, not yet, I tell myself. My boyfriend also tells me this. As do all of my friends, and TV shows, and movies, and the really bad smutty fan fiction I read when I was a teenager.
On the afternoon of January 23, 2016, I had sex for the first time. Penetrative penis in vagina sex. Good ol’ fashion fucking. Finally.
I’ll set the scene: New York was buzzing with excitement about the first real snowstorm of the year. People were either stuck in monstrous lines at the grocery store in hopes of stocking up on booze, and junk food, or they were busy figuring out where to crash during the storm. I’m sure Tinder was lit.
I saw plenty of blizzard and chill jokes online, but I didn’t really think I would be part of the faction of people fucking their way through a storm. But life comes at you fast, and after an absurdly large Bloody Mary and my fill of my boyfriend’s playlist bouncing between Christmas crooners and shoegaze indie rock, I made a decision.
“So, what if we did it?” I asked, but it sounded more like a firm declaration than a question.
“We could,” he replied, but his response was relatively noncommittal, as if he’s heard this before (he has).
A while passes, and we moved from the living room to my bedroom, which I hadn’t cleaned in months, but the fact that I cleaned my bedding the night before felt like a victory. We watched some Cinemax shows of debatable quality and probably made out a bit before I posed my declarative question once more.
“What if we did it, though?”
“I want to do it?”
I looked outside at the snow piling up, and I admit that I understood the novelty of losing my virginity during a damn blizzard. I knew it would be a memorable thing to look back on, even if I imagined things would be a little different when I had sex for the first time.
I imagined garage rock playing in the background, something frenzied like an old Yeah Yeah Yeahs track. I planned to get a modest Brazilian and leave a little hair in the front to fool myself into thinking that patriarchal standards haven’t taken complete advantage of me.
At the very least, I didn’t imagine my legs or armpits to be so hairy, or for my face to be free of foundation, or for my stomach to protrude as much as it did.
But there was no music, my pubes had a life of their own, and I was hairy from head to toe; I probably even had a few neglected chin hairs I could have taken care of, but didn’t, and I was okay with that. I didn’t even care, and I’m assuming he didn’t, either.
“Yeah, I mean, I might as well get it over with, you know?”
Just a reminder: I’ve tried to have sex a couple of times before, and the last time was an embarrassing disaster of wasted lube and a lot of frustration. This time wasn’t so different, but there was a lot more lube.
It took three separate trial runs for the whole sex thing to actually work, to get to a point where I wasn’t accidentally choking him with my ankles, where I wasn’t burying a pillow over my face to muffle the awkward belches of noise-wrenching from my throat, and where I wasn’t asking, “are you sure it wouldn’t be easier with music?” or Googling “best positions for first-time sex,” or getting up to turn off the heat.
Something about that naked walk back to my stiflingly hot bedroom shifted something in my attitude, and I wasn’t sure if it was driven by determination or submission.
I never bought into the idea of a magical first time, of a low-lit room, tender caresses, the quaintness of a flash of pain that quickly melted away into a pool of pleasure, with nearly synched orgasms and soft, heady pants.
As a 25-year-old who has talked about sex with countless people, I deduced that while everyone’s first time is different, nobody noted that it was a particularly beautiful experience.
I didn’t expect this to be either, but it was something I wanted to do, and I wasn’t about to chicken out once again just because it was a little (or a lot) more unpleasant than I imagined.
Fuck that; it was time to grow the hell up and, frankly, get the D.
With my newfound sense of control over the situation, I made it clear that this missionary bullshit wasn’t going to work. It hurt my legs, the angle was uncomfortable, and the physical stress of it all made my body tighten up like a wind-up toy.
So we opted for other positions, ones I always associated with dirtier, raunchier sex; I briefly thought that I didn’t deserve to skip ahead. That guy on top, and girl on the bottom, were the rites of passage I was supposed to accomplish before excelling in moves I reserved for porn. But I wasn’t going to risk my comfort for tradition.
Being on top gave me a sense of control and provided progress, and a few laughs, actually.
As I was cringing and trying to get my hips to cooperate, my boyfriend said, “Hey, guess what?”
I briefly looked down, probably looking a little deranged. His expression was the exact opposite of mine. He looked at ease, relaxed with a slight smirk gracing his lips.
“What?” I panted, wondering if I was doing it right, wondering why there was still so much goddamn dick left? This is arguably a humble brag, but my vagina disagrees.
“You’re having sex!” he said, a verbal high-five.
I was skeptical. “Really? Does this count?”
“Yeah, I’d say so.”
Progress slowed, so we changed positions again, applied more lube, and maneuvered myself so that I was facing the wall and he was behind me. I’m not going to go into too much detail because I’m not confident about my erotica skills, but I’ll keep it frank: This position worked. It actually worked.
I finally realized that I was, in fact, having sex. It was strange, realizing I was going through a milestone and being unable to really focus on how momentous it felt.
Instead, I was thinking about the pain and the weird noises that I was making. It wasn’t the exaggerated sighs from television sex scenes or the frenzied moans I’ve heard through my bedroom walls whenever a roommate had a guy around.
They were, frankly, fucking ridiculous, like a mix between a groan and a scream. I actually started laughing every now and then, and I’m not sure if it was as a way to distract myself from the pain, or because this was actually a funny situation.
I alternated between burying my face in my pillow and staring at my wall of posters, ticket stubs, and gig flyers that I collected in London; focusing my gaze on an illustration of The Temptations was probably the weirdest part.
Through it all, my boyfriend was supportive and funny, but firm. He helped my body arrange itself into positions that actually made this whole sexual thing work the way it was meant to.
I knew this wasn’t an ideal situation for him either, but it was hard not to be a little turned on by the fact that he was so invested in getting this done, too.
There were moments when it really was hard to determine whether I was feeling pain or pleasure. I always assumed that dichotomy was romance novel bullshit, but it actually exists.
I literally gasped, “Oh. Oh? Wait, oh.” Was that a G-spot situation going on or what?
This, combined with the feeling of my boyfriend’s hands on my hips and the little noises he emitted here and there was actually the best part of this entire mess.
For that moment, I was sort of just turned on by the fact that he was getting something out of it, but I didn’t feel used.
After he was finished, I was taken care of, and we sank into my shitty frameless bed.
“I don’t know why people crave cigarettes after sex,” he said. I was surprised by two things: One, that a former smoker couldn’t see the appeal, and two, that he voluntarily filled the silence. It was usually me, the loud mouth, who did that. He looked content.
“Yeah, I don’t know,” I said, a little dazed.
“So,” he started. “Do you feel any different?”
I paused, then half smiled. “No. Not at all. But I didn’t expect to.”
The only thing I felt was sore—sore and accomplished. I waited a few minutes before reaching for my phone and literally texting all of my close friends with a teasing, “Guess what?”
Some figured it out immediately, but I had to supply suggestive hand emojis for the others. The replies were brilliant: “NO. NO. FUCK YES. ASHLEY” and “Yasssssss,” to quote a couple. One friend replied with every vessel and phallic-shaped emoji she could find, and another sent me a “congrats on the sex” GIF.
My boyfriend noticed my phone blowing up and asked, “Did you tell your friends?”
I snorted, “Of course I did!”
And now I’m telling the internet at large.
So, sex. It wasn’t exactly enjoyable and was a lot more painful than I ever imagined. My vag hurt, and my legs ached for days.
I, naturally, freaked out about a potential pregnancy scare before my period promptly swooped in and washed that brief wave of paranoia away.
I don’t feel like more of a woman. I don’t even feel any different than I did before the blizzard and chilling.
In all honesty, even though everyone says it gets better after the first couple of times, I’m a little apprehensive about starting the whole process over again.
Sometimes I question the fairness of the pain that’s endured to ensure future pleasure, but I’m excited to see what the future holds…for my vagina.