Sex is the great mystery, especially for teens who are virgins (and, no matter what you’ve heard, that’s most of us). Even teens who have had sex aren’t very experienced. 

So, we’re curious about sex. And that’s totally normal.

Sometimes it seems like the only way to find out about sex is to just do it. But that’s usually a bad idea. The more you know about sex before you do it, the better, safer and healthier your future relationships will be, experts say. 

So, we decided to ask some adults a couple of questions that most teens are dying to get answered. First, we wondered, what makes a good lover? Does, for example, the size of a guy’s penis or the shape of a woman’s breasts have anything to do with it? 

Nope. Good lovers have a few things in common, but body parts aren’t one of them. They know how to communicate. And they know how to listen to and respect their partners. 

“It’s important for two people to look at each other and say, ‘We hardly know anything about sex. Let’s not pretend we know,’”says Marty Klein, Ph.D., a California-based counselor and sex therapist. “Let’s be open with each other. Let’s admit how we feel.’’ 

“No one is born a good lover,’’ adds Eva Goldfarb, Ph.D., an assistant professor of human sexuality at Montclair State University in New Jersey. “You have to learn. The only way you learn is to ask and communicate with your partner before, after or during sexual activity.”


Real Life vs. Movies

Real life sex is different from sex in the movies where everything happens magically. It takes time to learn what gives you and another person pleasure. And it takes maturity and courage to be honest with someone else about how you really feel. 

That’s why the best sex often happens in a committed, caring relationship between two adults who can really communicate and listen to each other, Klein and Goldfarb agree. 

So does being a good lover include respecting your partner’s feelings, even if that person doesn’t want sex? Definitely. Sexual contact—whether it’s kissing or sexual intercourse—is usually about pleasure and expressing your feelings for someone. There’s nothing pleasurable about being pressured into having sex. 

Being a good lover also means talking about precautions—namely birth control and condoms to prevent disease. 

“Birth control is not unsexy,” says Klein. “It actually makes sex more pleasurable because you worry less about pregnancy and disease once you use it. Birth control isn’t for dorks. It’s a part of sex.” 

The other thing we were curious about was orgasms. What are orgasms? Does everyone have them? How do they feel? 

Orgasm, Goldfarb explains, is the way your body responds to being sexually excited. When orgasms happen, your body gets tense. Muscles in the genital area contract to release that tension. And it feels good. 

Some people say orgasms feel like a slow build-up with an intense—or peak—moment of excitement. Others say their entire body tingles. Everybody feels different. 


Gender Differences

Men and women usually have orgasms in different ways and at different times. (The simultaneous orgasms you see in the movies seem swell, but it hardly ever happens that way). Men usually have orgasms during sexual intercourse, while many women don’t. Most women need direct touching (stimulation) of their clitoris to have an orgasm, Goldfarb explains. Some women have a difficult time reaching orgasm—it either takes a long time or just doesn’t happen at all. (Both men and women can have sex without having orgasms.) Usually, men ejaculate when they have an orgasm. Many women don’t, although some say they do.

So, are orgasms the best thing about sex? Not always.

“Some orgasms feel like the Fourth of July with a big explosion and fireworks,’’ Klein says. “Others are like Labor Day. You work real hard, and by the time it happens it’s hardly even worth the trouble. And others are like Arbor Day—kind of boring.”

So here’s the most important thing we learned. Sex can be an important part of a relationship, but it’s not the most important thing. You can have a close, romantic relationship without sex. Even though the media make it seem like sex is all teens think about, surveys show it’s not. Most important are school, friends, work and hobbies.

There’s no reason for sex to be such a mystery. Look for an adult who is willing to answer your questions. (It might be embarrassing, but it’s way better than making your own mistakes). If you can’t find an adult to talk to, check out the library. There are plenty of good, honest books that can help you understand the mysteries of sex.