There is no age at which you ‘should’ begin having sex; the important part of this decision is that you have thought about it, and that it feels right to you. The law in Canada does outline ages of consent, which specify how old a person has to be to consent to sex in several specific situations. Learn more about the age of consent in our frequently asked questions section. You should never feel pressured to have sex because someone else wants you to. Thinking about what you want and what feels good to you is discussed in learning about your sexual self.

Deciding to Have Sex

Here are some things that should be true BEFORE you have sex. These are important whether or not you’ve had sex before.

  • I’ve thought about it outside of the ‘heat of the moment’ and decided I’m ready
  • I’ve talked to my partner about my feelings and his/hers; we both feel ready
  • my partner and I have decided on a way to protect ourselves from infection (and pregnancy if that is an unwanted risk for you); we know how to use it
  • my partner and I have talked about the risks of sexually transmitted infections (and pregnancy if that is an unwanted risk for you); we could cope with it if it happened
  • I’ve thought about my relationship with my partner; our relationship has the level of trust and commitment I need to feel good about sex
  • I feel I could say no to my partner if I wanted to
  • I feel comfortable with this decision; I don’t have nagging doubts that I can’t explain

If you’ve talked to your partner and all of these statements seem true to both of you, you may be ready to have sex. Or you may think about all these things and decide it is not the right time. Either way is OK.

Having intercourse for the first time

Some heterosexual couples practice ‘outercourse’ for a while, to get comfortable with each other and with the idea of being intimate. Outercourse means sexual play that does not involve putting the man’s penis in the woman’s vagina. It includes hugging and kissing, as well as massaging and stimulating one another’s body and genitals with your hands or mouth. Outercourse has a lower risk for pregnancy and infection than intercourse.

The first time you have intercourse is not likely to be the best time. Don’t expect too much. Many women find it painful or at least uncomfortable the first time they have intercourse. This is normal. If it is uncomfortable, have your partner back off for a while and try again later or even on another day when you’ve both had a chance to relax. Wait until you are well lubricated before you try again. You may want to buy a water-based lubricant to make it easier, especially if you are using condoms for protection.

Sometimes a man may ejaculate before penetration is complete (or satisfying!) This is very common especially for teenagers. Don’t worry. You can try again. If the ground doesn’t move for you on the first night, there will be other opportunities. Talk to your partner about what makes you feel good.

For some couples it just doesn’t work in the beginning. Your vagina may seem too tight and your partner may ejaculate or lose his erection before he can get inside. Don’t put too much pressure on yourselves. Getting upset is likely to make you more tense and exaggerate the problem.

One solution is to not try to have intercourse the next few times you are intimate with your partner. Instead, encourage him to put his fingers in your vagina. This may help stretch the vagina and will let you get comfortable with having something inside you. When you are ready to try again, use lots of lubricant to help ease the penis into the vagina.

If you continue to have problems, talk to your doctor or to the people at the clinic where you get your birth control. They may be able to help or at least reassure you that nothing is wrong.

Talk to your partner. He needs to know what you are feeling. He may also be feeling insecure if your sex life isn’t everything you both hoped for. Satisfying sex may take patience and encouragement, but couples that are attentive to each other’s pleasure can usually work it out with time.