1. No one actually cares if you're still a virgin.
Yes, it seems like all anyone talks about is sex ...and like all your friends are doing it... and like the plot of 8 million movies involves Losing It. But trust us: You are not the last untouched human on earth. Not even close. It only feels that way sometimes because your virginity matters more to you than it does to anyone else. And that is an excellent reason to wait for the positive experience you deserve, full of mutual deep-feels and next-level respect. That person won't care about how much you've hooked up. They'll just be psyched to get to share it with you!
2. Losing your virginity doesn't mean exactly what you think it means.
You've maybe got this equation in your head: Penis → Vagina = Virginity Lost. But what if you're into girls, not guys? Does that mean you are you an eternal virgin? (Of course not! That's completely ridic.) "Other activities, like oral sex, can be even more intimate than sexual intercourse—and also carry the risk of STDs," says Kris Gowen, a sex educator and author of Making Sexual Decisions. "Any time you're intimate with someone, it's going to impact you." So don't put too much on the technicality of just one act, and instead think of ~Losing It~ as a progression. Then you'll be prepared to handle all of the big responsibilities (Am I being safe?) and crazy-complex emotions (Did he/she really just see me totally naked?!) that come with each step.
3. Your cherry doesn't pop.
Seriously! The hymen is majorly misunderstood. So if you're picturing something sealing off your vagina like cling wrap, know that's just not the case. At all.. "The hymen consists of thin folds of stretchy tissue that are just inside the vaginal opening," explains Michelle Horejs, associate director of youth education and training at Planned Parenthood Los Angeles. "It may tear or stretch the first time you have sex—causing some discomfort or a little bleeding—but it's not something you can break or that disappears once you have sex." (Chances are, you already tore it a bit on your bike or the balance beam, or just by being an active human. NBD, because your hymen is just a part of your body. It has nothing to do with whether or not you're a virgin.)
4. But it could hurt a little.
Before you freak, let us explain. To prep for sex (we're mostly talking penis-vagina intercourse here), your body needs a warm-up phase of kissing, touching, etc. That's when a guy gets his erection and also when your vagina lubricates to prepare your body for sex (because no lubrication = friction = pain).
But the tricky part is that nerves can interfere with this arousal process, and you and your partner could get aroused at different speeds. "Guys are like microwaves and girls are slow cookers," explains Stardell Smith, a health educator at Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center in New York City. (LOL!) You can use your fingers to check if you're ready down there. And if not: Slow. Him. Down.
5. Your virginity is not a gift.
Perhaps the most confuzzling question you will ever face in your life is: Am I ready to have sex? And it's extra complicated when you're in a relationship (or, you know, a sorta-kinda-maybe relationship) and start to feel like there are expectations on the other end. But just remember that you never owe someone sex, no matter how nice he is, or much he spent on concert tix, or that it's your whatever-month anniversary or someone's birthday or anything else. Yes, we know. You're looking for a heavenly sign that it's time. But the truth is, that sign won't come from anyone else...it has to come from you.
6. Losing it takes a lot of planning.
Or at least...it should. And we're not talking lighting candles, cueing up a special sexy-time playlist, and sprinkling a bed with rose petals. Nope, nope. See, with sex comes ginormous responsibility: Am I on birth control? Who's going to get the condoms? And where/when can we find a private space and time to get it on? If you're seriously considering taking the next step, you've got to be seriously ready to answer these Qs and understand that sex can bring life-changing consequences, like pregnancy or an STD you'll have for the rest of your life. It's not just spontaneous magic, like in the movies. But knowing you were adult enough to do it right will feel way more special in the long run.
7. You are going to feel like the newb-iest of newbs.
And guess what? You should just embrace it, because no one would expect you to nail a brand new dance routine or stand up your first time surfing. The truth is, even if it's not your partner's first time, it's their first time with you. No doubt, you're both feeling a little nervous. So rather than obsess silently (Am I doing this right? Is this good? Help?!), be honest about your experience level up front, and straight-up ask what he/she likes throughout. "Whether it's your first time or your 100th time, communication and comfort are key," says Horejs.
8. You might think: This totally sucks.
Beforehand, your brain was all fireworks-worthy fantasies. In reality, though, sex—that first time—may be more like: That's all?! Really?! In fact, you might want it to be over the second it starts and that's 100 percent normal. "Sex takes place mentally as well as physically," explains Smith. "So if you feel tense or are scared, which most people do feel their first time, it can be really difficult to enjoy your experience." When you grow more comfortable, however, you'll feel more at ease—both with the act itself and your partner. (Then you'll start to see ðŸ’¥ðŸ’¥ðŸ’¥).
9. Afterward, your relationship can get weird-ish.
Real talk: Losing your virginity can bring you and your bae closer. But what no one really talks about is how it can also test your bond in crazy ways. A late period, a questionable bump down there—shit can get serious very fast, and those uncertainties can poke holes in your connection. So before you make the decision to hook up (any time! Not just the first time), always ask yourself: Is our relationship strong enough to withstand the worst-case scenarios? Can I trust this girl/dude to treat me with total respect afterward? This is a big decision, and you'll need the ultimate gut-check. Also, don't kid yourself into thinking that sex will turn a casual hookup into a relationship. The only thing that leads to a relationship is caring deeply about each other, and that doesn't have anything to do with when you lose your virginity.
10. You can lose it again. And again. And again.
Yes, that sounds impossible, but stick with me here. Because if you have had sex once (or twice) and it's not the experience you had hoped for, you can take what you've learned about what you want and—get this—wait for it. "Having sex once does not open up the floodgates," says Gowen. "You always have the right to pull back and say no." In fact, being a born-again virgin can be totally empowering. It gives you the chance to hold out for whatever was missing the first time—whether that was true love…or just a real bed. (You deserve both! XOXO)
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.