Sex & Relationships

Let's Talk About First Times: An Alternative Look at Sexual Milestones

From having sex in the correct gender to getting intimate after an abortion, we talked to 10 women about first times that, for them, were more significant than losing their virginity

first time sex: A collage with body parts

(Art: Leo Tapel)

Maybe you tiptoed up to your first time. Maybe you barrelled straight past it. You might have been red-cheeked with excitement or white-knuckled with terror; you could’ve stage-managed the whole thing, from playlist to lighting, or preferred to just get it over with. There are as many ways to feel about your own first time as there are teen movies about someone else’s first time (so: a hell of a lot). But there is zero confusion about what that first time refers to. Losing your virginity is one of those events that splits life into a before and an after.

Come on, though: it’s hardly the only important sexual first a woman will have. Society has expanded the conversation around many aspects of sex and sexuality—from Facebook’s 71 gender options to all the variations on non-monogamy to the rise of enthusiastic consent—and yet we’re still stuck on this single, heteronormative idea of a first time. FLARE wanted to change that. So we decided to look into a whole bunch of experiences that, put together, offered a broader picture of sex, sexuality, and significant firsts.

Women told us about the first time they had sex after giving birth, after getting an abortion, after surgery, after assault. We talked about having sex sober, having sex solo, having sex in the right gender and having sex with the right gender. We heard about sex after a relationship opened up and sex after a marriage fell apart. This is in no way a definitive list—it’s almost like there are as many sexual firsts as there are virginity-obsessed teen movies. But let’s call it a start.

Read these firsts:

The First Time I Had Sex After Getting Sober
The First Time I Had Sex in My Correct Gender
The First Time I Had Sex After Opening Up My Relationship
The First Time I Had Sex After Giving Birth
The First Time I Had Sex After Being Assaulted
The First Time I Had Sex with Myself
The First Time I Had Sex After Major Surgery
The First Time I Had Sex After Coming Out
The First Time I Had Sex After an Abortion
The First Time I Had Sex After My Marriage Ended