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Did my previous masturbation de-virginize me?

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yesman asks:

I am 15 and when I was 14 I started becoming very interested in masturbating. I actually used objects and penetrated them inside my vagina. After a while i realized how stupid I was being so I stopped with the masturbating. I've been dating my boyfriend for about 4 months and we are so comfortable with each other. He makes comments as a joke about vagina tightness and how I'll bleed when I have sex at first and it will hurt. But the thing is I have basically de-virgined myself. Will the guy who I lose my virginity to notice that having sex for the first time with me will be easy to get in and everything? I really regret masturbating and everything. This may sound stupid but I'm very worried.

Heather Corinna replies:

Virginity is not something physical or medical. It's a cultural idea, one which many people have different definitions of and opinions about, and one that not everyone even subscribes to in the first place. The idea that vaginas can be permanently loosened is a myth, and one we have addressed over and over and over again here. You can find out all about that at any of those links I included.

Any change to your vulva, if there was any change at all, which the insertion of objects made -- if any -- very well could have happened organically without that. The vagina is not a static thing. Much like your mouth or throat, it's a stretchy, tubular muscle, one which sits closed when nothing is in it, then expands to hold what is inside of it. When you remove whatever that something is, it goes back to the same closed shape it was before very quickly. That'd be why, if you look at tampons, you'll notice that the difference between sizes is very small...and yet, women of all ages, from women who have had no sex to women who have had daily intercourse for years, women who have had no kids to women who have had five, do not have tampons just falling out of their vaginas because they "got loose." Vaginal muscles are strong and active, and while sometimes childbirth can create some changes -- and that's a very different thing than a vibrator or a penis -- even those changes are often temporary or subtle.

The one change we might see with insertion -- which could also include tampon or menstrual cup use for some women -- is changes to the hymen. Inserting things into the vagina is one of the things that can contribute to the gradual wearing-away of the hymen. But that happens with other things as well, like via menstrual flow and other vaginal discharges, hormonal changes as you mature and basic physical activity.

In other words, whatever state your hymen is in may or may not be different than before you masturbated. Whatever state your hymen is in could be the exact same state as that of a woman who has never had ANY vaginal insertion OR that of a woman who has had intercourse a bunch of times. Neither we, nor sexual partners, can tell anything about a woman's sexual history based on how her vulva looks or feels.

A boyfriend joking about vaginal tightness, telling you how you're going to bleed and how first-time sex will hurt sounds a whole lot to me like a partner lacking the maturity to BE a sexual partner, or even someone to talk about these kinds of things with. For all of the obvious reasons -- including having to live with the ignorance of so many people about it -- vaginal "tightness" is often as sensitive an issue for heterosexual women as penis size is for men of all orientations. Ten bucks says everything would stop being so funny to him if you responded with similar jokes about his penis size (which I am not at all suggesting, mind you: we all deserve to be treated with respect and sensitivity about this stuff).

Not all women bleed with first intercourse, nor do all women experience pain, and that includes women who have not masturbated or had ANY other kind of vaginal entry before.

Here are some things that tend to commonly cause pain or bleeding with intercourse:

  • A lack of adequate lubrication
  • A lack of enough sexual arousal, and/or sexual activities which bring about and increase arousal for women (hint: for most women, that's not intercourse)
  • Vaginal infections or vaginal health conditions like vulvodynia or vaginismus
  • A resilient hymen (one which has not worn away on its own enough yet, or which just isn't eroding by itself, period)
  • Nervousness, fearfulness or anxiety
  • Relationships is which a woman does not feel safe, or where she feels conflicted about sex or is forced, coerced or rushed into sex
  • A partner who is not paying as much attention to his partner and what she needs as what feels good to him, or who is too hasty or too rough
  • The expectation that sex will be painful

Note how last on the list there -- though for plenty of women who experience pain with sex, that is often a BIG part of it -- are expectations of pain. A guy telling a woman to expect to be hurt seriously isn't cool in my book. Rather, what he COULD do is a) some homework so he's less ignorant about all of this, and b) be talking with you, taking his time with any kind of sex with you to do all he can to minimize any pain or discomfort you might experience. However, it stands to mention that if you're both really young, he may be talking the way he is, saying the things he is, because he's just not ready to be sexual with someone else yet.

When it comes to vaginal entry, ideally it should not be very difficult for someone to "get in," because at the time that's attempted it should be enough of what you both want and are ready for that the vagina will loosen due to your being aroused and relaxed. When intercourse is something you want as much as they do, something you feel pretty relaxed about (even though that might be balanced with some nerves and some excitement), something that's only happening after you're already very aroused, often with the help of other non-entry sexual activities first and during, because you're with a partner of some maturity and sensitivity who is doing all he can to make you comfortable, while some women may have some momentary discomfort, it should be more pleasure than pain. And those are the things that tend to make entry easy or not-so, pleasurable or not for women.

Now, it won't be the case for all women that it's easy or painless with first intercourse, or any incident of intercourse at any time. Some women will or do experience pain or discomfort with intercourse, the first time or the 201st. That's not ideal -- and if someone presents battering their way into a vagina as ideal, that's pretty creepy, in my book -- but it does happen sometimes. But hopefully, a woman's partner isn't glorifying that, but doing what he can, within his power, to avoid that, and deal with it with sensitivity and care if it does happen that way. In a whole lot of ways, the idea of pushing yourself into someone's vagina that isn't yielding to that is a lot like the notion of forcing your way into someone's locked front door.

I'm worried to hear you express that you regret masturbation and feel stupid about it, particularly since that seems to be based not in a lack of that having been enjoyable for you, but in the idea that your own solo sex life is going to have some sort of ill effect when it comes to sex with a partner. Do you think your boyfriend feels that way about his own masturbation? Probably not, and I think it's worth having a think on why you do feel that way, but he likely doesn't. In general, any two people who masturbate are usually helped by their masturbation in sex together, not harmed. It seems to me it probably has an awful lot to do with things like both of you not understanding the reality of your genitals and sexuality, one or both of you thinking that it's GOOD or important for you to experience pain or bleeding with sex, either one of you having double-standards about masturbation, and/or with your reaction to his ignorance and immaturity about vaginas.

The good news is that all of those things are fixable, and that whether or not you had masturbated, for you to have your best shot at a sexuality of your own you feel good about, and healthy, happy sex with partners, those things will probably need to be addressed and worked through, alone and together.

What I'd suggest first is giving yourself some good education on these issues, so that one of you can start with a full deck when it comes to accurate information. Here are some pieces I'd suggest:

I'd pay particular attention to that readiness checklist, since it sounds like your concerns about all of this are strong enough that that may be due to feeling like you two may become sexually active soon, and beyond the couple things on it I can tell you don't have yet, I would bet there are a bunch more, as well.

Then I think it's time to take that info on the road and have a talk with your boyfriend. Fill him in on some of these facts, either by telling him yourself, or even printing some of those out for him to read. Talk about how this juvenile crap (though I'd suggest choosing less loaded words to describe it to him than those) with the tightness not only isn't funny, it's not how you expect a potential sexual partner to talk about your body. Tell him about why and how pain or bleeding can tend to happen, but I'd then also suggest that when you two talk about possible sex in the future, you drop all the talk about pain and talk more about pleasure.

One another thing I think would be great to bring up if you are serious about this person as a current or potential sex partner is how you are feeling about masturbation, and the worries you have had about how it may have impacted your body, even though with this new information, you should feel pretty comfortable in knowing those worries were unfounded.

I'd say that it's perhaps a good idea to recognize that if someone can't talk about sex without making a ton of har-de-har-har, they probably are NOT so comfortable. You say you're really comfortable with each other, but it sounds to me like, in this area, anyway, you actually have a little ways to go before you're there. When we're really comfortable with someone else in terms of sex, we can voice these kinds of concerns -- like yours about masturbation -- openly, feel confident we are not going to be made fun of, and not feel like we have to posture or tolerate insensitivity. You two also do not have to be talking about sex at all: if one or both of you isn't ready for those kinds of conversations, or the way they're being had just isn't with sensitivity, it's totally valid to say that you don't want to talk about sex with a given person anymore. I'd just add, though, that if you can't talk about sex with someone, it also doesn't tend to be a good idea to have sex with that someone, either.

Lastly, I want to add that I hope you can walk away from this allowing yourself to make whatever choices you do around masturbation based on what feels good to you and right for you, all by yourself, rather than based on fears of what a potential partner will think, or myths about what masturbation can do to your body.

Most people -- including women, and including people in sexual partnerships with others -- masturbate. There's nothing stupid about it: it's not only the way many people learn best what they like, for themselves, a way many people ease into their own sexuality comfortably, and the way most people reach orgasm for the first time, it also can offer a host of other positives. It can be a way to have sex for yourself when you really only want sex for yourself, not to share something with another person where you need to consider them as much as you. It can help relieve stress and menstrual cramps. It can make you feel more comfortable with your body (especially when you no longer think it's somehow ruining your body for future sex partners).

There's nothing wrong with not masturbating, though, if you feel like it doesn't offer you anything or you don't feel right anymore doing it. It just tends to be best to make our choices around this and other kinds of sex from a place that's all about what's right for us, not about what someone else might think.

written 10 Feb 2009 . updated 22 Jan 2014

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