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Should I tell potential partners that I am inexperienced?

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StellaCadente asks:

I am 19 years old and a junior in college. I've never been kissed or had any sort of sexual experience other than masturbation. I know the time will come, someday, for me to start dating someone, and the odds are that this someone will be 19 or older and have a lot more experience than me. Neither my virginity or the other's experience is an issue for me, really, what is an issue is how I would be treated if I were to admit my lack of experience. I'm afraid I will stop being seen as desirable if they find out they are the first to ever want to kiss me (which is not necessarily true but is what one assumes). Even if they still find me desirable, I'm afraid I'll be treated like an immature person only because I haven't had that sort of experience... I want to believe that my life, so far, has been worth living, even if it didn't include smooching, and that I've grown as a person even lacking kisses. But I am afraid the person I trust with my first kiss won't think the same as I do and I'll be given a hard time for this. In short, should I talk about my lack of experience with future sexual partners?

Jenna replies:

I just want to start off by saying that you seem to be a self-aware and secure person in your sexuality, from the limited information that you included. Many people who are concerned with their lack of sexual experience have feelings of insecurity. That insecurity is more often what tends to be the bigger issue when becoming intimate with a partner, not the lack of experience itself.

That being said, I understand where your concern is coming from. This is an issue that tends to come up again and again, regardless of how much experience you have. Many people find themselves in the "How much information about my past should I disclose to my new partner?" conundrum.

There really is no right or wrong amount of information you should share, but we have some resources that might help you decide.

You're Not Alone

You might feel like your future sexual partner will have more sexual experience than you, but that isn't necessarily the case. Of course it is possible, but plenty of people do not become sexually active until their 20s, or later. Many people have the idea that everyone becomes sexually active before high school ends, but the kissing, manual, oral, penetrative sex, etc.) is a really personal decision, and the right time for one person is not necessarily the right time for someone else. Lacking or having sexual experience is no different than lacking or having any other type of experience. We are always constantly learning new things and gaining new skills and knowledge throughout our lives, and there is always more to look forward to, regardless of who you are and how much general life experience that you have.

You're expressing contentment with your own lack of experience, but if some different perspectives on inexperience or first-times -- what a lot of people call virginity --w ould be helpful to you, check out some of the articles at the bottom of this page. Many people have a lot of unfounded beliefs about virginity and what an individual's level of experience means about how they will be as a sexual partner. Understanding what some of those myths and misconceptions are might also help you discuss your own lack of experience while understanding what assumptions or biases someone else might be bringing to the

Some recent research that might be reassuring to you is this: More teens than ever are waiting to have sex. That means that while a lot of teens and young adults are sexually active, more are either deciding to wait, or lack opportunities to engage in sex earlier in their teens. There is nothing wrong with either scenario, provided you are happy and feel good about your decision, but I think that might be something to keep in mind as you meet new potential partners.

Feeling comfortable with yourself and your decision of when to become sexually active or intimate with another person is a great benefit when someone is in a relationship. Most people have their own personal insecurities, and often turn to a partner to make themselves feel better. One cannot always look to a partner for reassurance continually, and that also applies to reassurance about one's level of sexual experience. A healthy relationship involves a fair bit of self-reliance. I am happy for you and your self-confidence. If you can exude that with another person as well as you can with yourself, then you will have something that plenty of people are still lacking in their own lives.

Does It Really Matter?

So does it really matter whether you have any type of sexual experience? Depending on who you talk to, you might hear different opinions, but I don't think it matters at all. Everybody has different preferences when it comes to how they like to kiss or touch or do anything sexual. What works for one person won't necessarily work for another. Someone might be extremely experienced, but that won't make a difference if their kissing style doesn't reflect what their partner likes. Additionally, someone who might have had several sexual partners or has been sexually active for years might not feel "experienced," but others might think of them that way. How you feel about yourself and your own experience does not always match up with how people interpret your it.

Managing Vulnerability & Sexual Insecurity expands on this idea that your sexual experience does not dictate your skill or success as a lover. What will speak volumes is your ability to communicate with a partner about what you do or do not want (which your current experience with masturbation may well be able to help you identify), as well as your interest in finding out what your partner does or does not want.

You do not need to already be in a sexual relationship to find out what your partner likes. Talking about kissing styles, sexual preferences, and anything else that you might want to know once you and a potential partner become physical can be a fun, flirtatious conversation. Be a Blabbermouth! The Whys, Whats and Hows of Talking About Sex With a Partner is a good resource to find out how to start any type of sexual conversation.

On the flip side, there are people out there who either prefer if their partner is less experienced, or does not want to know about their partner's sexual history. This could be for a variety of reasons, many of which center around jealousy. At the end of the day, what your level of past experience is should not be interpreted as something positive or negative by a potential partner. It is just one aspect of the entire package (you), and doesn't affect your current or future relationships.

To Tell, or Not To Tell?

Unfortunately I cannot tell you whether you should explain to a potential partner that you have not had any sexual experience before. Your lack of sexual experience is just one part of you, and doesn't need to be treated as a secret or as something you need to decide whether to "reveal" to a future partner. However, if this is still something that is on your mind, there are also a few questions that you can ask yourself that might be helpful:

  • What would make you feel more comfortable in a romantic partnership? Having the other person know about your inexperience, or having them not know?
  • How would you feel if you told a potential partner that you are inexperienced and they were no longer interested?
  • Would you want to be in a relationship with someone that only wants to be with a partner with sexual experience?
  • How would you feel if you decided to not disclose your sexual history, but ended up in a serious relationship with your partner and they assumed that you had both been completely honest all along?

These questions are just some things to think about. As I said above, there is no right or wrong answer to your question. I do think that if you decide to share your lack of experience with someone and they react negatively, it says far more about the other person than about you. If someone judges you or interprets your lack of experience as a representation of your maturity, that potentially means that they are not taking the time to fully get to know you. Also keep in mind that if you decide to not disclose your sexual history, you can always change your mind and have that conversation at a later time.

If You Decide To Talk About It

If you do decide to talk about your level of sexual experience, Be a Blabbermouth! The Whys, Whats and Hows of Talking About Sex With a Partner is a great place to prepare. Talking about sex can be just like talking about anything else, but many people tend to feel more emotional or get more fired up when having conversations about sex with a current or potential sexual partner.

If you find yourself in a position to where you feel like discussing your lack of experience, there are some general tips you might want to keep in mind:

  • Have the conversation in a neutral location (i.e. not in bed, or in the middle of a makeout session).
  • It's okay if it's uncomfortable or your partner doesn't know what to say. There's nothing wrong with awkward pauses. That doesn't mean it will be awkward, but if it is, don't worry about it.
  • Be optimistic! Expect the best from your conversation. If you go into a discussion expecting your partner to fulfill all of your fears that you explained, then it's possible your partner might sense that.
  • Be confident. As I stated above, your confidence came across in your question, and security and confidence are great qualities in any relationship. Expressing your sense of security will likely help to negate some concerns that you have, and your partner will be able to see how happy you are with yourself.

There are several other tips to have a conversation about sex with a partner, but this is just a start. Even if you choose to not talk about your sexual experience, being able to talk about sex with a partner in the future is an extremely important aspect of being in a sexual relationship. Having good communication skills will always come in handy!

As you can probably conclude, this is a personal decision that only you can make. As you get to know someone and learn more about each other, it might not even feel like a decision that you need to make, but might feel like a natural conversation (or lack thereof), and you might not need to give it much thought. As I said above, your sexual (and other life) experience is just one part of you, and does not need to be treated as a secret or something to hide or reveal. However, I am glad that you are thinking about it now, and taking the time to assess your feelings. Continue to check in with yourself and how you feel, and know that the best thing you can do for yourself is feel confident and happy!

More Reading on Virginity and Communication

written 23 Nov 2012 . updated 22 Jan 2014

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* I'm female-identified: I usually communicate what I want, like and don't want/like sexually. * I'm female-identified: I sometimes communicate what I want, like and don't want/...

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