So many questions... so many answers.

Okay, here I go. I am 19 years old, and lost my v-card last September. I am new at this thing called sex. I have so many questions that I am scared to ask... my parents would freak out if they even knew that I have had sex. so I am turning to you for advice. I hope that I do this right, and that you can answer my questions. • Is it supposed to hurt? I do not enjoy sex at all... is it because I am messed up? I have been having sex for over a year, and I have not had an orgasm or anything close to it. I don't know what I am doing wrong. It is getting to the point where i refuse to do it. it is not like i want to know how to get an orgasm, it is just that everytime i have sex i hurt. i don't know.... • Why are my periods very very irregular? At times I have gone 3 months without having it. I have not had mine since the beginning of July and it is the 6th of October. • How can I tell if I get pregnant if my period is irregular? I have unprotected sex. I am not going to lie, the condom hurts me more than without it. My BF pulls out a few sec before he... you know.... Anyway, how do I tell if he pre-ejaculates? I don't want to be pregnant. I don't want to waste $20 every time i get a scare for a test. Yes,the best way to stop these scares is not have sex period. These are loaded questions and I really do not know how to word these properly, so if there is anything you can help me with I would so greatly appreciate it. Thank you!
Heather Corinna replies:

It's so tragic that anyone is afraid to ask questions about something so important, but it's an unfortunate reality for a lot of people. Just know that this isn't a place where you need to be scared to ask anything, okay? This is what we're here for!

Is intercourse supposed to hurt? No, intercourse isn't supposed to hurt. It's supposed to be pleasurable for both partners and be something both partners do only when that's what BOTH want and when it feels good for both.

It's not atypical for it to feel less than great the first few times, especially if you're nervous or worried, feeling extra anxiety from taking risks you don't want to or needless risks, if you have any hymenal issues getting in the way, or a less-than-considerate partner. But after those first couple of times, it should only feel good most of the time. I say most because with any sexual activity, something that usually feels good might not now and then, for a whole host of reasons: we're just not in the mood, we're ill, we're having relationship issues, we're feeling too sensitive for a given activity, the works.

There's also nothing messed up about women (or people of any gender) not enjoying intercourse all by itself, or full-stop. The majority of people with vaginas do NOT reach orgasm via intercourse alone, primarily because it doesn't tend to stimulate our most sensitive bits, or give us the sort of direct stimulus that tends to work better for most people with vaginas. In fact, for most people, of all genders, for sex to be satisfying, it's got to be about more than one activity: when a person's sex life is just nothing but intercourse, very, very few people will find that particularly satisfying or even all that interesting.

Obviously too, as is the case with any kind of sex, if there is something about the sexual dynamic at hand when you're having intercourse that isn't good for you -- such as a partner just hammering away when you're asking him to move more slowly, or the rest of your body being ignored, for example -- then it's also less likely to be satisfying.

If you're not feeling even close to orgasm when it comes to any kind of sex with your partner, are you talking about this? if not, you really need to pipe up. Satisfying partnered sex requires open, honest communication. Sure, every now and then we'll get lucky and things will just fall into place, but even for those times, that more commonly happens with a partner we've had for a while and have already communicated a lot with than with someone to whom we've never said word one to about what feels good for us, what activities we like best, where we're most sensitive, and what we need.

As well, you say it's not like you want to know how to reach orgasm, but you know, I don't know why you wouldn't! There's certainly nothing wrong with wanting to reach orgasm, or for wanting something that's all about feeling good to feel good! I'm sure your partner is invested in his own sexual pleasure and orgasm: there's no reason why you shouldn't be just as invested in yours.

Have a look at a few of these articles. They talk in-depth about painful intercourse and why it isn't always pleasurable, particularly for women, explain more about your genital anatomy and sexual response, and also give you some tips of how to improave upon all of this.

Why are your periods irregular? Given your age, you've probably been menstruating for more than five years. If that isn't the case, it often just takes a few years for cycles to regulate. But if you have been menstruating for five years or longer and are skipping periods for months at a time, it's time to check in with your general doctor or, better still, with your gynecologist about this. It might be due to somethings like being too low body weight or disordered eating, over-exercise, or due to hormonal imbalances, amongst other things. Of course, at this point, it could also now be due to being pregnant, given you have taken high risks of pregnancy.

Since it's clear you are pretty in-the-closet about being sexually active, you might not be seeing an OB/GYN or sexual healthcare provider yet, but I can't say enough about how important it is that you start that care, and get it yearly, especially once you become sexually active -- sexually active people need STI screenings each year, and sexually active women need yearly pap smears -- and all the more so because you've been having unsafe sex. You can get that care from a private OB/GYN, or from a sexual healthcare or women's clinic. If you don't even know where to start looking, just open up your local phone book, or ask another female friend where she gets her sexual/reproductive healthcare. You can also ask your general doctor if he or she can provide you that care, as many can and do.

How can you tell if you're pregnant without regular periods? Sparing a pregnancy test -- or being pregnant for long enough that it becomes obvious -- you can't. But withdrawal is not a reliable birth control method (take it from someone whose parents thought so, too), so at some point, if you keep this up, you are likely to beome pregnant. And you can't tell when a partner is pre-ejaculating during intercourse: they can't tell either. It's not something someone can feel, especially when you consider how wet intercourse feels for men already, and the fact that the back of the vagina has no sensory nerve endings for you to feel anything so subtle as a vague fluid.

Since you have gone three months without a period, and have been having unprotected sex, I'd strongly encourage you to take a pregnancy test now. You can also get a pregnancy test from a sexual healthcare provider when you go in for your exam, STI testing, and to find out what's up with your periods.

If the condoms are hurting, that's because you're either not using them right, not using the right condom, and/or because you're trying to have intercourse before you're aroused, or after you're not aroused anymore.

Condoms shouldn't hurt women (or anyone). But they can feel not-so-great if you're not using them with PLENTY of extra-latex safe lubricant, for instance, and going without that lube also increases the risk of condoms breaking. Even if you're using lubricated condoms, the lube on those isn't close to enough for really comfortable use, and it's also typical to need to add a little more lube if intercourse goes on for a while.

If you find that even with lube, condoms still make you feel raw or sore, then you may be latex-allergic or latex-sensitive. In that case, you just need to switch to polyurethane (non-latex) condoms. Two of the most common brands of those are the Durex Avanti and the internal ("female") condom, and you can get either of them at most pharmacies or wherever you purchase latex condoms (if you're in the U.S. you do currently need a prescription to buy the internal condom).

If even then it's not feeling good for you -- and if you find, as you're expressing, that even without condoms intercourse is hurting or isn't feeling good -- then it's pretty likely, and I suspect this is the case, that you're having intercourse without adding other sexual activities to make it feel good for you, or when you don't really want it, or for longer periods of time than you want it. And all of those reasons are reasons not to have intercourse at all: not reasons to have unprotected intercourse.

For sure, as you said, the very best way to stop these scares is to stop having sex. However, reliable birth control and safer sex really is reliable, and if you like having sex (and that is an if: if you don't, THAT is the best reason of all to stop having sex), you can be sexually active and protect yourself against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, simply by using condoms. And you can use condoms in a way where you, especially, don't feel any difference between using one and not, at all, when you use them properly. But you've just got to commit to that, as does your partner, and if one or both of you can't, then you really should stop having sex until you can work that out. if you don't want to become pregnant, then you have two choices: you either do not have sex where you can become pregnant, or you start using reliable birth control -- like condoms -- every single time, without fail.

Here's some instructions on how to use a condom: I'm willing to bet you'll see some items there you haven't been doing: Condom Basics: A User's Manual.

And here's our sex readiness checklist: Ready or Not? The Scarleteen Sex Readiness Checklist. I think it might be a good idea for you to take a look, and see if having intercourse or other sex really is the right thing for you right now. Please understand that sex isn't something any of us are ready for once, and then ever-ready. There are often times in our lives when, say, we can't get the healthcare we need to make it safe for us to be sexually active, or when we just don't want to deal with the risks of sex. Someone who was ready in one scenario, or at one time, at 17, may, at another time or in a different situation at the age of 45, not be ready then.

Please also know that if you've more questions, it's always okay to come back and ask them.

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