Dear Alice,

Although I have experimented a bit with oral sex, I still consider myself a virgin since I haven't had intercourse. My question is, when I eventually do have sex, how important is it that I tell my partner beforehand (or, for that matter, ever) that it is my first time? I'm neither ashamed nor proud of my virginity — it's more just a matter of circumstance. Even so, I am not exactly sure how to say it and I don't want to make my partner uncomfortable. For my own sake, I don't personally feel a need to let him know, but I wonder if it is being dishonest by withholding this information?


Dear Unsure,

Choosing what to tell a new potential sexual partner may be a tough decision indeed. Not to volunteer information about your sexual history is not inherently dishonest and it is entirely up to you what to share and what to keep private. But not revealing can be a tricky business, depending on the reasons you two are having these conversations and whether or not you intend to have sex with this person. For example, suppose your partner asks you directly about your past sexual experiences? Being able to have those discussions honestly and openly may be ideal for a few reasons.

Many people feel that having a sense of their partner's sexual history is worthwhile prior to having sex. Discussing things such as birth control, pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, preferred forms of protection, as well as general likes and dislikes in the sack, may be useful. Even if you do not want to discuss your sexual past, you may wish to communicate whether or not you have engaged in safe sexual activity in the past. You may want to have this same information from your partner.

You also indicated that you are not sure how to tell a partner and that you are afraid of making her or him uncomfortable. If you decide to tell a partner about your virginity, it may make sense to have that conversation in the context of a more general discussion about both of your sexual histories and what you are both wanting out of a sexual relationship with the other. For example:

  • What type of protection (if any) have you used with prior sexual partners (if any)?
  • If you have had sex, have you been tested for STIs? If so when? (HIV may take up to six months to show up in a blood sample. Genital warts may take up to eight months to be detectable. For more information, read What STIs are 'testable' — and who is infected, anyway?
  • Have you ever had an STI?
  • If so, which one? What was the treatment?

These are history-related questions to ask your partner; questions that she or he may also ask of you. Below are some questions to ask yourself. And they may also be questions you'd like to ask a partner, as well.

  • Do I want to have sex with this person?
  • Do I feel ready to have sex?
  • What do I want out of a sexual relationship with this person? Mainly sex? Dating? Something more serious?
  • Am I feeling pressured to have sex?
  • If so, what is the source of the pressure? My partner? My friends? Myself?
  • What types of safer sex or birth control do I want to use?

Many consider the ability to have open discussions about sex with a partner as one sign of readiness to have sex. If you are worried about making your partner uncomfortable, try approaching the conversation with as much confidence as you can muster. After all, you have no shame about being a virgin. If a partner sees that you are at ease with your virginity, he or she is more likely to feel comfortable, as well.

Lastly, you indicated that you have been sexually active to some degree in the past. Whether or not you want to delve into the specifics of the matter with a partner is totally your choice. Remember though, activities such as oral sex, hand jobs, fingering, anal sex, and the use of toys all allow for the transmission of STIs. Discussion of the past with regards to health issues may be worth considering.

For more information on having those discussions, as well as the pros and cons of delving into the past, see some of the related questions.

Good luck,


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