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Should I tell partner I'm a virgin?

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?

Thanks, Unsure

Dear Unsure,  

Choosing what to tell a new potential sexual partner can be a tough decision. What you choose to disclose about your sexual history and experiences is up to you. However, before engaging in sexual activities, it’s wise to have a conversation with potential partner(s) about preferences and ways to reduce risks of sexually transmitted infection (STI) transmission and pregnancy (if that’s applicable). During these discussions, you may learn that you’ve each had experience with some sexual activities but not with others. Having these conversations not only helps you both be on the same page, but it could also be an indicator of how comfortable or ready you feel about having sex with this potential partner. Read on for some tips for how to get this conversation started.      

Before you decide to have sex with a new partner, you might consider the following questions:  

  • Do you want to have sex with this person?  
  • Do you feel ready to have sex?  
  • What kind of relationship do you want with this person? Mainly sex? Dating? Something more serious?  
  • Do you feel pressured to have sex? If so, what’s the source of this pressure? Your partner? Your friends? You?  
  • In what ways would you like to protect yourself and your partner during sex?  

Pondering these questions can help clarify your wants and needs and plan for a safer sexual experience. If you’re looking to learn more about how to reduce risk during sex, you could check out the Safer Sex category in the Go Ask Alice! Sexual and Reproductive Health archives or speak with a health promotion specialist. 

You indicated that you’ve been sexually active to some degree in the past. It’s good to keep in mind that activities such as oral sex, hand jobs, fingering, anal sex, and the use of toys all allow for the transmission of STIs. You may want get tested to make sure you aren’t unintentionally transmitting these diseases. Whether or not you want to share all the specifics of the matter with a partner is your choice, but you may feel more confident discussing your sexual history if you have as much information possible, including your STI status. Checking in with a campus health care provider or local clinic for testing may be a helpful step.  

If you do decide to tell a potential partner that you’ve never had penetrative sex before, it may be easier to have that conversation in the context of a general discussion about both of your sexual histories and expectations for the relationship. You may consider having the conversation outside the bedroom in a private space where you can both be comfortable enough to share your thoughts about sex and your relationship. Discussing matters such as preferred forms of protection, birth control and pregnancy (if that’s a concern), STIs, as well as general likes and dislikes in the bedroom may be useful. For example, you may ask your potential partner some of the following questions to start a dialogue:  

  • What type of protection (if any) have you used with prior sexual partners (if any)?  
  • If you’ve 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 months or years for symptoms to be visible.)  
  • Have you ever had an STI? If so, have you received treatment?  
  • Are there sexual activities you particularly enjoy? Are there certain ones you would like to avoid?  

The ability to have open discussions about sex with a potential partner could be an indicator that you’re willing to take that next step with this person. If you’re worried about making your partner uncomfortable, you could try approaching the conversation one step at a time. Perhaps you start by letting them know you would like to have the conversation in the near future. Then, you can take your time discussing one topic at a time. It may also help to show your partner that you’re at ease with your experiences, which may help them feel comfortable as well.  

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Last updated May 28, 2021
Originally published Jan 07, 2011

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