sexual firsts casey tanner

Q: Am I Ready for Sexual “Firsts”? with Therapist Casey Tanner

What info should I tell someone about myself on a first date?

So many people that I talk to believe that they have to go into the first date and give their entire personal resume – maybe including all of their exes, their STI status, when they got out of their last break up, all of their trauma history. I don’t believe that that’s necessary and I also don’t believe that you owe that to somebody just because they showed up to get dinner or a drink with you.

Now, there may be times later, in the future of that relationship where those kinds of disclosures are important, but on a first date this person is essentially a stranger, and you get to decide what the most important things are that they should know about you. And maybe that’s that you have cats or that you haven’t been on a date in a long time and that you’re feeling a little bit nervous.

You get to decide the way that you want to portray yourself on that first date and there’s no list of shoulds that come with that.

My girlfriend always wants me to come first – why?  P.S. We’re lesbians

You may read this question and think at first glance that this is a great problem to have – your girlfriend wants you to come first every time! But I do understand and I have clients that feel frustrated, maybe confused, that their partner always not only wants but seems to need them to come first.

The reason for this can be so varied, but one of the common ones that I see for people that really need partner to come first is that they feel like it’s difficult for them to relax, for them to be present, for them to accept attention and touch until they know that you’ve been taken care of.

Often that dynamic starts in a place that isn’t sexual – it starts from childhood sometimes. Maybe they were in a dynamic in childhood where they were taking care of everybody else before they took care of themselves, so then when your partner comes into their sex life with you they want to make sure that you’re taken care of before you take care of them. That may be a way of repeating that pattern. It could also be all sorts of other reasons – maybe they just love to make you come first and it’s just that simple. 

What was your first masturbation experience like?

I don’t often answer personal questions here, but I will tell you a little bit of what this experience was like for me, because I think it is like so many other people’s. I didn’t start masturbating at a really young age – although that’s incredibly normal. I masturbated for the first time when I was 21 years old. I was a full grown adult, and it took me going to therapy to have my therapist recommend that I go out and buy a vibrator.

Within one day I was completely obsessed and hooked, and obviously 9 years later here I am talking about sex as my job. What I want to point out about that, is that you don’t have to start early to be an expert. You can start at any point in life, it’s never too late. Try sex toys, try a bunch of different things – basically expand the menu of what’s possible for your body.

My first time masturbating wasn’t totally 100% positive – there were some pieces of shame that I had to work through. Certainly when it came to introducing toys into my partnerships, there was some shame that I had to work through, but it was so absolutely worth it. 

Is the first time you have sex always painful/does it have to be painful? *nervous*

The first time you have sex does not have to be painful, but I think so many of us, particularly people with vulvas were taught that it does hurt and that’s just something we have to accept about the first time. Remember, sex can mean so many different things, and it doesn’t have to start with penetration of something that is bigger than what feels good in your vagina.

It could start with some massage of the vulva, it could start with touching the external clitoris, it could start with penetration of something much smaller than a sex toy or a penis – it can start with a finger and you can make sure that you’re using a lot of lube. There are all sorts of ways to warm up the body, not just in that first experience, but over time and over multiple experiences, because ultimately the vagina is a muscle and it adapts to different kinds of touch.

So, you can start small and work your way up such that it doesn’t have to hurt. If you’re doing all of those things and it still hurts, it might be a good time to check in with your OBGYN, because some people do experience sexual pain that doesn’t have to do with the penetration, it has to do with something going on biologically. Ultimately, no, your first time does not have to hurt and I don’t believe that it should hurt – unless you want it to.

I want to buy my first sex toy but have no idea which to choose bc there are so many!?

I used to feel the same way, so let me make it a little bit easier for you by introducing you to SORAYA 2. What I love about SORAYA 2 as a first-timer is that it gives you the opportunity to try tons of different kinds of stimulation within one toy without having so many bells and whistles that you’re way too overwhelmed.

It has a tapered side that comes right into the internal part of the clitoris – sometimes called the G-spot – so you can explore some penetrative masturbation or sex with this toy. It also has this external arm that rests on the clitoris so that you can explore external stimulation of the clitoris. You can also use the bigger side of it to explore external stimulation of the clitoris without penetration.

There’s about three different ways that people tend to use this one, but it’s not so overwhelming that you’re going to throw it to the side of the bed and say, “I can’t figure this out”. It also has a number of different speeds and vibration patterns so that you can test out how sensitive you are and how much stimulation you actually want. SORAYA 2 is a great toy if you want a starter kit all-in-one. 

How to move on from first queer break up?  Feels devastating and overwhelming?

First queer breakups can be SO rough. Even if you’ve gone through breakups in the past in a relationship when you didn’t know you were queer, this can still feel like your first heartbreak ever. That’s because, in this relationship, many people are putting their hearts out on the line in a different way than maybe they did in their first straight relationship.

Not only are they giving themselves over to the possibility of being hurt in terms of their romantic life, but they are also being vulnerable in the way that they’re coming out about a part of their identity – whether that’s coming out just to this new partner or coming out to the world by way of this relationship.

So often, these first queer relationships can have added layers of grief when they end. Not only is this person somebody that you really care about, but it’s perhaps somebody that you went through some of these early stages of coming out, of being in queer community, and maybe you share a group of friends. All of those additional layers can make breaking up that much more painful.

My biggest thing is just validating that there’s nothing wrong with you for feeling like this is the end of the world in some ways. It’s not the end of the world, but it makes sense that it feels that way. What I want you to think about doing is starting to replace some of those pieces that you got in that relationship with queer community and queer friendship.

Until you’re ready to date again, you can still have people that support you on your coming out journey. You can still have people with whom you share your identity, even if it’s not this partner anymore. By showing yourself that you’re capable of getting those needs met elsewhere, you can begin to heal.

My partner and I want to try making a sex tape.  Any tips for staying present while filming?

When a lot of people go to make their first sex tape, they roll the camera, get in bed, and then they try to start having sex. Inevitably, this can bring up a lot of performance anxiety. You and your partner may not necessarily be on the same page about where this is going or what the intention is.

Additionally, you haven’t been warmed up at all yet, so now you have the camera on AND you’re trying to get yourself into the mood. What I recommend is, before you even roll camera, get in bed (or wherever you’re trying to film) with your partner or partners and start making out and touching each other’s bodies – whether that’s a massage or even starting to have a little bit of whatever you define as sex. It can help to have the camera off as you get into the mood. Before you turn on the camera, you’re going to want to really be on the same page about the intention and where this is going.

We all have totally different ideas of what a sex tape looks like and what a “sexy” sex tape looks like – a lot of those ideas are, of course, impacted by the porn that we watch. If you’re going into making your sex tape and you’re thinking, “This is going to be softcore, we’re going to go really slow, and this is going to be about demonstrating our intimacy”, but maybe your other partner(s) are thinking, “This is going to be hot, fast, and more aggressive” then you’re going to be on different pages and it’s not going to be very connective experience. So, before you start having sex, get on the same page. Is this you having sex the same way you always have sex, but just putting on camera? Well that’s really good to know!

Make sure that you’re still using the same amount of lube that you would always use, bring your sex toys if you usually bring in sex toys, make the same noises – you don’t have to put on an act unless you want to. On the other hand, if you agree you’re going to do a scene (i.e. we’re going to be other people, we’re not going to be ourselves) that it’s something you agree on ahead of time. Once that groundwork is laid, you can actually have space to go into that scene or go into the agreed-upon dynamic and just be present there rather than having to wonder, “What are they thinking? Do they know what I’m thinking?” You’ll already know the answers to those questions. 

Is losing your virginity/having sex by X age that important?  If you have tried other things first?

Before we talk about whether or not it’s important, let’s break down this construct of virginity real quick. There’s not a time where somebody puts a penis or something else into your vagina and suddenly you’ve lost a part of yourself – a part of yourself that we call virginity. It’s not like that. The reality is that you get to decide when the right time to have sex is, you get to decide what having sex means to you, and you get to decide what having sex feels like for the first time – does it feel like a loss, does it feel like a gain?

You get to process those feelings the way that you want to process those feelings. So no, there is no age at which it is mandatory that you’ve done these things. It sounds like you are exploring your body and sexuality at a pace that feels good for you. Disregard the arbitrary timeline and check in with yourself. Are you happy with what you’ve done so far? Are you interested in trying new things? That is the only question that really matters here.

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