what does sex feel like

What Does Sex Feel Like? Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know

Dr. Laurie Mintz, Ph.D.This article was scientifically reviewed by Human Sexuality expert Dr. Laurie Mintz. She is a professor, researcher, private practitioner and Fellow of the American Psychological Association.

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Sex is truly a fascinating thing. Before you have sex for the first time, it seems like this wonderful, mysterious thing that will change your life. 

Being sexually aroused feels good, and the orgasms you give yourself during masturbation sessions are great. But then you start wondering: what does sex feel like with another person involved? 

Understanding the sexual attraction, what makes you aroused, or how penetration feels can be difficult to grasp. There are plenty of different sensations and hormones involved, and it can be overwhelming at first. 

So, let’s get down to the basics first – what do we mean by sex? While in our culture, we often use the words sex and intercourse as if they were one and the same, this is heteronormative and also privileges male sexuality in that the vast majority of women do not orgasm from penetration alone.  So, when understanding what sex feels like, it’s important to think of sex as any act which results in arousal and orgasm and not think of just penetration. 

Ok, then, let’s discuss some of the science behind sexual pleasure: 

Why Do I Feel Like Having Sex?

There are hundreds of reasons why we feel like having sex. The most basic reason is our need to procreate. According to sex therapist and associate Northwestern University professor Richard A. Carroll, we’re wired to crave sex: “We are programmed to do so. Asking why people have sex is akin to asking why we eat. Our brains are designed to motivate us toward that behavior.”

However, we’re not living in the old times when the most important thing for humans was to extend their bloodlines and birth heirs to carry on the family name. And more often than not, we have sex because it simply feels good. 

Our brain and hormones control our desire to have sex. And while pleasure comes from stimulating our sex organs, our brain is actually the one organ that plays the most important part in why we feel like having sex. 

When you’re aroused, your brain releases serotonin, which is the so-called happiness hormone that makes you feel good, and dopamine, which is a hormone responsible for making you want to seek a reward for a certain activity, for example, sexual stimulation.

As humans, we are wired to seek out things and activities that make us feel good, and sex is one of those activities. 

So, What Does Sex Feel Like?

The way that sex feels varies from person to person. It depends on your gender, mood, sexual preferences, and even age. Most likely, what sex feels like in your early twenties will be different from what it will feel like when you’re in your late sixties

Sex and sexuality are things that require a learning curve, and sex gets better the more of it you have and the more you get to know your body. 

Also, different types of sex bring out different sensations. For example, pleasure from anal sex will vary from the pleasure you feel during vaginal sex because different organs and spots are stimulated during each activity, and they might feel differently. Likewise, how you feel receiving oral sex will be different than how you feel during penis-in-vagina sex. 

What sex feels like might differ whether you’re in a relationship and having sex with someone you love or whether it’s just a one-night stand. Many people agree that sex feels way better when you’re doing it with a person you love and trust versus a stranger.

There are four so-called stages of a sexual act, and each has different sensations: 

1. Excitement

During this stage, you might experience increased muscle tension, increased heart rate, and flushed skin. 

This is also the time when your nipples get hard, women’s breasts feel fuller, and the vagina gets wet as well as the penis hardens.

2. Plateau

During the second stage, the increased muscle tension intensifies your breathing and heart rate increases as well. 

For women, their clitoris might become extremely sensitive, and sometimes it can even become painful to the touch. For men, their testicles pull up into the scrotum. 

3. Orgasm

The big O – the culmination of the sexual act is stage three. During this time, both women and men experience muscle contractions, mostly around their sex organs. However, it can occur anywhere in our bodies. 

This is the moment when you feel the sudden and powerful sexual release, flush, and a wave of tingles going through your body. 

Fun fact – women can continue and experience multiple orgasms during this stage; however, most men cannot keep going and need a break in between sexual stimulation.

4. Resolution

The final stage of the sexual act, when your body returns to its normal and calm state. 

There is an increased feeling of happiness, relaxation and most people feel pleasant fatigue.

Does Sex Hurt?

No, sex shouldn’t hurt. However, if you’ve never had penetrative sex before, you might experience uncomfortable feelings and slight pain during sex. Still, this is avoidable and not all first time penetrative sex hurts. Engage in plenty of pre-intercourse arousal and use lube!

Also, don’t be shy about using lube if natural lubrication from the vagina is not enough and penetration feels painful. The same goes for anal sex — you want to make sure that you’re using enough lube and you’re aroused before engaging in the activity. 

Now, some people love to mix their pleasure with a dash of pain, which means that they might bite during oral sex or want to go rougher during penetration. All sexual preferences are fine. Just make sure that you’re communicating with your partner before the act and are on the same page about your sexual preferences and pain tolerance level. 

Also, certain medical conditions like endometriosis can make penetration painful. If you have one of those conditions, make sure to speak with your doctor for tips on how to be comfortable during sex and always listen to your body. Likewise, if you are experiencing pain or difficulty during penetration or any kind of sex, see a certified sexual medicine practitioner. 

What Does Sex Feel Like for Women?

Each of our bodies is different, and what sex feels like for you and your friend will vary greatly. However, we’ve scoured the internet and found women sharing their experience of what sex feels like for women. 

What sex feels like according to a woman who has penetrative sex: 

“If you’re not fully in the mood, then the act of penetration can feel like nothing remarkable. I’ve had sex where I felt nothing and could’ve concentrated on reading a book if I wanted. If you are in the mood, it’s intense and gives you tingles all the way up into your stomach, all about blood flow?” — source, Reddit

What penetrative sex  feels like for a women without a condom: 

“Yeah, I personally don’t feel the difference when my bf uses the condom vs. not using one. Sex lasts longer, so we got that going.” — source, Reddit

What penetrative sex feels like for a trans woman after the surgery: 

“So, I had a vaginoplasty. It feels different: it feels better for me, personally. It only hurts because my doctor mis-positioned it slightly, and I didn’t have a lot of material, so it’s very tight. Lube helps a lot. I can orgasm, and it is nice. <…> It takes me longer to get there. The orgasm itself is much more intense than what I used to have.” — source, Reddit

Sex is a whole heap of different sensations: 

“Hmm, well, it really depends what kind of sex you’re having, but really it feels all sorts of the following: warm, tingling, sharp, shivery, hot, waves of temperature, slowly building from toes to head orgasm or slap you in the face surprise orgasm, soft, wet, hard, sweaty, full, twisting, grinding, sensual… 

Now, if you’re asking what actual penis-entering-vagina actually feels like… hard to explain, but when my husband’s penis actually enters me, it’s like pop! Like if you make a popping noise with your finger in your mouth but backward. I’m not sure if that makes sense. 

For me, the vagina isn’t a void, so when a penis goes from rubbing against my labia to actually entering, it’s just pop!, sigh, and then the real fun begins. Seriously, this is hard to describe. It’s just all sorts of awesome, I guess.” — source, Reddit

What Does Sex Feel Like for Men?

There is a huge misconception about men’s pleasure. We tend to think that only a penis needs stimulation to provide sexual pleasure for men, but there is so much more. 

Men have the penis that feels good when stimulated and the balls and prostate, which can be stimulated both from inside and outside and provide different sensations. 

We’ve found what sex feels like for men on the internet, and it’s truly fascinating to hear how men feel about sex and pleasure. 

 What sex feels like according to a man who has sex with men: 

“From a [top] male perspective, it feels warm and wet. Then, it feels like you have to pee right badly, then you just let go and cum. It feels like peeing, but there’s a definite difference. I’ve not managed to convince my bum to relax enough to bottom and have someone cum in me [yet]. No weird stories from me, as of now. Advice: lubricate.” — source, Reddit

How does sex with a woman feel different from masturbation for a man:

“Honestly, the arousal-buildup-release pattern is similar to masturbation. What differs is that the vagina is much better than your hand due to lubrication, warmth, and grip. It’s not as tight as you would think. Initially, it is. You might even have trouble putting your penis into the vagina initially, but the vagina adapts in size. Then it’s not that tight anymore. Finally, sex has the advantage of emotional foreplay or stimulation because it’s a person as opposed to just your hands.” — source, Reddit

What vaginal sex feels like for men:

“The simple answer is like filling instead of being filled. And when I’m super hard, and she’s cumming or close to cumming, it feels really powerful, like wielding a potent instrument of pleasure.

Going slow and deep is magnificent. Just being so far inside her, pulling back, and slowly sliding balls-deep again feels goddamn amazing. But I know it feels amazing to her too.

Yeah, basically comes down to the sensation of filling someone up and being in control of what they’re feeling, the rhythm and intensity of their pleasure.” — source, Reddit

What does sex feel like with a circumcised vs. uncircumcised penis?

“I had a foreskin up until 3 years ago. The difference is there is no real need for lube. You put your cock on the opening of the vagina, and as you push in, the foreskin rolls back as your penis enters the wet area of the vagina easily. I used to be able to make my wife cum in about 2 minutes. Now it takes ages. Sex is still fun. It’s just different.” — source, Reddit

Remember: these are just  a few quotes about a few different sexual situations. You may or may not relate.  

There are Many Great Things to Experience

Sex can be great, and there are a lot of pleasurable sensations that come with it. 

However, if at first sex doesn’t feel as great as you would have hoped, don’t be upset. Remember that there is a learning curve! 

So, remember to explore different sensations and communicate with your partner to increase your chances of experiencing mind-blowing pleasure.