Sexual Health

First sexual experience: age and motivations

The legal age of sexual consent for men and women in the UK is 16. Issues like age, emotions, relationship status, a readiness to have sex and access to contraception all influence when a person has sex for the first time. 

Some people have their first sexual experience in a relationship that's caring and affectionate, when both partners are ready and willing. It's not unusual for both parties to be virgins

These first experiences are often described as 'funny', 'a bit chaotic', or 'a bit crap' but not unpleasant, even if it took a few attempts. Even people who were in 'lust not in love', still felt they'd done it with the 'right person'. 
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However, some people regret their first experience, either at the time, or with hindsight. Usually regrets are linked to having sex when too young - 13 or 14 years of age - and not being ready emotionally. 

Some women we interviewed who had sex said that they gave in to their boyfriend because they were scared he'd leave if they didn't say yes. Sometimes people just had sex to 'get it over with', or felt they'd rushed into having sex. Some women report that sex isn't quite as it seems in the movies, and may be an anti-climax or even painful.  
For those who experienced urinary tract infections, which are common in women after first sexual intercourse, or thrush, this can detract from the enjoyment of sex.

Men are less likely to regret having sex, and most of those we interviewed enjoyed the experience, although some did feel under pressure from their mates to 'do it'.

Most of the people we interviewed used contraceptives the first time they had sex to avoid pregnancy. They were less aware that they also needed to use contraceptives like condoms to avoid STIs.  

Others we talked to would never have considered having sex without a condom - one Afro Caribbean woman said 'As far as I'm concerned if there's no condoms, there's no nookie'. Some though did get 'carried away in the heat of the moment' and have sex without protection, while others just didn't know how to get hold of contraception in their communities.
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Last reviewed January 2016.

Last updated August 2012.


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