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Vaginal penetrative sex (also known as ‘vaginal intercourse’) is when the penis enters the vagina. It is a type of sex that can lead to pregnancy if you don’t use contraception.
First things first, as with any type of sex it’s important that you and your partner feel comfortable and don’t feel pressured into doing anything you don’t want to do. For more information about this or if you feel worried, you can read our pages on consent and dealing with sexual pressure. Also, while many people do enjoy it, not everyone chooses to have vaginal sex as part of their sex life and that’s perfectly fine too.
If you are thinking about having vaginal sex for the first time you can read our page on first time sex. If you want to have vaginal sex but you don’t want to become pregnant, there are 15 methods of contraception that you can read more about. Condoms also protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
While lots of women enjoy vaginal sex, many don’t orgasm through vaginal sex alone, and you may find that some kind of stimulation of the clitoris is also needed to reach orgasm. This could be from rubbing the clitoris with your fingers or a vibrator, or the ‘position’ you choose when having sex. The clitoris is also a lot bigger than just the part you can see from the outside, so often the feeling of general pressure in the vagina can stimulate the clitoris as well.
You may have heard of the ‘G-spot’ which is inside the vagina and is another area which when rubbed can be pleasurable for some people. Explore our page on vaginas and vulvas to help you familiarise yourself with the different areas which cause pleasure.
If you find that vaginal sex is painful, vaginal dryness could be one of the causes – some people use lubricant (or ‘lube’) to add to the natural fluids produced by the vagina and to make it more comfortable. There are different types of lubricant available and you can get these from some sexual health services, pharmacies and supermarkets in the same section where you would usually find condoms. Other causes of painful sex can include; not being fully aroused, allergies to spermicides or latex condoms (latex-free condoms are available), STIs, infections such as thrush, and other skin conditions or pelvic issues. If you are worried about anything you should speak to your doctor or nurse.
The penis is made up of tissue and nerves, and sexual sensation is mostly felt because of the nerves sending signals to the rest of the body. The most sensitive area of the penis is generally the head (glans) as this has the highest number of sensory nerves, but this can vary from person to person. Many people also find their testicles are sensitive and enjoy them being stimulated during sexual activity.
The penis needs to be erect before vaginal sex can begin, and this can be achieved through foreplay – kissing, cuddling and touching your partner. During vaginal sex the movement provides stimulation to the penis, and many men find that they reach orgasm through vaginal sex, although this doesn’t always happen.
If you are going to have vaginal sex it’s important that both you and your partner consent to having sex and feel comfortable. If you feel uncomfortable at any point beforehand or during sex you can change your mind and stop.
Lots of people like to start with ‘foreplay’ which helps you both become aroused. We all enjoy different things, but this could include kissing, cuddling, stroking and massaging each other. As you become more aroused your body should relax and you may feel more sensitive to touch. You can do things such as running your fingers across your partner’s vulva or penis and the surrounding area to ‘tease’ them and make them excited. Also take the time to get to know what your partner likes, for example some people like being kissed on their neck or behind their ears.
Before you have vaginal sex, the vagina will need to be fully aroused and ‘wet’ to ensure the penis is lubricated and can enter the vagina without discomfort. You can read more about what happens to the vagina during sex.
When you are both aroused you should put a condom on the penis (do this before it goes anywhere near the vagina as it can leak pre-come which contains sperm). If you’re using lubricant, you should put a small amount near the entrance of the vagina. Make sure you use a water-based lubricant if you are using condoms, as oil-based lubricants can damage condoms.
Then gently open the labia and insert the head of the penis into the vagina. You should go slowly at first to ensure that the vagina is ready, and then move at a pace that is comfortable for both of you. If you find that this is painful you should let each other know and slow down. There are a number of different ‘positions’ when having vaginal sex, which can work differently for different people. Some positions can give easier access to the clitoris, and others can vary the depth of penetration (how far the penis goes into the vagina). If you are having vaginal sex for the first time you may find that the missionary position (where one of you is on top of the other), is the easiest to get to grips with.
When you decide to stop having sex (for example, when one or both of you has ‘come’ or had an orgasm), gently remove the penis from the vagina, and if you are using condoms hold the condom at the base of the penis while you withdraw it from the vagina to ensure that no sperm leaks out. Then tie it in a knot, wrap it in tissue and throw it away.
It’s good practice for both of you to go for a wee after having sex, as sex can be one cause of urinary infections such as cystitis.
Because sperm comes into contact with the vagina, vaginal sex can lead to pregnancy. There is also a risk of STIs as bodily fluids come into contact with each other.
If you don’t want to become pregnant it’s important to use contraception. There are 15 methods to choose from, and condoms can also protect against STIs and be used in addition to some of the other methods.
You can get contraception from:
If you have had unprotected vaginal sex within the last five days you can use emergency contraception to prevent a pregnancy. There are two types of emergency contraception, the emergency contraceptive pill and the emergency IUD, and they are more effective the sooner they are used. You should also get tested for STIs and you can read more about getting tested in our section on STIs.
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