Dear Uncle Mat 

“There is nothing safe about sex. There never will be.” — Norman Mailer

I’m a 22-year-old young woman considering having sex for the first time with my boyfriend, whom I am in a committed relationship with. I can see myself potentially marrying him in the future. My question is this: Do you think most young men need the enticement of sex to eventually settle down and get married? If sex complicates relationships, what should I expect and be emotionally prepared for after the first time?

— Fearful First-Timer

Dear First-Timer,

I don’t know that Norman Mailer is a man for 22-year-old virgins to be quoting. It might be better said that there is nothing safe about sex with Norman Mailer. And there never should be.

Sex as an act does not necessarily complicate a relationship unless that relationship is not supposed to be intimate — say the relationship between a boss and an employee (I learned that one the hard way when I wasn’t a 22-year-old virgin). Sex can complicate a relationship, but I think that is a reflection of the relationship, not the sex. Before you have sex, I would consider a few things.

Why have you waited this long to have sex? Do you believe you should wait till you are married or for the one you will marry? Or have you just been holding out for a relationship that you feel is right for sex? If it is number one, then I would still wait till you are engaged or married. Assuming a man is “the one” is not the same thing. If, on the other hand, you are just waiting for what you believe will be a fulfilling experience and you think this guy is worthy, then go for it.

A young man shouldn’t need sex to entice him into marriage or settling down. Every man is different, but if he puts an absolute on sex, he is limiting himself and the relationship. There are two of you involved here. What do you need to entice you into marriage? Is this about marriage? It can be about sex and not marriage. Most important is that it is about the two of you and not just one of you, or the sex, or whatever.

It is definitely important that you two are communicating clearly and honestly with one another. It will complicate things if either of you are hiding or misrepresenting your expectations. Does he know it will be your first time? Is it his first time? Have you discussed appropriate contraception — birth control, and just as important, protection against STDs? Even if you are both virgins, promise me that you will make him wear a condom.

I cannot predict how either of you will feel after your first time. Hopefully it will make you feel closer to each other and strengthen your trust and love for each other. It should fan the flames of your relationship as well. Not necessarily on the very first go at it, but with some practice, it should make you two feel a lot more attracted to each other. A good indication to how he might feel afterwards would be his attitude towards you and sex now.

I have never slept with a woman, but I have heard enough women tell me that the first time was a bit underwhelming to outright uncomfortable. Being with a good guy should get you past uncomfortable, but if it’s not fireworks, give it another try and then some. Has there been much foreplay or other sexual activities? Working your way up to intercourse is a good way to make sex a lot better. Building a positive and slowly intensifying physical intimacy over the course of several weeks or months will make the sex a lot better for both of you. Massages, oral and manual stimulation can all be explored as a prelude. This will definitely help you relax for the big show. Communicate about these things, too. You might check out a book or two on the subject as well. Educate yourself. Be curious and careful. If you have more concerns about what to expect, you should confide in a good friend with a positive sex life and/or your gynecologist.

Much love and good fun,

Your Uncle Mat

Uncle Mat answers questions about relationships, sex, pets, and art. Email him at or Your true identity is safe with him.

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