The Mirror Lifestyle Content

9 Things I wish I'd known about sex in my 20s

1. Your body is perfect. All my life I’ve thought I was fat. But when I look at photos now of myself in my 20s, I see a lovely young woman with enviable natural C-cup breasts; a firm, tight butt; and skin and muscle tone no expensive potions can preserve.


There was absolutely nothing wrong with how I looked, but instead of embracing my good figure, I obsessed endlessly over my hips and thighs. At times it was impossible for me to be in the moment and enjoy myself during sex because I was wondering if my legs looked jiggly or a belly roll had appeared. If only I’d realized that no amount of self-loathing can change the reality of a youthful body, I would have relaxed and had a lot more fun.

2. Birth control is something to take very seriously. My sex education came mostly from the encyclopedia and stuff my friends told me, which, in hindsight, left a lot to be desired. I believed that there are only a few days a month that a woman can get pregnant and that I could tell when those days were, resulting in a lax attitude about preventing pregnancy and too many angst-filled weeks watching for my period. There are many available birth control options. Don’t leave anything to the calendar. Be honest with yourself about your ability to remember to take a pill each morning or ask a guy to use a condom, and pick which is right for you.

3. There is an instruction manual. Nature provides the drive and the basic instincts for what goes where, but there’s a lot more to know when it comes to sex. How I got to be 40 years old before hearing about the Guide to Getting It On can be explained only by a lack of curiosity and the belief that my enthusiasm for the topic was enough. And though I certainly got by, I wish I’d read the massive tome (nearly 700 pages detailing everything from his-and-hers anatomy to the finer aspects of shower sex) earlier.Impostor syndrome exists in the bedroom, too, and having solid information — whether from a book or — can go a long way toward alleviating that.

4. The way he kisses is the way he will do everything. It’s been said that everything you need to know is in that first shared kiss. Will he be a timid lover? Clumsy? Aggressive in all the right ways? Too much to handle? Recently a friend and I were comparing notes on a guy we both kissed during our early 20s. Though we’d been equally turned off by his lizard-like technique, she dismissed him quickly while I took things a step further. Sadly, things didn’t improve as I had hoped. If you like him but don’t like his kisses, it’s not helping anyone for you to stay silent — and things aren’t going to magically get better as you go along. Tell him (gently) what you like so you can enjoy yourself as well.

5. You can stop at any time. If the kissing is magic and you both want to keep doing it, you should. If that’s where you want to draw the line, you should do that too. More than once in my 20s I was with a guy who tried to pressure me into having sex when I didn’t want to. It typically came as verbal shaming, the accusation that I’d been asking for it or that I let things go too far, and that to pull out, so to speak, would be dishonest and immature. I never gave in to those guys, but I sure did feel guilty at times and even wondered if a guy would still like me. An evening of drinking, laughing, and making out does not have to end in sex. Same goes for a night that starts with an expensive dinner and ends back at his place. And if he thinks it does, he’s not worth your time anyway.

6. Things get more complicated over time. Life happens to everyone, and as it unfolds, it sometimes steamrolls right over you. In my 20s, I was establishing a career, starting to explore the world, and finding out what I liked. So were the men I dated. There was a levity to those years that was often masked by the anxieties and uncertainties that can come along with being young. But weddings, divorces, births, deaths, addictions and recovery, fortunes made and lost — these things change a person’s perspective on everything, including sex. As I got older and had to navigate my boyfriends’ feelings about ex-wives, custody schedules, business failures, or substance abuse, I realized that I failed to appreciate the beauty of life without quite as much baggage.

7. Viagra is not just a recreational drug. I never touched the stuff myself, but I had plenty of friends — both male and female — who tried out the little blue pill just to see what would happen. Before I turned 40, I’d never encountered a man who needed it and didn’t give it much thought. Just like your twentysomething self, a healthy young man’s body usually doesn’t need any help, but add a couple of decades and all manner of bad habits (smoking, drinking, eating too many biscuits), and things can be decidedly different. I tell you this so that you can be in awe of equipment that works as advertised, instead of taking such a marvelous gift for granted.

8. Interest will wane. This is natural and not necessarily a bad thing, but it did come as a surprise to me. And it happens to both men and women. People who are married with children and careers often blame their disinterest in sex on kids in the next room or bone-crushing fatigue, and though those things can certainly kill the mood, they also mask something that’s a natural part of aging. Had I known that sex wasn’t always going to be a top priority — for me or my boyfriend — and that there was a major slowdown coming, I might have had a lot more sex in my 20s.

9. It really is better with someone you love. There’s nothing wrong with having sex with someone you are not in a committedrelationship with, but the sweetest (and hottest) sex I ever had resulted from the kind of mind-body connection that comes from good communication, lower inhibitions, and less pressure to be perfect — not to mention the hormones produced when you fall in love. And though I wouldn’t trade the times I had sex just for fun with a man I was only in like with, those experiences were more like dessert than the main course. And a woman shouldn’t live on whipped cream alone.

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