Having sex for the first time — be it for the first time with a new person or for the first time EVER in general — is nerve-wracking, regardless of what size you are. However, if you have body insecurities, those concerns can sometimes be infinitely magnified.
We asked women to bravely share their biggest fears, concerns, and questions when it comes to having sex. We then reached out to sexologist Megan Stubbs, who helped shed some major light on these topics (even if you prefer the lights off).
"I only feel comfortable with the lights off, and I’m afraid my partner would want them on. What should I do?"
"You aren't alone in feeling this way," Stubbs encouraged. "Take charge in the bedroom and set the lighting situation yourself."
Stubbs also suggested considering a little light, but keeping it strategic.
"Overhead lighting hardly flatters anyone," she explained. "It can cast harsh shadows and make you feel insecure. Try for soft, indirect lighting from the side. Get a lamp and drape a silk scarf over it to diffuse the light to a warm sensual glow."
And if you don't have a lamp? Try candles for some soft, romantic light.
"I’m afraid I might be secretly judged for my body insecurities."
Stubbs has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to body shaming.
"I would encourage you to make it a policy to not share your time or body with someone who is going to judge you by the way you look," she said. "Ideally your partner is someone who is into you for more than just your physical qualities and won't even notice the things that you have insecurities about."
Another tip? Asking your partner why they find you attractive.
"You may be surprised at how they see you through their eyes," she suggested.
"My partner is VERY good-looking, and hasn’t seen me naked yet. How can I calm my nerves? Should I bring it up?"
"Just because you perceive your partner to be VERY good-looking doesn't meant that they don't have insecurities of their own," Stubbs insisted. "Chances are that by the time you get naked together, they aren't going to stipulate a full body inspection before moving things forward."
Stubbs also suggested trusting your partner, believing that they're there for the right reasons.
"You can always express that you have a little trepidation or nervousness, but don't go deep into specifics. Just let them know you'd like to take things a little slower as you're getting to know each other. "
"I’m nervous about being naked in front of my partner (it doesn’t matter if the lights are off)."
If you're scared of being naked in general, Stubbs suggested a fun pre-nakie time activity: mirror talk!
"Look at yourself naked (or as much as you'd prefer) in the mirror, pump up your favorite jams, and say positive affirmations," she suggested. "We are notoriously our own worst critics and those inner critical voices can be crippling at times."
Stubbs also had an important reminder: Your body is always worthy of love and appreciation.
"You are worthy of love, sex, and having your desires met right now as you are," she stressed. "And again, chances are that by the time you're naked, the last thing on their mind is going to be critiquing your body."
We couldn't agree more.
"I have PCOS and have some excess hair growth I’m uncomfortable with. Should I bring it up to a partner?"
In one word: "Nope!"
"You don't have to apologize for your body," Stubbs insisted. "If that is a deal-breaker for them, they aren't your person. This isn't something you can control, so no need. You wouldn't apologize for sweating during sex, right?"
"I have some belly pooch after giving birth, and it jiggles when I get up to walk to the bathroom. I’m scared that my partner is going to see it and just leave."
According to Stubbs (and us, duh), there's never any excuse to shame a person's body before, during, and after sex.
"Thank your lucky stars they left when they did," she said. "If your partner is so callous to leave you because of the physical appearance of your stomach after giving birth, they do not get to share your body or time."
Most importantly, Stubbs suggested that we need to move away from apologizing for our "flaws" and embrace them as they are.
"You are so much more than the sum of your scars, lumps, and bumps," she stated.
"I’m afraid my partner won’t be satisfied with my reactions — like, if I don’t seem like I’m really into it, I might kill the mood. How can I make sure I don’t?"
Stubbs insisted that your reactions (or lack thereof) shouldn't matter.
"Unless you're performing on a pornography set, you have no reason to be concerned with how you look during the act," she said.
Stubbs suggested other ways of letting your partner know you're into what they're doing, even if you're not a fan of being vocal. For example, if you don't love to be loud, try whispering words of encouragement to your partner.
"I am also a huge proponent of communication during sex," she said. "Unless you're hooking up in your childhood twin bed at home during the holidays, there is no reason why you cannot talk, moan, laugh, or readjust during the act."
"How do I know my plus-size body won’t be fetishized? Or that my partner isn’t just with me because of my curves?"
Even Stubbs admitted this kind of situation can be tough, but she encouraged open and honest conversations between you and your partner.
"I'd recommend that you get to know your partner well before you step into the realm of intimacy. Have a lot of honest conversations," she suggested. "If your conversations seem to center mainly on your looks or size, I would have some concerns. But if they seem genuine and love you for all that you are, I'd say go for it. You know yourself best and treat every situation case by case."
"I’m scared that my vagina won’t look or taste the way it’s supposed to. How is it even supposed to taste or smell? What if my partner doesn’t like it?"
This is nothing to be ashamed of, Stubbs insisted.
"The taste of your vagina can vary throughout your cycle and according to what you've been eating and drinking," she said. "If the taste seems overly strong or has a foul odor, you may consider seeking out medical attention as you may have a bacterial condition or STI. The vagina is self-cleaning so it is important to stay properly hydrated in order for that to take place. There is also a delicate balance of bacteria inside of your vagina and the slightest shift in the environment can send things askew."
As for finding out if your vagina does taste off, Stubbs recommends the most direct way of finding out.
"I recommend that you taste yourself if you have concerns on whether or not you find your natural flavor to be unpalatable or not," she said. "Adding in things like water, fruits, and vegetables has anecdotally been shown to improve vaginal taste. Otherwise if your partner still cannot get behind going down on you, try oral sex fresh from a shower and/or use a dental dam."
"I’m scared to be on top because my partner can see all my rolls and jiggle, but they LOVE it. What positions might work for us?"
While Stubbs noted a partner is certainly not looking at any rolls or jiggle while you're on top, you can still compromise.
"You can consider spoon position," she suggested. "This is where you and your partner are both on your side and they enter you from the back. It's low impact and you still have freedom with your hands to touch and explore.
She also suggested cowgirl on a chair or sofa, so their head is right at breast level.
"It will be difficult for them to look at anything else," she said. "Plus, you're in control of depth and rhythm during sex. Win-win."
"I’m bigger than my partner, and I’m scared I won’t feel feminine in bed."
Stubbs had an A-plus idea for feeling more feminine in bed: Go shopping for some naughty lingerie.
"If lingerie makes you feel sexier or more feminine in bed, wear it," she suggested. "Do whatever you need to do to feel sexy and sensual. Maybe take a more submissive role in bed if that works for you."
Also, role-playing is a fun way to introduce novelty to the bedroom!
Most importantly, remember that sex should be fun — you should be with a partner who makes you feel comfortable.
"Chances are, your partner will be willing to try new things and do whatever they can to make you comfortable in bed," Stubbs insisted. "Because the more comfortable each of you are, the better the chance for amazing sex!"
We couldn't agree more.