How to Navigate a Gap in Sexual Experience

Have you ever been in a relationship where one person was more sexually experienced than the other?

When your partner has a more storied sexual history than you, it’s normal to feel embarrassed of yourself, a little intimidated, or even jealous of them. And when you’re the more experienced partner, it can be difficult to know how your partner feels, or how you can help them feel more comfortable.

Just like having more experience doesn’t make you promiscuous, having less doesn’t make you a prude. And number of partners does not mean you’re any ‘better’ at sex! Given the variety of sexual preferences and experiences, it’s possible for someone to have more sexual experience with one person than another might have with a bunch of different people.

Sexual experiences are not a contest, and one experience we all have in common is that at one point or another, we’ve been nervous about sex! Think back to the first or even second time you had sex. Weren’t you nervous? Not sure what to do, or what your partner was thinking? Chances are, most people you’ll be with in your life have felt the exact same way.

So if I’ve got more experience than my partner, what can I do to comfort them?

Put yourself in your partner’s shoes.

Your partner might feel that compared with you, or your past lovers, they’re not good enough in bed. Let them know how much you like them, and how much they turn you on. If it seems like it makes them uncomfortable, try not to talk about your past sex life. It’s one thing to tell someone you like oral sex, and quite another to give a blow-by-blow of the best blowjob you ever got (from someone else).

Take your time.

You don’t want to take things too far, or too fast, or make them feel weird about the difference in your experience. Start slow, and let your partner show or tell you what they want to do. You can make suggestions, but let them set the pace.

Try something new.

Is there a position or a toy that neither of you has tried before? Level the playing field and make yourself vulnerable to your partner by trying something totally new. If you are both equally inexperienced in the situation, it can seem a lot less intimidating and way more fun. And hey—if it doesn’t go so well, at least you could end up laughing about it together.

Reassure them.

Love your partner’s eyes, laugh, butt, that thing they do with their tongue? Tell them! Being complimented could help them feel more confident and focused on the fun you’re having together.

At the same time, it’s important to let your partner express their boundaries, or their (totally normal) feelings of insecurity. Having feelings and boundaries is healthy— letting them go unacknowledged is not.

Check in.

Making sure your partner is comfortable, and consent is active, will help you both to feel the situation is manageable and under control. Remember that communication is at least 50% listening, and pay attention to their body language. If they seem tense, stop what you’re doing and make sure they’re OK.

OK, but what if I’m the less experienced partner?

Stay cool.

Try not to give in to your anxiety in the situation, or fixate on their ‘number’ like it’s a mark of your own inexperience. Like we said above, this ain’t nothin’ but a number, and if you like and trust your partner, then chances are they’ll be understanding and give you the space you need.

That said, it’s important to manage your own feelings and expectations in the situation. Don’t get down on yourself for a lack of sexual experience, ‘cause it doesn’t mean you’re any less of a person, or a poor partner. They wouldn't be with you if they weren't into you! And by the same token, you shouldn’t expect your partner to apologize for their own experience—just as you expect your partner to be understanding, be understanding toward your partner.

State your boundaries.

If you don’t want to do something, let your partner know up front, and preferably before you’re already in the sack. Nobody is a mind-reader, and while it is your partner’s responsibility to seek your consent, you know yourself and what you’re comfortable with better than anyone else. Honesty is always the best policy when it comes to sex and consent.

Be open to new experiences.

It’s kind of a silly analogy, but think about sexual experience like riding a bike. With a lack of experience, riding a bike can seem kind of scary—how do you even stay balanced on that thing?!—but with practice, you get more confident and before you know it, you’re cruising around the neighborhood like you’re in the Tour de France.

Silly analogies can help to put any difficult situation in perspective. (There’s a reason that public speakers recommend you imagine your audience in their underwear!) Sex is a big deal, but at the same time, the goal is to give and receive pleasure, and to have fun. Just like your partner gained experience through other partners, your experience with them is one that will make up a part of your sexual history. Follow your pleasure, and see where it leads you.

Play with your roles.

Not to be confused with role-play (ha, ha). One upside of having a more experienced partner is that you can let them take the reins, at least until you feel ready to be more assertive. Giving someone else that kind of freedom can be really thrilling. But if you don’t enjoy being the submissive partner, or you don’t know each other well enough, work together to find a dynamic that feels right to you.

At the end of the day, a good sexual partner, whether more or less experienced, will care more about their partner’s comfort than rushing into sex. So open up those lines of communication, and get ready to explore together ❤️