Like a Virgin


Whether it was mind-blowing, breath-taking, nauseating, anticlimactic or just plain traumatising, your first bit of hanky panky is something that will stay with you forever. It’s not always like a movie, soft focus with barely-contained heavy breathing and flattering lighting, often it’s not even a Queer As Folk-like sweaty, erotic, rimming-focused exploration of the homosexual arts. It can be a staggering non-event, an elaborate wank with a beautiful stranger that lasts no more than four minutes. Personally, my first time was an explosion of fireworks – I blew someone behind a tree on Guy Fawkes’ Night. 

What is it that drives us to take that first step out of our clothes and into being sexually active? Can losing your virginity be a wonderful thing or is it always destined to be a disappointment? Can I make it through this article without making sex-related puns that are virgin on the ridiculous? (I deserve never to have sex again for that joke).

Into the groove

Sometimes people just get it right first time. There’s no awkwardness, fumbling or regret, they hit the ground running straight out of the sex gate.

“It wasn’t like how everyone says the first time is,” says Elliott, 20. “It wasn’t awkward and fumbly, it was just normal. I was 18 at the time and the guy ended up being my boyfriend. It started off with foreplay and we eased into it, seeing as we were both nervous. There was a bit of a discussion about who would do what, which ended with him saying he didn’t feel comfortable bottoming. I didn’t care if I didn’t enjoy it – I wouldn’t have to do it again if I didn’t want to. It felt great that I had finally found someone who wanted to be with me like that. I definitely don’t regret losing my virginity. When I did, it was because at the time I was happy with him and I felt mature enough in the sense that I wasn’t losing it for the sake of losing it.”

42-year-old Derek was 21 when he first had a sexual experience with a man and it was everything he was hoping for. “I had only just come out and the first person I told was a fellow gay man at work. He encouraged me to meet him and his partner in a local gay bar, so I plucked up the courage and went but they never showed! I was all panicked, but got talking to a Scottish guy, who was in town for a stag weekend. He made me feel very comfortable. He said he wasn’t out to his friends, so could only go to gay bars when he went to other cities – remember this was 1992. We kissed in the bar, and I brought him back to my flat. We kissed all night, and also there was oral sex and mutual masturbation. I felt great, was walking on a cloud for days, until the beard rash kicked in! Afterwards, I wished I hadn’t waited.”


Not everyone’s first time is going to be a dulcet choir of pretty little birdies, sometimes your first man-on-man action can barely muster a squawk.

Steven, 33, was moderately underwhelmed by his first proximity to another man’s penis. “My first time was with a friend of a friend at university when I was 18. I’d been out for drinks for my birthday and we’d got chatting – he was pretty drunk and claimed he’d lost his room key so I told him he could stay at mine. It only went as far as blow jobs – he wanted to fuck me but we didn’t have any condoms so I told him I wouldn’t do that, and he respected that and didn’t make any further advances in that department.  He was a good-looking guy and he treated me well, but part of me wishes I’d waited for someone I was more interested in, and someone a bit less drunk. I wish I’d relaxed a bit more and not viewed it as a ‘world changing’ event. I think maybe I built it up too much in advance.”

“I met a guy in a gay club,” explains 29-year-old Dima. “He was an Australian flight attendant and he took me to his hotel. I’d had no sexual experience at all before this, barring a drunken, clumsy and aborted fumble with someone in my university halls, so I let him take the lead. We kissed and fumbled for a while, and I gave him a pretty awful blowjob. He tried to fuck me and I realised very quickly that I am not a bottom. He was a lot older than me and the dark red lighting in the club was quite flattering, so it was quite difficult to stay aroused in all honesty. I was unsurprisingly pretty hopeless at everything, and he had to do a lot of the guide work, but he didn’t seem to mind. I feel a bit uncomfortable thinking about how inexperienced and awkward I was now; it must have been really obvious I was a clueless virgin. It took me ages to cum and I felt mild disappointment afterwards; it wasn’t the situation I’d imagined losing my virginity in. I don’t regret it though; I’m not precious about it, and he was a nice guy.”


Not everyone is rushing to expunge their cock cocktail in or on the nearest human male carcass. Some people are happy to wait before their first erotic encounter and curb the beast within. 

Luke, 21, has never had sex with another man. “I do champion the idea of casual sex, and plan on having some myself in the future; I would just like to be in a relationship with someone to experience sex first. And I don’t plan on waiting until marriage. Have you seen Bridesmaids? No one wants to be the Becca.”

Even though Luke is waiting to find a boyfriend, he hasn’t romanticised the idea of the ‘first time’. “The typical imagery does comes to mind: candles, rose petals, dinner, slow-dancing to Daft Punk, and a double bed; you know, the usual highly romanticised malarkey. But I’d be content with sharing my first time with someone I love at the time. I do know that things happen in alleys or public bathrooms though – the latter almost happened to me at a club but I didn’t go through with it.”

“I use Grindr and Scruff sporadically and it’s easier and quicker to meet people locally, and sometimes people you might actually like. I use them in a way that I like: I can’t actually meet these men, so when we can’t actually meet up, we just trade pictures and ‘sext’, but I am culpable of leading men into fantasies as a defence mechanism, because they approach me with penis in hand and muscle on display and I go weak at the knees. I’ve made genuine connections through them, though most are platonic.”

Borderline adult

For some of us, our first sexual experience arrives early. While some are locked away in their bedrooms immersed in a two-day Final Fantasy VII binge, stopping occasionally to obsess over the abs on Baywatch (I may have given away my age here), others are out there plucking their first fruit from the willy tree.

“My first sexual experience with a man was when I was 13 and I’d stumbled into the world of cruising in public toilets a year earlier,” admits Leigh, 26. “For the first year I had been mostly an observer and exhibitionist, sticking to the safety of the cubicles and watching other cruisers wank off through the various spy holes. But a year later with my sex drive at stellar levels I was ready for more. So my first sexual experience with a man, although not penetrative, was me wanking off a guy probably twice my age under a toilet stall. I understand that it may seem odd and actually horrifying to an outsider or casual observer that a boy so young could be engaged in such clandestine and dangerous activity with considerably older men, but I’m extremely confident with men and especially sex, and consider myself adventurous and have no real issues with sex as a result.”

“My first time was with a much older man,” says David.  “I was 15 and he claimed to be 21 – it turns out he was 29. We met online and within an hour we were having sex in the back of his car. It was probably not the smartest thing for me to have done, but by pure chance, he turned out not to be a creep and we’ve actually remained friends ever since. I think we make virginity out to be a much bigger deal than it is. We make movies about losing it, and tell kids that their first time should be special and ultimately I think that makes people crazy. I’m totally happy with the way my first sexual experience went and I wouldn’t change a thing.”

It’s not always such a pleasant experience however, as 18 year-old Quentin discovered. “I was 14/15 and I started using Grindr. I spent a long time just looking – I didn’t have a picture on there – but finally I decided to go for it and meet someone. I lived in a rural area so it was quite a limited choice and it was about 45 minutes on a train to meet this guy. I really wasn’t ready and I knew that as soon as I walked in his front door. He was nice but I didn’t fancy him and I felt like I had to go through with it. It was nothing too heavy, just kissing and blow jobs but as soon as I left his house and turned the corner, I got sick. I just had this horrible physical reaction. I wish I’d waited.”

Something to remember

FS surveyed over 400 gay men about their first sexual experience and just over 70% of those who responded didn’t consider the sexual health consequences of having sex for the first time. 

“I went to a Catholic school in the North East of England,” explained Andrew, 29. “Sex education was to informs how babies were made and 11 years ago, STIs would never make it to the classroom in a school with nuns on the staff list. I wasn’t worried, as I wasn’t aware of such things.”

25-year-old Ethan agrees: “I had a one-night stand with someone I met online when I was 18. I didn’t consider STIs or HIV at all, as I didn’t know enough about it to worry. And that’s the worrying point now!”

Some people were aware there were risks however, but didn’t know enough about sex or sexual health to have a realistic view on STIs. “I knew very little,” admits Sean. “I pretty much thought I’d die within hours of touching a penis!”

“Stories of young gay men getting HIV as a result of their earliest sexual experiences demonstrates why it’s so important that sex education in schools is inclusive of gay sex,” says Chief Executive of gay men’s health charity GMFA, Matthew Hodson. “These days most gay men will have their first sexual experience with someone who they meet online or via an app, which means that they may well be completely isolated from any kind of gay community at the time. They have no one to look out for them, or give them guidance.”

Matthew believes that young gay men need more access to safer sex information. “Of course there’s lots of online safer sex information. It’s important that sites such as GMFA’s provide sexual health information in a frank, accessible way, so that it doesn’t feel like they’re being lectured or scolded. We aim to give all gay men the confidence to make better choices, have better health and great sex.”


Gays gone wild

Many of the people who spoke about their first time were very young and didn’t really consider the sexual health consequences of sex. 

Cliff Joannou, the editor of QX, is currently spearheading the ‘#SameSexSRE’ campaign for sex education in schools and believes that sex education needs to evolve to help young people make better decisions about their sex life.

“The problem we have is that when it comes to sexual health awareness we’re still treating young people in the same way they were being treated thirty years ago. The education system has not evolved with the times. The internet changed everything and apps and mobile phones have taken that to a whole new level.

Sexualised imagery is everywhere, from advertising to soap opera storylines, and young kids can easily access porn on their phones or computers. This is not a judgement about those things or the concept of fantasy or embracing one’s sexuality, but what’s wrong is that the education system doesn’t give young people the information they need to value their body, the facts about sex or understand the difference between fantasy and reality.

“We need to stop pretending that young people live in a bubble within the real world. If a young person is curious about sex or porn, they will find it. The best thing we can do is give them the right level of information so that they can respect their bodies and make educated decisions based on facts and not what they looked up online.”

Cliff thinks that the problem lies at the top and that young gay men aren’t looking after their sexual health because they just aren’t aware of it. “There are middle-aged men in Parliament who are completely oblivious to the real world and don’t understand that teenagers are having sex.

“HIV transmission rates between young people are so high because most teenagers are not even taught about it at school. Younger guys have no connection with 80s and 90s advertising campaigns. Even younger straight people think the issue of HIV has gone away. Yes, HIV is a manageable condition and no longer a death sentence, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be educating young people about it and helping them to protect themselves.

“Besides there are also lots of other STIs that we need to be educating them about. At least then if they are having sex, they can do so safely and  be fully informed.”

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