Worried couple in bed
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Sex is easy when you’re young? Think again!

By Sarah Moses Wednesday, August 22, 2018 - 18:24
Ever worry that sex isn’t as good as it should be? If you have problems during intercourse, you’re not alone. Most young adults experience some kind of trouble with sex, a recent study found.

You’ve been having intercourse with your boyfriend for about three months. You keep doing it, but worry things are not the way they should be. Though your boyfriend usually gets an erection, sometimes he doesn’t stay hard long enough for you to have intercourse. Your problem is entirely different: it doesn’t ever feel good. In fact, intercourse kind of hurts a lot of the time. And you’ve never had an orgasm - at least, not that you know of.

It might be reassuring to know… you’re not alone!

Problems with sex are actually pretty common among teens and young adults. But up until recently most of the studies on this age group have focused on things like unwanted pregnancies and STDs.

From erections to orgasms

That’s why a group of Canadian researchers tracked down just over 400 students aged 16 to 21 to take part in a study. At the start, and then every six months for two years, the students filled in online surveys about their sex lives.

The researchers asked the guys not just about stereotypical ‘young guy’s problems’ like premature ejaculation, but also about things you might associate with older people, like trouble getting an erection or staying hard. Meanwhile, the girls talked about matters like lubrication, orgasms, and pain during intercourse.

For most young people, sex isn't perfect

At about 80 per cent, the vast majority had recently dealt with some problem during sex, the surveys showed. And for almost half, the issue was distressing in a major way.

One of the things that made a difference, the researchers learned, was sexual self-esteem. Guys and girls who feel more secure about their looks or sexual performance a little less likely to experience sexual problems.

Most common problems

For men, a common concern is… well, go on, guess. Not getting enough sex, you’re thinking? Well, think again! Actually, a low desire for sex! Another frequent issue for guys is not really feeling satisfied during sex. In fact, almost half the participants in the study had experienced either or low libido of lack of sexual satisfaction. Erection problems – like staying hard – were also an issue for just under half.

The biggest problem for women, on the other hand, is not reaching orgasm. About 60 per cent didn’t climax when they fooled around with their partner. Almost half of the women also said they weren’t sexually satisfied and experienced pain during intercourse.

Sex gets better!

For women, there’s some good news. Sex gets better! As the study went on – and presumably, as they had more experience with sex, learned what they liked and disliked, and perhaps boosted their sex self-esteem – distressing problems became less and less common. Women who were able to communicate their likes and dislikes in bed were also slightly less likely to have a sex problem that caused them grief.

So if you’re young and in your prime, but sex isn’t always plain sailing, it’s not just you! Here's a place to start...

Tips for dealing with young people’s sex problems

Pain during intercourse?

Spend lots of time on delicious foreplay – kissing, stroking, licking – to get really turned on and wet before intercourse. Then you won’t need to use lubricant. Having said that… lube feels lovely too! Check out foreplay: turning up the heat and lubricant: top five facts.

No orgasm?

Intercourse is wonderful, but it’s not actually the orgasm part of sex for most women. They need attention for the clitoris – kissing, stroking, licking, and time! (Why rush sex? Have you really got something better to do?) Read more about her orgasms.

Erection trouble?

Don’t suffer in silence, dare to talk about it with your partner. Meanwhile, take the focus off your penis and enjoy other delicious things about sex, like pleasuring your partner. And then you may find your penis wants to join in! Check out Erection trouble - where to turn?

Ejaculate too soon?

Don’t pretend it’s not happening, but share with your partner. Slow down, keep stopping before you come, and take a break. With practice, you can build up the length of time. Meanwhile, again take the emphasis off the penis, and enjoy all the other lovely stuff! Read more on how to overcome premature ejaculation.

Stressed about sex?

Simply stressing about it can be the cause of many of these problems. Daring to talk to your partner about your worries can help. And don’t let unwanted pregnancy or STDs be part of your worry – use condoms and contraception.

Worried you could have a medical problem?

Be proactive. Pluck up courage and visit the doctor.

Reference: A Longitudinal Study of Problems in Sexual Functioning and Related Sexual Distress Among Middle to Late Adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health. (2016) 59:318-24.

This article was first published on November 15, 2017. To protect the identity, persons in the picture are models. 

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