Advice: Nervous About Sex

Salam Love InshAllah,

I will be getting married next month and I will move from the stage of not being allowed to be alone with my future husband to being allowed to be intimate with him and I must say I am feeling nervous. My question is about my wedding night or any night that we choose to be intimate. I grew up in a conservative community and attended a Muslim school so my knowledge about sex and intimacy is limited to that which may pop up in a conversation of inexperienced, virgin girls.

The truth is I am nervous that due to my lack of experience or knowledge I will be either repulsed by any act of intimacy (kissing and sex) or be so put off it that it will be something I dread. How do I prepare myself for taking the step towards being confident? I have low self esteem with regards to my body so the thought of being naked in front of my future husband is not a pleasant thought. Being a bad kisser or generally bad in bed is what scares me the most. I don’t want my nerves and setbacks to affect him or send the wrong signals. I don’t want him to feel like he is trying hard to please me in bed but I am not reciprocating simply because I don’t know or am too embarrassed.

All this is playing havoc with my nerves. I’d like to know how I can prepare myself and perhaps find out what men like so I can please him and perhaps put to bed my worries of my lack of experience effecting performance etc. Any advice and information would be greatly appreciated.

Nervous about Sex

Miss Sunshine replies:

Worries about your own desire are perfectly legitimate, but sex takes more than one person. It is not up to you alone to prepare for this event. You need to have some frank discussions with your fiance about your fears. It’s likely he shares many of your concerns, and talking about them honestly can build intimacy and affection, two things that contribute to sexual attraction. Good communication is also the foundation of great marriages, so beginning early starts you on a path toward a happier marriage.

I believe that we do our youth a huge disservice by expecting them to move easily from ignoring or suppressing their sexuality into full-blown intercourse. For all of the controversy around pre-nikkah sexual activity, there is something to be said for a time to explore your sexuality at your own pace. The pressures on virgin newlyweds can lead to long lasting sexual, psychological, and marital problems.

I know that many Muslims have found ways to allow some sexual exploration before the big day. In my husband’s ethnic community, it’s common for the bride and groom to contract the nikkah during a small ceremony in the presence of the sheikh, and the immediate families of the bride and groom. Culturally, the couple is only regarded as engaged, but religiously they are now married, and sexual exploration becomes legal for them. Culturally, it is acknowledged that the couple can now spend time alone, kiss, hold hands and engage in other activities short of intercourse– which is expected to be reserved for the wedding night. Since they are seen as an engaged couple, a divorce due to incompatibility doesn’t have the same social stigma as it would had intercourse taken place. The marriage is not considered official in the eyes of the community until the public ceremony involving friends, family, and community members has concluded.

This solution isn’t without problems. The stigma of divorce is based on the belief that women are less valuable after they’ve had sex. In that way, this custom reinforces sexist and oppressive ideas and practices. Also, some feel that this type of arrangement makes light of the seriousness of divorce by decreasing the stigma.

People who feel this solution is religiously problematic due to the divorce issue may contract a mut’a (fixed-term marriage) that explicitly states that no intercourse take place. Contracting a mut’a gives the couple a fiqh-compliant means of spending time alone, and engaging in limited sexual exploration. The problem here is that mut’a is only considered permissible by a small percentage of the ummah, and it also carries social stigma in many communities.

While fairly common, neither of these methods is without drawbacks. If you, your fiancé, and your families and/or communities are open to either, I’d recommend discussing them despite their imperfections. They can offer you a way to develop some trust around intimate issues, speak frankly to one another, and engage in the kind of foreplay and flirtation that can make the first few tries at intercourse much more relaxed and fun.

Shy Desi Boy replies:

When I had sex for the first time I was incredibly nervous. I worried that I would be so lousy in bed that the person I was with would no longer want to be with me. But at some point in the middle of it, I realized — my partner is just as nervous as I am. That gave me, and her, immense comfort. We had lousy sex for a few times and then we began to communicate about what we like and dislike and we began to please each other.

Being nervous is normal. It is a good thing. Sometimes it is possible to have awful sex with someone at first and to later have incredible sex with that same person because you learned each others pleasures.

As for the wedding night, my advice in our previous column, Clueless About My Wedding Night, still stands: consider not doing it. Weddings are so insanely stressful and, for a lack of a better word, unsexy. You are wearing such heavy wedding clothes and everyone is staring at you and you have pretend to know that creepy aunty who swears she saw you when you were just three days old. For me, this just do not get me in the mood for sex.

If you and your partner are up for having sex, I agree with the prior advice of my fellow columnist Ms. Sunshine — sometimes it is good to begin with gentle touching, a massage perhaps, and see where that leads. Many guys (and yes it is most often the guys) will just get on top of a women and grind so hard it is like the woman does not even exist. If this happens or if anything else happens that you do not like, it is important to say so. Of course it can be difficult; you might want to say, “perhaps you could do this instead” or “perhaps you can try this way?”

Also consider buying lubricant and condoms, in case your partner is too clueless to bring this himself. Lubricants can make sex much more pleasurable, especially on your first time. I also believe it is important to have someone to speak with — a girlfriend, a sister, a therapist — someone who you can trust and confide to should more questions arise after you have sex for the first time. Sex can and should be a wonderful experience and it is all the more meaningful when you know what it is that makes you most comfortable and pleased.

10 Comments on “Advice: Nervous About Sex”

  1. Jennwith2ns says:

    Good advice here.

  2. K says:

    Get to know each other and be attracted to one another and everything else will fall into place. No need to rush when the feelings haven’t developed yet 🙂

  3. DrH says:

    I grew up in the Middle East but was raised in the United States. You’re caught between 2 worlds and 2 very different cultures. Traditionally, we do not talk about sexuality, desires, intercourse or anything related as it’s a social taboo. In Western society and media, it’s often in your face whether you want it to be or not. It’s also such a fabricated version of what it is in reality, that it skews peoples perspectives and adds to insecurities.

    I too grew up with low self-esteem and a poor personal body image that the thought or idea of intimacy was terrifying. The truth is, you should not feel pressured into doing anything that you are not comfortable with. The best marriages are based on open and honest communication and trust. As they say, friends make the best lovers. This is because you can talk with a friend your close to about your insecurities and doubts. You can be honest about what you’re comfortable doing and what makes you feel good.

    I would encourage you to get to know your future husband. Become his friend first and when you’re ready, be his lover. He likely has the same doubts and anxieties as you do. Don’t let men and the media fool you into thinking they are either confident or naturally gifted at intimacy. In fact, most men don’t really know what makes us as women feel good, feel safe or even get sexually aroused.

    I agree by starting with simple things such as holding hands or even walking with your arms around each other. You have to feel comfortable with basic contact before you’ll want to progress further. In many instances simple touching can be more intimate than sex itself. As your relationship grows and your hearts grown found of each other, taking the next steps forward will feel natural. Even if your first experience doesn’t rock your world, don’t be discouraged. It’s a learning experience and as you keep trying and growing closer, you’ll find the rhythm that works for both of you – in shah Allah.

  4. I can completely sympathize – I had a very traditionally-set-up marriage, and was very nervous and unsure of what to expect or how to behave on the wedding night. AlHamdulillah, my then-husband was very considerate and sweet and tho things were a bit awkward the first few nights, it was nothing more embarrassing than normal virgin fumbling 🙂

    Taking our time and exploring with each other was a great opportunity to slowly become comfortable with increasing levels of physical intimacy (on top of emotional intimacy). One thing I’ve always been grateful for is that as a teenager (and I was 19 when I got married), I had pretty low self-esteem/ body image as well, but my ex was great at helping me overcome that. I quickly became more confident in my body and my sexuality, which is a blessing I continue to appreciate.

    I highly recommend that you talk to your fiance, or even more ideally, go with the nikah/ engagement phase first as an opportunity to talk and ‘experiment’ without the stress of going all the way.

    And finally… NO ONE is perfect (or even all that good) during their first time(s)! Practice makes perfect, so try to establish a comfort level of honest, open communication with your fiance and then enjoy the journey of learning about each other and your bodies 🙂

  5. Alhumdulillah.
    Good Advice.
    I believe it rings true for those of us who are divorced and have been chaste since our last marriage, my self included. I want to get remarried , inShaAllah, after my divorce is final legally..but i am TERRIFIED of physical intimacy with the next husband.
    inShaAllah he will be a patient man, patient with me and the process…and it will grow the love between us.

  6. Your concerns are completely normal.
    Be patient with yourself and your partner.
    Be honest. Talk as openly as possible.
    If you’re bookish, find books that help. You can contact me for specific suggestions if you want.

  7. JC says:

    Assalaamu alaykum dear Sr. Nervous

    This happens to almost EVERYONE. Muslims, non-Muslims (when they’re losing their virginity), young, old, never-married, divorced, etc. Our moral code trains us to be modest, which makes it very difficult for us to even be naked, let alone having sex with our spouse. So don’t think that being nervous is a bad thing – in fact it’s a good thing. It’s a reflection of your hayaa’ (modesty) and the strength of your Iman.

    So how do you handle it? First thing to remember is that the wedding night is NOT what everyone expects it to be. My spouse and I did nothing more than sleep after our nikah and after the walima, mainly because we were EXHAUSTED. The Wedding Night is NOT the time or place to have your first sexual experience with your new hubby, so just enjoy it, get some rest. But I think you are talking about more than just your wedding night.

    The most important thing you can do is to talk to your spouse – even before your wedding – about your modesty, and that you want him to help you after your wedding, just as you will help him. Assuming that your fiancée is just as “inexperienced” as you, he too will be just as nervous and unaware of what to do and won’t know what he likes or dislikes yet. If you have a sibling, preferably your married sister, you can talk to her in confidence. Apparently some sisters tell each other everything, including difficulties they’re having and advice too.

    Also, try to spend time with him before your wedding – not necessarily alone – but just in each other’s presence. Get to know how he is casually (i.e., not when he’s under the pressure of being in front of you and your family trying to make/keep a good impression). Allow yourselves to flirt just a little but from a distance. Let yourselves give each other a certain look, or a gesture, as long as it’s not overly suggestive. Try to get to know his friends a little, as you’ll need to know them better after. Hopefully he’ll do the same with you.

    In marriage, remember generally that each spouse has a religious duty to sexually satisfy the other. This makes your act of love making a source of Barakah and a form of Ibadah. So say bismillah, make a du’a, make sure you have wudu’ and remember that he has to please you too (I’d say first).

    Once you are married, make sure neither of you are in a rush to do anything. Spend some quality time just with each other – with your clothes on. First get comfortable with each other, touching each other (I mean holding, hugging, cuddling, etc.) before you move to kissing and other foreplay-ish stuff. When you’re ready, take it to the next level – foreplay (but no sex). This is where those ideas of a massage, gentle touching, etc. comes in. At some point, the attraction will take over (some may call it lust), and you will both feel your emotional desire leading you to the bedroom. You will be more willing to be free of your inhibitions, but use those inhibitions to help each other get comfortable slowly – i.e., don’t just whip off your clothes like a bandaid. You’ll feel even more self conscious if you do. Take your time, say Bismillah, and get comfortable with a specific part of your body bared to him, and vice versa. Eventually you will be totally comfortable with him and he with you. But it takes time. Go slowly.

    I also recommend – AFTER your wedding – to read up on a few non-Muslim sources (like Cosmo’s website, or for safe reading material on tips, positions, things you can do before sex, or to make it more fun (and by safe I mean non-pornographic). Share it with him. This will help both of you learn to try new things. (By the way… just remember that anal sex is haram and will BREAK your nikah – you will be as if you were divorced – instantly; lots of people don’t know that). Make sure you take time out to spend with each other, whether in the bedroom or not – just to maintain your increasing closeness. Once you have kids, you’ll be struggling to find time to be alone.

    Just remember to take your time.

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  9. Brother Habib says:

    This lecture will help Insh’Allaah
    The Complete Islamic Guide To Sex In Urdu By Adv. Faiz Syed