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Sex and Relationships: Who Remembers the First Time?

Is a man’s desire for new sex partners and different erotic experiences just the thrill of conquest and variety? Or could it be a subliminal search for the ecstasy of his first sexual experience? And what about women—do they remember “the first time” as something worth doing again?

Sam Keen’s timeless and insightful book, Fire in the Belly—on Being a Man, candidly discusses these issues. “Statisticians and psychologists have established that boys, once aroused to sex, think about it on the average of six times an hour on a slow day…, he writes, “A boy’s initiation to sex usually takes place somewhere in the psychological arena that is bounded by the wet dream, the locker room, and the back seat of a car…For some, suddenly without warning the sexual apocalypse arrived, and the revelation of the mystery appeared in a dream.”

 Keen shares how one man remembered his first experience:

I didn’t know anything about sex but I was beginning to find certain girls beautiful. I kept a picture of Elizabeth Taylor from the newspaper advertisement for National Velvet in my wallet.  Then one night I dreamt that I was making love to her. When I entered her I was simultaneously within the beauty of her face, the depth of her vagina, and the exploding stars.  It was the Fourth of July in every cell of my body, skyrockets and all. When I awoke I lay very still….I had no words, no concepts for what had happened to me. But I knew I had passed over into a great new territory….The experience was so intense, so psychedelic, so memorable that the first time I actually had sex with a woman I was disappointed that the reality didn’t measure up to the dream.”

I recently asked Sam Keen if he believed women have a similar attachment to their first sexual experience. He replied, “Probably not. With women, the onset of sexuality is often slow and not as obvious as it is in males—who have a “leading indicator.” Also, many women do not have orgasms during intercourse, at least for a long time.”

“Some women say they don’t even remember the first time,” Keen continued. He referred to Kinsey’s first study and, “…the shocking revelation that the average man climaxes after about 2-1/2 minutes into intercourse--which explains the bored look on the faces of many wives. How much are they going to remember?”

However, he said that the character of that first experience is probably the determiner. “Of course, if a woman has a skilled and caring lover the first time, she is more likely to remember it.”

Sam Keen’s candid book does not just deal with sex, but with all aspects of relationships between men and women. He believes traditional marriage is here to stay and is even more valuable in a society where we have so little belonging. He says, “I don’t think you can blame the institution of marriage for a lot of the failures. Marrying too young is one major factor. Immature people can’t be expected to create mature marriages.”

Keen, a 20-year contributing editor to Psychology Today, does not believe that the current trend of early sexualization and young teenagers having sex either by “hooking up” or in steady relationships is a good idea. It’s not just a moral issue, but because, as Keen explained, “Sex is such a powerful and intense emotion. The early suppression of sexuality allows that intensity to go into other things such as studying and other pursuits needed for a successful future. We need that intensity to propel ourselves into later life. Becoming obsessed with sex too early is not a good thing.”

He reminds us in his book, “Never once as a budding man did I hear another man boast about the long, slow pleasure he experienced in sex, or speak of the beauty of the changing hues of a woman’s eyes, of the sweet contentment of lying with a woman after love.”

And, he continues, “I have it on good authority that when women get together and talk about their lovers, they don’t speak much about hardness, speed, or number of orgasms. Instead they praise men who touch softly, who receive pleasure as easily as they give it…they all agree that they would like men to slow down, take their time, enjoy the trip and not worry so much about the outcome.”

He praises the advent of birth control and Viagra as revolutionary developments that allow both men and women to enjoy sex without anxiety. But it’s not just what we can do and how long we can do it that determines whether or not our partner will remember.

We now have lots of aides and knowledge that wasn’t available to prior generations. It’s made sex easier. Has it made it better? 

Do you remember the first time?

(Fire in the Belly—on Becoming a Man is now on Kindle. Sam Keen describes himself as “over-educated at Harvard and Princeton.” He was a contributing editor to Psychology Today for 20 years. He has authored many compelling books and co-produced the award-winning PBS documentary, Faces of the Enemy. Information on his work is available at )


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