We can all agree that (unless you’re somewhere on the asexual spectrum), sex can be a lot of fun. But it’s also true that sometimes we all wish we had a bit of a cheat sheet - and that’s where a Normal Guide comes in handy.
If you’re someone who has a penis, and you’re interested in trying sex with another person with a penis, this is the guide for you*. We’ll cover sexual health and how to foster comfort and safety with a partner, as well as a bunch of useful tips and techniques, so you can focus on having a great (and consensual, always) time. So let’s dive right in!
*Why do we use language this way (instead of calling this, say, the Normal Guide to Gay Sex)? Because some people with penises don’t identify their gender as male, we stick to the anatomy (and let you pick your own gender and sexuality labels!).
Part 1: Your anatomy
Our bodies don’t come with an owner’s manual, so getting to know how they work often requires a combination of research and experimentation. Bodies are definitely more fun when we know how to use them to our advantage, so let’s take an anatomy crash course. We promise this will be much more interesting than what you learned in school!
Another quick note on language: not everybody who was born with what, medically, is referred to as a penis, refers to it that way. In particular, some non-binary people or trans women who have what we might think of as a penis, might call it their clitoris or “girl dick.” The important thing is to use what language works for you for your body, and ask others how they like to refer to their body parts if you want to be sure to help them feel comfortable in their bodies.
- What is it: Also known as the tip, or the head of the penis, encompassing everything beyond the corona, or the ridge. If you think of the glans as looking like a helmet, the corona is the bottom edge of that helmet.
- Pleasure tips: This is a really sensitive part of the penis, and having it gently rubbed (with an appropriate amount of lube) can feel really good! Fingers and tongues both feel amazing, as does putting it inside things, like buttholes and toys like penis sleeves! People with foreskin tend to be more sensitive here than folks who have been circumcised.
- What is it: The most prominent part of the penis that is outside the body, including everything from where the penis comes out of your body, up to the corona.
- Pleasure tips The most obvious thing to do with a penis shaft is to grab it with your hand and move up and down the length of the shaft. If you’ve got a foreskin, this is likely to move that up and down over the head of the penis too, which also feels great!
- What is it: This is the hole that pee and semen comes out of. The opening to the urethra at the tip of your penis is called the “meatus.”
- Pleasuring it: Some folks find playing with their urethra pleasurable, but it’s not for beginners! More on this when we talk about urethral sounds below.
- What is it: You or your partners may or may not have a foreskin, depending on if you’ve been circumcised. Foreskin goes up and over the head of your penis, and tightens and/or pulls back when you get an erection.
- Pleasure tips: There’s not usually a lot of pleasure to be derived from the foreskin itself, but pulling it back and forth over the glans can be lots of fun.
Scrotum and Testicles
- What is it: Your scrotum is the bit below your penis, and contains your balls, or testicles, which produce semen and sperm.
- Pleasure tips: Lots of us love to have our balls licked, sucked, and tickled!
- What is it: This is the part of your body between where your scrotum is attached, back to where your anus, or butthole, is. It’s also known as the taint.
- Pleasure tips: Some people find a lot of pleasure when there is pressure on their taint, from hands or other body parts or toys.
Anus and Rectum
- What is it: Your anus is your butthole! Your rectum is the cavity inside your anus.
- Pleasure tips: The anus has a bunch of super sensitive nerve endings. Tongues, fingers gently rubbing around or being inserted into the hole, and pressure on the outside can all feel great. Many of us enjoy anal penetration with fingers, penises, fists, and anal toys. The rectum doesn’t really experience any pleasure itself, but gives access to the prostate, described below.
- What is it: Also known as the P spot, the prostate is a walnut-sized gland located in the pelvis, accessible from within the rectum.
- Pleasure tips: When pressed or rubbed with fingers, toys, or penises, can feel absolutely amazing. If a partner with a prostate is laying on their back, and you gently insert one or two fingers into their butthole about or two centimetres and make a “come hither” gesture up towards their stomach, you’ve got a good chance of rubbing their prostate in a way that feels great for them.
Part 2: Masturbation and self-knowledge
Alright, now we’ve gone over the important anatomy bits, let’s start exploring our bodies. For maximum fun and pleasure during sex, alone or with others, one of the most important things is to “know thyself.” Every body enjoys different things, so learning about your body and what you do and don’t enjoy makes sex far more enjoyable, and you can tell your partners what you like.
It’s worth making space for some alone time occasionally, where you can lay on your bed and explore your body. Start with a shower, or better, a relaxing bath, to get yourself clean and in the mood. Set out anything you might want to play with, including any toys you own, lube, condoms, a towel or two, and maybe some mood lighting and background music. Explore your body with fingers, hands, and toys. Try being gentle, rough, fast, slow, etc. If your space allows for it, let yourself make some noise; moan, groan, breath quickly, slowly, heavily, lightly.
An activity that’s worth exploring, either on your own or with a partner, is known as body mapping. This is where you, or a partner, slowly and methodically touch every part of your body, using different techniques (finger tips, tongues, fingernails, feathers, etc), to take note of which body parts respond positively to different sensations. It’s a great way to do a thorough self-discovery and find out what you enjoy most.
Most importantly, have fun!
Part 3: Safe(r) sex
Sex is supposed to be fun, but STIs (sexually transmitted infections) most certainly are not! STIs are a normal and manageable fact of life, but it’s probably still worth being responsible and trying to avoid them, right?
Some STIs have vaccines, or are treatable or curable, while others just have to run their course. Different STIs can be contracted via genital to genital (or via other skin-on-skin) contact, oral sex, penetrative (vaginal/anal) sex, contact with other people’s blood, sharing toys, etc. Some are relatively benign, while others have quite serious symptoms. The Melbourne Sexual Health Centre has some great information about particular STIs if you need more details.
Getting tested regularly is an important way to reduce the risk of STIs. If you’re having sex regularly with many different partners, it’s recommended that you get tested once every three months. Check our resources section for Sexual Health Centres where you can get tested, or talk to your regular doctor.
Some STIs, such as herpes (or HSV) and HPV can be asymptomatic for much of the time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t transmit them to others. This is another reason why testing is important for STIs that have reliable tests.
If you’re at risk of contracting HIV, it’s worth considering going on PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis), which is a pill you can take regularly to prevent contracting HIV. HIV can be passed on through anal and vaginal sex without condoms, or sharing injecting equipment, but is unlikely to be passed on through unbarriered oral sex, or if condoms are properly used for anal or vaginal sex. It’s worth investigating PrEP if you expect to be having unbarriered anal or vaginal sex.
Condoms and other barriers aren’t just useful for reducing the risk of pregnancy; they’re also one of the simplest ways to mitigate the risk of most (but not all) STIs. Condoms can also be used on dildos, butt plugs, or other sex toys, to avoid transmitting STIs via toys. Just use a fresh condom on the toy for every new person who uses it. Other toys, such as cock sleeves, can be used with condoms by putting a condom on the penis that’s using the sleeve.
Lube. Lots of lube. You can almost never have too much lube. Most body parts aren’t self-lubricating, and spit/saliva is not a good lubricant. Your sex life will be drastically improved with a good lubricant. Lubes can be based on different materials, most commonly water or silicone, both of which can be used with pretty much any toys, with the exception that silicone lubes degrades the silicone in silicone sex toys. Massage oil and coconut oil can also be fun to play with, but oil degrades latex condoms and makes them very ineffective, and can damage toys.
Ensuring that we’re all on the same page with regard to what we are and aren’t comfortable doing with partners is critical. Safe words are a great and simple way to quickly communicate that we are or aren’t enjoying something, or that we want to stop what we’re doing completely. One of the most straightforward systems for this is the traffic light safe word system: when somebody says the word “green” it means they’re enjoying what’s happening and want it to continue. When they say “red,” that means stop everything. If somebody calls red, stop what you’re doing and give them some space, ask if them if they’re OK, and perhaps offer a gentle hug if they look upset or need reassurance (but don’t actually hug them unless they agree). If you’re expecting to have some particularly intense sex, it’s worth negotiating up front what should happen if somebody calls red. There are a couple of different meanings for “orange” or “yellow.” Some people use it to mean they aren’t enjoying this particular thing and would like to switch to something a little different, while others use it to mean, they’re enjoying this thing now, but don’t want the intensity to increase any further.
Part 4: Devices
Sex toys can be an excellent way to spice up our sex lives, but when considering trying some of them, it’s worth doing your research to find toys that will work best for you.
Not all toys are created equal. Cheap toys are likely to be less durable than expensive ones, and are often made of materials that aren’t body safe. Many cheap toys are also made of porous materials, meaning that germs can get stuck within the material, making them impossible to properly clean. Generally, it’s best to stick with toys made of glass, stainless steel, or high quality silicone. These materials should be safe to wash with warm soapy water, and boil in a pot to kill any germs or STIs (if they are made of glass or steel). Alternatively, you could try out our very own sex toy cleaning spray! If your toy has any electronics in it though, carefully read its cleaning instructions first.
One final bit of advice, before we get into specific toys: if a toy is going to go into your butt, make sure that it has a flared base to prevent the entire toy ending up in there and avoid an embarrassing hospital visit!
Dildos are generally shaped like an erect penis, and can be inserted into butts, vaginas, or mouths. They come in varying shapes and sizes, and some even vibrate.
As mentioned above, ensure any dildos you use have a flared base so they don’t get lost up your butt or something, mmkay? Also don’t forget lube!
Size-wise, it’s good to start small. Maybe experiment with one or two fingers first, and find a dildo of a similar diameter. You can always get bigger ones down the road, but don’t overdo it early on, because sore butts from trying to cram big things into them are not fun!
Cock sleeves are designed to simulate butts, vaginas, or mouths, inside which you can put your penis! Some are more discreet than others and therefore suitable for travelling without running the risk of embarrassment if somebody has to go through your luggage. It’s worth researching how easy sleeves are to clean before purchasing, because this can vary greatly.
Sleeves can also be great for people who experience premature ejaculation too, as they can help to train you to last longer. Also, some cock sleeves look like a penis on the outside too, so they can be worn during penetration to reduce the sensation on your penis.
Cock rings are small rings designed to go around your erect penis and sit at the base. These create a sensation of pressure, which some people enjoy, and they help keep your penis erect by restricting blood flow.
Some cock rings come in sets of different sizes, to cater for penises of various diameters, or for folks who want to put them around the base of their scrotum instead (or around both their scrotum and penis!).
Some cock rings are made of silicone, others are made of steel. It’s worth experimenting with a stretchy cock ring first, because there’s nothing quite like the stress of struggling to get a non-stretchy cock ring off while you’re still erect!
Sensation play can be really fun, and blindfolds are a great way to leverage this. Blindfolds are simple, and taking away our sight can improve all our other senses, while adding a sense of mystery around what our partners are going to do next. The other great thing about blindfolds is that they can be made of almost anything; a spare piece of fabric, a scarf, or other item of clothing. Blindfolds are definitely worth trying out in the bedroom!
Handcuffs or other restraints can be cool to try if you want to introduce a power dynamic into your sex life. If you trust your partners enough for this, giving them the power to say when and how you’re allowed to move can be a really interesting and pleasurable experience. Whether your hands are bound behind your back, or maybe attached to the head of your bed while you lay flat, there’s something sensual about putting yourself in your partners’ hands in such a vulnerable way. Paired with a blindfold, this can add another level of trust and sensation!
More Advanced Toys
The following toys are a little more advanced, and it pays to do your research to ensure you have some idea what to expect, and perhaps use them with a trusted partner around.
Butt plugs are dildo-like plugs that you can insert in your butt. They’re designed with flared bases to stop them from getting lost in your rectum, and are also flared on the top so that, once inserted, they are unlikely to fall out. Many people enjoy the sensation of just leaving a butt plug in while performing other types of sex acts.
Plugs come in various sizes, so start conservatively, ensure you have plenty of lube, and if it hurts, stop. Your first time with a butt plug can be challenging, so take it slow and don’t rush.
Nipple clamps can be fun if you enjoy a bit of pain. They are similar in function to wooden clothes pegs, which actually make a viable substitute in a pinch (pun definitely intended), especially for beginners! Different clamps can result in varying degrees of pain, and there’s an added sensation of sensitive skin once the clamps are removed and the blood starts rushing back.
Toys such as urethral sounds are not for the faint of heart, but many people enjoy them. These are more extreme sex toys, and involve inserting a rod (usually made of steel or silicone) into your your urethra via your meatus, and along the length of your penis.
If this has got you feeling squeamish, then don’t worry; you’re not alone, as plenty of people decide this isn’t for them. If, on the other hand, you’re intrigued and would like to give this a shot, it’s worth carefully researching to ensure you are able to take appropriate safety precautions. This helps avoid urinary tract infections, or other damage to the inside of your urethra.
Violet wands are toys that send an electric current through the body. This can produce different sensations, from pleasurably warm tingling to more intense and focussed sensations. Some people enjoy these for sensation play. They’re typically hand-held devices which can be touched to different parts of the body, and adjusted to different intensities for varied effects.
Part 5: Great sex ;)
Life’s too short for bad sex. Let’s look at ways to help facilitate great sex with others. “Great sex” means something different to everybody. What you consider “great” may be a polar opposite to somebody else. There are, however, a few basics that most of us agree can make sex better for everybody involved:
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Communication is perhaps the most important part of sex, ensuring we’re both interested in trying out the same types of things, and allowing us to set and respect boundaries for each other’s limits. Relying on non-verbal cues to determine if a partner is enjoying themselves only gets you so far; if you want to really be sure, you have to use your words!
But doesn’t talking or double-checking for consent during sex ruin the mood? Heck no! Consent and communication can be super sexy! Assertively expressed phrases like “tell me what you want me to do to you,” “how does this feel?” or “say green unless you want me to stop” can be a real turn-on for people.
The Art of the Hookup has some great ideas on how to use communication to improve your sex life. Their 5 key recommendations are to ask for consent (and sound sexy while you’re doing it), use the traffic light safe word system, learn to Dirty Talk, ask for what you want, and debrief afterwards. Check out their website for more detail.
Take. Your. Time. Seriously. Especially if you’re with somebody new, take the time to ensure you’re both comfortable and have an idea on what sort of stuff you’d like to do together.
Remember that the journey should be as much fun as the destination. Sex isn’t exclusively about orgasms, for example. Sure, orgasms can feel amazing, but so can a bunch of other things, and taking your time to build up to an orgasm can make the orgasm feel all that much more powerful! And if you don’t manage to reach orgasm, that’s totally fine too.
It’s worth considering creative ways to set the mood. This could include a softly lit room, with some sexy or relaxing music. You could start by trading massages, or playing the “2-minute game”, mentioned below. Gentle touches or cuddling up while watching a movie can be great places to begin.
If you tried out the body mapping activity mentioned in the Masturbation and Self-knowledge section above, you could make use of that information here, by sharing a bit about what works well for you, and introducing your partner to the same activity so they can do the same. If you’re uncomfortable stating your preferences, perhaps try turning it into a game where each of you share 3 things you really enjoy, and 3 things that are on your “nope” list!x
Your first time
Alright, you want to have sex with one or more other humans. We don’t blame you, it’s pretty fun. But where do you start?
If this is your very first time ever, that’s great!
Whether it’s someone you’ve been seeing for a while, someone you’ve met today, someone you’ve finally popped the question to (variations on “hey I find you really attractive, I would love to explore each other’s bodies sometime if you’re interested?” are great), or even a sex worker who can ensure you have a safe and fun first experience* - that’s fabulous.
*A quick heads up: Sex work is a completely valid profession and can help you ensure your first time is a really great one. It’s legal in most parts of Australia, but do check the local laws for your state or territory if you’re unsure.
Once you find somebody who says “yeah, sure!” to hooking up, pat yourself on the back for making the first move (or saying yes to an exciting offer), and discuss some boundaries and desires with this person. This consent card is a great prompt for conversations like this.
Alright, we’re almost there, and you’re ready to get down to the practical part of the experience; go you! Ensure you have plenty of lube, condoms (or other barriers), and towels handy; it’s annoying to stop and fumble around for something mid-coitus! Find a relaxing environment, lay out all your things in an accessible but out-of-the way place, and start playing!
It’s also worth getting on the same page with your partners around any pre- and post-sex hygiene (or other) rituals you each like. For example, some folks like to shower before and/or after sex (and pre-sex showers can be a great way to build intimacy if done together). Some people also like to use an anal douche to reduce the risk of messy anal sex, while others are content to just put down a towel and clean up afterwards. Anal douching isn’t actually necessary, despite what many folks think, but some people feel more comfortable doing it, just in case.
If you’re not sure where to start, one idea could be to try something called the “2-minute game,” where you offer to do something (e.g. give your partner a head or back massage), but only do it for 2 minutes. This lets you experiment with something without committing to it for too long. You can take turns spending 2 minutes on each other, slowly increasing intimacy until you mutually decide to stop.
Let’s look at some specific things for you to try. For each of the below suggestions, remember that everybody is different, so it’s important to get feedback from your partners on what they are and aren’t enjoying regularly throughout your hook up!
Massages are a great way to build intimacy and start to explore what people like. You can start by massaging relatively innocuous parts of your partners’ bodies, such as heads, backs, necks, shoulders, and feet, and slowly move to more sensual parts, like butts, chests, inner-thighs, and groins.
Don’t underestimate the pleasure of kissing! Starting with gentle pecks on the other person’s lips, and slowly becoming more intense, or moving to kissing other body parts are a great way to set the mood for other things, or are fun in their own right, if you don’t want to go any further.
Most (but not all) people with penises enjoy having them in other people’s mouths. This can include tongues on thighs, balls, shafts, around the head of penis, and just popping the whole thing (or as much of it as is comfortable for both people) in your mouth, and sucking and licking, paying attention to responses to determine whether to keep going, or try something different.
Rimming is when you use your mouth to stimulate another person’s anus, by licking their hole. This can feel amazing, but it’s worth ensuring you’ve both had a shower first, to ensure you don’t get sick. Some people really enjoy having their face in between another person’s butt cheeks! Various things to try could include gentle licking with just the tip of your tongue, running circles around the anus, or flicking it with your tongue. If you want to get really enthusiastic, you could dive right in with some big licks with the middle of your tongue; experiment and see what works!
Continuing on from oral sex and rimming, 69s can be a great way for both partners to receive these at once! This usually involves one person laying on their back, with the other person laying (or kneeling on all-fours) on top of them in the opposite direction, so each person’s face is in front of the other person’s genitals. The same advice from above applies for listening to feedback from your partner as to what is working and what’s not. Most people, assuming both partners are of similar height, can manage to reach each others’ genitals and anus from this position with a little contortion. Be gentle with your body though, and if things hurt, stop; not everybody is super flexible. For some people, it might be easier to do this with both parties laying on their sides. Others like to take the advanced class and do this standing up, holding the other person upside down by the waist!
Anal sex can take some getting used to, but can feel really pleasurable. It’s worth starting by gently touching and rubbing the other person’s anus with a finger to help it relax. Don’t use lube initially, because some people may clench involuntarily if they feel something wet on their butthole, fearing they may have an accident. Just rub the outside first for a bit, and after a while, get some lube and very gently push a finger in, getting constant feedback for how things are feeling. Once fingers are going in and out smoothly, then you can try for something bigger, like a penis. Position is important here. Everybody’s penis is differently shaped, so trying different positions, where one or the other person is on top, or doggy style, with one person is behind the other with both on their knees, are all worth exploring. If it hurts, stop.
Maybe you don’t want to jump right into putting things into holes, and that’s totally fine too! In this case, you could try getting your partner to lay naked on a bed, possibly with their hands and/or legs tied, or their eyes closed or blindfolded, and gently touch them on different parts of their body with your fingers or other body parts. Gentle touch with fingertips or finger nails, feathers, vibrators, or other objects, can feel amazing in positions like this. If you want to get a bit rough, either being more intense with finger tips, or grabbing or spanking, be sure to start slow and gentle and ensure your partner likes that first, before going at it hard. Switching things up from soft to a little harder, and moving between different body parts, can help keep partners on edge and wondering what will happen next. If they’re enjoying it, you can perhaps then switch to using your tongue and mouth too; again though, if you’re considering biting, start with a gentle nibble and read their feedback before biting a chunk out of their body!
As mentioned above, some people have things they like to do after sex. This could be having a shower, cuddling, debriefing about what they did and didn’t enjoy, and what they could try next time, or any number of other things. It’s important to work out what each of you need at this point, to ensure everybody feels good about how things played out.
Congratulations, you’ve done it! The first time with a new person can be scary, but you’ve conquered your fear and hopefully had a fun time!
Let’s wrap up with a few final notes to wrap up with, and some resources to be aware of if you need support.
Problems with Pop Culture and Porn
Porn can be really hot to watch both alone and with partners, but it’s not an ideal place to get sex education. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes in porn that isn’t obvious. If you see a scene that included anal sex, it’s likely that, even if the first that is shown of it is a penis going into a butt, there was quite a bit of warm-up that went on beforehand that isn’t shown, and skipping that warm up in real life can cause discomfort or pain. Other things that happen off screen are consent negotiations concerning what acts each performer is up for, as well as potentially quite a bit more foreplay than is actually shown. According to Sexologist, Dr. Lindsey Doe, average length of foreplay is around 13 minutes, while the ideal duration is closer to 18 minutes.
Porn also exaggerates physical attributes of people, too; not everybody will be as conventionally good-looking or as fit as you might see in porn, and that’s totally fine! People can be fun and sexy without conforming to societal expectations!
Pop culture tends to perpetuate problematic ideas which can harm our relationships. For example, it often glorifies jealousy as a demonstration that one’s partner cares for them, implies that good partners should just know what each other want without being told, and can be quite prescriptive about what sex should be. On the contrary, jealously can be healthy and help to identify our wants and needs; the only way to truly be sure what a partner or anybody else wants is to ask them; and sex means different things to different people, so do what works for you, and communicate to get on the same page as your partners!
Constructive Sex Education
Given porn isn’t particularly rich with accurate sex education information, and penis-on-penis pleasure was notably absent from most school curricula, where can this information be found?
First and most of all, we recommend The Modern Guide to Sex, our video course created with NORMAL's inhouse sex coach Georgia Grace - it covers the foundations of great sex, from sexual health, consent and communication to pleasure anatomy, desire and practical techniques for different types of sex.
Sexologist Lindsey Doe’s YouTube channel, Sexplanations, is an excellent resource, with topics all about sex, bodies, consent, communication, non-monogamy, BDSM, and more. Sex School Hub has some really helpful videos about sex, too. Make Love Not Porn shows real amateur people having sex, to help counter the unrealistic sex portrayed in conventional porn. O-school also has a bunch of resources for sex and orgasms. Curious Creatures is a Melbourne-based company that runs workshops and play parties on sex and sexuality, as well as host a podcast. The Art of the Hookup is a great book for how to have great sex, and also has lots of information on their website, and in their podcast. If you’re looking to spice up your sex life, check out Mojo Upgrade, the Gottman Card Deck, and the Wheel of Foreplay for some fun ideas of what to do with partners!
A web search for sexual health clinics in your local area is also incredibly valuable. Some people aren’t comfortable talking about sexual health with their regular doctor for various reasons, so if this includes you, finding somebody who specialises in this area can make it far easier to open up about it and getting your questions answered accurately. There’s even a federal government website to help get you started, as well as more targeted websites for Victoria, NSW, and Queensland.
You may even want to look into speaking with someone like a sex coach / sexologist / sex therapist (like Normal’s awesome inhouse sex coach, Georgia Grace - you can also find her advice for free on Instagram!). They can give you the kind of personalised support and advice that can help you move past what’s challenging you or try that thing you’re excited about.
So, we’ve covered anatomy, self-pleasure, safer sex, sex toys, and how to have great sex. Hopefully now you’re feeling more comfortable exploring sex alone and with partners. Remember, this is meant to be fun, so while it’s worth doing your research and having some idea what you’re doing, try to relax and enjoy it! Have an awesome sex life!
Mattis a committed and neurodiverse sex and relationship nerd with a focus on communication, consent, and empathy. He has lots of experience in polyamory and other non-monogamous relationship styles.
To learn more about the foundations of great sex with acclaimed sex coach Georgia Grace, check out NORMAL's video masterclass, The Modern Guide To Sex.