I told my partner that I’m a virgin, but I’m not. Will they be able to tell?

Great question! Virginity can be a complicated and emotional subject. You’re definitely not alone in having questions about it.

The short answer is no, your partner will NOT be able to tell that you’re not a virgin. Sexual partners (or doctors, or anyone) cannot tell whether you’ve had sex before.

One common myth is that people with vaginas always bleed the first time they have penis-in-vagina (PIV) sex. However, that is not true. People with vaginas might bleed for a few different reasons during sex, like if there’s not enough lube or your hymen (a thin membrane that stretches over some—not all!—of the vaginal opening) tears a bit. We talk more about why some people bleed the first time they have sex and how the hymen is involved here.

Virginity does not have a medical definition.

What “virginity” means is determined by society, and different people have different definitions. This has a lot to do with different definitions of sex. A doctor will never ask whether you’re a virgin—instead, they will ask whether you’re sexually active. This includes not only PIV sex but also oral sex (blow job, going down on, eating out, rimming), manual sex (hand job, fingering) and anal sex. This is because all of these activities carry a risk of spreading STIs (and in the case of PIV sex, pregnancy).

Ultimately, it’s up to you who you talk to about your sexual history.

However, it is worth thinking about why you don’t feel comfortable telling your partner that you’ve had sex. Sex can be a fun, positive, intimate experience. However, it’s also powerful and makes you and your partner vulnerable. If you don’t trust your partner enough to tell them that you’ve had sex, do you trust them enough to have sex with them? Do you feel safe and comfortable with them? If you don’t, think hard about whether you want to have sex with them or be in a relationship with them. Healthy relationships are built on trust and respect, and you deserve both.

Of course, there might be other reasons you don’t want to talk about your sex life that aren’t related to your relationship.

Maybe you don’t feel comfortable talking about sex in general. Talking about sex can be difficult or feel awkward, especially when it’s with a new person or sex is new in general. That’s normal and ok, but remember—talking about sex with your partner is an important part of establishing consent, communicating about what you both want and having safer sex. The more you talk about sex, the easier it will feel!

If the sexual experience you had wasn’t consensual, or left you feeling bad or uncomfortable, talking about it might be particularly hard. That’s ok, and completely normal. It’s completely up to you when or whether you talk to your partner about it.  If you feel safe and comfortable, talk to a trusted adult about what you’ve been through. You are not alone. If you’re not sure who to go to, you can make a free, confidential appointment at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center to talk about consent, safer sex, communication and what you’re feeling.

No matter what, it’s important to take care of your and your partner’s sexual health. Make sure you both understand the importance of consent and communication. Use a barrier method (like condoms) and get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) to prevent the spread of STIs. If you’re having PIV sex, use an additional method of birth control to prevent pregnancy.

If you’re 10-26 years old in NYC, you can stop by the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center for completely free, confidential birth control, STI testing and treatment, counseling and other health services.