The power of touch: having sex with another woman shook my brain and restarted my heart

Hannah Jane Parkinson

Everyone’s “first time” is different: a drunken, messy affair; a gentle experience with a committed partner; a huge disappointment; a satisfying endeavour – or a combination.

But some people, myself included, have had more than a single loss of virginity. (The description of “losing” your virginity is quite odd, isn’t it? As if it has been left on a train seat. Though, doubtless, that will have been the case for someone out there.)

My first time having sex? An upstairs bedroom during a teen house party, I’m afraid. We’ll breeze past the mortifying moment my friends opened the door and stuck their heads around it, like a barbershop quartet. But years later, I had sex for the first time once more – with a woman.

I knew it would be fundamentally different, so the word revelation isn’t quite right. Revelation suggests an element of surprise, and I wasn’t surprised. But the extent to which my body and brain were changed was indisputable.

It was with a woman who had also never slept with a woman before. She wasn’t a random person (and this was in the days before dating apps). I had known her for a month or so, and we had instantly become inseparable. Despite the fact neither of us identified as gay or bisexual, or the new terms that have entered the lexicon, the fact that we would end up having sex seemed somehow inevitable.

I had kissed women before, but this time it was softer than I remembered. It helped that we had such intense feelings for one another, but there was a winning-Tetris-move element to that kiss; our lips perfectly in sync.

Later, at her house, she took me by the hand as we went upstairs to her bedroom; the taste of wine and each other’s mouths on our tongues. Hand-holding between adults can be platonic or it can be romantic in a comforting, casual sense. But when someone is leading you by the hand, or you are leading someone by the hand, up the stairs to bed, it is incredibly erotic. It plays at innocence, but really it is a pencil sketch of foreplay.

Being naked with someone in a sexual setting is the most intimate you can be with another; the most vulnerable. Women are literally opening ourselves up. It isn’t just touch and physical contact that make sex so pleasurable: it is the stimulation of all the senses: taste; smell; hearing and sight.

The feel though, of someone’s body, whichever part of it, against your own, is surely one of the greatest sensualities in life. There are common erogenous zones, but every individual is different in how they prefer to be touched. Despite what evangelists would argue, sex with a woman felt entirely natural to me.

There are many points of contact during sex, often more than one touched at the same time. Each position is origami made flesh. Legs are crossed and intertwined; backs and shoulders held; torsos aligned. All of this touch is the bringing together of bodies, though the shapes and designs vary.

I am a tactile person: a hand-shaker, a hugger, a knee tapper, a high-fiver, a cheek-kisser. So touch, in all settings, is important to me. But it was touching that woman and her touching me, under and over a high-tog goose-feather duvet, the weight of which I can still feel, that altered my life. It shook my brain and restarted my heart, but most of all, it elevated touch to a whole new level. Both being touched and touching. It felt good. It still does.

• Hannah Jane Parkinson is a Guardian columnist