A virgin, two Muslims, a girl who likes to play the field and a monogamous couple talk about sex. One of them gets off in hotels, one needs kissing as foreplay and one is a virgin at 27. But this is about more than sex.
For everyone, the complexities of the emotional side and difficulties of human communication get to the heart of it all. It's a conversation about the worlds of difference between individual sex lives in different countries. It's about societal pressures and taboos, including how parents and schools talk about sex - or don't - in Egypt, Bangladesh, Europe and America.
Louise, 27, American, single, waiting for marriage, virgin, hetero, "I'm appalled by the number of Christians who are sexually active"
Nouri, 23, Egyptian, single, hetero, "I like sporty girls and perfume"
Karolyna, 21, Lithuanian, single, hetero, position: girl on top and spooning, sex toy: vibrator
Asif, 30, Bangladeshi, in a long-distance relationship, hetero, preferred position: girl on top
Laura, 23, German, in a relationship with Chris, hetero, preferred position: different locations / leaning against walls and closets
Chris, 25, Dutch, in a relationship with Laura, hetero, sex duration: between eight minutes and two hours
Karolyna: It was not as good as you'd expect. You see it in the movies, but you don't know how it actually is. It gets weird, especially when it's the first time. Afterwards I just thought "Thank God I got over it. I hope next time will be better." It just wasn't that much pleasure. It really only came with time and different partners.
Chris: I was 17 and it was with my first girlfriend, who was also a virgin. It was pretty comfortable, knowing it was gonna be the first time for both of us. I guess I didn't really enjoy it, it was more of a strange feeling than a particularly fun one. That feeling of it not feeling very good lasted for a while.
Laura: I was thinking, "I should have had sex a long time ago, all my friends already had it." I just wanted to get over with it. It wasn't really that awkward, but it was painful and unemotional. We were just friends. I didn't regret it, but I was underwhelmed.
Chris: It's an important part of growing up, but as soon as you can step aside and realise that, it's something normal. You can move on and not only become good at it but also treat it in a healthy way.
Asif: My first time was when I just finished my A-levels - at 18 - it was alright. I had it with a stranger. It was … it was more like a paid thing.
Louise: When I turned 12, my mom sat me down and had the "birds and bees" talk. I thought sex was two naked people kissing, but when she talked about the penis and the vagina, I freaked out.
Asif: I'm from Bangladesh, a Muslim country, and there was nothing called sex education. When I was growing up and passed 7 or 8, we had science and biology in school. We talked about what reproduction is, but sex isn't something which is openly spoken about in Muslim families. It's something you learn on your own through your friends.
Nouri: There was also no sex education in school in Egypt. I was 13 when we learned about how women get pregnant. It was a little bit shocking, the boys were okay about it, but the girls were a little bit shy.
Karolyna: In Lithuania, we didn't have anything [sex education] in school. In third grade they gave us Christmas presents - "a girl's book" and a "boy's book" - but it just introduced kissing and showed what a naked man looks like.
Chris: The one sex education class was in high school when we were 13 or 14 years old. It was your standard "teacher puts on a video and you have to watch it." That was memorable because of its awkwardness.
Nouri: It's normal to talk about sex with my close friends but never with my parents. The only way we can talk about sex with our parents is when we want to get married. I would say to my mum, "I want to be with this girl for all my life" and then she can go to the girl's mother and talk to her. So far that hasn't happened but I'm excited about the day it will happen.
Karolyna: I don't even know if my mom knows I've had sex. When she knows someone is staying at my place in London, she goes "yeah, just be careful." So I don't know what she thinks. My grandma told me to have fun before getting married when I was 16. "You have to experience things before settling down," she said. But she got married quite late and I have a feeling that she was crazier at her age than me.
Laura: My parents would just cringe. They just don't want to imagine that at all.
Nouri: Having sex before marriage still feels like I'm making a mistake because I'm a Muslim. That makes me fear sex a bit. But it's only what I'm thinking; it's only in my head.
Karolyna: Sometimes it's that thought "is it going somewhere or not?" If you think about it while having sex, you might not enjoy it that much. My challenge is to enjoy that moment, to live it and not to think about anything else.
Laura: Before Chris, I never had that long a relationship before and I was always wondering whether you would still want that person in the same way [after a while]. Whether you're as crazy about them as in the beginning, or if the real challenge begins after a couple of years, when it starts wearing off. I don't think there's a challenge to it right now, apart from being long-distance at the moment.
Chris: Not at all, I think we're starting to think about what else we can do, in terms of exploring things, you know when it's the two of you, and we know that it's good now, how can we change things up a bit?
Asif: I think for every guy, they want to prolong their duration. I think that is a challenge for me. I'll be very honest, I'm not a person who would take medicine. How long are you able to make it last? Because we both want it so much that we do end up finishing quite soon.
Louise: In 8th grade, we did a course called "true love waits" at my church, each Sunday night we sat down with our parents. At the end of it was like a marriage ceremony, we had our rings which looked like wedding bands and our parents put it on our right ring finger. We were making a promise to God and to our parents that we would stay pure until marriage. My relationship with Christ keeps me being pure. It doesn't mean that it's easy, of course there are temptations. When you date there are temptations, but I don't feel that I'm missing out on anything, I have other things in life that I love. Of course, when I get married I will enjoy having a sex life.
Chris: I don't think I could imagine not having sex until marriage because I can't imagine my parents waiting. They'd be like, you have so much to learn still before that, that if you leave sex until the very end, you're gonna miss out on a lot of the important lessons. And I think that they knew that because the intimacy that sex brings along with it, is something that can strengthen a relationship, if you chose to do it, it's very important, and yeah, it's one of those normal parts of a healthy relationship. If you completely block that out, how can you know that you have a healthy relationship before having had sex?
Karolyna: Experience definitely changes with time and people. You can see how much you've changed from the first time you had it and how sex develops with different guys. Also, I'm really open with friends. We talk about real details, if guys knew they would hate us! (laughs) We share experience and then try it out ourselves.
Chris: From a guy's perspective, sex is something to achieve - especially as teenagers - when none of you has ever done it. It's strange because my group of friends were quite shy, we were late to the game. I remember going on holiday with my mates and none of us had had sex. And then we had this lad holiday in Spain, we were drinking, going out every night and we all had condoms with us. But none of us even got close!
Nouri: There needs to be an emotional connection. Just having sex once isn't good enough. Loving the girl helps!
Karolyna: I don't think you need to be in love. It's difficult to explain, the body needs to be similar to the other person's body, think of the way their skin feels next to yours. I had one experience where I didn't even talk with a person that much but I really enjoyed having sex with him. Our bodies just somehow made it happen.
Laura: I'd say the best sex that I had was loving sex. It was very intimate and emotional. I've only ever had bad sex with strangers… I'm sure it's possible but I've never had it.
Chris: I've had good one night stands.
Laura: Good for you!
Chris: I still think that once you know a person and you know what you like and what they like, it gets infinitely better. As for the objective quality of sex: I think variability is key, you need to be able to change things up a bit. If it's too monotonous, it gets dull. Do different positions, different speeds, change from intimate to rough, that makes good sex.
Nouri: I'm good at it. I don't think about it too much, but I trust myself.
Karolyna: I feel much more confident than what I felt like a year ago. You start noticing how people are with you, you understand what works for other people too. The experience changes completely, but how confident you are depends on the other person, how they make you feel, what they say and so on.
Laura: I'd say I'm generally very confident but it all depends on the person I'm having sex with. I had one situation with a guy where we got undressed and I already knew that this was a bad idea. And it went badly. You build that confidence when you know someone better and longer.
Chris: I wasn't particularly confident at first. I tried to focus on the things I could control… It's like, once you know you can do certain things, you go, "What else can I do?" That makes it sounds like I'm debating with myself, which is obviously not what I'm doing!
Laura: Ah, good to know, I was wondering who you're always talking to!
Nouri: Kissing. It's not about boobs or looks. What turns me on is touching and kissing. I like femininity and elegance in a girl. I like sporty girls who look after themselves, who can take responsibility. And perfume! These aren't stupid answers, are they? (laughs)
It's the small things that make you go, 'Oh shit!'
Karolyna: At the end of the day it has to click with the person. Either it's the topics we talk about and shared hobbies, or you enjoy spending time together. They just turn you on like "Oh I can't believe we're so similar". The other option is that you're attracted to the person's body, you love the way they touch you and suddenly small things make you go "Oh shit!".
Laura: Hotel rooms for some reason, certain touches, situations really.
Chris: Touch! I don't think I've ever gotten an erection just from seeing something. I need touch.
Laura: I'm just trying to prove you wrong but I can't think of anything! Seeing something alone doesn't help. Porn doesn't do it. I usually find the guys so disgusting or dominating in a way that is so condescending.
Louise: Being 27, there have been temptations, but I don't act on them. It's not driving my thoughts. It's just like "Oh, that seems to be something to look forward to when marriage comes." I don't think any single person in their 20s or even 50s can't say they don't think about it. We're humans, anything else would be a lie.
Nouri: Sometimes the imagination is huge. Sometimes if you can imagine something in your head, that doesn't automatically mean it'll happen in real life. I also don't watch porn for example, it's not interesting, it's fake. Sometimes I feel like sex three times per week, sometimes all the time. I try and make myself forget about it, because sometimes I cannot have sex.
Karolyna: Recently there has been someone where I thought, "Shit, I could be with that person all the time!" In general I have sex two or three times a month because I'm not in a relationship right now. There were a few one night stands and a few more stable affairs. There was also one where I knew I'll never see that person again. It's just sex!
Laura: When we're together, we pretty much have sex every time we see each other [Chris and Laura have been dating for one year]. It was a bit less before my dissertation hand-in. See, I find Chris ridiculously attractive so it's easy.
Chris: I'm just thinking back when we were living in the same city [they have been long-distance for two months and will be together again in January]. The only times we wouldn't have sex is when one of us was extremely tired or had a really long day.
'We haven't seen each other for five years'
Asif: I've lived in the UK for the past nine years. Every time I saw my girlfriend was back home, so we haven't seen each other for five years. But still we are in a relationship because it's been ten years we're together. During the holidays we had sex. I really do love and miss her. It might sound really bad, but there is no other way than playing with yourself. So many times I got the opportunity in the UK, but just couldn't - maybe I was being an idiot or stupid, some of my friends tell me that. But if you really love someone, you don't want to say sorry and you don't want to feel guilty. Next year I'm planning to go back home and probably, get married. Until then, we have sex in different ways, perhaps over the phone or Skype.
Louise: If someone has a hard time expressing their needs and communicating with people when there's an issue, they're going to have difficulties with [saying] what they like and don't like in the bedroom. Learn to communicate your needs in a non-sexual context, otherwise your sex life will be bland and you'll be fearful of your partner's reaction.
Nouri: Sometimes, it's not about asking someone for something, it's about letting her do what she feels will work. I find that interesting. Talking about positions is different though and that's what makes sex good! Both people need to reach the top, so we need to do everything we can to get there.
Asif: My girlfriend talks about it a lot. We were really young when we got into a relationship, so things just started happening automatically.
Karolyna: It depends how keen the other person is on making you happy. At the end of the day, everyone's a bit ashamed. But it's so much better if you say it out loud, and it's not actually that awkward. People like when you say what you like. Everyone likes to have pleasure, but they also like giving it to someone else. You feel good because they feel good.
Chris: Nowadays, it's fairly easy. The funny thing is Laura and I talked a lot about it before we had sex. We said "When we have sex, we're gonna do this, and we'll do that," before we even got that far. We already had a clear picture of what the other person would like.
Laura: Yeah, we were laying on my bed having Chinese food and said things like "Yeah, when we have sex we're totally gonna do this." And by the way, it was even better than we imagined.
Chris: It's one of the reasons I like you so much. You're so comfortable talking about it.
Karolyna: As for my best sex, I don't even know why, but I think that guy had lots of experience. He didn't have a relationship recently and I could tell that he needed someone, but didn't want to get attached. He was so passionate and it just clicked. The worst sex was when I didn't want to have it. I was pressured. Maybe I pretended I was interested but I wasn't. There was not much pleasure. I just thought I'd do it and forget about it.
Asif: I don't remember any bad sex at all (laughs). Every time I had sex it was really good. Every time was so different. When I come back home, everything about it is kind of pre-planned. We had already been speaking so much about it on the phone, so we knew what the other person wanted.
Laura: Your sister's wedding was pretty good.
Laura: That was my thing for hotel rooms... It was such an emotional romantic day.
Now it's your turn to spill the beans: let us know what sex education in your country is like, what you'd consider good sex and what advice you'd have to pass on to others!