It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
- Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
Without realising it, Dickens described the pain and the pleasure of our teen years quite succinctly. And the first installment of this Teenage Issues entry looks at teenage sex...
Sex and the Average Teenager
It is thought by many that teenagers and preteens today are becoming sexually active at a disturbingly younger age, that they are rushing into something that they think they understand, or they are being pressured into it by friends. Now of course, sex is not a bad thing, but it's possible that a lot of teenagers today have only a vague idea of the consequences that can arise from running head first into it, ie pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Others argue that teenagers today understand the consequences of sexual activity better than ever, that teenage pregnancy is on the decrease and condom use on the way up. It's difficult to know because these figures vary from place to place and country to country. We also have to take into account socio-economic factors. But perhaps it's fair to say that increased condom awareness in high schools has indeed had a really positive effect. Where people have expressed concern is that sex among early teens, 12 - 15 year olds, seems to be on the rise and it's this age group that's particularly vulnerable because they are, well, so young and really don't understand fully the implications of what they're doing. Although teenage sex was no problem for the following Researchers:
I missed out on teenage sex. I was to busy working out who I was.
I dunno about anyone else, but as far as I'm concerned, having sex when you're still trying to figure out what the heck to do with your life seems a little soon. Not that I'm saying wait until you're 30 before you have sex (as if) but you should be sure of what you want, before you decide who you want.
Johnny Come Lately...
Or... it's Never Too Late to Learn How to Use A Condom
OK. Condoms are good. Condoms are cool. But how the hell do you put then on? Especially if it's your first time, putting on a condom can become something of an issue. As one researcher put it:
I'd love to get using a johnny1 on someone, but who the hell's gonna tell me how?!
Well, don't worry. Help's at hand; just sit back, relax and let the good times roll as we have a look at putting on a condom.
Go buy one, they are available in chemists and all good gents' toilets. There's no need to feel embarrassed - it's a perfectly normal thing to do.
2 and 3 are reversible in order.
Take johnny out of individually hygienically sealed wrapper, checking that it hasn't passed the use by date.
Carefully roll johnny over the little soldier who should by now be standing to attention, alternatively get the other person to do this for you.
You are now dressed and ready for action. Pull the person you love close and insert point A into hole B. If this is your first time after approximately 20 seconds extract point A from point B and do not ask was that good. Good only comes with practise and the use of foreplay and afterplay.
But what if you knew that already, and just wanted to know if there was anything in particular to bear in mind when putting on a condom. Or is it simply just a matter of rolling the old fellow... over the old fellow? Well, it's important not to take it all too seriously. It really isn't all that hard to put a condom on, and you can always practise a bit beforehand. Like on a frozen sausage or a banana. And there's no reason why you can't practise on yourself. You can always let the other person do it for you; they'll be especially careful to check for breakages as they will be trying not to have your fluids enter them upon entry. Anyway, for more cool and detailed condom information - where to buy them, how to put them on etc - check out h2g2's excellent Entry on Condoms.
It seems to be then, like so many other things in this life, that education is of paramount importance. The better informed we are, the more we're able to make informed decisions.
In my high school (which is private, but I believe they do this in public schools also) 'Planned Parenthood' comes in and demonstrates putting a condom on a banana. We also did the 'condom process' line-up where several people were given steps and we had to line up in the correct order. Much giggling, but highly informative.
You'd be surprised; I got a lot of detail at school too, but I still managed to bugger up the first time.
But we still need more education. Education, education education!!!
Mmm, think yourself lucky mate. Our Sex Education classes are crappy, we get told next to nothing, and the last talk we had was the 'period' one in first year. It's no wonder we're the worst area in Europe - I'll repeat that - in Europe, for teen pregnancies. You'd think they'd take a little more time to teach us about this stuff. Everything I know, I learnt from the problem pages...
Well, if you have loads of unprotected sex you're at a greater risk of getting some kind of STD. It's best that boys use condoms and that girls ask boys to use condoms. Also, girls hear a lot about cervical cancer:
This is regarding an earlier comment earlier cervical cancer risks being higher for girls who have sex earlier. For your information, women typically develop cervical cancer before age 35.
Cervical cancer is actually related to a particular strain of genital warts. These are transmitted sexually by men, who typically don't manifest any physical symptoms because their biology is a little different.
It doesn't matter what age you first have sex. What matters is how many sexual partners you have before about age 30. The reason you have heard this misinformation is that women who start younger do tend, on average, to have more sexual partners than those who start later. But again, it is not the age that matters - it's the number of partners
The best advice is have a regular smear test. Your doctor or clinic can easily arrange one for you. And try and act responsibly with regard to sex. The more partners you have, the more risk there is. Find out lots of useful information at the National Cervical Cancer Coalition website and even more on this cervical cancer site.
Here's what others have been saying:
I just stick with the 'wait until marriage' bit, that way you're less likely to catch all these diseases by sleeping with loads of different people. I heard today that a survey just published that 97% of the people questioned said they'd already slept with their partner before wedding night! Now that is a very high number...
You catch 'all these diseases' by sleeping with a single partner, unprotected. Sadly, marriage does not give you protection from them, but correct use of condoms, will. Or only have sex with people who've been tested clean for the relevant diseases. (Successfully giving blood can show that your clear of some, depending on the rules in your country, and is a good idea anyway).
Just Do It? Or Just Wait?
Is it a case of 'much too much, much too young'? Is it better to wait? Is everybody else doing it? Oh my God, when the hell is the best time to do it?! Well, the answer is, there's no 'best' time. Relax. Just do not let other people pressure you in to it. Things fall in to their natural place for everyone, but at different times. And as far as sex is concerned, most people talk a big game, but scratch the surface, and you'll find they are not quite as 'knowing' and 'experienced' as they make out.
I think the biggest problem teenagers encounter is the feeling that they are missing out on something. Friends/classmates boasting about sexual experiences.
The truth is though, that when people have sex, especially for the first time, they are not likely to rush to tell the whole world about it, whether it's wonderful or crap (the latter being most common, though least admitted). Or to put it another way, those that shout loudest, do least.
Peer pressure and social conventions are a real burden.
And this one's straight from the heart...
A long, long time ago... I was a teenager. I dreamed of having sex with my girlfriend. When we finally did - drunk, rushed and cramped on a single bed with 2 foot head room - it was not exactly worth it. We were both 'experimenting'. While we were not scarred for life, it did herald the end of the relationship.
I am not advocating waiting or celibacy, but just do it at the right time, for the right reasons, with the right person. Most important, Have fun. You only pass this way once, I wish now I had been more thoughtful, but alas...
Another example of getting to know yourself before getting it on:
I only went on dates with girls, and remained celibate. My first sex was with my ex. And that was only when I was sure of my identity. I was 27 at the time. So I wasn't experimenting with sex. But I suppose I was with relationships
But, again, it's not the same for everyone - everyone has their own story to tell:
I don't think it's that easy. I had to fall in love a few times to understand I was bisexual. There had to be a pattern I could recognize. I would have had to wait until I was at least 21 to have sex if I was going to wait until I understood 'what I want'. It made much more sense to me at the time to explore the people I had fallen in love with, and learn about myself from the process. I'm not sure how I would have come to the conclusions I did if I was celibate all that time
It seems, generally speaking, that most teenagers resent the feeling of being pressurised into something. Teen magazines, especially, don't help, competing with each other as they do for sales, for a bigger slice of the market - for cash, basically. They resort to increasingly more 'sexy' articles to make people buy them. Of course, they do disseminate information, but, let's face it, do so for mercenary reasons, not because they really care. And young people do feel pressurised:
OK, in another post there was a girl who said she's 14 goes to an all girls' school and hasn't had sex yet. I'm also 14 and go to an all girls' school, and never go out anywhere, and yet somehow we hear in our school about what some of the girls do get up to outside of school. I think it's really pathetic today about how many teens loose their virginity before they are 16, and the magazines are no help, I mean, you only have to see the front cover of 'Bliss', 'J-17' or 'Sugar' and it's telling you how to do it, that just proves my point.
Well, I did my 'Sugar' thing from about the age of 12, moved onto 'Cosmo' by 14, got bored in about six months, and went straight back to 'Empire' (a film magazine). That whole girly magazine thing just wasn't for me. Plus the film reviews were crap.
And the following is a sad example of how people talk and give people reputations they completely don't deserve.
I thinks the girls do as much bragging these days as the guys did in my day. For example a female friend of mine, who is still a virgin at 31 got a reputation in her teenage years for being a slut.
a) because she didn't mix with the group that would be doing all the boasting.
b) because the guys needed someone to say they'd done it with.
Most of it is all bravado and now applies equally to both sexes at a far younger age. Once you actually do it, and are mature enough, the truth will out, number, first time, how often. Teens and early twenties are more talk than action
Come on! So many adults talk rubbish, and while it is simply a fact that teenagers have less experience because of their age, their minds are bright and inquisitive and flexible and they can teach adults a thing or two about responsibility - if they're given a fair chance. There's absolutely no need to spread rumours about other people, and put pressure on them to do things they feel awkward about. The last thing you want to do is to copy the tired old behaviour of a lot of 'adults'.
But thankfully, there are a lot of cool adults out there who are happy to talk and who really do have teenagers' best interests at heart. Here are some wise words from some more Researchers:
It's always a first time for everybody, sometime. Even in middle-age, when you first have sex with a new woman, you'll be going into it completely blind. You don't know what she likes, or if anything that you know will be something that she enjoys. The first time is always full of pressure and excitement, no matter if it's the 1st first time, or the 15th first time. The guy will orgasm too fast, and the woman will probably not orgasm at all unless the guy makes sure to devote a 'lot' of time to foreplay. Even if your last girlfriend convinced you that you were an expert at oral sex because you could find her hotspots naturally and quickly, and knew exactly what to do, that will not apply to a new woman. She is built differently, and she thinks and feels differently. The skills you think you have don't always translate. That applies to everything. Talking, kissing, hugging, masturbation, oral sex, and sex. It's a different woman, so it will be different. Just don't let that freak you out, and realise that you're always starting from scratch.
There will always be trial and error. I have mentioned this elsewhere. What is more important is that when you do make a trial, you do it for reasons that you think are important and real. As long as your reasons are good enough for you, then the trial is worth your while. If that trial does not work out, then you will make another, in time. No matter how many trials you undertake, it is enough if you make them for your own reasons, and those reasons are good enough for you to live with. If the trial you finally undertake that works out for you comes at the age of 50, then it was still worth the effort.
Well, Are you Cybersexual, Then?
Cyber sex or virtual sex seems like a relatively safe way of broaching the subject. It might strike some as, well... a bit weird. But for others it's a bit of a giggle - as long as nobody deliberately sets out to freak anyone else out. Now that's bad. It's just a shame the boys seem so keen...
From the brief time I changed my ICQ name to be 'Lucinda', - they [all come to] meet you (*sigh*, and they didn't even bother to check the box marked 'gender' in my details).
Regardless, I don't see that there's anything wrong with cybersex - or that it's a mark of desperation. In a few years time people will look at it the same way we look at masturbation now - just one more way of having fun... but if you stare at the screen too long, you really will go blind.
No, this is not about having children - it's about your mum and dad! You have to feel sorry for them as they gingerly, awkwardly try and give you advice:
What about people's parents' advice on sex? When my dad sat me down I almost killed myself trying not to laugh; after about and hour and a half, I think the gist was 'don't have sex... 16? Far too young'
My mother was more abrupt; her advice was 'Two virgins? The sex'll be crap anyway...' Okay, so she was right about the first time. But there's always room for improvement...
And for any parents reading...
Nah, my parents have always been really good - they've never hid anything from me, they're totally open. It's really good.