The right age for losing it

Any time teenagers are provided the opportunity to ask me questions about sex and sexuality anonymously they ask the question ‘How old should people be when they have sex for the first time?’

And if they don’t ask that, they ask:

  • What’s the average age for losing your virginity?
  • How will I know when I’m ready to have sex?
  • Are 15 year olds (or 14 or 16…)  too young to have sex?

In progressive households, where it is not communicated to children that having sex for the first time ought to be with a future spouse, it begs the question – who should it be with, under what circumstances and at what age?

Like their parents, kids today are unlikely to wait for marriage to become sexually active.  These days, kids as young as 10 and 11 begin dealing with puberty and with the pervasiveness of sex and sexuality in the media, kids as young as 12, 13 and 14 may start exploring sexually.

With a group of teens, I generally answer this type of question with a ‘losing it’ story .  It’s actually three stories.  I tend to not divulge the gender of the three people, or their partners, since it doesn’t matter and I highlight the fact that the ages are kind of arbitrary even though the stories, and attached ages, are true. Also, you’ll note that ‘sex’ is not defined.

Story 1 goes something like this:
Friend is 17. Meets 17 year old Hotie at summer camp.   Feels ready physically (ie. hot and bothered) and really really really likes (maybe even loves) Hotie.  After very few weeks, consentual and protected sex begins. Friend enjoys sexual activity, and yet, despite the knowledge of and ability to orgasm, feels too shy or embarassed to go there.

Story 2:
Friend is 13. Starts dating classmate.  Finds copy of The Joy of Sex and together they read it.  And then, they start trying stuff from the book.  They talk a lot and have great, mutually satisfying and safe sex for three years.

Story 3:
Friend is 22. Raised by strict parents that disallowed dating of any kind.  Excessive drinking and nervousness when it comes to relationships and sex leads friend to have sex for the first time.  It’s consensual, unprotected and not memorable.  In fact, friend doesn’t even recall the name of the person.

So, I ask you, just like I ask the teens I teach – is there a right age for having sex for the first time?

Thought Launchers and Coversation Starters

  • Becoming sexually intimate with someone is a big deal, don’t you think?  Why (or why not)?
  • How do you think people can determine if they are ready to be sexually active?
  • What do you think it feels like to be ready?
  • What kind of conversations do you want to have with someone before becoming sexually active with them?
  • How do you think people in a sexual relationship ought to treat one another?
  • What does ‘losing your virginity’ mean anyway?  This Salon article investigates the meaning of ‘losing it’ and MTV has a great series called Losing It, which are fabulous real stories told by real people . Could be a great link to pass along to a teenager – honest and varied perspectives on the theme.  Likely not a great family show….

I’d love to hear your ‘losing it’ story. How do you define it? How old were you when you lost it?  Was that ‘the right age’?  And how might this peice of your history influence how you talk to your kids?

… I don’t want losing my virginity to feel like I’m losing something.
I want it to feel like I’m finding something.
I want sex to be amazing.
― Sonya Sones, One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies

With this in mind, check out this great account of losing it by a young woman posted in Scarleteen.

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