I am nervous for our children... and that doesn't just come from being a mum with an anxiety disorder.
The teenage years are horrible. I remember them well and I know everyone reading this will remember them well. The hormones, the pressure, the angst, the need for independence and not feeling as if you are getting enough, the decisions that you need to make about life (seriously, WHY are we expecting 17 year olds to know what they want to do with the rest of their life?!), and then there is everything sex related, but particularly the losing of one's virginity.
I remember being a teenager and the huge deal that was made about losing the 'big V'. Parents and teachers were slamming home the point that you should wait until you are properly ready and that you lose it under the right circumstances. Friends and peers brag about losing their virginity, about how awesome sex is, about what positions they've done it in, about how many people they have had sex with. There is so much pressure from both sides - some of it intentional and some of it unintentional - and it makes for a hellishly confusing time.
I lost my virginity faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar too early. Years too early. So early that I am now ashamed about it, particularly about the way I lost it and who it was with. The thought of any of our kids losing their virginity so young and in such a way fills me with dread. I'm probably bloody lucky I was at boarding school when it happened to me and I didn't have to physically look at my parents when they found out about it.
But you know what? In one way I am... I'm not sure that 'glad' is the right word, but because I can't think of another word, let's go with glad. The one way I am glad that I lost my virginity so young is that I didn't have to put up with the pressure from either side. When the rest of my friends and peers were going through the inner turmoil of should-I-or-shouldn't-I, I didn't have that worry. I had lost it, that big, enormous, momentous, life-changing moment had been and gone (I might add that after I lost my virginity I didn't have sex for another four years).
I wish such a huge deal wasn't made about it, that teenagers and young adults could be given the tools required to make an informed decision for themselves (I know this is idealistic, not every teen or young adult has the mental capacity to do this!), without being told by x, y, and z, that a, b, or c was the right thing to do.
Having the benefit of hindsight (I know, old person saying...) I can see that too much emphasis is placed on the wrong aspects of losing your virginity. It all seems to be about 'do have sex' or 'don't have sex' and then about age. Teenagers are told 'DON'T HAVE SEX!' but they aren't told why. They aren't given a chance for real dialogue about it (*I say this in a general sense, I know there ARE plenty of adults out there who have great dialogue re sex with their teens). People seem to focus on the physical reasons to abstain, especially with regard to pregnancy and STI transmission, but it needs to go a lot further. The mental side of things, the emotional side, the spiritual side.
But then the same can be said for the peer pressure side of things. 'It feels so good' yeah, true, it can feel good, but it can also be uncomfortable as well as opening up a new world of insecurities. I didn't orgasm, I must be broken. He/she didn't cum, I must be doing something wrong. Sex doesn't feel good, there must be something wrong with me.
There is stigma attached to losing virginity too young or in the wrong circumstances, but there is also a stigma attatched to not losing one's virginity young enough. It is like if you have lost your virginity by the time you are 15 you are automatically a 'slut', if you haven't lost your virginity by the time you are 20 you are 'frigid' or there is obviously something wrong with you.
It's a complete and utter contradiction. What is so wrong with someone not losing their virginity until they are 20? 30? 40? Older? Why should it bother me if Jane Bloggs down the road didn't lose her virginity until she was 25?
Why can't people just accept that the decision to lose your virginity should be a private one, one that is made when each individual feels the time is right? We (when I say we, I mean we as a society) can give teenagers and young people tools to help them with that decision, we should be available for them to talk to about it if they want, we should be there to guide them if and when they want our guidance. On the flip side, we should accept that not everyone is ready to lose their virginity in their teens and that some people may have no interest in losing it at all.
Virginity is a big deal - but it should be a big deal on an individual level - not a societal level. I wish our four children could grow up in a society where virginity is what it is - having sex for the first time - and that the pressure so commonly associated with it, whether from the 'don't do it' or 'do it now!' camp, didn't exist. Losing your virginity should most be seen as special and I am by no means saying people should lose their virginity when they are too young mentally, emotionally and physically to cope with it.
I guess when I think about our children, I want them to not feel pressured to lose their virginity, but I also don't want them thinking sex is evil or a 'bad' thing to do. I want them to be able to talk with us when they have questions or feel confused or just need a sounding board, and that, between my wife and I, we can give them the ability to make an informed decision and lose their virginity when the time is right for them, not when society thinks it is right for them.