“About one in four adolescents aged 15-19 (23% of females and 28% of males) received abstinence education without receiving any instruction about birth control in 2006–2008. Among teens aged 18–19, 41% report that they know little or nothing about condoms and 75% say they know little or nothing about the contraceptive pill. By their 19th birthday, seven in 10 men and women have had intercourse.” (2012, USA).
For something as human and commonplace as sex, there is a ridiculous amount of stigma and too many misconceptions surrounding it. Sex and sexual health are not discussed at all in many countries around the world. Even in North America, there are some serious flaws with the system. All the shame and prejudice that are loaded on people, especially girls, regarding their personal sex lives, takes away from the enjoyment and beauty of making love. Safe sex can only be promoted with open discussion, and considering I had a sex positivity article cut from the school paper in grade 12 because “we don’t want to be encouraging this,” there is definitely a lot of work to be done.
8 Common Misconceptions:
- A “bonding chemical” will be released the first time you have sex, making you attached to your partner forever. Many chemicals are released every time you have sex (dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, etc.). These chemicals, specifically oxytocin, are associated with bonding, but it doesn’t mean you will be in love with your partner forever, or that it won’t feel the same or even better the next time or with someone else. Choosing to have sex is not locking yourself in to anything.
- The first time will be the most important time. It can be. But it certainly doesn’t have to be if you don’t think it is. It definitely won’t be the most enjoyable time so don’t expect it to be memorable in that sense.
- Sex decreases in meaning the more you do it. There’s no correlation between the two. Meaning is not measured in quantity.
- The first time sets the tone for every future time you have sex. There are two main beliefs that people hold about sex: the “sexual spark” theory, and the “sexual growth” theory. The “sexual spark” theory dictates that that if things don’t click right away, you’re with the wrong person. The “sexual growth” theory — my personal view — favours a more nurturing attitude, in that it will get better the more you do it. Statistically, couples with a “sexual growth” mindset fare much better because they are more willing to work through differences and difficulties.
- The first time will be excruciatingly painful and bloody. For many, this is true, but as with most things, it’s different for everyone. Sometimes, it’s painless.
- The hymen breaks. It doesn’t cover the entire opening; it just stretches.
- There is a right time for sex. There is no right age to have sex, no magic number of months you should’ve been with your partner. There are many right times and many right ways that are different for everyone; it’s entirely up to you and your partner.
- There is no wrong time/no wrong way to have sex. On the other end of the spectrum, there can definitely be many wrong ways. Here are a few:
- If you or your partner don’t feel ready for whatever reason
- If you aren’t comfortable with your partner, and when there is a lack of love and trust
- If it’s not enjoyable
- Without contraception, unless you want to have a baby
- Without discretion and the privacy that you choose
- When it’s being used as a means to an end (i.e. to save a dying relationship, for status/popularity, etc.)
- If you feel at all pressured or like you owe it someone; only do it for you
If done right, making love has the potential to be beautiful, special, and almost groundbreaking. It’s an all-consuming experience that everyone should get to enjoy; after all, it’s perfectly natural and human. Unfortunately, there is so often shame and emotional pain involved in something that should be so simple and pure.
As with every case of prejudice, education is the answer. We need to be open to discussion, break down all the stigma around sex that ties in to issues of body image and sexism, and encourage teenagers to utilize the choices they have around them. This is a matter that is pertinent to all, and it’s time we treat it with the respect and positive attitude that it deserves.