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To Be or Not to Be: The Virginity Question

To Be or Not to Be:
The Virginity Question

What is a virgin?
What is sexual abstinence?
How do I know if I'm ready to lose my virginity?
How can I say no without hurting a boy's feelings?
What are the advantages of being a virgin?
What are the disadvantages of being a virgin?
What if I've already had sex?

What is a virgin?
They're all gathered around her locker. Whispers and giggles drift out of their little circle. You approach them gingerly, wanting to know what they're talking about. They suddenly get very quiet, but then one of your friends whispers, "Jessica lost her virginity last night." You think to yourself, "Am I the only one who's still a virgin?"

A virgin is someone—a guy or a girl—who has never had sexual intercourse. A girl loses her virginity only when a boy's penis has penetrated her vagina. Although it seems as if every teenage girl in the world has lost her virginity, the truth is that the majority of teen girls are virgins. So if you are a virgin, take heart. You are part of a big club and a very old tradition. Until about 50 years ago, most girls were virgins until they got married.

For most teens, the issue of virginity is a big deal. Your body is changing, and your hormones are waking up. That's what triggers sexual desire and feelings of attraction to others. Sometimes these new feelings can make you feel as if it's the right time to have sex, even though it may not be. Having sexual intercourse may seem like a simple thing, but it is actually very complicated. It affects not just your body, but your mind and your feelings—not to mention your partner's. It can also affect your future. That's why it's so important to think carefully before you act.

By the way, some girls think that if they've had a pap smear at the gynecologist's office, they are no longer a virgin. This is not true. Losing your virginity involves sexual penetration. Although a Pap smear does involve penetration of the vagina, it is not considered sexual. You can't lose your virginity by using a tampon either. back to top

What is sexual abstinence?
Someone who practices sexual abstinence "abstains" from sexual intercourse. This means that she has made a commitment to wait until she is married or in a committed relationship to have sex. Some young people, as well as some adults, practice abstinence even after they've lost their virginity because they decide to save their next sexual experience for someone they truly love.

Sexual abstinence is much more common today than it was 10 or 20 years ago. You may have read about Hollywood celebrities who are proud of being virgins. There are close to 700 organizations across the country whose members—mostly young people—are dedicated to sexual abstinence. Some include Project Reality, True Love Waits, Worth Waiting For, Clean Teens, and Friends First. It has also become much more popular for schools all over the country to teach abstinence in health education classes. Some teens are abstinent for religious or moral reasons; others want to wait for personal reasons. back to top

How do I know if I'm ready to lose my virginity?
Deciding to have sexual intercourse with another person is a private and personal matter. Only you can decide if it's the right time—and the right person. No one else can decide for you.

But peer pressure can make it hard to listen to your own voice. Everybody's talking about sex, and you don't want to feel left out. Television and movies don't help matters much either. Every teenage character seems to be having sex. Of course, these characters are not real, and they don't have to live with the real consequences of having intercourse, like unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). You do.

If you're ready for it, sex can be a wonderful experience. But it is also serious business. It means dealing with many new and complicated feelings. And it means taking responsibility for your own health—and the health of your partner. You may not know exactly when it's the right time to lose your virginity. But there are many ways to know that it's the wrong time, for example if you don't know the emotional or physical consequences of having sex. Ask yourself: Am I willing to risk STDs, including AIDS, pregnancy, or infertility? Can I handle dealing with an unexpected pregnancy? Can I handle the guilt and conflict I may feel?

You should also ask yourself if you are prepared to prevent the consequences of having sex. For instance, if you don't have the courage to buy a box of condoms at the drugstore, you're probably not ready for sex.

Sex is never a good idea if it's not your idea. Many girls have sex only because their boyfriends want it. The truth is that having sex will not make a boy like you any more, and it will not make him want to marry you. And besides, if you're having sex just to please your boyfriend, you're not going to enjoy it. You may also want to ask yourself if you feel pressured to have sex because all your friends are doing it.

If you still have questions about whether you're ready, then you should probably wait awhile. back to top

How can I say no without hurting a boy's feelings?
There's no way to guarantee that you won't hurt a boy's feelings if you tell him that you don't want to have sex. But here are a few polite ways to tell him how you feel:
  • "I like you a lot, but I'm just not ready to have sex."
  • "I don't believe in having sex before marriage. I want to wait."
  • "I enjoy being with you, but I don't think I'm old enough to have sex."
  • "I don't feel like I have to give you a reason for not having sex. It's just my decision."
It takes courage to say no, and you may have to say it firmly a few times. If the boy doesn't respect your decision, then he may not respect you as much as he should. It's important for sexual partners to consider each other's feelings. You can tell that a boy isn't considering your feelings if he says things like:
  • "You would have sex if you loved me."
  • "But everybody's doing it."
  • "You mean you're still a virgin?"
  • "Are you a lesbian or something?"
  • "But we had sex before."
  • "You say no, but I think you really mean yes."
A boy may also claim that if he gets sexually aroused but doesn't have intercourse, he'll get "blue balls," which means he thinks his sexual organs will become filled with blood and it may even hurt his health. This doesn't happen. No one's penis ever exploded, and no one ever died (or suffered any harm) from sexual frustration. If a guy feels sexually frustrated, he can masturbate until he has an orgasm.

And one more thing: Being forced into sex is a crime. It's called rape. back to top

What are the advantages of being a virgin?
There are many advantages to being a virgin. The most obvious is that you won't have to worry as much about getting pregnant. (Remember, even if no penis has entered your vagina, you can still get pregnant if sperm comes in contact with your vaginal area.) Every year, more than one million teens become pregnant. About 70 percent of these teen mothers are unmarried, and more than 40 percent drop out of school. Being pregnant would change your life forever.

Staying a virgin also means you are much less likely to get STDs, like HIV/AIDS, HPV (genital warts), herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, to name a few. STDs can lead to death, cause infertility and cancer, and be passed down to your children. Every year, three million teenagers get a sexually transmitted disease. (Of course, you can also catch these diseases if you have oral or anal sex.)

If you wait to have sex, you'll also save yourself a lot of emotional trauma. Studies show that teen sexual involvement usually does not last. The disappointment can make you feel hurt, used, lonely, confused and angry. It could take some time to recover and to regain your trust in relationships. In fact, many girls say they wish they had waited. Waiting can give you a chance to pursue other interests and goals. It can also allow you to develop deeper relationships that don't depend on sex.

If you decide to wait, you'll probably want to talk with friends and family about your decision. Hang out with people who respect your choices. Avoid drugs and alcohol: they usually lead to risky behavior. Avoid sex messages from music, magazines, and movies. Find a virgin "buddy," someone who's made the same decision. You can support each other along the way.

Staying a virgin may not be the easiest decision to make, but it is definitely the safest decision. back to top

What are the disadvantages of being a virgin?
You may have heard that if you stay a virgin for too long, you won't be able to have kids. That is absolutely wrong. Being a virgin now will not hurt your chances of having a family later on. In fact, it increases your chances of not having STDs that can make it hard—or impossible—to get pregnant when you're older.

So what are the downsides of virginity? Staying a virgin can be sexually frustrating. You may be curious about sex, and a part of you may really want to have intercourse. Luckily, there are still plenty of ways to express yourself—emotionally and physically—without having intercourse. First, you can fantasize. Fantasies are fun, free, safe—and you don't even need a partner. You can also masturbate. You and your partner can also kiss, hug, and massage each other. And, of course, there are many, many nonsexual ways to show someone you care.

Being a virgin could mean that you're not quite as popular with some of the kids at school. But, in case you were wondering, no one can tell by looking at you that you are a virgin. That's a myth! And also keep in mind that some of the stories you hear about people's sexual experiences may be a little bit exaggerated—or maybe not true at all. back to top

What if I've already had sex?
Just because you've had sex before doesn't mean that you have to continue to say yes. Sometimes people make mistakes. Many people who've lost their virginity decide to become abstinent later. You may need to make a few changes in your life. For instance, you may want to hang out with other people who think it's OK to be a virgin. Or maybe you'll want to go out with groups of people, instead of just one boy. If you do go on a date, you'll probably want to let him know about your decision before things get hot and heavy. back to top

Last Modified Date: 4/17/2001
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