Thanks to media portrayals of young people as sex-crazed skanks, it’s common belief that all young people are having sex. The image of the virgin radiating with an aura of innocence and pale cheeks not yet tainted by afterglow seems to be disappearing. But since we can’t see into the heads and beds of today’s youth, is it safe to assume that virgins are a dying breed?
“We are in a culture where sex is so easily accessible, that if… you haven’t experienced it then you feel like there must be something wrong with you as a person,” said Shauda, a 19-year-old English/philosophy double major at the University of Winnipeg. The self-identified virgin asked that her last name not be used.
Sex, or a lack thereof, made headlines in both the Winnipeg Free Press and the Winnipeg Sun this past Valentine’s Day weekend, with youngins vowing their virginity at a Beausejour church. Apparently virginity isn’t a thing of the past.
In fact, according to an article in the Calgary Herald in Aug. 2008, fewer Canadian teens are having sex today than they were 10 years ago. In 1996, 44 per cent of Alberta teenagers reported having sex at least one time, as compared to only 39 per cent in 2005. Comparable results were found in the rest of the country.
Even though a reported fewer number of young people are losing their virginity, those who are losing it are doing so at an earlier age.
The most recent Statistics Canada survey of 10,000 teenagers in 2005 revealed that 16.5 is the average age Canadians lose their virginity. When compared to past studies, SexualityAndU.com claims that the “age of first sexual intercourse has consistently but gradually declined.”
Laura, a 20-year-old science student at the U of W who asked that her last name not be used, said that she lost her virginity when she was 16 to a longtime boyfriend. A lot of her friends were also beginning to have sex around that same time.
“Looking back it just seems so young,” she said. “I was a little baby.”
Laura added that a stigma against virginity partially influenced her decision to have sex.
“If you haven’t made the decision to wait, you kind of feel like you are a little bit weird if you haven’t [had sex],” she said.
In addition to peer pressure, the media impacts the way young people view sex. Dr. Liz Adkins, a registered psychologist with 25 years’ experience, agreed that young adults are portrayed in the media as either sluts for having sex, or angels for abstaining.
“ There are virgins around. It’s not like they are an extinct species.
“What’s portrayed isn’t how people [really] talk about sex, or how they reach the decision to have sex,” Adkins said. “It’s like, you’re always having it or you’re not having it, and that’s not the reality for most people. For most people, it’s some place in the middle.”
Rhea Mossman Sims, a nurse practitioner at the Klinic Student Health Services at the U of W, said that it’s up to young people to do what is right for them.
“Choosing the time when to have sex is a personal decision,” she said, adding that the most important thing is to be safe.
“We are sexual beings. I’m not saying sex is bad for you…it’s [about] knowing [the] risks,” she said. “Knowing what the risks are and knowing how to prevent certain diseases before you have sex is a great idea.”
Shauda has strong opinions about having sex for the first time, opinions that she said don’t have a religious basis.
“Number one, the guy is going to have to be head over heels in love with me. Number two, it would have to be a serious relationship – he would have to be in it for the long haul.”
Shauda has never been in a serious relationship, and feels that her views will be beneficial in finding someone who’s right for her.
“A good reason to not have sex is to weed out the bad ones,” she said. “If [someone] is willing to wait it means that that person clearly has some sort of emotional investment in you.”
Laura sees sex differently.
“I’m single, so I don’t really have a problem with [sex] being a fun sort of thing.”
These contrasting opinions demonstrate that young people’s views about sex could be as wide ranging as the number of sexual positions in the Kama Sutra. Adkins said the best thing people can do is talk about it.
“We tend to put sex into a corner and apply a different set of attitudes towards it, when really, it’s just a regular part of life,” she said. “Sex shouldn’t be treated so differently than [anything else]. People who have sex with lots of different people should talk about it, people who have sex with one partner should talk about it and people who are virgins should talk about it.”
Because even though today’s society is super-sexualized, not everyone is doing it.
“There are virgins around,” Shauda said. “It’s not like they are an extinct species.”