16 Things Every Teen Should Know About Sex, Sexuality, And Virginity

By: Dani Kessel

Sex, virginity, and sexuality are topics which every teenager should know about. As they grow into young adulthood, teenagers will encounter these kinds of situations. Unfortunately, as I learned while mentoring young teenage girls, many schools don’t properly educate them on these matters. Without the proper education, teens may feel unprepared for handling these issues. This article will take an inclusive, sex-positive, science-based, non-judgmental approach when breaking down these things.

If you are a parent struggling with what your teen should know, please take the time to read through these 16 things every teenager should know about sex, virginity, and sexuality and become comfortable with the idea of talking to your kid on these matters.

If you are a teenager who hasn’t been taught about sex, virginity, and sexuality, have no fear. This list will break down things you really need to know, and there are a plethora of resources at the end of the article which will help you along the way. I hope this helps give you clarity as you navigate your choices.

 

  1. Consent is crucial in any sexual situation, so it’s important to understand what it is and isn’t. A “maybe” isn’t consent. An “I’m not sure” isn’t consent. An “I’ll think about it” isn’t consent. “No” isn’t consent. An intoxicated “yes” isn’t consent. A coerced “yes” isn’t consent. A “yes” under certain conditions (such as a condom) is only consent if the conditions are met; otherwise it isn’t consent. 

Consent IS an enthusiastic, freely-given YES! 

There are of course exceptions to this. Teenagers under a certain age cannot consent. (The age of consent is different in every place, so look to your city or state or country’s laws to find the age of consent.) The reason for this is that adolescent brains are not cognitively developed in the same way that an adult’s brain is. This isn’t to say that teenagers are unintelligent. There are just mental, developmental differences which make it so people under a certain age can’t give informed consent. Another example of “yes” being rendered invalid is when large power differentials exist such as teacher-student, doctor-patient, police-civilian, lawyer-client, boss-employee, and actor-director. Due to the control and persuasion of authority figures, your consent doesn’t count in these scenarios. 

Please always make sure you have mutual consent before considering engaging in sex.

 

  1. Comprehensive sex education is important for every teenager. Experts and studies have shown that places with abstinence-only education have higher teenage pregnancy and STI transmission rates than places with comprehensive sex education. Even if you intend on abstaining from sex until later in life or marriage, knowing about safe sex is important. Many teenagers change their mind over time. Be an active participant in your sex education. If you live in a place with abstinence-only or non-comprehensive sex education, please use the internet and the resource list at the end of this article to learn safe-sex practices.

 

  1. It is okay to question and explore your sexuality and gender identity. That is a natural, healthy thing that many teenagers do. Questioning your sexuality and gender identity involves introspection that often teaches you more about yourself as a person. Some people reflect on themselves and discover that they are straight and cisgender. Some people reflect on themselves and discover that they fall somewhere outside those labels. I want to be clear, no matter what anyone else says, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being LGBTQ+ any more than being straight or cis. However, should you discover that your sexual or gender identity is different than you thought, it is really important that you put your physical and emotional safety ahead of coming out. If you are in an unsafe environment, it is better to wait to come out. Don’t put yourself in danger.

 

  1. Many teenagers are physically ready for sex before they are mentally ready for sex. Take the time to think through your readiness and willingness to partake in any sexual activities.

 

  1. Sexual intimacy is not the only form of intimacy in which you can partake. If you seek more closeness in a relationship but aren’t ready for sex yet, try building experiencial intimacy, bonding through shared experiences; emotional intimacy, bonding through shared emotions; and intellectual intimacy, bonding through shared thoughts and opinions.

 

  1. Virginity is a construct with a sexist history of predominantly suppressing female sexuality. Believe it or not, there is no scientific basis for virginity (see number 6). Still, females are often taught from a young age that their virginity defines their entire value as a person. Virginity equals purity in our society. Coupled with the view of women as objects, this implies that sexually active females are impure, dirty, and damaged goods.This couldn’t be more wrong! No matter your gender, nobody is defined by their sex life or sexuality. Having sex doesn’t diminish your worth. Not having sex doesn’t diminish your worth either. Your libido, sexual attraction, or lack thereof have zero bearing on your innate merit as a human being. You have value.

 

  1. The hymen has no bearing on a person’s virginity. Firstly, hymens do not fully cover a vaginal opening in most cases. They come in a variety of shapes which look different from person to person. Thus, you cannot really compare them. 

Secondly, hymens vary in elasticity. Because of this, some people have intact hymens while sexually active and others who’ve never had sex won’t have intact hymens due to playing sports, riding a bike, using tampons, etc.

Thirdly, even if you have vaginal penetrative sex of some sort with an intact hymen that rips or tears during the act, there will be little to no blood. There isn’t much of a blood flow to the hymen. Typically, blood from vaginal penetration actually is caused by insufficient lubricant and arousal resulting in small vaginal or vulvar lacerations.

Lastly, misunderstanding about the hymen perpetuates stereotypes, sexual shame, and violence (in far too many countries). The practice of virginity testing is not only baseless, but has even been denounced by the United Nations as a violation of human rights.

To sum all of this up, the hymen shouldn’t even be considered in regards to sex and virginity.

 

  1. Virginity is important only if it’s personally important to you. I will be the first person to breakdown the construct of virginity, but I also won’t erase its validity in some people’s lives. If you don’t want to have sex yet, that is perfectly okay. If you want to wait for a special person or a later time in your life, it’s okay to make that something you care about. If you’d like to keep your virginity until marriage, great for you! Don’t let anyone tell you when you have to take that step. The only thing I absolutely will emphatically state is not to place your whole self-esteem/self-worth on your virginity. That isn’t healthy.

 

  1. Masturbation is completely normal for people with all anatomies. Men, women, and nonbinary folks alike all can find masturbation enjoyable and stress-relieving. It also reduces cramps for people who experience periods. Masturbating provides a safe outlet for sexual energy. You don’t have to worry about pregnancy or STIs. People who masturbate often feel more comfort and confidence in their own skin. It also reinforces a feeling of agency over your own body. While it is perfectly okay to choose not to masturbate, do not feel ashamed if you partake in this action.

 

  1. There is no singular definition of sex. The most common understanding of sex is penis in vagina penetration. This definition is insufficient for people of all sexualities and gender identities. Through discussion with friends, I’ve come up with what I believe is an overarching and inclusive definition. My definition: sex is individuals doing actions together with the intention of sexual arousal, gratification, and/or orgasm. This definition includes penis in vagina penetration. It also includes oral sex, anal sex, vulva on vulva sex, non-penetrative sexual acts, and sex with toys. This definition isn’t limiting to LGBTQ+ sexually active teenagers, allowing for exploration of sexuality and gender. Also, it expands the common understanding of virginity. 

 

  1. Absolutely nobody should be pressuring you into sex. A person who respects you won’t ever push you into doing something you aren’t ready for and comfortable with. And a person who loves you will always respect you. 100%

 

  1. Before engaging in any sexual acts, have a discussion with your partner/s about contraception and STI status. STIs don’t always have symptoms. If you or any partners have had previous sex partners, discuss getting tested. 

 

  1. First-times having sex usually aren’t great. It doesn’t matter what the anatomical configurations of the parties involved are. Sexual acts for the first time are often awkward, logistical, and trial & error. Don’t fret though because sex will likely get better over time, especially when you are with a partner that you communicate with. If you are sexually active (which I will neither endorse nor shame since only you know if you are ready for that) and are looking to improve this, consider making a want/will/won’t list with your sex partner.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xoYxd3E3UXU

 

  1. Porn isn’t sex. Porn is an overdramatized, acted, often scripted, simulation of sex. While watching porn can be fun, it is important to understand the difference between the two. Equating these things gives younger viewers false expectations. Real sexual encounters need more stimulation, foreplay, and communication than you’ll usually see in porn. If you intend on watching porn (as many teenagers do) but want to see more realistic sexual encounters, look into feminist porn. Feminist porn treats actors with respect incorporating actors’ sexual desires and fantasies, representing people of all demographics, and depicting realistic pleasure. Luckily, with the wide variety of desires/interests/sexual kinks, feminist porn comes in many different forms!”

 

  1. Rape isn’t sex.

 

  1. Be aware of red flags that can occur within romantic and sexual relationships. The following are major red flags that you may be in an abusive relationship: isolating you from your friends, controlling your time, pressuring you into things you aren’t comfortable with, exhibiting excessive jealousy, constantly putting you down, blaming you for everything, threatening violence against you, frequently outbursting in anger, and invading your privacy. If you fear that you might be in an unsafe relationship, reach out to a trusted adult for advice on how to break off the relationship and protect yourself.

I hope this list gave you a clear picture of sex, virginity, and sexuality for teenagers. I tried to touch on the most important things teens should know, but this article is by no means comprehensive. As a parent, make sure you help your teen through these topics without judgment or shame. Sex talks should be an ongoing conversation. As a teenager, you should take an active role in your sexual health, whether you are sexually active or presently abstaining. Please check out the resources below for more information, and leave any other questions in the comments below. I am happy to assist in understanding these topics and will give advice as best as I can.

Additional resources:

https://www.scarleteen.com/

http://www.itsyoursexlife.com/

http://www.positive.org/Home/index.html

http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/sexual-health/teens-and-young-adults/

http://teenhealthsource.com/blog/queering-sexual-education/

My Sex Doctor phone app – 3 apps based on age group

  • Provides age appropriate safe sex education

ICondom phone app

  • Locates the nearest place to buy condoms

YES to SEX phone app

  • Educates people on STIs, consent, and contraception
  • Guides conversations on difficult sex topics

Sexplanations YouTube Channel

Queer Sex Ed podcast

3 thoughts on “16 Things Every Teen Should Know About Sex, Sexuality, And Virginity

  1. Love this writeup! I actually always explain to people that the number of sexual partners you had has nothing to do with who you are, and therefore stop judging people because you know that piece of information about them. He is not perfect because he is a virgin, she is imperfect because she is not, such stereotypes. And honestly, sex and all is a private affair, i don’t care what you did in private😊.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That is such an important thing for people to understand! The number of sexual partners doesn’t matter. I wish people would stop caring about that because it really makes no difference. The most experienced person can be bad at sex. The least experienced person can be great at sex. People shouldn’t be judged based on a number.
      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

      Liked by 2 people

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