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like a virgin: saving, losing and doing it like gen y

With Pitbull taking girls back to his Hotel Room, and Katy Perry frolicking about with milkshake breasts that spray whipped cream, it’s not surprising that Generation Y has been labelled ‘promiscuous’ or that virgins are classified as a dying breed. Gen Y, however, isn’t losing its innocence as fast as society seems to believe…

The sex education of my youth consisted of bald, middle-aged men telling me that virginity was a gift to be saved for my husband. This was often followed by life-saving abstinence advice such as ‘sex is bad’, ‘sex is dirty’ and ‘don’t have sex because you will get pregnant and die’. While I was busy learning that premarital sex was wrong, public schools down the road were offering condoms like candy to 15-year-old males and encouraging safe sex: a contradiction that was confusing to even the most intelligent of teenagers.

Fast forward five years: I’ve moved out of home, and a large percentage of my friends have had sex, and shock horror, survived. With a variety of female-targeted magazines publishing a diverse assortment of articles ranging from what to do with a naked man, to 25 types of condoms you need to try, to let’s-devote-an-entire-column-to-the-discussion-of-abstract-sexual-positions-and-how-to-do-them-in-30-days, it seems fairly clear that society wants us to believe four key things:

  1. Virgins are a rare and dying breed;
  2. Virginity no longer holds any importance to anyone, anywhere;
  3. Everyone over the age of 17 is having sex, and;
  4. If you’re over 17 and not having sex, there is something wrong with you.

And yet most of this isn’t true. Ignoring the fact that a) there are many virgins still around over the age of 20; b) many have chosen to remain virgins due to cultural, religious or personal reasons that are entirely no-one else’s business; and c) if you choose not to have sex there is absolutely nothing wrong with you, our generation isn’t nearly as sexualised as it’s advertised to be.

In fact, I recently turned on the TV to find primetime ‘news shows’ doing enthralling investigations into the ‘sexting’ phenomenon and criticising parents for not having a ‘tighter rein’ on their teenagers.

Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realise you were all angels at the age of 18. Or that you had freely available mobile phones. I’m sure sexy handwritten letters were all the rage back in high school. Then the Internet gave us Bebo, Hotmail, MySpace and all that other social media to make sexual advances a little more subtle than buying a stamp and sending off your well-wishes in the post.

From this, it would only seem obvious that Grandpas and Grandmas around the world are busy sipping tea in their floral-patterned lounge sets judgmentally discussing the rising levels of skirts, and hissing about what an ‘absolute disgrace’ this ‘sexually promiscuous’ generation has become (thanks, Nana). But what they need to understand is that the topic is just a little less taboo, and a lot more freely discussed than it was 20 years ago (special shout out to improved technology and mass media).

What’s worse: the oldies haven’t even double-checked their facts before peering through their oversized spectacles and sneering at the TV.

Turns out, according to research done in the US in 2007, seventeen is the average age at which people are losing their virginity. Secondly, the amount of sexually active teenagers has declined in the past 12 years by approximately 10%. In fact, a report released by sex researcher Alfred Kinsey in 1953 (that’s right, a whole two generations ago), found that 50% of the 6000 women interviewed had engaged in premarital sex.

That’s right: Grandpa and Grandma were just as sexual as the rest of us (Not exactly an image to dwell on in detail, but the point is still made).

Despite the information provided in today’s flashy youth magazines, it seems that virginity isn’t losing significance, or that our generation has become any more promiscuous than the Baby Boomers.

And in modern-day Australia, you’d think we could be the tiniest bit open-minded and a little more tolerant. Isn’t it up to an individual what they do with their virginity? Shouldn’t a person be able to choose to lose it when they want, how they want, to whom they want, without the stigmas attributed to it by pop culture and religion?

Maybe we should all remember that fact before we declare virginity extinct, or Gen Y a whorehouse, or pretentiously peer down our noses at those who have a lot of, or a lack of, sexual experience.

By Alyce Wearne

(Image credit)

4 thoughts on “like a virgin: saving, losing and doing it like gen y

  1. Pingback: Like a Virgin | alycewearne

  2. We need to move away from talking about virginity as something we either have or haven’t got, something that we possess and then is ‘lost’ or ‘given away’. Virginity hasn’t got a medical definition and that’s because sex and our bodies are so much more wonderfully complex than society is comfortable with. Any definition of virginity is constructed by those dominant as a way of maintaining power and dictating what people can and can’t do with their bodies – positioning virginity alongside concepts like innocence is one of the most effective (see Valenti’s ‘The Purity Myth’). We need a focus on education, empowerment and autonomy so that (as you have said) people are not stigmatised for any of their choices, and recognising the harm that concepts like virginity can do is part of that.

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