Ask Marzipan: The Teen Sex Issue

February 17, 2010

I have a big question: I am a 17 year old girl and I’ve never had sex. In fact, I’ve only ever kissed one boy who was a few years older than me. I wanted to be in a relationship but he did not want to “commit.” I guess I was just a passing fancy for him, but he meant a really lot to me. I’ve not been particularly interested in anyone else since. I feel abnormal and way too innocent because of my lack of experience. It seems like a lot of my peers have already experienced so much, and even though I want to experience all those things it just has not happened yet, and I also know how destructive it would be to hook up for the sake of saying I did. I don’t know if I’m being ridiculous with all this worrying or if there is actually something wrong with me. I generally have really high self esteem and a positive body image, I have fabulous friends, amazing relationships with my parents, and a lot of really good things in my life. But there’s this one gaping hole and I think about it all the time. I feel like I have so much love and care to give to someone and there are so many parts of myself I am ready to share in that way. Why I am I still alone? It makes me start to question if I’m actually really ugly or awkward or something and no one has ever told me. What’s wrong with me? Should I really be worried?

– anonymous, 17 years old

Today I broke up with my boyfriend, and I am in a nerve wreck. During our relationship I was generally very hesitant about how I felt about him and what my values were in a relationship. He was the first person to whom I’ve been sexually active with, and to whom I’ve given a blow job. He often asked me for one, and I kept telling him I wasn’t interested in giving him one and that I wasn’t ready. But one day, I did.  However, after my first time of giving him one, I anticipated that he was going to give me some time and stop inquiring me for one so often. But he continued to ask me, and I didn’t feel comfortable with doing so…but I still gave him one. I suppose I decided to give another blow job to ease the tension in the moment. However, I later had come to understand that I am not obligated to give him what he wants when he wants it just because he is my boyfriend. I generally view a blow job to be demeaning, and it’s something that should be given out of my will because the person makes me happy, because he makes a contribution to who I am and my life. These are the thoughts that were swarming through my head day by day, and I understood that this wasn’t the guy for me and I wasn’t the girl for him. So I broke up with him. But why am I still so hesitant?

Am I too picky? Am I considered strange to not want to give him a blow job? Am I weird to have broken up with him for such a possibly minor reason? Are my standards to high? Is it even possible for me to find someone that is willing to be patient for me? I know I can’t rewind the break up, but these are even concerns of mine that will help me understand myself better in relationships and with men.

-anonymous, junior in high school

I think it’s both interesting and FANTASTIC that I have started getting some teen questions on MM, because it was not really a population that I was overtly targeting with this blog but one that I am very interested in particularly since it was not all that long ago for me at the ripe old age of 23. First of all: it is very difficult to be a teen age girl. More difficult than it is to be most other things. The societal/cultural/peer/parental pressure upon teenage girls to look pretty, be thin, get good grades, have a *boyfriend* (God forbid you are queer – tack on another entire list of difficulties), get into a good college, have sex, have sex but remain innocent and desirable, don’t have sex, the list goes on and ON.  And – to boot – your supportive networks are often compromised by the fact that a) your friends are going through the same crap and cannot be fully trusted to give the most unobjective advice, b) your parents desperately want to be there for you (hopefully) but there are some things you would rather just not tell them, and c) with all of the abstinence only jargon floating around these days, getting a health care provider to talk to you frankly about blow jobs or whatever questions you have seems slim to none, assuming you are looking for something other than a “wait until you are married/older/in a serious relationship” piece of advice. So, first I want to say, welcome. I love hearing your questions and I will answer you to the best of my abilities, based upon my fairly recent experience as a teenage girl, but remember that I am not licensed in any way or a mental health care professional (YET! Eeep!).

  • Be picky.  Your standards are not too high. Above all else, this is my most important piece of advice. This is not to say that you won’t choose some losers, because you WILL, we all have.  But at least make them losers of your own choosing. Don’t just get down with someone because they tell you that you are pretty at a party, or because they are your boyfriend, or because they promise you eternal love, or because they give you awesome stuff. I made every single one of those mistakes, and I will tell you, those are the ones that I regret the most, because those were choices that I made out of fear (I am unlovable. I am the last virgin alive. I will be alone forever.) Make your choices out of excitement/exploration/joy/bliss/adventure/love, not because you are worried that you will never find someone else to love you.
  • You will ABSOLUTELY find someone to love you. I had a hard time in high school, because I too felt like I had so much love to give and there were so many aspects of myself that I wanted to share intimately with someone, and I felt like there was no one around interested in hearing about my scars or secret dreams. My second piece of advice is to hold out for that person, because they exist, though it is possible they may not manifest until after high school. If you feel like the dating prospects (or lack there of) around you are just looking to get some ass, they probably are. This is not a negative reflection on them, they may grow up to desire all manner of meaningful and intimate relationships, but there is ZERO point of trying to convince them of it now. You may feel like you are still alone, and all of your friends have boyfriends, but I guarantee that you will be glad you held out for something worth your while.
  • The virginity issue: it does not suck, nor does it make you uncool, or unlovable, or insertnegativethoughthere to be a virgin at the age of 17. I wish I had waited until I was 17.  Or 18.  Or 19. Or until I had found someone who was interested in more than telling his friends how good/bad/whatever I was in bed. Please do not worry about your lack of experience or think that it negatively reflects upon you in any way. I know many many many people who were completely sexually inactive until their college years and beyond who have awesome lives and relationships and were able to navigate the sex thing just fine. Sex and all that goes along with it (holding hands to oral sex to whether or not you want to shave to any of the issues that arise) is kind of a trial and error. There will be embarrassing moments and awkward mornings and strange encounters. You will probably do/say things that you wish you hadn’t, but the fact is you will look back on them and laugh, no matter how awful they seem at the time.  Also, I feel like this is all the more reason to wait until you have a partner that you are friends with or know pretty well before jumping into the sack or experimenting. It is MUCH easier to laugh something off if you can trust your partner to laugh along with you.
  • The blow job issue: oy. First, if you are against blow jobs and think they are demeaning (a completely personal choice – you will find MANY voices on both sides of the issue), it is your prerogative not to give your boyfriend on. Second, I will absolutely guarantee that if you give a boy a blow job, they will ask for one again. So I repeat, if you do not want to be giving any blow jobs, I would advise never starting, because once you start they will never stop wanting one. Who would? This is not a minor reason to break up with someone. If anyone is pressuring you/desiring for you to do anything sexually that you are uncomfortable with or just plain old don’t feel like doing, they are not worth keeping around and they will not change their behavior. They will probably only become more insistent. If this is not a huge deal to you and you are tough enough to keep saying no, there is no reason to kick them to the curb. Also, is he reciprocating? He better…
  • Having self esteem and courage in your convictions is very difficult in high school. It is a time of your life where your look hasn’t quite sorted itself out, your body is doing all manner of disturbing things, your skin can be a wreck (mine was), your hormones are crazy, and you have a million people telling you how to look/think/feel. It will get better. This all sounded cliche to me when I was in high school, but it is true that for all those people who think that these are their glory days etc. – they are wrong. Or perhaps they are right, in which case I feel sorry for them, but the reality, it just keeps getting better and better.  And it takes time. I wasn’t able to make a sound sexual decision to save my life until I was at least 21. I made all of the bad ones, often twice or three times until the message really sunk in.  But if you can dig deep, remember to love yourself despite all the awkward bizarreness happening in your life, and remember not to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or bad in anyway, you are ahead of the game. Do not worry. Do not think you aren’t good enough or unattractive and everyone has been keeping it from you all this time. Do not think that there is no one in the world who will be patient enough to wait for you.

You are worth waiting for. You are worth bending over backwards to court. You are worth all the romance and specialness that you are looking for.

Don’t forget that. And let me know if you need anything else.