A recent survey states the average age for losing virginity is 17. Is that so or are teenagers getting sexually active even earlier? Debarati S Sen explores ...
Studies have revealed that children, these days, are losing their virginity at a very young age. Experts say that with the average age of puberty going down to 9-10 years for girls and 10-11 years for boys, the average age for losing virginity too is going down. And the deadly paring with this is — awareness about sex is more these days and information (not always from the right sources) is freely available. Television, movies and most prominently the Internet is loaded with extremely easily accessible information and graphic details. This, most of the time, helps to entice the youngsters to experiment, who already have hormones raging through them.
Anju Uppal, principal of an international high school says, "I have been dealing with children for a long time and I do believe that children these days are losing their virginity very early. They get attracted to each other and are tempted to take it all further."
Curiosity killed the cat
Psychiatrist Dr Anjali Chhabria says, "It's human nature to be curious. A teenager would definitely want to experiment and experience the information he/she has heard about sex. For certain kids who are more shy, withdrawn and introverts, social networking sites are best for communication. Kids who may be new to exploring sexuality or may have a high drive, do indulge in cyber sex or phone sex at times." Anju Uppal adds, "They are much more aware of things these days and they are very keen to experiment."
Lack of attention from parents
With most parents working, kids are without proper supervision (a maid would not even understand the nuances of phone or cyber sex) and free to do as they like. "Sometimes the attention from the parents is not enough, kids may indulge in these things just to attract negative attention from parents," says Dr Chhabria.
Children who are from broken families are prone to indulge in flings with multiple partners without emotional attachments. Seema Hingorrany, clinical psychologist adds, "When there is a marital discord between parents the children may try to cling to their relationships and are ready to lose their virginity to hold on to it."
Sex isn't taboo anymore
Sex in our society is also not such a taboo as it used to be earlier and virginity is not such a big deal. Psychotherapist Shilpa Raheja agrees, "Virginity has lost its sacred value. 'Saving your virginity for marriage' is something that is even laughed at these days by some people." This attitude, though not very common is accepted.
Influence of alcohol
Is influence of alcohol or substance abuse one of the reasons that lead to lowering the age of sexual activity among children? Dr Chhabria says, "It may not be one of the reasons but it may stimulate the sexual urge further for them to indulge in sex. Also substance and alcohol tend to reduce the anxiety towards sex and alter consciousness which definitely plays a major role in letting the person freely perform sex."
To have a boyfriend or girlfriend is like a status symbol say experts. "So much of 'hanging around' at pubs, cafes and discos are happening. You need a girl in your arms when you walk in to a party," says Shilpa. There are children who have their reasons for absistence but sometimes they are counteracted upon in a very strong way by the friends and the peer group. "Friends often provide the means when a parent refuses," says Anju.
Proper education needed
Yes we all know sex education is provided in schools. Period. But with rampant teenage pregnancies it obviously is not enough. Shilpa says, "Talking openly about sex is still not common. Parents usually want some other organisation to do the sex-talk with their kids."
Effects on children
Seema says, "In the last five years I have seen the number rise rapidly. Around 50-75 per cent young girls and guys lose their virginity much before they are anywhere near adulthood. And this affects them mentally. When kids are in Std 5, they have crushes and before they are in college most lose their virginity. When such a relationship does not work out depression hits them. There are anxiety disorders, eating disorders and feelings of guilt that may ruin their childhood."
Expert advice for parents
A good relationship between parents may be important where both have similar parenting styles. Parents need to be role models and need to make their child see how important is love, affection, care and commitment in a relationship. They need to explain that sex is something precious to be shared with the person you love and not just an act of physical satisfaction.The emotional problems that come up with losing virginity at an early age and that come along with multiple partners needs to be explained to your child with a lot of patience. Children also need to understand that their parents are the one who they need to confide into. Also all information from friends and elsewhere needs to be confirmed as it may not always be true. Children also need to judge better for themselves what is right and wrong and what will be good for them in the future.
Advice for teenagers
*> The only way you can guarantee that you won't catch a sexually transmitted disease and won't get pregnant is abstinence.
*> No one can force you into it. 'If you loved me you'd do it', can be countered with a 'If you really loved me you would wait'.
*> Saying a no to a person even if it is someone you have said a yes to earlier, is perfectly okay.
*> Always keep in mind that despite what rumors and gossip may suggest, virgins are a majority in most high schools, not a minority.
*> If you want to show someone how much you care intercourse is not the only way to go about it. Don't let others try to convince you otherwise.
*> If you kiss someone passionately does not mean that you have to go on to having sex with them.