It’s that time of year again. No, not quite the festive season just yet. I mean back to school! Families have spent the past four weeks rushing around, getting last minute uniforms and supplies, worrying about packed lunches and the morning school rush. But what about when you're a 16 year-old girl? What actually worries them when they go back to school? Is it what hairstyle to wear or what shade of shadow to wear on their eyelids? Or is it the rumour that will no doubt spread around class about how she made out with a guy in the park over the summer holidays?
‘Oh my god that girl is such a slut’
‘She’s lost her virginity already?!’
‘I saw her making out with him in the corridor, she’s too ugly to be with him.’
These are only a snippet of the types of comments that teenage students will say throughout school, either to your face or behind your back. You could be a virgin and still be called a slut, just because that was the ultimate insult, by both fellow female peers or pubescent males. You could have never even kissed a guy before and still be called a slut.
As a result, girls are left with a huge dilemma when they want to pursue their new-found sexual instincts; either they follow them, have an enlightening and active sexual life, but face reprimand from other students, or feel pressure from their inner selves and others for not giving in to them. Personally, I chose the former, because fuck what other students thought.
The way I saw it, I was just doing what everyone else was frightened to do because of the social constraints that school builds up. But since sex education had taught us how to have healthy sex, then why shouldn’t we go out and explore our sexuality? I lost my virginity just before my seventeenth birthday. A few people around school had also lost their virginity by then. You’d have people come up to you in either awe or disgust asking you questions; but these are questions that were important for people to know the answer to, because it may have helped them to overcome fear and follow their sexuality too. This was a positive experience to spread sex positivity, even long before I knew that sex positivity as a movement existed.
But then it happened. The rumours had started. The boy who I had lost my virginity to had spread it around the school that I was 'bad at sex'. At the time this annoyed me, because not only was he my first - so it probably was a bit lousy - but also he was the one taking control and 'doing all the work'. So if it was lousy, there wasn’t much I could contribute to it at the time; in a roundabout way, he was just spreading a rumour about his own ability at sex. But would students see it like that? No, it would all come down to me, and how is it ultimately the girl’s fault for bad sex. It was also spread by his group of friends, all of whom were made up of virgins themselves, so couldn't contribute factual information about how sex actually works.
Jump to two years later when everyone went to university. By then everyone was using Fresher’s week as an excuse to get laid as many times as possible. Kudos to them. I had started my sexual experience slightly earlier than everyone else, and that made me a slut. But when they did it with multiple people in a short space of time, it was okay? This kind of acceptability towards male sexuality (and consequently the condemning of female sexuality) can not only cause women to shy away from their sexual urges, but ultimately really impact their mental health.
There is such a stigma around sex in a school setting that needs to be addressed. Surely everyone would have a better time if sex positivity was taught alongside basic sex education, which in itself needs a massive overhaul. By overhaul, I'm talking beyond straight sex, so not to alienate those who identify as anything other than heterosexual. Also, it needs to be taught that it's okay to enjoy sex in a healthy way and how you want to, whether it be in a relationship, with a friend experimentally, with multiple people. That way students can have the choice when they want to engage with their sexuality without the fear of rumours, hearsay and judgement. They can make informed decisions about the who, when and how, and understand that everyone is different. Everyone’s time will come when they feel ready to have sex, whether it be at sixteen or later down the line. But either way, there’s no need for judgement when they do.
This week, we want to know: what is your understanding of ‘intimacy’?