Day 12: Great Expectations: When the first time lets you down
February 12, 2016
Candles flicker, soft music plays and rose petals are scattered around to create a romantic atmosphere. This image is conjured by many teens in relation to their first sexual experience. Sex usually does not live up to the hype that exists in today’s pop culture, shattering the expectations of many teens. Senior Tierra Pender learned, in a difficult manner, of the falsities in the portrayal of sex within society.
“I thought it would be magical and easy, how the movies portray it, but in all reality it was painful and pretty awkward looking back,” senior Terra Pender said. “[If I had known what it would be like] I would have waited longer.”
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization that focuses on sexual reproduction and health, teens are beginning to wait longer for their first time. In 1995, 19 percent of boys and 21 percent of girls (never married) aged 15 to 19 were sexually active before 15 . Between 2006 and 2008, this number had dropped to 11 and 14 percent, respectively. Now, on average, teens wait until 17 years old to engage in sex.
“People are seeing what happens when people have kids when they aren’t old enough. Shows on MTV like Sixteen and Pregnant showed that teen pregnancy can be really awful for some people, and teens nowadays have a better understanding of what parenthood requires,” junior Michael Trainor said. “The difficult lifestyle of early parenthood prevents teens from having sex too early in their lives It’s a factor, at least.”
While the fear of pregnancy is a factor keeping teens away from sex, religious views surpass it as the main reason. Thirty-eight percent of girls and 31 percent of boys chose this as the top reason they were choosing to abstain from sex, followed by a fear of pregnancy and not having met the right person yet. Senior Hailey Rosa is one student who is deferring her first sexual experience until marriage because of religion.
“In the Catholic Church you’re taught to save yourself until marriage and to stay chase. We’re taught that sex is only meant to be with one other person and to start a family together ,” Rosa said. “Growing up learning that, I feel that it’s a very important milestone in your relationship and have a very hard time with the idea of giving it away.”
American society is heavily saturated with sex in media forms, such as music, movies and magazines. Teenagers and young adults spend a whopping eleven hours daily paying attention to this media, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Teens spend four and a half of these hours watching television alone. A study done in the Southeastern United States, by the University of North Carolina found that 40 percent of music, 12 percent of movies and 11 percent of television included sexual content.
“Television and media are a big impact on what’s on everyone’s mind,” Rosa said.
This category of media is pornography, which features a highly idealized version of sex. Research has been done by various organizations on the viewing of pornography by children and teenagers. Family Safe Media found that children aged 12 to 17 view the most internet porn. Over one third of boys aged 16 and 17 intentionally viewed a website that contained pornographic content, while only 8 percent of their female agemates did, which is documented in a book written by Janis Wolak, a Senior Researcher at the Crimes against Children Research the Center of the University of New Hampshire.
“People expect sex to be like it is online,” Trainor said. “They expect their fantasies to come true and think they have a total understanding of what sex is like, when in reality they have no clue until they’ve experienced it themselves.”