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[From the Archives] Scarleteen: Debunking the myths of the First Time

Every once in a while we repost something we love from our archives. This originally ran on August 6, 2010. This post is by Alison. I teach SAT prep to teenagers. My students are awesome and deserve all the sex ed they want, which is why I love that Scarleteen, a comprehensive sex ed and advice website, is available as a resource. (It's so interesting that this blog post took me hours longer to write because I was lost in the archives!)

Heather Corinna founded Scarleteen in 1998 and since then has answered hundred of questions and debunked myths about virginity. In fact, about 25% of questions the site receives somehow involve The First Time. In an article entitled "Magical Cups & Bloody Brides: Virginity in Context," Corinna explains how the history and context of the word virgin is much different than its modern definition:

"In ancient times, the virgin huntress icon Diana was a goddess because of her independence, not her subservience or the state of her hymen – she was on her own by choice, and not owned by any man, nor did she wish to be."

Isn't that cool? But wait...things changed. Virginity began to be defined in the technical terms of penises and vaginas:

"The concept of a virgin as someone who hasn't had penis-in-vagina intercourse leaves a lot of people out in the cold. Defining sex by male-to-female intercourse would make a lesbian who has had over one hundred female partners, but no male partners, a virgin. The standard definition of virginity also denotes that a woman is not a fully sexual being until she has made love with a man. Very little of this is positive or empowering, and it leaves a lot of loopholes."

Heather concludes with this hopeful encouragement:

"Much of the misinformation, myth and practice surrounding female virginity has been cultivated in times when women could not make their own choices. But those times are past for many women, unless you choose to perpetuate them. Ultimately, it is in your hands, and those of other women right now, to take the initiative to "own" yourself and your sexuality. Whatever way you choose to do so, so long as it feels right to you physically, emotionally and intellectually, and you make your choices responsibly and thoughtfully is the right way."

Another fascinating article entitled "Blowjobs and Other Boring Stuff" concerns the sexual practices of teenagers. These teens are having everything but intercourse, practices that they have hilariously dubbed "outercourse." They've had years of sex ed and are well-educated about what can and can't get them pregnant. Still, the article ends with a sigh.

"The girls seem to be more or less in control of their sexuality, and that's a positive development. But there is something in many of the kids' stories that leaves me a bit sad. Some of it reminds me of the classic frustrated housewife image, deciding what color to paint the ceiling while having sex – "I think girls do blow jobs and stuff just to make us happy," Jared says. "One day I looked up at my girlfriend's face while I was going down on her and I caught her staring out the window, looking bored." Some of it makes me worry about them, with their combination of emotional innocence and sexual sophistication – I sense danger lurking around unseen corners."

If you haven't read Scarleteen lately, go over and take a look. Here are some links to check out: