'It's not uncool to be a virgin at 16'

Teenage sex in the 21st century
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The Independent Online

Rosie Stainton, 17, student

Rosie Stainton, 17, student

I haven't lost my virginity yet, though I think out of my group of about eight girls, only two of us are still virgins. It can be quite difficult, because when they talk about sex I don't really have anything to contribute. Instead, I ask questions, so I guess it's kind of educational. They're all very easy about it; I don't feel under any pressure to have sex. No one's hung up about it, it's my choice.

I think I'll do it when it feels right. It's stupid to make any plans about what you want and when you want to do it, because, from what I've heard, you're either going to be disappointed or something will go wrong. I'm just going to wait until I'm ready. One of my friends lost her virginity when she was 14 to a boy who already had a girlfriend. They'd only met the week before but she felt pressurised to do it because she really liked him and she wanted him to want her instead of his girlfriend. She's regretted it ever since - sex for her isn't personal, it's not a big deal any more.

I hang around with a lot of boys as well as girls, and my best friend is a boy. He's still a virgin, and he's been going out with a girl for about six months. He's got a similar attitude to me; he's not really worried about it. But I think for most boys, losing their virginity is about just finding someone to do it with.

I reckon knowing that there are people around me that I would talk to has a lot to do with me being able to keep a level head about it. I've got an older sister who's really understanding and I think my mum would probably know immediately if I'd had sex. If I did lose my virginity, I'd tell her about it - I'd feel funny if I didn't.

I've had a boyfriend for about a year. He doesn't pressurise me at to do anything. I can't say when I think it's going to happen, I just don't know. I reckon it won't be for a while, we're just waiting for it to feel right and it hasn'tso far. We do talk about it, but it's not a big issue now and I hope it won't become one. If it happens, it happens, if it doesn't, it doesn't.

Mark Bradshaw, 17, student

Sex isn't that important to me. I've only slept with my girlfriend, whom I've been seeing for six months. We first had sex after two and half months. I guess I felt it was right. My parents are fine about it.

We do it once a week, or once a fortnight, and I'm fine with that. I don't think I'd ever be unfaithful to her. I'm not that sort of person.

Some of my friends are virgins. I don't know how often my friends have sex, we don't talk about it, to be honest. We're quite grown-up. I think sex is different for boys and girls. It seems to be cool for boys, and much more personal and emotional for girls. I think my sex life will change as I get older; it will probably be more regular, and I'll be more adventurous.

Della Williams, 17, student

I haven't had sex yet. I want to wait until I find a guy who I'm really comfortable with. I've had four or five boyfriends, but I didn't want to do it with any of them. I know it sounds corny, but I want it to be a love thing. I don't want him going around telling his friends how crap I am, or anything. I would also hate to do it and then be left.

A lot of us are worried about doing it right. We hope it will come naturally. I don't understand one-night stands. I want my first time to be special. I won't be discussing it with a group of giggling girls.

Kevin Foster, 17, student

I'm totally happy being gay. It's just me, it's nothing unusual. I came out almost two years ago - my parents are fine about it. I first had sex when I was 15, and I've had 15 to 20 sexual encounters since. I've never had sex with a woman. I've had seven boyfriends, and have got off with a couple of people while I was with someone, but on both occasions I ended the initial relationship.

The nicest thing about sex is being naked with someone you care about, and sharing that time with him. I enjoy sex, but the best bit is cuddling. The worst thing is when they don't turn me on, and I have trouble climaxing. When I'm in a relationship I have sex about once a week. I've had sex within hours of meeting someone new, but sometimes I wait two or three weeks.

The sort of things I look for in a partner are a good sense of humour, he'd have to be slim and my age, not boring, and be interested in the same things as I am. I've had four or five one-night stands. One made me feel dirty, the others made me feel used, as I wanted a relationship and they didn't.

Stuart Smith, 19, postal clerk

Sex life? What sex life? Actually, my sex life has always been exciting up until now. I've been single for eight months.

I was 15 when I lost my virginity, which was about the same age as my other friends. There's not a lot to say about the first time, except that it was a bit messy. Since then I've had six partners, one of which was a two-and-a-half-year relationship. It was a good relationship but marred by the fact that I found out she had been seeing other people. We broke up just before the finals of my A-levels, so it was a pretty tough time for me.

We developed a good sexual relationship, but it took time. Towards the end, it was much more intimate than it had been which was ironic, seeing that she was with other men. We would have sex about three times a week, provided my parents weren't in, but we found other places to do it. The college library was a memorable location. That one experience in there was the best sex that I've ever had; it was mind blowing. I suppose half the excitement was that it was so spontaneous and we didn't know if anyone was going to walk in. As everyone always says, it's the excitement of not knowing whether you're going to get caught.

I'm quite experimental, but I've never been into bondage or anything like that. I recently went out with a girl who was quite a bit older than me. She was sexually quite experienced, but it wasn't until six months later that she told me she was a high-class prostitute. I was totally shocked. I'd never had any indication that she was a prostitute. It seemed like such a waste of time, as I'd never really liked her anyway. I don't know why it lasted so long and even if she was good in bed, I wasn't using her for sex, I'm not that shallow. The most worrying thing was the fact that I could have caught something off her.

I think that sex should be an intimate thing shared between two people; it means so much more and is usually better sex. I never intend to jump into bed with anyone just for instant gratification. But sometimes you just can't help yourself.

Sarah Drake, 15, student

I'm a virgin and most of my group of friends are, too. We all feel that we're not quite mature enough to have sex at the moment. We don't think it's something we should rush into immediately. It's not necessarily a view I've got from my parents. I think I'll probably be mature enough at 17, 18 or 19. I would want to be in love with him, but I don't look down on people who do it for lust. I think the most important thing to remember when having sex is to make sure that you really want to do it - I've never felt pressurised into doing it. I don't talk about sex much with my friends. I've had four boyfriends and I'm happy to kiss, but that's it. I don't think it's uncool to be a virgin at 16, or even at 20.

Some names have been changed

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