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Two teenagers kissing, taken from the March 2000 issue of DazedPhotography Rankin

Young people in the UK are having sex before they feel ready

There’s a lot of pressure

Almost everyone remembers their first time – only three per cent can’t according to a recent study. And, in that same study, it became clear that a lot of young people lose their virginity before they feel ready.

Researchers deduced this in the BMJ Sexual and Reproductive Health, after analysing the responses of almost 3,000 heterosexuals in the UK aged between 17 and 24. Over half of women were not ready compared to three-quarters of men overall, but interestingly when looking at specific age groups, like those 18 and over, men overtake women in not feeling ready to have sex.

It’s difficult to pinpoint how you quantify readiness but the study takes a bunch of different elements of the person’s first sexual encounter into account. According to The Guardian, researchers in a recent study decided that your “sexual competence” would be rated on whether you used reliable contraception, were as up for having sex as your partner, felt like you had autonomy and just personally felt like it was the “right time”.

Contraceptive use was really good across the board with about 90 per cent of people choosing a reliable method before initiating sex, so that shows that sex education is working in that respect. However, there’s a growing movement of people that think sex education needs to focus on making sex a positive experience for men and women. Recently, sex blogger Dami Olonisakin debated the issue of teaching consent and women’s right to pleasure in schools on Newsnight. Researchers also appear to be in agreement noting that more needs to be done in teaching to make sex an equally pleasurable experience.

Worryingly, a sixth of women felt unequal willingness to have sex which is more than double the amount of men, posing questions about whether girls feel forced or coerced into having sex for the first time. Speaking to The Guardian, Melissa Palmer, the first author of the research said: “Whether their partner would agree with what they are saying is something that we can’t know,” but that all of her results, “suggest that the experience of men and women might not be exactly the same”.

Other research has noted that men who have just lost their virginity are more likely to be happy that they had sex at all and less likely to feel pressured by their partners.

“In 13 years of listening to people tell me about their first sexual experiences, I can tell you that first sex is rarely actually about sex,” Kate Monro told The Guardian. Typical answers range from trying to lose the stigma of virginity, to others who felt it was a step towards adulthood.