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The Superbad Effect: Why it Only Seemed Like Everyone Around You Was Having Sex
The virgin loser is a high school myth.
BY KATE HAKALA
"Everyone has sex in college," claims Evan, the meeker guy-on-the-prowl in Superbad. Then Seth, the more crafty, dogmatic one, chimes in: "Yes, but the point is to be good at sex by the time you get to college."
This is sort of what any teen comedy preaches, that losing your virginity as a teenager is not only a usual occurrence, but a kind of a social necessity in order to get to the really "good" sex everybody has in college. Superbad is only one in the well trodden trope of movies where young men or women go on a quest to lose their source of shame and nerdiness before they enter the wider social-sexual meadows of higher education. Read: this source of shame and nerdiness is always invariably their virginity. In fact, the theme is so pervasive that "teen sex comedy" is probably a suggested genre on your Netflix queue.
While most of us really do agonize over whether we, "suck dick at fucking pussy" in our formative years, we, unlike our cinematic stand-ins, aren't actually getting laid as young adolescents. Contrary to popular belief often dispersed by hyper-vigilant moms and sensationalist conservative leaders, middle school and high school aren't exactly hot beds of sexual experimentation. In a study published yesterday by the Guttmacher Institute and the American Academy of Pediatrics, based on data provided by the National Survey of Family Growth, approximately 1% of American girls are sexually active by 12 (defined as participating in vaginal intercourse, unfortunately the data was not more nuanced). And only 2% by 13 years old. Those numbers are pretty negligible.
If you're thinking, "those are tweens, they don't reflect the people really having sex, like sixteen-year-olds" then you'd be misled. Those same statistics increased to only 32 percent of women and 35 percent of men when 16-year-olds were surveyed. Which means that the Seths and Evans of high school make up about about 70% of your Junior classmates.
This is particularly interesting in terms of the backlash for ad campaigns like Victoria's Secret's "Bright Young Things" line, which parents say targeted young girls with bright colors and rhinestoned, sexually-salacious embossing. Petitioning parents claimed the line sexualized young girls and encouraged young and deviant behavior. Regardless of how these underwear are representing young women, who are undoubtedly sexualized at a young age by advertisers, it's reassuring to know they have yet to affect the sexual choices they make, and better yet, at what age they make them.
In fact, the Guttmacher tracked data all the way back to 1939, where the authors found that the median age for the first sexual encounter of Americans has never fallen beneath age 17 at any time over the past 50 years. Which means, the "woe" of our generation isn't even generation-specific. Media will tell you a different story, when we have TV shows like "40 Year Old Virgins" that lean upon the premise of virginity as an emblem of shame. There's a myth about "bright young things": we all want to be seen as one, but none of us actually are and most of us don't hope to be. While the attractive, aspirational standard of the age in which we come into our sexual maturation will continue to dwindle and suffuse through our pop culture, it's consoling that this has no substantial influence on real-life sexual initiation. For most, early sexuality isn't a compulsory component of childhood. Virgin-shaming probably won't cease any time soon, so for now, the rest of us can relax about our real-time sexual trajectory. Classic characters like Jim Levenstein, Stacy Hamilton, and Andy Stitzer aren't losers or anomalies as much as they are part of a completely average demographic—the majority.