Wondering about your virginity or what it means to be a virgin? You're not alone - journeying into the world of sex is a big decision for anyone.

If you aren't sure you're ready, you're probably not

What is it?

Virginity, or being a virgin, is when you haven't had sex. You 'lose your virginity' when, and only when, you have sex for the first time.

The average age of first (heterosexual) intercourse is 16 in the UK. It was 21 in the 1950s.

How do I know if I'm still a virgin?

If you've had sex - then you are no longer a virgin. In the case of heterosexual sex, even if the penis was only inside the vagina for a second, and even if you didn't come.

However, masturbating, using tampons, or being fingered by someone else doesn't mean you've lost your virginity.

Nor does the presence of our hymen (a ring of thin skin covering part of opening of vagina) tell if we're a virgin. Our hymen can break long before we've had sex, and some hymens don't break even after penetrative intercourse.

When should I lose my virginity?

If you're under the age of consent, it's illegal. Other than that, you shouldn't have sex until you're certain that you're ready for it. This could be when you're relatively young, or at any time in your life. Whatever feels right for you.

Don't do anything until you're clued-up on safe sex and you understand what sex is all about. If you aren't sure you're ready, you're probably not, no matter how old you are or however long you've been in a relationship. You need to feel safe and confident with yourself and your partner and have a chat with them about contraception and how to prevent STIs as well as your emotions.

What if none of my friends are virgins?

It's difficult when you feel like you're inexperienced compared to your friends, but try not to let it get you down. Peer pressure is such that people do lie about whether they've had sex or not.

You're an individual and you shouldn't let what other people do stop you from doing what's right for you. If you're only doing it because you feel like you should, it's probably not right. The right person won't mind waiting until you're ready.

BBC Advice factfiles are here to help young people with a broad range of issues. They're based on advice from medical professionals, government bodies, charities and other relevant groups. Follow the links for more advice from these organisations.


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