So I was browsing around on Youtube yesterday and came upon some vids by Jacqueline Mannering, a London-based guitarist who plays a lot of shred stuff. Now, I do like a good shred solo now and again, so I checked out some of her vids. My first thought was "Damn, she's talented; look out, guitarists, this girl's going to eat your lunch", followed closely by "Damn, she's a cutie! Look at that face, look at that goth chic thing she's got going on...yeah, she's a hottie, all right!"
Then I looked at some of her other vids and I realized that she was only fifteen when they were posted. First I panicked. "Ouch," I thought. "I'm getting the hots for a fifteen-year-old. What the hell's the matter with me? Am I getting to dirty-old-man territory before I even hit my forties? Are people going to throw stones at me for being a horrible pervert?"
I did some more hunting, and elsewhere on her Facebook fan page I found out she was born in July 1992, so that makes her eighteen now. Crisis averted, sort of (we won't discuss whether it's still uncool, or worse, ridiculous, for me to be getting the hots for a girl who's still nearly twenty years my junior). But it did get me thinking -- how young is too young?
I've talked to women who had their first sexual experience at fourteen, and thought it was fantastic. I've talked to others who were in their mid-twenties before they had sex, and thought it was still too soon. Some cultures ritually deflower virgins at a certain age, whether they've got the sexual and emotional maturity to deal with it or not. Others arrange marriages before the girl's even had her first period. Others keep women's faces covered at all times when they're in public, regardless of age. It makes me think we've got some pretty fucked-up standards out there as far as sexual maturity goes. Every culture's different.
There aren't many things that I think have NO place at all in human sexuality. Taking a page from Spider Robinson, I'm firmly against anything that involves former food or former people. The other thing I can't and won't condone is sex with pre-sexual people. That, to me, has always meant "sex with people who feel they aren't ready for sex", whether they're fifteen or fifty. The problem comes when you start trying to define "pre-sexual". Then you start going back to the "how young is too young?" question. Is the kid who got seduced by his high school English teacher too young? Is the girl who goes to her neighbor and asks him to teach her about sex too young? What if she's fourteen? But then again, what if she's ten? It's a slippery slope I don't much care to explore, so I hide behind the "pre-sexual" tag.
The problem is that everyone's different, of course. You can look at people who're clearly sexually mature, but emotionally there's no way at all they could handle sex (think Carrie from Stephen King's debut novel). Yet on the other end of the spectrum you've got people who've grown up much faster than anybody expected, and are dealing with adult emotions and feelings (think Natalie Portman's character Matilda in the film "Leon: The Professional"). Is it wrong to deny them a little exploration if they feel they're ready for it? If they can have adult discussions about what they're thinking and feeling and have real, solid, concrete reasons for wanting to explore the mysteries of sex? Or should we just slap a big "Not until you're sixteen" label on them all, hoping that by that time everybody will be able to handle what they want so badly? And who decides on the label? Twentysomethings or teenagers who still remember vividly how they felt when they discovered sex, or middle-agers who have twenty years' experience to look back and temper the fire they were feeling then?
Yeah, I know there are no easy answers. I just can't stop thinking about things like this. I think it's unfair that we don't have any real concrete way of knowing when somebody's ready, really ready, to have sex, ready to make their own decisions. And I don't agree that generally the first time is absolutely crucial and can scar you for life if it's not done properly; like any bad experience, people can get past just about anything. But....on the other hand, I think about rapists who lie in wait for children in parks. I think about men who prey on young girls who are just looking for some approval from someone, anyone, and will do anything to feel loved. I think about people who really ARE pedophiles and don't care about who they hurt as long as they get what they want. And that kind of garbage horrifies me on several levels, and then I start thinking a "Not till you're sixteen" label isn't so bad.
How old were you when you first had sex? Would you have done it years before if you'd had the chance? Or do you think you should have waited till you were older? If you had the chance to go back and do it again, would you change things?
How young do YOU think is too young?