Coming of Age without Sex?

‘Losing one’s virginity’ is considered an important part of coming of age in American culture, as well as in some other cultures.

Why? Should it be a part of coming of age?

For me personally, an important coming of age rite was moving out of my parents’ home for the first time when I was eighteen. This is also a very American middle-class way of coming of age (by contrast, moving out of one’s parents’ home is generally not considered a coming-of-age rite in Taiwan). Did it feel like a coming of age just because of my culture? It was a mark of becoming more independent … but that too is a reflection of American culture, since in some cultures there is little to no link between independence and maturity. I do think living away from my parents did increase my trust in myself, and proved that I could rely on myself more. Is that something which transcends culture? I do not know.

I can understand how navigating sex for the first time might also give one more trust in oneself. But I do not think sex is the only activity which can do this – for example, completing one’s first weaving project could do the same, especially in a culture which placed a high value on weaving.

American culture has been influenced by many cultures where getting married is considered a major rite of coming of age AND right after the wedding was when people were expected to have sex for the first time AND wedding/marriage was when people split from their family unit of birth and formed a new unit within a family. The formation of a new unit within a family makes a lot of sense to me as a point of coming of age (though perhaps that is because of my cultural background?) and since there is an association between that AND getting married AND having sex for the first time, some of that might have gotten attached to the ‘having sex for the first time’ bit.

Or maybe sex is simply considered a coming of rite because it is something which children cannot consent to, but adults can, thus consenting to sex means one is an adult.

That said, if I were to have sex, I doubt it would make me feel more mature or adult than I already feel. While some people get personal growth or an increased trust in oneself by having sex for the first time, I feel I have gotten that by other means, and that having sex once is unlikely to add much. I have also rejected the notion of virginity in my personal life so I do not think of the hypothetical me-after-having-had-sex-once as being significantly different from how I am now as someone who has never had sex.


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