At 12 or 13, some of my classmates went through boy band phases. Others went through an Anime phase. The more rebellious went through an I-hate-my-parents phase and started TPing houses for kicks.
I went through a phase I like to call Skankin' in the Woods. I guess all those girls who signed that “We Think You're A Slut” petition in the 8th grade had a point. I was promiscuous. I was also miserably depressed. And I'm still not sure exactly what those brats were petitioning for.
I recently stumbled on an article from UK based Daily Mail about how having sex young ruined the love lives of a slew of young women.
What I found more interesting than the romantic histories of strangers were the featured doctors stating that having sex “too young” and engaging in youthful promiscuity can lead to self-esteem issues and depression. While Daily Mail may not be the best source for hard evidence, I couldn't help but thinking that they had the relationship between youthful promiscuity and depression backward.
According to the psychologist quoted in the article, Michael Mantell, “Becoming sexually active at an early age can have devastating lifelong consequences. It’s a psychological disaster waiting to happen. It leads to empty relationships and low self-worth.” First, I think it's important to note that youthful sexual activity and promiscuity are not the same thing. You could sleep with the same person your entire high school career and this wouldn't make you promiscuous, nor would it necessarily correlate with depression. I don't believe there is a link between youthful sex and depression, but I do believe there is a link between youthful promiscuity and depression.
But what comes first? The promiscuity or the depression? The chicken or the egg? In this case, I vote the latter.
I was experimenting in JC Penney's dressing rooms when other kids were still trading Pogs. At 11, my depression starting brewing, and it came out in stormy fits of juvenile rage, an insecurity with my body, an inability to connect with girls my age and promiscuity. Adolescence was a hormonal nightmare for me. When you find yourself rejecting your own reflection, it's a relief when someone else wants the very body you can't accept -- even if only briefly. Many turn to their sexual partners to search for the self-worth they can't find within themselves. Being promiscuous did not make me depressed. It did not make me insecure or make it difficult for me to connect with people. I already had those issues, and I was using promiscuity as a way to deal with it.
And while you couldn't pay me to relive the moment someone's mother found my bathing suit bottoms stuck in their pool filter (with my name written on the tag, mind you), I believe all that extracurricular fellatio helped -– not hindered -- my growth as a person.
All of my experimenting allowed me to become comfortable with my sexuality much earlier than most, which I am thankful for, as it gave me a sense of empowerment that I was lacking. It took me a while to realize I could still be empowered without my face in someone's lap, but that's the path I took to get there, and I wouldn't trade it for any pop-your-cherry-on-prom-night scene.
But the most invaluable thing I gained from skankin' about as a girl was understanding the difference between a sexual relationship and a romantic one. As I began to value myself, I realized I wanted a partner who liked me even after I fished my panties out of the back seat of their car. I learned if genuine affection is what I wanted, then I would need to make a collaboration between a sexual connection and an emotional one. I know some women, maybe even most, come to this conclusion naturally, but I had to be a bit reckless to get there.
By the time I hit 16 -- the legal age of consent -- I had begun to cycle out of my promiscuous phase in favor of monogamy. I still struggled with depression, and I probably always will, but I gained the insight to understand that I can only distract myself with a new conquest for so long. Reality will set back in as soon as my post-O serotonin drains.
Now when I see a 12-year-old girls boppin' around in Justin Bieber tees, they look so young, and I shudder to think that they're off in the woods with their knees in the dirt while their parents think they're working on a biology project. However, I wouldn't change my sexual history, or the things I learned from it -- even if I did have to clog a few pool filters along the way.