I WAS gutted when I had to give up my tickets to the Madonna concert in Bangkok show due to a road traffic accident. Needless to say, I am excited to be travelling to Singapore Sunday night to relive the excitement of my youth, experiencing life “like a virgin”. More than two decades have passed since my teenage years, but I remain mindful of the emotional roller-coaster I experienced then, which I guess my own kids are experiencing now. With such thoughts in mind, let’s deal with a young reader’s concerns on the issue of virginity!

Dear Dr. G,

My name is Alan and I am 18-year-old college student. Things are going very well between my girlfriend and me, but I am a bit nervous to take things to the next step and have sex, even though some of my friends have already started getting physical.

I am nervous as this is my first relationship, and I think my girlfriend is much more experienced than me.

I really would like to know at what age do people start losing their virginity? How do I know if my girlfriend is really a virgin? Would she experience pain if she was? Would I also feel pain? Is there a chance of her getting pregnant from one sexual encounter? Is there also a chance of getting sexually transmitted disease?

I feel very stressed about all these and need your help.


The Oxford Dictionary defines a virgin as someone who has never engaged in sexual intercourse. In reality, different people define sex differently. Many would assume losing one’s virginity constitutes a man and a woman having vaginal intercourse for the first time.

But truthfully, sexual experience comes in different forms, and getting all hung up about whether one is a virgin or not is often unimportant and counter-productive.

In the west, statistics show that the average age people have sex for the first time is 17, and getting younger. In Asia, it is often assumed the age of first sexual intercourse is much older, but some statistics may show otherwise. This often shocks the community and generates dispute and controversy.

Deciding whether to have sex for the first time is often stressful and worrisome. This may be influenced by different factors such as religion, moral beliefs, family and personal values, love and desire. Sadly, the pressure from peers often influences the decision for many young adults to engage in sexual activities – even when they are not ready. Some cultures believe the state of a woman’s hymen is reflective of her virginity. In reality, the hymen is merely a thin, fleshy tissue that partially stretches across the opening of the vagina. Although hymen can be stretched (or torn) during first-time vaginal intercourse, there are other ways this can happen –the insertion of tampon, sporting activities or even riding a bicycle!

Some women have pain or bleed after the first vaginal intercourse due to the stretching or tear or the hymen. Not experiencing any pain at all is also very normal. Vaginal sex shouldn’t be painful for guys at all unless there is too much friction on or a tear of the frenulum of the penis. It is also extremely rare for the penis to be too large for vaginal intercourse. Yes guys – if a baby’s head can pass through the vaginal canal during birth, your asset doesn’t really compare!

It is completely possible for someone to get pregnant or become infected with bacteria and viruses such as HIV, HPV, Chlamydia, gonorrhea or herpes – even at first contact of the vulva or the briefest vaginal penetration. This may be due to the presence of pathogens in the semen or pre-cum. Viruses like HPV are transmissible even with brief contacts of external genitalia.

Madonna said she “stands for freedom of expression, doing what you believe in and going after your dreams”. In life, all of us will eventually have to make that major decision to lose our virginity and have sex for the first time. There are no set rules for such decision, and do not be pressurised to do something when you are not ready. Embark on this journey when you can take responsibility for the safety of yourself and others and bear the consequence for any adversity! After all, there can only be one “first time”!

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