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Real life

“You’re a virgin at 16?” I scoffed. Now I’m committed to abstinence.

Adele, 25, from Stockport, tells Denise Pfeiffer why she’s starting over:

AdeleI was just 14 when my boyfriend and myself decided to have sex. It wasn’t as if it had been an impulsive decision. After all, we’d wanted to wait, but after nine months we gave in, thinking it was the right thing to do. My boyfriend was a year older than me and both of us felt at the time that waiting nine months was commendable. It didn’t occur to us that we were too young to deal with the emotional consequences.

At school the teachers were already showing us how to put condoms on bananas, and we all thought everyone else was having sex. Personally, I thought that the idea of someone reaching the age of 18 and still being a virgin was a myth. Our sex education teacher didn’t make things any better, saying, “It’s illegal for you to have sex before you’re 16, but we all know you’re going to do it anyway.” Those words echoed around my head on leaving that class. I wanted it to stop – the pressure, the overwhelming sense of what I had always considered to be right and wrong was becoming blurred.

Meanwhile, at my close friend Christine’s school, a supply personal and social education teacher had just told her and her friends that it’s a myth to think that nobody’s doing it. “Most people who say they’re having sex are having sex,” she stated quite categorically.

AdeleIt is clear that to see now that we were all being told about the physical consequences of sex but not the emotional consequences. The physical can often be cured but the emotional consequences stick around a lot longer. If only someone had told me then what I know now.

When I reached 16, a girl in my class told me that she was a virgin. I burst into laughter, “You’re a virgin at 16?” I scoffed. “What are you doing, being a virgin at that age?” Deep down, I knew that I was trying to justify my actions. I thought that if I ridiculed virgins enough, I would begin to believe that they were wrong and I was right. I desperately wanted to turn back time.

My boyfriend and myself remained together for six years, despite falling out of love almost straight after our first sexual experience. More like friends than lovers, we stayed together out of habit. We had both lost our virginity to each other and didn’t want to sleep around, but we started to resent each other and gradually went from staying at each other’s houses every night to not seeing each other for weeks. Now we don’t see each other at all. When we broke up I felt empty. I wanted my first time to be with the man I eventually married and felt that a part of myself had been lost forever.

I began to suffer with depression and had no one to turn to. I’d go out, sleep with guys and feel great for five minutes, and then go home feeling terrible. The guilt would eat away at me and I’d hate myself, but I couldn’t stop. The next night, I’d do it all again and feel even worse. Losing my virginity at such a young age had made me feel worthless and I had no self-respect. I was like an alcoholic who knew the error of my ways but could find no escape or resting place.

At home during the day, I would try to drown my sorrows through watching TV, but that just made the situation worse. Even in Grange Hill and Hollyoaks, aimed at a younger audience, everyone was having sex with no strings. Every time someone was portrayed who had any sense of morality, they were made out to be a freak. Take the girl called Sarah who appeared in Eastenders a few years ago. Dot Cotton is another contemporary example. Even the vicar in Emmerdale was bed swapping! I didn’t realise I was being influenced, it was all so subtle, but I was starting to believe that was real life. Our culture has become so permissive that anything goes now, but I didn’t want people telling me to carry on regardless. I just needed someone to say stop, and then with their support I could start afresh. I guess I desperately needed a second chance.

AdeleThe, a few months ago, a friend invited me to a gathering of Christians and I listened intently to the stories of forgiveness told by people just like me. With tears in my eyes, I knew that this was what I had been waiting for. Schools teach you so much about how to have sex, but nothing about the emotional consequences if you do.

I haven’t had sex for over four years now, and I’m still dealing with some of the emotional consequences. I’ve done a lot of things I regret, but I had to move on.

I’m now a youth leader and see all the pain that sex causes on a regular basis. I believe that abstinence until marriage is how we’re designed to be. Every time you have sex it diminishes the special nature of how it’s meant to be. My friends are supporting me all the way. I can’t change the past, but I’m determined to have a brighter future, and for me, that means the next time I have sex, it will be with my husband.