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Teen Girls' Health

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Dealing with Friends

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Myth 3: More is better.
Truth: Keep your lifetime number LOW.

We live in a supersize society. We want bigger houses, more food, and bigger cars—no wonder our economy got into big trouble in 2008. People (that is, adults) just kept wanting more, more, more . . . until they outspent their budgets. Why was anyone surprised? At school you hear the more-more-more message constantly. The more friends you have, the better! The more activities you’re in, the better! The more colleges you apply to, the better!

But that’s not necessarily true. Imagine if you participated in so many activities or filled out so many college applications that you didn’t have time to sleep. If you’ve ever felt overcommitted and stressed out, then you know what I’m talking about—more isn’t always better.

Unfortunately, some people want you to think that more is better when it comes to sex. That’s just not true. Medically speaking, sex with more people isn’t better. It’s a lot worse. I illustrate this for my patients by showing them the “sex pyramid,” which explains how, by sleeping with one guy even once, you may be, in effect, sleeping with dozens or even hundreds of people. You’re exposing yourself to anything his partners have, and anything their partners had, and so on and so on. . . . That’s pretty scary in a world where more than half of all people carry the HPV virus and 20 percent of Americans have genital herpes.

While more is better is medically false, it’s also not going to make you any more popular—not in the long run. When I talk to my patients, I point out that having sex to become more popular just doesn’t work. “How are you going to feel,” I ask my patients, “when you have sex with a boy, and then find out he had sex with everyone else in the class? Or brags about sleeping with you on Facebook? Or texts everybody you know?” This isn’t hypothetical: It happens all the time. This kind of embarrassment is the opposite of the social props teens are looking for. Most girls already know this: 84 percent of teens say that keeping the respect of their friends is an important benefit that comes from postponing sex.

Myth 4: Once you’ve lost your virginity, you might as well sleep with all your future boyfriends.
Truth: You can become a “retroactive virgin.”

Just because you have sex with one guy doesn’t mean you need to have sex with every other guy you like. One patient of mine really regretted losing her virginity, so we swore a pact. She vowed not to have sex again until eighteen, and I promised to declare her a “retroactive virgin” if she made it. She did.

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