“I didn’t really process it until afterward. Very quick. Just a quick little peck. I think [it was] the same as everyone else’s first kiss. Mine was just a little later,” a senior girl said.
It was Homecoming senior year when she had her very first kiss.
“It’s definitely embarrassing to admit I had my first kiss so late,” she said. “It just feels like most people had theirs way before me and it feels weird being the odd one out.”
Everywhere we look – the halls at school, TV shows and movies, social media – we are bombarded with the idea of passionate, romantic kisses, especially among teenagers. The idea that it’s abnormal to graduate high school without ever having your first kiss – let alone anything more – has been ingrained into our minds.
“People would talk about having their first kiss in like kindergarten and I never ever had that… I did feel a little left out,” the same senior girl said.
As children, we imagined what it would be like to be 16 and to drive and to have our first kiss in some super cliche way. And now that we’ve reached that point, it’s a societal expectation. We’ve all had our first kiss, right?
According to a poll of 57 people on The Patriot’s Instagram, 32% of respondents have yet to experience their first kiss. And according to a study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, over 14% of college freshmen had never kissed anyone either. The majority of these students were also identified as being less extraverted, having lower self esteem, having more overbearing mothers and drinking less than their peers who had been kissed. They were also more likely to be in their college’s honors program.
“I feel like… people assume that I haven’t [had my first kiss],” a junior girl said.
Although people never truly know about the experiences of others, they can often make assumptions.
“I think people probably just assumed that I hadn’t [had my first kiss] and they were correct,” the senior girl said, “Just because people know I never had a boyfriend.”
Because of these assumptions, all of our sources wished to remain anonymous. While Shawnee Mission South is a fairly accepting place, it is still high school and there is still shame carried by students who feel that their stories do not align with the status quo. And even if they remain fully confident in who they are and what they have or have not done, not everyone else will agree with them.
“I want to be anonymous because my sexuality is mine and I don’t owe anybody details,” a sophomore girl said.
Discussing a lack of kissing experience seems to be taboo, especially among males. Finding high schoolers that had not been kissed and were willing to talk about it was no easy task, but finding boys was particularly difficult. It seems that there isn’t anything wrong with not being kissed, but it has the potential to be a running joke among friends – a joke that is funnier to some than others or can even be hurtful after hearing it one too many times.
“My friends would see [this story] and make fun of me,” a junior boy said.
Someone who is so open about being a kissing virgin can be an easy target for these jokes. However, pressure from friends to reach that milestone of a first kiss isn’t necessarily negative pressure so much as misdirected, excited encouragement, even going so far as trying to bribe others to donate a first kiss, as this junior boy has experienced.
“I’d say I’m pressured by friends, but other than that it’s [a] personal [decision],” he said.
There seems to be a general stereotype that it’s abnormal to graduate high school without ever having kissed anyone. And many high school students think they know, just by looking at someone, if they are a “loser” or a “player.” Teenagers are judgemental, but – in case you didn’t know – there is actually no way to tell how many people someone has kissed besides asking them and trusting that they are being honest – something that many high school students are not.
“I think that especially for women in our culture, there’s a stigma if you do and there’s a stigma if you don’t,” the sophomore girl said. “If you don’t, you’re a prude… but if you do, you’re a slut… There’s really no way to win.”
While there can be pressure to engage in romantic or sexual activities, there can also be pressure not to. There are those who unapologetically go “all the way” as often as they so choose, but there are also some people who are less social or fearful of putting themselves out there. But for many, it’s a personal decision, whether that be higher standards, religious influence, lack of opportunity or simply not having a desire to engage in romantic relationships in high school. Some students choose to hold off on passing certain boundaries until after high school, college or even marriage.
“It’s a big step into a multitude of different things,” the junior girl said. “It’s, in a way, like a door to many other intimate things.”
It can be easy to start with something as innocent as kissing your significant other, but then lead into more that isn’t always wanted at the time. Often in the heat of the moment, it may seem like there are no consequences. However, a week, a month, a year after the relationship has ended, we often look back and regret going so far with someone who would later reveal themselves to be someone who wasn’t deserving of having that experience shared with them.
“I feel like the point of waiting for me is so that it’s special… [and] memorable,” the junior girl said, “Whether that’s the person that you spend the rest of your life with or not.”
A large part of what makes us think that it will be fine while we are in the moment can be our friends – friends who have already reached those bases or friends who encourage us to go for it.
“If you have the right friend group and you have the right people surrounding you, you shouldn’t feel pressured to do stuff like that,” the junior girl said.
Nobody should ever feel pressured to do or not to do anything physical with anyone. So long as you are making wise and safe decisions, you have to do what is best for you. Children don’t typically have the best sense of judgment, so listening to your parents while you grow up is usually a good idea. But if you’ve reached a point where your parents are comfortable with you having a relationship and you are too, then go for it.
“I don’t think [there was] pressure [from my parents], but there was definitely [an attitude of] we’d-prefer-if-you-stayed-away-from-that-until-you’re-older,” the senior girl said. “I definitely think it was fair… If I was in middle school I would not be ready for a relationship.”
The sophomore girl had a similar view as the senior girl.
“[My parents are] pretty liberal, but at the same time I think they have this idea that they want to protect me, which I think is kind of normal,” the sophomore girl said. “But I think in terms of morality, I have my own views.”
Whether you’ve been kissed or not, the most important things to take away from this are that you can’t judge others for their decisions and that you must be confident in your own decisions.
“If you’ve never been kissed for any reason whatsoever – if you don’t want to, if you haven’t but you do want to, it’s normal,” the sophomore girl said. “Everybody in high school is normal because we are all total weirdos.”