MadSci Network: Medicine

Re: When Is the female body ready for sex?

Date: Mon Sep 20 17:56:52 1999
Posted By: R. James Swanson, Faculty, Biological Sciences, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Old Dominion University
Area of science: Medicine
ID: 936608440.Me

Renee, your question is interesting because the answer is multifaceted depending on how you intend for me to understand your use of the word body, your use of the word ready , and your use of the word sex. The remainder of the words in your question are understood without any further explanation, I think. I will ask several hypothetical questions that might be the actual question you want me to answer, giving them numbers, and then answer each by the number. Hopefully the extra questions that you really weren’t asking will provide food for thought and give some direction and purpose to your actions. I think you probably wanted me to answer number two. Am I right? (1) When is the physical body of the girl capable of receiving the male genital organ? (2) When is the physical body of the girl designed to begin having intercourse with the intention of conceiving a child? (3) When is the female emotionally ready to begin having intercourse? (4) When is the best time to initiate the first sexual relationship if you would like to see it develop into a rewarding lifelong partnership?

(1) There are many documented instances of rape of females long before puberty and, thankfully, this is considered criminal activity in most countries. However, it points to the fact that the female vagina can receive the male penis long before it is appropriate and without the consent of the girl involved. This is demented behavior, not normal in any way, and I even hesitated to include this case in my answer, but the reality of the pervasiveness of this kind of sick activity must be pointed out. Concerned mothers and fathers must be vigilant to safeguard their children and close relatives, uncles and cousins, seem to be the greatest offenders.

(2) Most healthy, well-nourished girls, start sexual development between the ages of 8 and 13 and girls complete the secondary sexual development (that is, they are physically mature) between 1.5 and 6 years after puberty starts. For more detailed information you can consult a good obstetrics and gynecology book or an endocrinology text. I have one that I use in the course I am teaching this semester called “Basic and Clinical Endocrinology” 5th edition, by Francis S. Greenspan and Gordon J. Strewler, published by Appleton & Lange in 1997. Chapter 15 is on puberty. The first event is a longitudinal growth spurt (one get taller), second the breasts start to develop (called thelarche), third, pubic hair starts to grow (called pubarche), and finally, menstrual flow begins (called menarche) when the girl starts having periods. Now, once periods start, the ovaries will start ovulating (irregularly at first) and eventually the ovaries will produce an egg once every 28 days, give or take a day or two. During this period of time, the vagina and uterus are lengthening and developing glands in their walls that will aid in intercourse and movement of sperm up the reproductive tract. So, the female body becomes physically ready to engage in intercourse and produce an embryo-fetus-baby, if conception occurs, toward the end of this period of reproductive development, called puberty. Given the times above this could be anywhere between the ages of 9 and 18, a rather long period of time. However, babies produced during this time of the reproductive system’s development tend to be less healthy at birth, and young girls or young ladies that begin to have intercourse with multiple partners during this developmental time have an increased incidence of STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) and UTIs (urinary tract infections). This increases the chance of infertility and reproductive tract problems later in life. It is interesting to note that studies of prostitutes show an increased sterility as a reproductive group. I suppose it might seem to you that I am trying to scare you with this information, but not so. This information is scary without me having to try. However, sex at the earliest possible reproductively competent time for the female is perfectly natural and normal and can be very enjoyable under the right circumstances but pregnancies are very hard on both the baby’s and the mother’s bodies.

(3) The physical requirements for sex are quite different from the emotional requirements for sex (we are more than a physical machine). This is because sex between a man and a woman has the potential to be so much more than just a physical event. We are “wired” differently than other animals in regard to sex and so we have developed a whole language around this expanded potential. We talk about loving and caring and thoughtfulness and romance and commitment and on and on. A sexually mature female will reach maximum satisfaction and pleasure when she is emotionally ready to commit to having intercourse with a man. This can be a long-term commitment or a one-night-stand commitment but the later is really just an oxymoron. The pleasure is fleeting, unfulfilling, and eventually depressing. Thus, sex can be simply a compliant (from the female’s side) animal- like mating, without much potential for pleasure (again, from the female’s side), or a romantic conclusion to a short-term emotional high with eager participation on the female’s part and excellent potential for immediate pleasure but also excellent potential for eventual dissatisfaction with sex and depression about life in general. Or, one can consider herself to be ready for sex when she has found and developed a relationship with an individual having a long-term commitment as the goal. I subscribe to this better way and thus we come to answer the 4th question.

(4) When a man and woman get to know each other slowly and develop trust for each other within a developing relationship involving verbal communication first, without physical communication first, there is a healthy, and I believe normal, emotional bond that develops between the pair. This results in the building up of trust with each other and from this the willingness to sacrifice for each other. In this kind of relationship, the key word is commitment, the one for the other, both the man for the woman and the woman for the man. Each takes 100% of the responsibility for maintaining the relationship! Sex then eventually becomes a natural outgrowth of this commitment (the commitment is of course what we call marriage). This may seem old fashioned to you, and may also not seem at all to be scientific. I can only say that in my one experiment (an n of one, which is not the way to do experiments if you can help it) our partnership (my wife’s an mine), with abundant physical pleasures, and many other pleasures as well, has proven to work most wonderfully.

So to conclude my little “sermon”, each girl should decide on who is in control of her body and who is making the decisions for the activities in which she will or will not participate and the timing of when she will be ready for sex. For humans, there is more to consider than just when the body capable of mating. Feel free to email me if you have any more questions.

Dr. Swanson

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