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Lena Dunham gets real about losing her virginity at 20

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Kayleigh Dray
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NEW YORK, NY - MAY 01: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Lena Dunham attends the Brilliant Minds Initiative dinner at Gramercy Park Hotel Rooftop on May 1, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)

“I was a late bloomer,” says Lena Dunham.

There is a lot of pressure on young women when it comes to their virginities: lose it too early, and you’ll be damned as a “slut” by your peers. Lose it too late, though, and it becomes this weird elephant in the room of, ‘Well, why haven’t you had sex yet?’

Hanne Blank – author of Virgin: The Untouched History – told the Huffington Post that, ever since the so-called ‘summer of love’ in 1967, it has become an expectation that women without religious reservations have sex in their teens.

“We may not still have this thing where if you’re not married by the time you’re 25, you’re a colossal failure and an old maid and all of that,” she said, “but we definitely have a very similar cultural rhetoric where if [you’re a virgin it means] nobody has found you sexually desirable by that point and something is wrong with you.”

And a 2008 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that delaying sexual activity may “create health risks by impeding development of the emotional, cognitive, and interpersonal skills that are crucial to satisfactory sexual functioning and general well-being.”

Is it any wonder, then, that so many young women feel like they “have the plague” if they’ve made it all the way to their 20s without having sex?

It is a feeling that Lena Dunham, star and creator of HBO’s Girls, remembers all too well. Indeed, she recently opened up about losing her own virginity at 20 – and said that she became “obsessed” with the idea of having sex before she finished college.

“I was almost 20 [when I finally did it],” she explains. “I was a late bloomer… [and] I went through my whole freshman year and half my sophomore year and I barely kissed anybody.”

Dunham adds: “I did it halfway through my first year at Oberlin. And I was like, obsessed with getting it done. I acted like being a virgin was like having the plague. If anyone found out, I was like, appalled.”

Unfortunately for the actress and writer, though, her first time wasn’t as magical as she hoped it would be, and she was left feeling devastated that she had spent so much time focusing on the “uninteresting” event.

Speaking during an appearance on SiriusXM’s Lunch With Bruce, she said: “I remember then when it finally happened… it was so, uninteresting, bordering on terrible.

“Literally, as it was happening –and he was a very nice guy – I was like, ‘This was what I allowed the last two years of my life to be about?’”

Dunham’s story is a firm reminder that outdated societal norms have completely transformed the way we view our bodies and sexualities – and convinced us that there is a ‘right’ way to lose our virginity, when, really, there is anything but. Maybe it’s time we finally take the pressure of ourselves, yeah?

Listen to the interview for yourself below:

Image: Getty

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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