“I was 14,” laughs Maddie. “I know. I was so young.”
She shakes her head: “I just didn't want to be a loser.”
Maddie (not her real name) is now 16. Looking back, she said she doesn't regret losing her virginity at all.
In Oklahoma, about half of all high school students have had sex, according to the Center for Disease Control and prevention. About 55 percent of sexually active students used a condom the last time they had sex, and only 25 percent used birth control pills.
So where does that leave the virgins in U.S. high schools?
“In high school, this one guy chose another girl over me because she would put out,” said virgin Katie Mickle, 25. “But now people tell me all the time that I've made the right choice. “Trust me. ‘Jersey Shore' is not real life.”
But that's what's on Maddie's mind.
“On ‘Jersey Shore' they're not in the club going after religious virgins,” she said. “And it feels good to be wanted.”
For high school sophomore Jessica, societal pressures kept her celibate, but not for long.
“Love only comes around once in a while, so I took advantage of it,” said Jessica (not her real name). She recently lost her virginity to her longtime boyfriend.
“I had a purity ring,” she said, “but it was really just a piece of metal. If you love someone and want to do it, you will.”
Jessica and her boyfriend struggled with their own standards and religious convictions.
“It took me a while to realize that this love was way better than what I was getting from church,” she said. “I honestly thought that I would stay a virgin until marriage.”
Jessica said she felt profound social pressure to remain a virgin.
“Society has made it out to be this horrible thing, like if you have sex, your life is over.” she said. “I mean, when I first got the purity ring, I was like, ‘Oh, no problem. I don't even want to.' But my first real boyfriend changed everything.”
Mickle managed to make it through high school, virginity intact, without a purity ring.
“The ‘no sex' of youth groups didn't keep me from having sex,” she said. “The practicality is what makes me hold on to my virginity.
“My first serious boyfriend had a list, and I did not want to be on it.”
Mickle said she may have even understood the consequences of her actions, despite the fog of teenhood.
“When you're a teen, you're not gonna fully understand everything, and you're gonna make less informed decisions,” she said. “It would've been devastating if it had just happened.”
Sure enough, Mickle's purity ring-free hand confirms that a promise to herself means more than anything.
“Those girls are pressured into purity rings, as if God won't love them anymore,” she said, “but we had girls getting pregnant in our church all the time.”
Just to be clear, Mickle said she's not waiting for anything.
“When the time comes, I'm totally on board,” she said. “I mean, I don't want some guy to be waiting for me. Get a life.”
Mickle may have made it through the hormone-crazed, teenage mating ground regret-free, but she still entertains the thought/fear that she could be single forever. For her, finding things in life that she can be passionate about supersedes any sexual drive.
“People define themselves with sex — how much or how little they have,” she said. “But I was raised to define myself by what kind of person I am.”