In every relationship, there’s omissions and white lies just under the surface. The things we know and understand about our partner are often limited to what we ask and what they want to tell. In the case of Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth (whose relationship dates back to their teens), Cyrus revealed that Hemsworth was the first sexual partner she went “all the way with” — she just didn’t tell him that.
In an interview for the Call Her Daddy Podcast, Cyrus said that, at 16, she was embarrassed by the idea of being a sexually inexperienced “virgin” and kept that part from her future spouse who she ended up having intercourse with for the first time.
“I didn’t go all the way with a dude until I was 16 … but I ended up marrying the guy,” Cyrus said. “I lied and said he wasn’t the first so I didn’t seem like a loser.”
A sexual debut (and the choice to share that story with a partner or eventual spouse) is a deeply personal thing. But a culture that encourages someone as young as 16 to feel uncomfortable or bad about their lack of sexual experience is troubling — and, more often than not, can lead to young people maybe bypassing their own boundaries or comfort zones in an attempt to not feel like a loser and to keep up with the kind of sexual exploits that they think they’re supposed to be having.
Of course, virginity is still a complicated idea with no medical definition — because it’s so rooted in the ideas of heterosexual penetrative P-in-V intercourse that hardly apply to the full range of sexual activities people can do together. You could just as easily define a non-virgin as someone who has orgasmed with a partner or made a partner orgasm (lots of so-called “virgins” in the adult hetero world with that definition) or adopt any other invisible line of what activity (involving hands, mouths, holes, toys, etc.) does or doesn’t count as sex. Either way, this sexual splitting of hairs is reductive and does more to emphasize the shame and baggage our culture has around becoming a sexual person and embracing your sexual identity and only reinforces the idea that your sexual agency is a thing to be taken or lost rather than new experiences you get to gain on your own terms.
So how can we all do our part to make sure that baggage isn’t handed down to young people having their sexual firsts? Thorough, science-based, shame-free and pleasure based sex education (air horn sounds!).
With that and some thorough unlearning of all the sex-shaming narratives that don’t serve any of us, we can help young people have the ideal environment to decide for themselves (realistically and without pressure) when they are emotionally and physically ready for sex, we can provide them with safe spaces to talk about their concerns and the things that excite them about taking those steps with their partners and can make sure that consent, safety and communication are at the center of their sexual narratives. And who doesn’t want that?
In Miley’s case, it does seem like she’s found her own path to understanding her journey as a sexual being — coming to terms with her identity as a queer woman, a sober person and as someone who had a marriage end. In another interview with SiriusXM Hits 1, she shared how her very public and difficult two years allowed her to do that work on herself.
“One thing I have grown into is that when I feel one thing is right for me never preach that it’s right for everybody else. You just definitely want to feel like you are just in control of your own life and not trying to control anyone else’s. So for me to be able to really have a good, clear understanding of the last two years, which there was some traumatic experiences — losing the house in Malibu and going through a really public breakup — I think I just really needed some clarity,” she said. “And so it was just really important to me to be able to like really sit with my thoughts… I think originally we all started literally cleaning house. And then once you couldn’t do that anymore, you had to go into your own self and start cleaning out what you’ve been holding onto for too long — things that belong to you, and things that don’t, and things that no longer serve you. And that was really, really healthy for me.”
Before you go, check out 69 sex positions to try before you die: