By Heidi Stevens
Somewhere, in our imaginations, most likely, exists the just-right approach to sex.
The right number of partners. The right frequency. The right appetite. The right age of first experience, not too young, not too old.
Journalist Rachel Hills, born and raised in Australia, living now in New York, spent plenty of years worrying that this approach was eluding her.
“When I was in my late teens and early 20s, I was consumed by sex,” she writes in “The Sex Myth: The Gap Between Our Fantasies and Reality” (Simon & Schuster).
“I had grown up on a diet of teen magazines that treated sex with cautious reverence, followed by women’s magazines that celebrated it as a symbol of female empowerment,” she writes. “In the conversations I had with acquaintances, sex was at once a subject of nervous excitement and an unspoken assumption, something it was expected that everyone was doing.”
Except her. She’d graduated from high school and completed four years of college without losing her virginity.
Hills, 33, set out to determine whether her assumptions lined up with reality. For “The Sex Myth,” she traversed the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom interviewing hundreds of young men and women, most born between the early ’80s and mid-’90s, to learn about their sexual behaviors and habits.
“For no demographic group is the link between sex, fun and freedom more powerful than it is for the young and single,” she writes.
Which isn’t to say they’re all having a bunch of it. Quite the contrary, she found. Many men and women, gay and straight, revealed similar fears to Hills’ own.
“For most 20somethings, not taking a stranger home at the end of a party is more typical than picking someone up,” she writes.
“But for young people whose experiences don’t fit the fun, free ideal, there can be a sense that they are missing out on an essential part of their youth.”