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We're all taught in school about the importance of waiting until you feel you're ready before losing your virginity. However, new research suggests many Brits might just have ploughed on regardless in order to ensure their cherry was popped.

A study published in the British Medical Journal's Sexual & Reproductive Health questioned 2,825 sexually experienced British people between the ages of 17 and 24 about their first time.

The researchers used four criteria to determine readiness: whether both they and their partner had been equally keen to have sex, whether the decision had felt like their own, whether contraception was used, and whether they had felt ready at the time to start having sex.

Although between a quarter and a third of respondents said they first had sex at 16, four in ten women and one in four men said they didn't feel that they lost their virginity at the right time and so weren't really ready.

One in five women said both partners hadn't been equally keen and - worryingly - some said they hadn't been in charge of the decision.

Ten per cent said they hadn't used condoms or another form of protection when losing their virginity, which is also concerning.

Co-author of the report Kaye Wellings from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told the Guardian it is important that people don't feel they absolutely must have sex at 16 just because they legally can.

"If it turns into a miserable experience then it colours subsequent experience and that is a shame for young people because it is an important part of life and of their relationships," she added.

The news comes after a study published last year by Next Steps found millennials are likely to be losing their virginity far later in life than their parents did, which the authors attributed to a fear of intimacy.

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