That’s why it’s so satisfying that teenagers who watch To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You will get a message that has eluded people born before 2002: sex is supposed to be fun for girls. If you get your information from TV, movies, and even publicly funded health education, this is still weirdly revelatory.
On Valentine’s Day, Lara Jean and her best friend, the eclectic non-conformer Chris, meet for lunch, where Lara Jean shows off the locket she got from Peter. “I got you a little V-day gift of my own,” Chris tells her friend. “It’s advice.” She looks serious, and Lara Jean gets nervous.
“Before you go too far with Kavinsky,” Chris says, over-emphasizing every word. “Make sure you are 100 percent—No, 1,000 percent sure—”
Lara Jean cuts her off, “—That it’s something that I want. I know. Trust me, I’m not—“
But Chris interrupts her again. According to storytelling tradition, this is where the best friend should warn the protagonist about the fickleness of men and urge her to protect her virtue. She should say something like “Are you sure he really loves you?” Or remind her that she’ll never be innocent again.
“Actually I was gonna say something else,” Chris interrupts. “I am trying to make sure you know how to rev your own engine before you let anyone under the hood,” she tells Lara Jean. “I’m just saying: Make sure you know how to look after you.”
In joke-y, awkward euphemisms, Chris is saying this: Not only do you need to remember that the point of sex is for you to feel good, you’re also more likely to feel good if you masturbate, instead of hoping that a 16-year-old boy knows your body better than you do.
This, weirdly, feels like a novel concept for a teenage girl. For girls, cultural obsession with “virginity loss” means that almost all energy has to be focused on getting things just right, so that you are neither an inexperienced prude nor perceived as a slut. Jogging on the Madonna/whore treadmill is a full-time job, not an extracurricular activity. When would a girl even have time to think about how to ensure that sex is good for her? Certainly not in sex-ed class: Less than half of all states mandate sex education in public schools, and only 11 states and Washington, DC mention the terms “healthy relationships,” “sexual assault,” or “consent” in their sex education curriculum.