Well Being

Oooh And Ouch: How We Lose Virginity Affects Our Sex Lives Years Later

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The “first time.” Awkward, rushed and painful or beautiful, tender and sensitive (or some other combination of intensely descriptive adjectives): No matter how the actual sex was when you lost your virginity, there's evidence that the experience can affect your sexual feelings and behavior for years to come.

A new study out in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy shows that the experience of losing your virginity can have a profound effect on your sex life for years after the fact. Matthew Shaffer, a doctoral psychology student at the University of Tennessee, explained the rationale behind the study:

The loss of virginity is often viewed as an important milestone in human development, signifying a transition to adulthood. However, it has not been studied in this capacity. We wanted to see the influence it may have related to emotional and physical development.

Looking at 331 male and female college students, researchers asked them detailed questions about their first sexual experience. Participants ranked their experiences in terms of anxiety, regret and contentment. They also discussed their overall sex lives in terms of personal satisfaction, control, and well-being. In addition, they kept a two week diary of sexual experiences.

It's not very surprising that people who reported having positive “first times” also reported having more fulfilling sex lives overall. Shaffer said:

“While this study doesn’t prove that a better first time makes for a better sex life in general, a person’s experience of losing their virginity may set the pattern for years to come.”

I'm interested to know exactly how virginity was defined for the purposes of this study, though. Does that mean regular ol' P-in-the-V intercourse or a first important sexual experience? Culturally, we tend to believe that first intercourse is the technical “loss of virginity” (aka the breaking of the hymen) but that's an increasingly-outdated perspective that's not true for all people and all populations. There's no information as to whether self-identified LGBT people were included in this study, and I'm interested in how non-heterosexual first sexual experiences would play into the results. Seems like a pretty large oversight on the part of the researchers, in my opinion.

In addition, the Atlantic points out that college students aren't necessarily the most accurate population to use for a study like this. Lindsay Abrams writes: “The biggest gap between reported loss of virginity and the time of the study was 7 years, and for some, it was only a few months.” Hmm. Perhaps the data would have been more telling if the study had been conducted on a a slightly older population, or maybe even on a mixed-age sample.

Either way, I'm sure all the teenagers making out under plaid blankets in their parents' basements would be overjoyed to know that what they just did or are about to do can have repercussions on their sex lives down the road. Take heed, sex-havers. And use a condom!

Photo via The Book Lion