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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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45 Responses

  1. Thomas MacAulay Millar
    Thomas MacAulay Millar January 31, 2013 at 5:54 pm |

    Hey, stupid correlations! I bet if we randomly select a sexual experience in a person’s life, and ask if it was good, it will strongly correlate to how people feel about the rest of their sexual experiences. Because that’s obvious.

    What I’d like to see is the relationship between the number of consensual, partnered sexual experiences someone has before penile-insertive sex (for those who engage in it) and present satisfaction. My hunch is that people whose sex lives later involve penetrative sex, but who have a lot of sexual experiences that don’t include penile-penetrative sex before they get there, are much happier with their later sex lives, for a variety of reasons.

    1. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune January 31, 2013 at 7:23 pm |

      My hunch is that people whose sex lives later involve penetrative sex, but who have a lot of sexual experiences that don’t include penile-penetrative sex before they get there, are much happier with their later sex lives, for a variety of reasons.

      Seconded with vehemence.

      1. rox
        rox February 1, 2013 at 10:54 am |

        God I relate to this so much (would be curious about actual research). My first experience was with someone who was abusive so I won’t go into details- but needless to say I basically experience making out with a guy with clothes on once– and then sex just sort of happened. It was awful.

        I think in highschool, college, there should be a lot more affirmation of making out with nosex and practice respecting boundaries and going slow.

        Because once you’re 30 it’s so hard to find anyone who will kind of…go backwards to the way young people date and do the sweet things… holding hands, cuddling and watching movies… becoming intimate or doing somethings but not others. Over a matter of months rather than a few weeks.

        I just never got to do that and there’s no way to replicate it. I wish I could find someone who wanted to date that way so I could actually have the experience of choosing what kind of intimacy feels safe and ok and actually work up to WANTING it. Most ofmy experiences have involved some degree of wanting intimacy but sex almost always coming way before I’m ready and just tolerating it for the sake of having the other intimacy. That feels pretty awful so now I just don’t date. Fending off (even well intentioned) advances brings on panic symptoms for me and it just feels bad. It’s not fun. I don’t like dating at all. Which is sad because I love intimacy and closeness.

    2. LC
      LC January 31, 2013 at 9:43 pm |

      I’d plead confirmation bias on expecting that result as well. :)

  2. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve January 31, 2013 at 7:09 pm |

    Hmmmm…so I view sex as a minute exchange of fluids in the woods during a park party with an older woman (I was in 8th grade, she in 9th) who I found out the next day had been with 5 other guys at the same party.

    That will come as quite a shock to my wife of 18 years.

  3. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
    The Kittehs' Unpaid Help January 31, 2013 at 7:32 pm |

    So do people who’ve never had sex not have any feelings about it, or opinions, if it’s all about “losing one’s virginity”? And does that refer only to PiV sex? Wow, didn’t know having feelings or thoughts about sex were things you could only do if you were a paid-up member of the club.

    Spot on about the context, too, Jill. What about feelings resulting from the person one is having sex with? Say one’s first time is okay, or just meh, or whatever (I’m not thinking of something traumatic). Why should that first time override a later experience with someone you’re madly in love or lust with? It’s like humans are some sort of robots who can only be programmed once.

    Stoopid.

    1. Madeleine N.
      Madeleine N. February 1, 2013 at 1:05 pm |

      Yes, thank you. This is also how I feel about people who purport that past sexual partners/experiences dictate present gender or sexual identity.

    2. EG
      EG February 1, 2013 at 2:04 pm |

      On the one hand, I certainly agree. On the other hand…I think the bar for “trauma” can be lower than we think. I’ve had bad experiences that affected me for years that I would never term trauma or assault or rape or anything like that…just being treated badly.

      That said, the same is true of non-sexual experiences, in my opinion.

      1. Lolagirl
        Lolagirl February 1, 2013 at 3:41 pm |

        I think the bar for “trauma” can be lower than we think. I’ve had bad experiences that affected me for years that I would never term trauma or assault or rape or anything like that…just being treated badly.

        Ita. My “first time” was with a guy I later would discover was a giant asshole, and it was really awful. And that experience stayed with me for a long time after we split up. I wouldn’t say it was necessarily a trauma, but it took me a long time to deprogram the messages I got from him that sex had to be awful and shaming.

        So, I dunno, it doesn’t have to cast all future sexual experiences in a negative light, but I don’t get the resistance to the notion that it might and certainly can for some people. Individual experiences varying and all that.

      2. Fat Steve
        Fat Steve February 1, 2013 at 3:48 pm |

        On the one hand, I certainly agree.

        On the one hand was actually my first sexual experience…

        1. Bagelsan
          Bagelsan February 1, 2013 at 4:17 pm |

          I lol’d.

        2. Past my expiration date
          Past my expiration date February 1, 2013 at 4:39 pm |

          Actually, the study says it’s not an intimate encounter unless it’s with somebody else. Which is actually kind of a metaphysical statement.

      3. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        The Kittehs' Unpaid Help February 2, 2013 at 6:54 am |

        EG – yeah, I was using traumatic pretty widely there, both in the sense of rape or assault and in the sense of something that leaves bad memories for years, as you described. I probably used it too widely, but I think we’re talking about generally the same thing.

        Lolagirl – I think you’ve summed it up exactly with individual experiences. There isn’t a template for how people’s sex lives are going to turn out (and gosh! They can change over a lifetime!) much less this first-time-sets-it-in-stone idea.

  4. Caperton
    Caperton January 31, 2013 at 7:47 pm | *

    My first time was one of those “if I do this for him, he’ll love me” kind of things (despite having been given the message early on that “if I do this for him, he’ll love me” isn’t an effective or preferred strategy), and we only did it the once, and it was dead lousy, and we ended up breaking up about a month later. But the next time the opportunity for sex arose, I figured, “Well, I’m already rurnt, so I might as well” and ended up having years of fantastic, hot monkey lovin’ with a talented and enthusiastic guy. And it almost certainly wouldn’t have happened had I not seen myself as already sullied beyond repair.

    1. Alyson
      Alyson February 1, 2013 at 2:25 am |

      I was kind of in the same boat…my first time was because I thought my boyfriend of over a year would cheat on me if I didn’t. It wasn’t great, he cheated anyway, and a few months later he raped me, and then a few months after that we broke up (yes, my life was fucked up.) With the next guy, sex often felt like a necessary, functional transaction to make him happy/keep him from leaving, until he started needing me more than I needed him. It took a while before I began to view sex as good for its own sake, in the context of my life, even after we broke up (the break-up happened, of course, because he was pissed off that I wouldn’t fuck him and started reading my private e-mails).

  5. librarygoose
    librarygoose January 31, 2013 at 7:52 pm |

    So I get to always view sex as something done out of curiosity that will lead me to laughing at the guy when he says he loves me? Not my finest moment of empathy, but alright then.

  6. Andrew
    Andrew January 31, 2013 at 8:27 pm |

    Seconded The Kitteh’s.

    What exactly qualifies as “sex” in this study?

    That time I was sexually assaulted when I was pre-teen, the later molestation, the awkward fumbling with that girl who told me she didn’t believe it was my first time as I felt hopelessly confused…?

    Cause most “sex” for me isn’t humiliating or hopelessly confusing (HEY, I said mostly!), so not sure what I should take from this study.

  7. Past my expiration date
    Past my expiration date January 31, 2013 at 9:07 pm |

    How did they get a paper published where they’re studying “first sexual experience”, but they never define what it is, beyond that it’s heterosexual and synonymous with “losing one’s virginity” (which they don’t define either)? And they don’t even bother mentioning in the abstract that the study is limited to heterosexual “first sexual experiences”?

    1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
      The Kittehs' Unpaid Help January 31, 2013 at 9:11 pm |

      Bit of a fail all round, isn’t it?

    2. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune January 31, 2013 at 9:53 pm |

      Clearly they got an Academic Paper Virgin pass, because everybody wanted them to have a good first publishing experience.

      1. Tyris
        Tyris February 1, 2013 at 2:21 am |

        Hopefully that doesn’t mean they’ll expect to get similar papers passed for the rest of their publishing life…

      2. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        The Kittehs' Unpaid Help February 1, 2013 at 3:29 am |

        ::sporfle::

      3. Athenia
        Athenia February 1, 2013 at 9:31 am |

        Zing!

      4. Aoife O'Riordan
        Aoife O'Riordan February 1, 2013 at 1:29 pm |

        Please accept this internet in recognition of your sterling work for the betterment/amusement of humanity.

      5. Brattykitten
        Brattykitten February 2, 2013 at 3:04 am |

        Oh lawd, I needed that laugh so bad! :)

        1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help February 2, 2013 at 6:57 am |

          OT but I love your fuchsia kitty! :)

    3. Aoife O'Riordan
      Aoife O'Riordan February 1, 2013 at 1:31 pm |

      Seriously. If these people had asked me that, then their idea of my losing my virginity would have happened, oh, quite some time after I considered myself to have done so. And while my first time with a cis guy was a perfectly interesting new experience, it definitely wasn’t the Defining Moment Of My Sexy Life Forever.

  8. Colin
    Colin January 31, 2013 at 10:38 pm |

    Words like ‘virgin’ or ‘virginity’ (at least in the literal sense) ought to be struck from the English language. We don’t have a word for what you ‘lose’ if you do anything else for the first time, whether it’s eating a taco or having a baby. The only ‘virginity’ that actually means anything from a biological point of view is that of your immune system, where the first time encounter with a particular substance really does shape all subsequent encounters. But I don’t think possible allergic reactions to another person’s bodily fluids are really what is being discussed here.

    Studies like this at least ought to be using phrasing like ‘the first time you had sex’ to minimise the amount of baggage that is tied to the terminology.

    1. H-nought
      H-nought January 31, 2013 at 10:46 pm |

      The only ‘virginity’ that actually means anything from a biological point of view is that of your immune system, where the first time encounter with a particular substance really does shape all subsequent encounters.

      And even for subjects like that the term I usually see in scientific literature is ‘naive’, which is much more neutral and much less loaded than ‘virgin’

    2. Alara Rogers
      Alara Rogers February 1, 2013 at 9:43 am |

      You can lose your innocence, by discovering there is no such thing as Santa Claus, killing a person, or, well, having sex.

      I find it highly problematic that innocence of sin (not guilty), innocence of deception (what do you mean there is no Santa Claus), and innocence of sexuality are all considered the exact same word… it’s like “innocence” has come to mean a dimension in which you are childlike, where you haven’t had sex, you trust people you shouldn’t, and you haven’t done anything really bad yet. But at least it’s not specific to sex, unlike virginity.

    3. tomek
      tomek February 1, 2013 at 10:23 am |

      well inside woman there is thing which i cannot remember the name of. but when she have first time sex, it is there no longer.

      also telling to woman that they should not value there verginity seems sexist to me. is this not like saying male thing is higher than female thing? because having casual view of sex is male thing. having not casual view of sex is female thing. so saying that having female view of sex is bad… well this is sexist.

      it is like how modern femanist say we shouldnt disrespect female things such as make-up and leg hairs, as second wave femanist did.

  9. Iris
    Iris January 31, 2013 at 11:57 pm |

    Touching on the “next one to four years” aspect of things Jill did: I imagine the odds of these college students still being involved with the first-time partner are much higher than for a different population (if you ran this with an older group, I mean.) For those statistically relevant students A. they still have their love goggles on (are invested in the positive story of their first time with this person), B. they don’t know what anyone else is like in bed, etc.

    My first actual PIV sex was pretty underwhelming. Like, “I was fantasizing about THIS?” But my sex life now, I am veeeeeery happy with. Because it’s been decades and I broke up with that asshole. (And, side note: TMM’s suggested test would in fact predict I have an awesome sex life, since this PIV disappointment was 3 years behind other activities! Anecdata are fun!)

  10. Pat
    Pat February 1, 2013 at 5:33 am |

    Striking words from the English language is right up there with burning books. OK I know it was bit of rhetorical hyperbole, and yes I know that as a social construct virginity carries a lot of historical and cultural baggage that is not compatible with much current Western thinking (nor with my attitudes for that matter)… nevertheless I don’t have a problem with words like virgin and virginity in any of their many linguistic and historical senses. As for losing it, sure you can joke about it (where did I put it? I must have left it on the bus, etc) but we also lose face, lose respect, lose time, lose money, lose innocence, lose a job, lose a game, etc etc etc.

    When I lost my virginity it was more significant, more memorable and more enjoyable than my first taco.

    1. Fat Steve
      Fat Steve February 1, 2013 at 11:44 am |

      nevertheless I don’t have a problem with words like virgin and virginity in any of their many linguistic and historical senses. As for losing it, sure you can joke about it (where did I put it? I must have left it on the bus, etc) but we also lose face, lose respect, lose time, lose money, lose innocence, lose a job, lose a game, etc etc etc.

      It seems you didn’t notice that all those examples of losing you give are negative, or you might have realized why the concept is harmful. Wow, you are such a loser! (Please take that as a compliment, as you clearly have no problem with the word.)

  11. Pat
    Pat February 1, 2013 at 5:38 am |

    I should also add (assuming my previous comment gets posted) that I agree with the basic premise here that this kind of so-called study is a sad comment on what passes for academic research. But I hope that hardly needs to be said.

  12. Athenia
    Athenia February 1, 2013 at 9:40 am |

    To what degree did they regret it?

    I love/hate how the word “regret” assumes consent. I feel if were really concerned about the ramifications of first time sex, they would realize that for some people first time sex was rape.

    1. Miriam
      Miriam February 1, 2013 at 1:26 pm |

      They do, but they dismiss it as non-normative. “The initial sample comprised 331 participants who attended the orientation sessions and completed the questionnaire; however, we removed 12 participants (10 women and 2 men) from additional analyses because they characterized their first-time experiences as involving physical force (which we felt would make their first time nonnormative). ”

      That seems very blithe to me and inconsistent with the purpose of the study.

      1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        The Kittehs' Unpaid Help February 2, 2013 at 7:01 am |

        Good grief. Way to dismiss the prevalence of rape in our culture.

    2. Miriam
      Miriam February 1, 2013 at 1:30 pm |

      Also, they explicitly limit their study to heterosexual sex. They do not explain why (at least not in the part of the study I’ve gotten to). My best guess is again that it fits into this concept of normative vs. non-normative experiences, although I have not yet seen a definition of what they consider to be a normative experience or even how they communicated the definition of a first-time sexual experience (P-I-V only? anal? oral?)

  13. Datdamwuf
    Datdamwuf February 1, 2013 at 9:51 am |

    Yes, this “has as much to do with your perspective and your sexual belief system than the act itself.” Exactly. I set out to have sex the first time with someone older/experienced and no strings because I just wanted to see if it was more awesome than what I could do for myself. It was. Then that whole stupid “virginity” troupe screwed it up. The guy literally wanted to marry me solely because he was my first. Good thing I was moving in 3 weeks, he was relentless in pursuit.

    1. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune February 1, 2013 at 10:46 am |

      The guy literally wanted to marry me solely because he was my first.

      o_O Well, that was creepy. Glad you lost him.

    2. Fat Steve
      Fat Steve February 1, 2013 at 11:46 am |

      . The guy literally wanted to marry me solely because he was my first.

      Maybe you’re just unbelievably gorgeous. Still, lucky escape….

  14. Tim
    Tim February 1, 2013 at 4:25 pm |

    I dunno, I think there might be something to this … I lost my virginity to a cucumber I had grown myself, and 40 years later I still really love both gardening and salads.

    1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
      The Kittehs' Unpaid Help February 2, 2013 at 7:03 am |

      You might warn people when you say things like that, I was tryina drinka cuppa coffee here y’know!

  15. Weekly Feminist Reader
    Weekly Feminist Reader February 3, 2013 at 10:00 am |

    [...] couple responses to that study claiming that how you lose your virginity affects the rest of your sexual [...]

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