There’s this study making the rounds which says that how you lose your virginity impacts the rest of your entire sexual life. Which is an accurate reading of the study, if by “your entire sexual life” you mean “roughly the next one to four years” and if by “how you lose your virginity” you actually mean “how you feel about sex.”
PROBLEM: Common knowledge says that sex the first time is usually not-so-great; something to be endured more than enjoyed, as an initiation into sexual adulthood. But what if there’s even more pressure on that situation than we realize, and how it goes the first time affects the sex you have for the rest of your life?
METHODOLOGY: Researchers at the Universities of Tennessee and Mississippi grilled undergrads — 206 women and 113 men — about when and how they lost their virginity. How content were they? To what degree did they regret it? Their first-time experiences were characterized in terms of “anxiety” “negativity,” “connection” and “afterglow.”
They asked the students to rate their current sex lives in terms of sense of control, satisfaction, and general well-being. Then for the next two weeks, they had them keep sex diaries describing and rating all of their “sexual interactions” (any encounter “in which the purpose was sexual arousal”).
RESULTS: Positive first-time experiences reliably predicted physical and emotional satisfaction in later sexual interactions. Those who had more positive initiations into sex scored higher for sexual satisfaction and esteem later on, and reported less “sexual depression.” Feeling loved and respected by one’s partner was associated with more emotional satisfaction later on, and physical satisfaction, even when controlling for the overall emotional experience, was self-perpetuating as well. Anxiety and negativity experienced when losing one’s virginity was associated with lower overall sexual functioning.
CONCLUSION: “These results suggest that one’s first-time sexual experience is more than just a milestone in development,” wrote the authors. “Rather, it appears to have implications for their sexual well-being years later.”
It’s not impossible to conduct a study that asks participants to rate an experience they had potentially many years ago, but it’s hard. And it’s silly to assume that “losing” one’s virginity (WHERE DID IT GO?) shapes one’s feelings about sex rather than acknowledging that one’s feeling about sex inevitably shape one’s experience of sexual initiation as well as subsequent sex acts.
Does how you had sex for the first time probably influence, to some degree, how you see sex? I mean sure. If there was violence involved that’s going to be influential. And however you had the consensual sex the first time was probably largely determined by your own values, desires and views on sex. Of course that will have reverberations. But “losing your virginity” isn’t a thing that just happens absent any context, and whether it felt good or bad or anxiety-inducing or loving has as much to do with your perspective and your sexual belief system than the act itself. If you think sex is a bad thing or a dirty thing or a thing that girls shouldn’t want, then your sexual initiation is probably not going to feel awesome, and neither will later sexual experiences. But that’s not a “bad” virginity loss making the rest of your sex life shitty. That’s a lifetime of internalizing shitty views of sex that’s making the rest of your sex life shitty.