Time Paints a Rosier Picture of First Sexual Intercourse – DrZhana

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Time Paints a Rosier Picture of First Sexual Intercourse

SecretWere you as enthusiastic about your first sexual intercourse as your partner was, or was one of you more excited than the other? A new study published in the Journal of Sex Research finds that the answer depends on when you’re being asked this question.

Psychologist Nigel Dickson and colleagues at the University of Otago, New Zealand, wondered if memory regarding the age and circumstances of first heterosexual intercourse changes over time. They surveyed almost 1,000 participants from a single birth cohort in Dunedin, New Zealand (all children born in 1972), and asked them about their first heterosexual intercourse twice: At age 21 and again at 38. At each assessment, those who reported heterosexual intercourse were asked how old they were when this first occurred, followed by questions on the circumstances, including mutual willingness, appropriateness, and use of contraception.

SSN - First Sex Consent

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The authors expected that subjective aspects like relative willingness for sex would be more likely to change than more concrete information like age of first sex.

Indeed, reports of when first sex happened did not differ dramatically between assessments – people seemed to remember when they “lost their virginity” even 17 years later. Neither did reports of how appropriate the timing of this event was, or whether they used contraception or not. However, memories of how mutually enthusiastic this experience was did differ quite a bit from what the same people said at age 21 versus age 38.

The response options about relative willingness included “both equally willing”, “self more willing,” “partner more willing,” and “can’t remember.” As the graph above indicates, and perhaps not surprising, men were consistently more likely to say that both them and their partners were equally willing for sex. A substantial minority of women, but less than 10% of men, on the other hand, reported that their partner was more willing than they were (not shown on the graph). Part of the reason for this discrepancy lies in the fact that more women than men reported first sex before age 16, and the younger someone was at their first sex, the less likely it was to be equal willing. Another reason undoubtedly has to do with different pressures and norms placed on women versus men regarding sexuality.

(If you’re looking at that 53% of women initially saying their first sex was equally mutually willing and fearing that 47% were potentially forced into this, we have some good news. An earlier study by the same authors clarified that “only” 7% of women felt forced; the other 40% were willing to have sex to some extent, just not as much as their partner.)

However, what is particularly interesting about this study is how reports of mutual willingness changed over time. As the graph illustrates, many more men and women reported equal willingness when they were asked about this at age 38 compared to age 21, with numbers jumping by 15% in men and 18% in women. This suggests that time biases people’s reports of the willingness of their first sexual experience toward more mutual willingness.cherries 1

So both sexes are keen on forgetting or revising that information as they get older. Is this just a lapse in memory or is it intentional? It’s possible that over time people simply forget and default to what is the most normative and socially acceptable option – equally willing. Or perhaps, they are consciously or subconsciously revise their virginity story in a way that makes them feel better about themselves, either for not pressuring their partner into something they may not have been been greatly into, or for allowing themselves to be pressured into something they were not enthusiastically into.

Sadly, the study cannot answer the question of why memories changed, only show us that they did. Hopefully future research will shed some light on this.

How about you? Do you think your memories of your first time have changed? Are they more positive or more negative than when it first happened?

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