• Sat, May 14 2011

Do Women Feel Worse After Losing Their Virginity?

How did you feel after you lost your v-card?

If it didn’t boost your ego, researchers would like you to know that you’re not alone. According to a study conducted at Penn State, college-aged women felt slightly worse about themselves after their first sexual encounter, while men felt slightly better about themselves. Time reports:

“Researchers started with a group of 434 freshmen, ages 17 to 19, and continued to track them for four years. Four times over that period, students were asked to complete a questionnaire assessing their satisfaction with their appearance. Within that time span, 100 students lost their virginity; those were the students on whom the researchers focused.

Judging from the questionnaire results, that first sexual experience had different emotional ramifications for men versus women: researchers found that women’s happiness with how they looked decreased a bit after having sex for the first time, while men’s satisfaction rose.”

Sara Vasilenko, the lead author of the study, speculates that the findings may be a reflection of society’s double standard for sex: women who sleep around have something to be ashamed about, but men who do so have something to be proud of. (Maybe you’ve heard about that…)

Vasilenko added that poor body image for women may also play a role.

Certainly, there are women for whom these findings don’t apply. There is no one size fits all conclusion about how an entire gender feels about anything.

But what’s important is that these issues are being studied at all — looking at sex more closely will likely help us learn how we can do it even better.

The Time article points out that sex ed classes could address ways to promote a healthier body image, or remind young folk that just because they feel good after getting to know someone in the biblical sense doesn’t mean they should go get to know everyone that way, or do it without protection.

Also, if women are being negatively affected by that nagging, persistent double standard, it’s one more reason that we need a more equitable attitude when it comes to sex. If there’s some sort of biological basis, well, comprehending our own biology has thus far proven pretty useful.

And if this study got the results that it did because all people react differently to all things, and the findings were were simply representative of those particular participants, that would also be nice to know, wouldn’t it?

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  • Eileen

    Hmm. I felt bad after losing my virginity, but that was only because it hurt a bit for the next few days. And possibly because I didn’t think the guy was anything all that special in the morning. I was pretty happy not to be a virgin anymore, though.

  • Christina

    I was 24 when I first had sex (with a guy from school I was seeing briefly, not very serious) and I was absolutely elated. I mean, I just had sex, what could be better? I couldn’t stop smiling for days and I just wanted to do it again (and again, and again) as soon as possible.

    Maybe thw findings only apply to women who have poor body-image to begin with and who think they’re doing something wrong, or that they shouldn’t enjoy sex, or who have read too much Cosmo and now believe that theres “good girl sex” and “bad girl sex”?

    • Lea

      I’m agree with you. I was on cloud nine afterwards, even high-fiving my boyfriend. I don’t know why women would feel worse about it unless they just were trying to get rid of it?

    • G

      Yeah, it pretty much comes down to whether or not you’re ready or not I think. If you aren’t ready and didn’t even like the dude you did it with, why would anyone feel good about that. On the other hand, if you were totally ready and were really into the guy, who wouldn’t feel like giving out hi fives lol.

  • AD

    I felt just fine after I first had sex; it was a gain, not a loss. That said, this was with my current boyfriend, whom I’ve always trusted a lot. I would have liked to have had lots of mutually-beneficial casual sex beforehand, but I didn’t. I wonder if it was because I was afraid of the double standard and had a very low tolerance for jerks (I already had body issues; anyone making it worse gets catapulted out of bed), or because I was never in that lucky position of being attracted to someone who was also attracted to me.

    I didn’t have nearly enough sex ed as a teenager. I’d welcome anything to knock down the double standard or the disgusting idea that we (women especially) are defiled by sexual experience. Body-image education might help too, if it’s not too sappy. I’m not perfect in every way; I’ll always like some parts of my body less than others, but I’m not going to let that stop me from enjoying sex.

  • Rebecca

    I felt AWESOME. I was 17 and we had been together for 3 years already. He had always been paranoid to actually go “all the way” (who knows WHY — I had been on the pill for a couple years in anticipation of the glorious event). So when it finally happened I felt like a puffed up peacock. All smug.

  • August S.

    I punched my V-card in high school, and I think that really influenced my feelings afterward. During the swirling maelstrom of hormones that formed my teenage years, I had about 347 desperate and conflicting emotions about EVERYTHING, not just sex. Sunny day= a testament to the rational nature of the universe; split end= oh god, I’ll never find my place, I’ll be alone FOREVER. [cue hysterical wailing]. So I wasn’t exactly the picture of emotional stability to begin with.

    That being said, I can defiantly remember feeling ambiguously depressed/guilty after the Big Evert. Not because of the guy (who I was madly in love with at the time), but just a general feeling that I’d lost something, or did something wrong. I actually had to reason myself out of it, which worked, but I doubt my partner in penetration had to do the same. It’s still far more culturally acceptable for guys to have sex than girls, and maybe the younger you are when you start having sex the harder it is to differentiate between your actual feelings and the feelings you think you should be having.

    I wonder if the study showed a correlation between age and drop in happiness; I’d expect that the younger the girl is when she first has sex, the more it would impact her self-image, but that’s just drawing on my experience. By the way, I now think both sex and me are SUPER awesome (two great tastes that go great together!), so in my case, no long term negative effects for first-time guilt.

    Interesting study!

  • B

    I was totally smug. I was 15 years old, and the first among my friends, and I thought it made me a guru. Strangely enough, 11 years later, I’ve had considerably fewer partners than most people my age, and am not a guru by any means.

  • M

    I pretty much felt the same: not really better or worse, to the best of my recollection. I was pretty old; 20, almost 21. I’d felt ready for sex since I was about 14 but I’d also felt ready to not make a decision that I would regret down the line. I didn’t date much in my teenage years due to some major mental health issues that led to me dropping out of high school and being a veritable recluse for years: you don’t meet a lot of guys by never leaving the house, though I did masturbate frequently because what else do you do if you’re horny and stay home all the time? I was starting to get ahold of myself, and I met the guy through my dad [they were acquaintances and had a close mutual friend for whom my dad threw a party at our house]. He was ten years older than me [the start of a pattern, I would eventually discover]. We hit it off: he was charming and good-looking, he was mutually interested, I knew he wouldn’t screw me over because my dad was friends with a lot of his clients and plenty of them have daughters too [he was in sales and made commission], and he smelled fantastic. So we went out once, had The Discussion [testing, kinks, and the like], stayed in once with some hand and mouth action, and the next time I went over we had sex. It was distinctly untraumatic, and pleasurable, and I was relaxed because I knew it wasn’t a poor choice: I was already fond of him, but not so overly fond that it would become complicated. Afterwards I still felt like the same person: someone who enjoys orgasms and knows how to get them, even if I had added a new method to my repertoire.

    We continued to sleep together for about six months. I enjoyed the sex and I enjoyed his company; we had good no-strings chemistry and both started to get bored around the same time, leading to a painless end. We’re still friends to this day, and once in awhile he’ll hint at a threesome with his current girlfriend so it would seem he doesn’t have any regrets either. Though I never told him he was my first, and I am certainly never telling my dad he was either.

  • E

    I didn’t lose my virginity until I was 26. I had pretty much been holding out for someone special. I don’t know anymore if that makes me old fashioned, a prude, or what. But I can honestly say that I felt loved and sexy and, honestly, beautiful. (And my guy and I are still going strong.)
    It’s not to say that I judge anyone who does otherwise: it worked for me. I regret nothing. But I have other close friends who lost their virginity in highschool just because they wanted to…but they don’t regret it, either. I think it’s all up to the gal herself: as long as it feels right for her, then she’ll feel better. The only girls I know who didn’t feel good after having sex for the first time were the ones who were pressured into it. (Whether it be by the guy, or another outside force.)

  • Dove

    I didn’t think of virginity as some big deal. I knew the risks associated with sex in general, and took it seriously. I just waited until I was ready, and then did it with the best looking guy I could find. I had sex when I was 17 with a guy I didn’t know well who was insanely gorgeous, and I felt awesome after.

    It always struck me that people who built it up and thought of it as a huge deal were infinitely more dissapointed with the reality.

    Also, the idea of being a VIRGIN until penile-vaginal penetration is kind of silly. If you’ve given 30 guys BJs, and done anal, you’re still a virgin. If you’re a lesbian, I guess you die a virgin, no matter how many strap-ons your girlfriend has used…

    • Dove

      It got lost in the shuffle but basically I think that being ready is the key. I was ready at 17, other are ready at 27.

      Also, the idea of “virginity” is too specific for real life.

  • Jennifer

    I sort of felt like I’d cleaned out the closet. I was 18 and had been holding on to it out of fear of pregnancy/disease, but I’d been ready for years…or thought I was. Or was just really, really horny.
    Anyway…the day after, I felt lighter, healthier, more in touch with my feminine self. It was like I’d dropped off the junk at the Goodwill and made a room for myself–a pink, flowery little space just for myself and whoever I decided to invite in. I still have the room. And I still don’t miss the clutter.

  • MM

    I was 20 and had just kicked a 4-year on-again-off-again prescription painkiller habit. This meant I had free time, a stable mind, and a sex drive for the first time in years. I was also convinced that nobody would want to sleep with me because I was a virgin, especially because I didn’t “look” like one.

    You can imagine the sense of relief when I did get banged. Also, it barely hurt. So while I lost my virginity at 20, as a tipsy one-night stand with a man I never saw again (I was visiting my friend in another city), I felt AMAZING afterward and still count it as one of the best decisions of my life.

    Unfortunately the second man I slept with is a different story.

  • B

    I was 16, nearly 17, he was a local bad boy. I just wanted to do it. We weren’t in love. I’d been masturbating for ages and just wanted to see what it was about. Afterward he wasn’t too keen on hanging out with me and we were really a poorly matched couple. I didn’t feel bad, I found it to be awesome. I didn’t have sex again until next year with my boyfriend and that was a bit more special.

    If I had to think on it, I’ve never had a negative body image so I suppose if you already feel crappy about how you look having sex can be negative.

  • S

    I didn’t think virginity was any big deal, and it wasn’t losing it that made me feel bad. It was finding out later that the guy – who I dated for the duration of a summer program – had had a girlfriend the whole time. She wouldn’t sleep with him. Clearly, I seemed easy. After I found that out, I felt dirty and ill-used. It triggered an eating disorder, actually. I was ready to lose it, and I didn’t, and still don’t, attach much emotional significance to virginity, but if I could do it again, it would be someone I knew better.

  • Austin 4rm Nigeria

    I’m a guy still in my late 20′s and my friends are talking how fun it to have sex but i don’t if i should try it cos i dont feel I’m ready though my child friend(a 17 yr old girl) is talking about it cos she jst told me she had sex once but doesn’t want to share experience,pls i need an advice,should i give in.

  • Bri

    I read this article because.. well I am starting to have doubts about my decision to sleep with my boyfriend. At the time we had been awesome friends for 4 years and had a deep respect for one another. I felt that I could trust him and he could trust me. I was super curious and I don’t think my curiosity would’ve let me wait much longer. I guess you could say I pressured myself into it; too curious to let it go. After losing my virginity and once my boyfriend drove home, I found myself feeling utterly alone and dirty. I felt like I had lost a part of me that I knew i could never get back. Its as if I grew up in a matter of minutes and I’ve been trying to catch up ever since. My boyfriend and I broke up 8 months ago and I really thought I knew him but I was wrong. He never cheated or abused me or anything, he’s a really good guy. But he did abandon me. He was my best friend and I haven’t heard a word since the break up. I feel like now that its all over I regret that I ever let him see that side of me. I wish he never touched me so personally. To be honest I don’t think that has much to do with losing the v card though, more to do with losing the person who took it from you.