I have a lot of issues with the concept of virginity. I hate that boys feel pressure to have sex early in life to prove that they’re manly. I hate that girls feel pressure to “protect themselves” from sex to prove that they’re pure. I hate the way “virginity” implies that intercourse between a penis and a vagina is the only thing that counts as sex. I hate knowing that the concept of virginity being something you can only lose once breeds shame in victims of sexual abuse. I hate this new study.
The Journal of Sex Research has just “revealed” that men and women respond differently to their first sexual experiences. According to its abstract,
The present study examined gender differences in pleasure, anxiety, and guilt in response to first intercourse. Men reported more pleasure and anxiety than women, and women reported more guilt than men.
Does that seem glaringly obvious to anyone else? Putting aside all the obvious factors like religious influences and how our parents talked to us about sex, just think about the pop culture that raised us. We grew up with teen movies about boys racing to have sex as soon as possible (American Pie, anyone?) and pop stars that taught us that the easiest way for a girl to be wanted is to be an off-limits virgin (hello, Jessica Simpson). I have a big problem with the way this study tries to make the differences between men and women (in regards to virginity, at least) seem like a biological phenomenon rather than a direct result of our culture.
They made a similar point over at Nerve,
Men have the most pressure to perform, so they get anxiety. Women have historically been told once they give the milk away for free, nobody’s that interested in taking the cow to the movies. Combine those models together, and it makes sense that over the 23 years Illinois University spent studying virginity, men overwhelmingly felt the most positively about finally doing it.
Yep. I’m not saying that hormonal differences between males and females don’t play any part in how we respond to sex, but it’s really stupid to talk about something cultural as if it… has little to do with culture.
The study also shows that women have reported more sexual pleasure in recent years, as well as slightly less post-coital guilt– which proves that our conversations about sex carry a lot of weight. Every time we use the word “slut” and every time we say that we’re “not that kind of girl,” we set the stage for more women to feel more shame. Every time we educate kids about sex– the physical and emotional aspects– we get closer to a world in which people can make their own choices about their sex lives, prioritize their own happiness and health over what other people want, and feel like they have sole ownership over their bodies. If we don’t change the way we talk about sex, men will continue to believe that women should be treated like conquests, and women will continue to feel like their worth is determined by how many people have touched them.
If we’re on the same page here, YouTube sex guru Laci Green has an awesome video about this same topic, which you should definitely check out. She recommends that we ditch the word entirely and start referring instead to our “sexual debut.” I’m into it. I’m into anything that reduces guilt, reduces pressure, and increases the number of happy/healthy/empowered people.
Via Nerve / Photo: Easy A (2010)