First time can affect future experiences
HEART TO HEART by Marsha Reinikka
Dear Marsha: I am an 18-year-old female. I just had sex for the first time. My partner was a boy I have known for years, although we are not in a relationship. We both felt we wanted to put our first time behind us and do it with someone we trusted.
The experience was pleasant, although it seemed to be over before it really got started, at least for me. I feel regret that I did not wait until I was in love, but I am glad it is over. Will this impact my future? Was I wise to get it over with? Signed: Newbie.
Dear Newbie: This will not impact you long-term as long as you realize your experience does not dictate your ability to enjoy sex. Most girls do not experience an orgasm the first time and do not enjoy it as much as their partners do. You might have had less regret and more enjoyment if you would have waited for a committed relationship, but the fact that you have a close, loving connection with your friend and you can talk about what happened is positive. Signed: Marsha.
First-time sexual intercourse can impact sexual adjustment in later life. Being in love and having a committed relationship is associated with less guilt and more emotional and physical pleasure. A younger age for the first time is related to high-risk sexual behaviour and teen pregnancy.
There is a huge difference between how the first time is experienced by males and females, although is seems to have no difference in later sexual adjustment. Force, peer pressure, and drug or alcohol use during your first experience all have negative impacts on later sexual function, guilt, and poorer health.
In the 2012 article, Looking Back: The Experience of First Sexual Intercourse and Current Sexual Adjustment in Young Heterosexual Adults, E. Reissing and others report on the work they did to examine the context of the first sexual intercourse, any gender differences in experience, and how it may be related to later sexual adjustment.
More than 500 Canadian young adults participated. First intercourse occurred between 14 and 20 years of age with the group studied, with an average age of 17. The average for women was one year older and the average for men was one year younger.
For women, those who reported a younger age for their first experience reported more regret; those who reported an older age reported they felt they were less sexually capable to respond appropriately and had higher levels of sexual aversion. For men, those who reported a younger age had lower sexual adjustment levels and those who reported a later age had higher levels of sexual aversion.
In regard to the context of the first experience, most individuals reported being in a serious dating relationship; others reported casually dating, or intercourse with a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger. Less commitment was associated with more regret; 26 per cent reported feelings of regret. Only six per cent of women reported having an orgasm, compared to 62 per cent of men.
Gender difference has to do with reactions to the first experience. For men, 91 per cent report a positive reaction, compared to 73 per cent of women. The most common feeling for men was excitement; the most common feeling for women was regret.
Adjustment to later sexual experiences was associated with people’s reaction to their first intercourse, their belief that they were sexually capable, and sexual aversion.
Believing in yourself as a capable, competent partner has more impact than your first experience of sexual intercourse on sexual adjustment in adulthood, although a positive first experience can set the stage.
(Heart to Heart appears each Tuesday in the print edition of The Chronicle-Journal. Marsha Reinikka is an independent research consultant. Contact Marsha at firstname.lastname@example.org.)