As if losing your virginity wasn't already fraught enough with social pressures and personal trepidation, a new study says how you feel about it may affect your attitude toward sex for many years afterward.
"The loss of virginity is often viewed as an important milestone in human development, signifying a transition to adulthood," Matthew Shaffer, a doctoral psychology student at the University of Tennessee, said in a release. "However, it has not been studied in this capacity. We wanted to see the influence it may have related to emotional and physical development."
Shaffer conducted the research with C. Veronica Smith, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Mississippi. Their study is published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy.
Researchers asked 331 young men and women to discuss losing their virginity, with study participants ranking the experience in terms of regret, anxiety and contentment. Those same young men and women also discussed their sex lives, ranking their personal sense of control, satisfaction and well-being. They also kept a diary for two weeks that detailed each of their sexual experiences.
Not surprisingly, the people who had a positive first experience – who were more emotionally and physically satisfied, in the language of the media release – were more likely to report having fulfilling sex lives, while those who didn't have such a good time their first time, whether because of anxiety or "negativity," reported lower overall sexual functioning.
"While this study doesn't prove that a better first time makes for a better sex life in general, a person's experience of losing their virginity may set the pattern for years to come," Shaffer said.
Which is true, but it would be interesting if the researchers followed up with the study participants a decade or so down the road to see how many of those who didn't really get everything they wanted out of the experience the first time around were able to leave it in their past.