Love & Sex

The Science Behind Men and Women’s Hugely Different Emotional Reactions to Losing Their Virginity

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Men have the anxiety and women have the guilt.

When it comes to losing your virginity, being a man or a woman might have a lot to do with how you emotionally process the experience. While women sometimes experience physical discomfort or pain during their first time and men might not last as long as they hoped, a new study from the Journal of Sex Research reveals that men often report significantly more pleasure and anxiety while women report more guilt after losing it. 

Which, at face value, isn't that surprising. 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.

While other factors like race, age, religion, partner, and mental health certainly influence our reactions to popping our collective cherries, researchers say that the most accurate predictor still is gender. However, scientists did notice that since the beginning of their experiment in 1990, men's and women's reactions to losing their virginity have become a lot more similar to one another in the modern days. By 2012, men's anxiety has marginally decreased, women's pleasure has shot way up, and ladies' guilt has decreased a tiny amount. The researchers explain that "female sexuality is more likely to be affected by change in social and cultural events." In other words, when it comes to our cultural narrative around sex, we've come a long way since the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air first aired.

This study only covered Penis In Vagina sex, which is limiting, but it still says a lot about how being a man or a woman can determine how we both approach and reflect on that first time we reach out to someone under the sheets. The results are interesting when you look at them against the My First Time series, a collection of frank and honest virginity loss stories. A significant amount (26 out of the last 100) submissions have been entered by women. And, if gender does greatly impact our reactions to first time sex as this study suggests, it would make sense that women, who experience less pleasure and more guilt than men, might have a lot of attendant complicated feelings to unleash out into the world anonymously. 

While previous studies have put a lot of stock in our emotional reactions to having sex for the first time and the way it shapes the rest of our sexual experiences, what these studies glaringly leave out are a lot of other "firsts" that can impact our emotional reactions to sex: kisses, masturbation, vibrators, oral sex, and of course, our first orgasms.

Image via Flickr.