Losing it: similarities and differences in first intercourse experiences of men and women.
Subject: Sex role (Research)
Sexual intercourse (Research)
Authors: Tsui, Lily
Nicoladis, Elena
Pub Date: 06/22/2004
Publication: Name: The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality Publisher: SIECCAN, The Sex Information and Education Council of Canada Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Psychology and mental health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2004 SIECCAN, The Sex Information and Education Council of Canada ISSN: 1188-4517
Issue: Date: Summer, 2004 Source Volume: 13 Source Issue: 2
Topic: Event Code: 310 Science & research
Accession Number: 127623936
Full Text: ABSTRACT: Sex differences and similarities in first consensual intercourse experience were examined in a sample of Canadian university students and contrasted with the expectations reported by fellow students who had not had intercourse. Among experienced students men and women did not differ on most measures used to assess pre-intercourse discussion, circumstances of first intercourse, and feelings and outcomes thereafter. Although women, unlike men, commonly experienced pain at first intercourse (52%) and infrequently reported orgasm (11%) or physical satisfaction (34%), they did not differ from men in emotional satisfaction or overall rating of the experience. Women and men who had not had intercourse generally had similar expectations concerning topics that would be discussed before first intercourse but differed considerably in their expectation of pain and orgasm. The findings are discussed in relation to their implications for sexuality education and for a broader understanding of some ongoing gender differences in sexuality.

Key words: Gender differences First heterosexual intercourse

INTRODUCTION

Public health professionals and policy makers have attached considerable importance to first intercourse because it is seen as a significant event in sexual development (Carpenter, 2001) and a basis for sexual health concerns such as unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and sexual coercion. First intercourse also has symbolic meaning. Young people are well aware of the public discourse and societal debate that surrounds this personal experience. In this paper we use the term "first sexual intercourse" rather than "loss of virginity", although we recognize that virginity until marriage, particularly for women, is strongly advocated in some communities and religious traditions and that insistence on "abstinence only" sex education is often associated with such expectations. To the extent that loss of virginity is seen as a permanent change (hymen restoration procedures notwithstanding) and a socially and personally important decision, knowledge of young adult's perceptions of their first intercourse can provide a valuable glimpse into their sexual attitudes and behaviour. It may also shed light on how social constructions of sexuality influence individual expectations and experiences.

Historically, a woman's virginity was crucial to marriage in terms of both honour and value; women who were found not to be virgins on their wedding night (often determined by the presence of blood at first intercourse) were seen as worthless in many cultures. In contrast, "proof" of male virginity is unavailable physically and less important culturally. Such differences in how virginity has been perceived in society have created an environment in which men and women may have different perceptions of first intercourse and its meanings.

Quantitative studies have demonstrated gender differences in both attitudes toward and actual experience of first intercourse. For example, Carpenter (2001) found that women were twice as likely as men to think of their virginity as a gift to a future partner (61% vs. 36%), while men were three times more likely than women to view their virginity as a stigma (57% and vs. 21%). Darling, Davidson and Passarello (1992) found that a greater percentage of men than women perceived their first intercourse to be physiologically satisfying (81% vs. 28%) and psychologically satisfying (67% vs. 28%).

Qualitative studies based on feminist analyses of power differences between men and women have suggested possible explanations for such findings. For example, young adult's accounts of first sexual intercourse reveal that men gain an affirmation of manhood through first intercourse. It is thus primarily a young man's moment that marks his "coming of age" or his entry into manhood (Holland, Ramazanoglu, Sharpe & Thomson, 2000). However, the dependence on women for this validation of men has taken on multiple social meanings, many of which are viewed by feminist thinkers as embedded in a patriarchal culture.

Holland et al. (2000) found that young men's accounts of first intercourse were mostly concerned with their own performance, orgasm, and sense of having reached a landmark. Their partners' pleasure or orgasm was seen as "icing on the cake." The problem with young men having this construction of first intercourse is that it leaves young women to cope with first intercourse experiences that may fail to meet their own expectations to affirm feelings of love and romance (Holland et al., 2000). In this view, sex differences in first intercourse experiences have their basis in different perceptions of its meaning and in constructions of sexuality.

Burr (2001) argues that the contemporary construction of men's sexuality as "active, dynamic, powerful, and potentially uncontrollable" also portrays women's sexuality as essentially passive. In this construction, sex for women is not about active participation but about something that is received (Darling et al., 1992). Women may thus be seen as dependent on men for introducing them to the physical pleasure aspects of sexual activities because conventional femininity demands that a woman appear to be sexually unknowing, to desire not just sex but a relationship, to let sex "happen" without requesting it, to trust, to love, and to make men happy (Holland et al., 2000). Traditional dating scenarios reinforced this perspective in that the woman was expected to wait for the man to ask her out and the man was expected to handle details of cost, transportation, and activity (Allgeier & Royster, 1991).

Social discourses around sexuality, and particularly female sexuality, reflect and influence personal and educational perspectives on first intercourse. Fine (1997) identifies three such discourses. The first discourse, sexuality as violence, instils fear of sex by focusing on abuse, incest, and other negative outcomes of sexual activity. The second discourse, sexuality as victimization, identifies females as subject to the pressuring tendencies of male sexuality and focuses attention on the risk of women "being used" or coerced and thus on ways to avoid the physical, social, and emotional risks of sexual intimacy. Messages related to unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection (STI) may reinforce notions of risk and are used by some to pressure for classroom priority on strategies to avoid sex, "saying no, and "abstinence only" approaches to sexuality education. In this context, Fine's third discourse, sexuality as individual morality, would value women's choice about sexuality as long as the choice is premarital abstinence. Such discourses, Fine suggests, lead to a construction of sexuality where the male is in search of desire and the female is in search of protection. Largely absent from public sexual education is a fourth discourse, sexuality as desire. Fine notes that

THE PRESENT STUDY

Given the questions implicit in these background observations, the present study sought to identify university students' perspectives on various aspects of their first experience of consensual heterosexual sexual intercourse. The questionnaire designed for this purpose dealt with precursors to, experience of, and subsequent feelings about first intercourse. Students who had not had intercourse answered selected questions based on their expectations.

Apart from the anticipation arising for the literature review that men's and women's experiences would differ and that men's would be more positive, we refrained from making more specific hypotheses. This reticence was due to our perception that the literature had given a clearer picture of what to ask than what to expect. We consider the study to be a descriptive and exploratory step in determining if and how women's and men's experience's of first intercourse differ and to what extent the findings reflect the various constructions of sexuality portrayed in the literature.

METHOD

QUESTIONNAIRE

In the absence of a well-established instrument for assessing first intercourse experiences, we developed a questionnaire designed specifically for the purposes of this study. The clarity of wording and instructions was assessed through pre-test feedback from about twenty individuals familiar with the general purpose of the study but the instrument has not otherwise been evaluated. The first section of the questionnaire asked for demographic information including gender, age, sexual orientation, country of birth, and ethnic and religious background. Two subsequent items asked whether the respondent had ever had heterosexual intercourse and, if so, whether first intercourse was consensual. The four respondents whose first intercourse was non-consensual completed the body of the questionnaire based on whether or not they had subsequently experienced consensual first intercourse.

Respondents who had experienced first intercourse answered questions about the context of their first intercourse, preparations prior to intercourse, actual circumstances of first intercourse, and feelings afterward. Those who had not experienced consensual first intercourse were asked about their expectations of first intercourse including preparation, anticipation of pain, orgasm, etc. The questionnaire is presented in Appendix 1.

PROCEDURES

Potential participants were contacted via a centralized departmental on-line system that offers introductory psychology students a convenient way to sign up for survey participation to fulfill a course requirement. Studies are identified by code names to avoid self-selection bias. When students arrived at the assigned classrooms they were told that the study was about experiences of and attitudes toward first intercourse. Students indicated informed consent by signing a form that explained the purpose of the research, the potential benefits and risks, and the authors' intentions for dissemination of the findings. The study was approved by the University of Alberta's Arts, Science & Law Research Ethics Board. Upon completion of the questionnaire, students were given a list of resources including sexual assault centres (city and campus) and places that offered crisis counselling and/or long-term counselling. No students declined to participate.

Questionnaires were completed in small groups of 15 or less in rooms that had double capacity to allow privacy. Although all questionnaires were identical in content, they were varied in form so that adjacent participants could not deduce which pages were being completed by their fellow participants.

DEFINITIONS

This study defined first intercourse as the first time the person had consensual heterosexual intercourse. The four participants whose first experience of sexual intercourse happened in the context of a sexual assault therefore did not provide answers about their first intercourse based on this experience but rather on their first consensual experience, if that had occurred. If they had not had consensual intercourse, their responses were based on their expectations regarding first intercourse as were those of others who had not had consensual intercourse.

PARTICIPANTS

Among the 358 introductory psychology undergraduate students who participated (114 men, 244 women), the mean age was 19.4 years (SD = 2.32, range 17-38). Participants who had not had intercourse were slightly but significantly younger on average that those who had (19.0 versus 19.73 years respectively) t(356) = 2.99; p = .002.

Most participants were born in Canada (79%). Grouping of free-response items on cultural background yielded six categories: "Canadian" (30%); "European" (39%); "Asian" (18%); "Middle Eastern" (4%); and "other" (10%). Religious affiliation grouped into five categories: "Christian (not Catholic)" (33%); "Catholic" (31%); "Hindu/Sikh/ Muslim" (9%); "Buddhist/Taoist" (3%); and "no religious affiliation" (25%).

Based on the definition of first intercourse as the first experience of consensual sexual intercourse, 55.6% (n = 199) of the sample had experienced first intercourse and 44.4% (n = 159) had not. Men and women did not differ in this respect (44.7% of men and 44.3% of women had not had first intercourse).

DATA ANALYSIS

Paired sample t-tests were utilized to compare means for data provided within subject (for example, age of participant and age of partner). Independent sample t-tests were used to compare responses between sexes (for example, relationship length). Pearson chi-squares were utilized to examine differences between men and women in their responses to categorical items. In situations where a particular cell had less than five responses, chi-square analyses were conducted after the "higher risk" responses were combined (for example, responses to condom use at first intercourse were analyzed with "yes" responses as one group and "no/not sure" responses as the alternative group). These analysis categories were chosen to provide clear, simple comparisons between the responses of men and women.

RESULTS

CONTEXTUAL VARIABLES OF FIRST INTERCOURSE

Age at first intercourse

All but one participant could recall their age at first intercourse. Mean age for first intercourse was 17.13 years (SD = 1.65; range 13-28) with no significant difference between the sexes (17.04 for women and 17.31 for men) (see Table 1 for all age-related data).

Partner's age at participant's first intercourse On average, women had first intercourse with partners who were significantly older than they were (mean of 17.04 years for women and 18.41 years for their partners) (t(132) = -6.01, p <.001, d = -1.38) whereas mean age at first intercourse for men (17.31 years) did not differ from that of their partners (17.6 years) (Table 1).

Relationship to partner at time of first intercourse The great majority of both women and men (84% overall) said they were in a couple/romantic relationship with their first intercourse partner while 16% were not in a romantic relationship. There was no significant sex difference in relationship status at first intercourse (Table 1).

Duration of relationship with partner prior to first intercourse

Among the 84% of participants who were in a relationship at the time of first intercourse, mean relationship duration was 7.4 months (SD = 7.29 months, range = less than one month to 36 months) with men approaching a significantly greater likelihood of having shorter duration than women (5.74 months for men, 8.14 months for women) (t(163) = 1.97, p = .051, d = -2.40). On average, all participants had known their partner for 31 months (SD = 39.5; range was less than one month to 2 years) with no significant difference between the sexes in this respect (Table 1).

Intercourse experience of participant's first partner

Just over half of the participants reported that they were the first person with whom their partner had intercourse (52.3%). The sexes did not differ in this respect.

Perceptions of being in love at first intercourse and in hindsight

Women were significantly more likely than men to report that they were in love with their partner at the time of first intercourse (63% and 43% respectively) ([chi square](2, N = 199) = 7.78, p = .02). This difference was not present in hindsight (47% and 41% respectively) with men appearing to move from "unsure" to "no" and women from "yes" to "no" (Table 2).

Decision to have intercourse

Participants were asked whether the decision to have first intercourse was mutual or whether one partner took the lead. While 57% of men and 61% of women said the decision was mutual, Chi-squared analysis showed a significant effect of gender on the decision to have first intercourse (Table 3). In cases where women did not report a mutual decision, 79% assigned the initiative to their partner and 21% to themselves; for men, 42% assigned the initiative to their partners, and 42% to themselves (calculated from data in Table 3). Since these students were not reporting on first intercourse with other respondents, it is not possible to determine whether these sex differences in perception of who initiated would also be seen within couples.

Discussions Prior to First Intercourse

Among the six pre-intercourse discussion items listed in Table 4, participants were most likely to have discussed having sexual intercourse and condom use (63%-73%), somewhat less likely to have discussed other methods of birth control (48%-58%) and most unlikely to have discussed sexually transmitted infections, possible outcomes of pregnancy, and emotional implications of intercourse for them (32-40%). The sexes did not differ significantly on any of these items (Table 4).

Circumstances Associated with First Intercourse

Nine items in Table 4 assessed different aspects of the participants' actual first intercourse experience. Although less than half of respondents indicated that first intercourse had occurred when they expected it to (41% males, 46% females), condom use at first intercourse was common (75%-80%). Alcohol use by self or partner was less common (14%-21%) and drug use by self or partner was rare (0%-2%). The sexes did not differ on any of these items (Table 4).

Women were much more likely than men to report pain at first intercourse (52% versus 5%), much less likely than men to report orgasm at first intercourse (12% versus 76%), and more likely to report partner orgasm than were men (73% versus 32%). Each of these differences was statistically significant (Table 4). We did not ask about prior orgasm history of women in our sample but note that our female participants appear less likely to have had orgasm at first intercourse (12%) than was reported by our male respondents of their first intercourse partners (32%) (Table 4).

Feelings and Outcomes After First Intercourse

Men were significantly more likely than women to report feeling physically satisfied after first intercourse (62% versus 35%). However, the sexes did not differ on reports of emotional satisfaction (56% and 54%), having had sex again with the same partner (87% and 89%), or staying as or becoming a couple after first intercourse (83% and 86%). None of the respondents reported pregnancy as a consequence of first intercourse. Men and women were similar in the extent to which they reported no regrets about first intercourse (76% and 72%) and in their perception that they had first intercourse at "the fight age" (63% and 65%) (Table 4).

Overall assessment of first intercourse experience

Participants were asked to give an overall "rating" of their first intercourse experience based on six options (Table 5). There was no statistically significant sex difference in these overall assessments with 72% of men and 61% of women rating the experience as either perfect, very good, or good in contrast to the 11% and 13% respectively who recalled their first intercourse as either "bad" or "very bad". Slightly less than one quarter of all respondents chose the "neither good nor bad" option.

Expectations of first intercourse among participants who had not had intercourse

Participants who had not had intercourse (n = 159) answered 9 items from Table 4 based on their expectations of first intercourse. There responses are reported in the first two columns of Table 6. Students who had not had intercourse did not generally consider it important that their first intercourse partner would also have not had intercourse (36% of men and 29% of women said yes). We did not ask about current relationship status and thus cannot determine how many students in this subsample might, at the time of the study, have been in a relationship with an eventual first intercourse partner.

With respect to their expectations of discussion of particular topics prior to first intercourse, the sexes in this non-intercourse group differed significantly in their expectations about discussing methods of birth control other than condoms [chi square](2, N = 156) = 10.65, p = .005. Women were more likely than men to expect such discussion (77% versus 53% respectively) (Table 6) and men more often unsure (41% versus 17% respectively). Men and women who had not had intercourse also differed significantly in their expectations about prior discussion of STIs, [chi square](2, N = 157) = 8.17, p = .017 (57% of women expected such discussion versus 36% of men; 36% of women and 46% of men were unsure or did not know).

The sexes also differed in their expectation of pain at first intercourse, [chi square](2, N = 157) = 69.01, p < .001, with a smaller percentage of men (4%) than women (34%) expecting to experience pain. Men and women also differed in expectations about their own and their future partner's likelihood of having orgasm at first intercourse, [chi square](2, N = 156) = 39.44, p < .001, and [chi square](2, N = 156) = 7.80, p = .020 respectively.

Comparison of expectations of participants who had not had intercourse with actual experiences of those who had first intercourse

Table 6 also provides an opportunity, to compare the first intercourse expectations of the participants who had not had intercourse with the first intercourse experiences of those who had. A comparison of the experiences of the latter with the expectations of the former invites speculation about the extent to which expectations may or may not match experience. For example, women who had not had intercourse appeared more likely to expect pre-intercourse discussion of birth control methods other than condoms (77%) than was actually experienced by women who had first intercourse (48%). The expected sex difference on this item experienced by those who had intercourse was in the reverse direction to that expected by those who had not. In the relation to the pre-intercourse discussion items as a whole, the trend appears to be for women who have not had intercourse to have higher expectations for such discussion than occurred in practice for those who had. Women's expectation of their own orgasm at first intercourse (11%) matched that of women who had intercourse (12%) but women's expectation of their partner's orgasm (28%) was lower than that reported about their partners by women who had had intercourse (73%) (Table 6).

DISCUSSION

In contrast to other studies that highlighted differences between the sexes in their experience of first intercourse, (Carpenter, 2001; Cohen & Shotland, 1996; Darling et al., 1992; Guggino, 1997; and Holland et al., 2000), the present findings indicate that, with some exceptions, women's and men's reports of the experience were quite similar. The average age at first intercourse was the same for both sexes. Men and women were equally likely to have had first intercourse within the context of a romantic relationship, to have known their first intercourse partner for the same average length of time, and to have had a first partner who had previous intercourse experience. Women were as likely as men to report activities indicating that they had discussed preparations for and other aspects of first intercourse. In a majority of cases the decision to have first intercourse was a mutual one. On average, men and women gave similar responses to questions about condom use (usually), alcohol use (seldom), drug use (almost never) and whether first intercourse was expected. The finding that 75% of men and 80% of women reported condom use at first intercourse is consistent with the relatively high levels of protection against unintended pregnancy and STI at first intercourse reported in other recent Canadian studies of young adults (e.g., Hampton, Smith, Jeffrey, & McWatters, 2001). In addition, the sexes did not differ significantly in their evaluation of their feelings and follow-up to first intercourse in relation to emotional satisfaction, subsequent intercourse with first partner, regret, timing, and overall rating.

The women and men in our study who had not had intercourse were also similar to each other on such items as whether it was important that their first partner had also not previously had intercourse (about one-third said yes) and on their expectation of discussion in advance of condom use (high) and possible outcomes if unintended pregnancy were to occur (slightly over half).

The degree of gender similarity in this sample of university students may not represent accurately what is going on in the general population. However, it is also possible that this sample reflects a shift in the sexual practice of young people towards more equally balanced engagement in discussions and decisions related to sexual activity in general and first intercourse in particular. Since the limited research that has been done on first intercourse experience is from the United States, it has been tempting to assume that the Canadian population is similar. However, strongly conservative political and religious influences in the U.S. may reflect an environment that has been more hostile than in Canada to premarital sexual activity and hence to the education that would support more informed, and perhaps egalitarian, decision-making and experiences surrounding first intercourse.

Some of our findings do suggest gender differences in which men appear to have greater influence on sexual interactions in heterosexual relationships, at least when it comes to first intercourse. The greater age differences between women and their first intercourse partners could result in men having more power and control in the sexual relationship. On the other hand this could simply be a reflection of our society's tendency for younger women to be drawn to older partners and vice versa. The fact that men had known their first intercourse partners for a shorter period of time than women is consistent with Cohen and Shotland's (1996) report that men consider sexual intercourse acceptable earlier in a dating relationship than do women. Among the approximately 40% of women and men in our study who said first intercourse had not been a "mutual decision", women were significantly more likely to say that their partner had suggested intercourse than were men. This fits with the traditional dating scenario in which men are more likely to take initiative with the sexual aspects of romantic relationships. However, our questions did not explore what these students meant by their partner "taking the initiative" nor did they explore other aspects of relationship dynamics.

On average, women were more likely than men to believe that they were in love at first intercourse (men were more likely to be unsure). These views converged in retrospect with both sexes being equally likely to believe that they were not in love. The greater tendency for women to believe they were in love at first intercourse may reflect greater internalization by women than men of the feeling that sex is about love. There may be a parallel here in the finding of Quackenbush, Strassberg and Turner (1995) that the inclusion of romance in erotica can serve as a relationship buffer that make erotic material more acceptable to women. Similarly, the belief that they are "in love" might be viewed as the relationship buffer necessary for some women to justify first intercourse.

We think these findings and others discussed below have important implications for sexual health education although we are also aware that the study has a number of limitations that invite cautious interpretation of the results. The study was conducted on a convenience sample of introductory psychology students and cannot be generalized to other populations including students who did not go to university or who left school early. The questionnaire was designed for this study and has not been validated. Participants were only asked about consensual first intercourse and not about other sexual activities such as oral sex. Thus, the study cannot shed light on participants prior sexual behaviour or on the attitudes that may have shaped their perceptions of their first intercourse experience. That being said, socially constructed gender differences appear to permeate all levels of society and to that extent the findings may well have useful applications for educators and health professionals.

IMPLICATIONS FOR SEXUAL HEALTH EDUCATION

Since women's expectations of first intercourse appear more likely to be related to their actual experience than are men's (Cohen & Shotland, 1996), educators might note the low expectation for orgasm and the sizeable expectation of pain among our female participants who had not had intercourse. Also of interest is the notable presence of pain and rarity of pleasure (11% had orgasm, 34% felt physically satisfied) among women who had first intercourse. The disparity between the sexes on these measures was striking and it thus seems surprising that women and men did not differ in emotional satisfaction (albeit 54%) or in their overall rating of their first intercourse experience. In a somewhat comparable study of U.S. college students, Darling et al. (1992) also found that men were more likely than women to report physiological satisfaction (81% versus 28%) but also greater psychological satisfaction (67% versus 28%). This latter observation contrasts with our own findings for emotional satisfaction although psychological and emotional satisfaction may be interpreted differently. Guggino and Ponzetti (1997) found that men's affective reactions to first intercourse contained four factors: pleasure, anxiety, guilt and romance, compared to three that women experienced: pleasure/ romance, anxiety and guilt. Men were more likey to separate pleasure from romance, where for women the two were intertwined. The implication is that men could generally experience pleasure without romance, where as this was less likely for women. One interpretation of our findings would be that women's expectation of pain and lack of orgasm would contribute to low reports of physical satisfaction while a perception of first intercourse as a "gift" to their partner and a reinforcement of their being in love might have led to sex similarity in emotional satisfaction and overall ratings. We suggest that issues surrounding the expectation and experience of pain for women at first intercourse and the lack of mutuality in relation to the expectation and experience of pleasure are important considerations for sexuality education.

Educators may also note that women who had not had intercourse appeared to be more likely than men to expect prior discussion about STIs and about methods of birth control other than condoms and that their expectations were higher than the actual experience of women who had intercourse. These differences in expectations reflect the biological reality that women are more likely to suffer the consequences of unwanted pregnancy and are more likely to contract an STI from a male partner (than vice versa). They also reflect and reinforce, to some extent, the social expectation that women must retain their traditional role as gatekeepers of male sexuality. This is another area where sexuality educators can provide insight into the way that such expectations can contribute to some of the negative aspects of women's experience of first intercourse and of sexual interactions in general. Shared responsibility for STIs and pregnancy prevention are likely to be mutually reinforcing for both sexes.

Overall, sexuality educators can help students to explore the impact of gendered differences and similarities on expectations and experience of first intercourse, to understand how societal discourse about sexuality influences these perceptions, and to communicate with each other about these aspects of their lives.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: We would like to thank Jenn Mitchell, Kim Scott, and Hanna Wajda for their assistance in conducting this study. This research is partially supported by SSHRC funding to the second author.

References

Allgeir, E.R., & Royster, B.J.T. (1991). New approaches to dating and sexuality. In E. Grauerholz & M.A. Koralewski (Eds.), Sexual Coercion. A sourcebook on its nature, causes, and prevention (pp. 133-147). Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.

Burr, J. (2001). Women have it. Men want it. What is it? Constructions of sexuality in rape discourse. Psychology, Evolution, & Gender, 3, 103-107.

Carpenter, L.M. (2001). The ambiguity of "having sex": The subjective experience of virginity loss in the United States. The Journal of Sex Research, 38, 127-139.

Cohen, L.L., & Shotland, R.L. (1996). Timing of first sexual intercourse in a relationship: Expectations, experiences, and perceptions of others. The Journal of Sex Research, 33, 291-299.

Darling, C.A., Davidson, J.K., & Passarello, L.C. (1992). The mystique of first intercourse among college youth: The role of partners, contraceptive practices, and psychological reactions. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 21, 97-117.

Fine, M. (1997). Sexuality, schooling, and adolescent females: The missing discourse of desire. In M.M. Gergen & S.N. Davis (Eds.), Toward a New Psychology of Gender (pp. 375-402). New York, NY: Routledge.

Guggino, J.M., & Ponzetti, J.J. Jr. (1997). Gender differences in affective reactions to first coitus. Journal of Adolescence, 20, 189-200.

Hampton, M.R., Smith, P., Jeffery, B., & McWatters, B. (2001). Sexual experience, contraception, and STI prevention among high school students: Results from a Canadian urban centre. The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 10, 111-126.

Holland, J., Ramazanoglu, C., Sharpe, S., & Thomson, R. (2000). Deconstructing virginity--young people's accounts of first sex. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 15, 221-232.

Mitchell, K., & Wellings, K. (1998). First sexual intercourse: Anticipation and communication. Interviews with young people in England. Journal of Adolescence, 21,717-726.

Quackenbush, D.M., Strassberg, D.S., & Turner, C.W. (1995). Gender effects of romantic themes in erotica. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 24, 21-35.

Correspondence concerning this paper should be addressed to Lily Tsui, Department of Psychology, P217 Biological Sciences Building, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada T6G 2E9. E-mail: lily.tsui@ualberta.ca

Lily Tsui Elena Nicoladis

University of Alberta Edmonton, Alberta
The naming of desire, pleasure, or sexual
   entitlement, particularly for females, barely
   exists in the formal agenda of public schooling
   on sexuality ... a genuine discourse of desire
   would invite adolescents to explore what
   feels good and bad, desirable and undesirable,
   grounded in experiences, needs, and limits.
   (Fine, 1997)


Appendix A. Survey Items and Response Categories

Questions                                           Response Categories

Relationship to Partner

Were you a couple at the time?                      Yes/No
Did you consider yourself to be "in love" with      Yes/No/Not Sure
  this person at the time when you had
  intercourse?
Looking back, do you think you were actually "in    Yes/No/Not Sure
  love" with this person when you had
  intercourse, regardless of your answer to the
  last question?
How long had you know this person in total,         --months and--year
  regardless of changes in your relationship to
  this person?
Were you the first person with whom your partner    Yes/No
  has had intercourse?
What is your relationship to this person now?       Partner or Spouse/
                                                    Friend/
                                                    Acquaintance/
                                                    No relationship/
                                                    Other

Preparations Prior to Intercourse

Did you and your partner talk about having          Yes/No/Not Sure
  intercourse beforehand?
Did you and your partner discuss condom use         Yes/No/Not Sure
  before having first intercourse?

Did you and your partner discuss other methods of   Yes/No/Not Sure
  birth control before having first intercourse?
Did you and your partner discuss STD's before       Yes/No/Not Sure
  having first intercourse?
Did you and your partner discuss what to do if      Yes/No/Not Sure
  you/your partner became pregnant before having
  first intercourse?
Did you and your partner discuss the emotional      Yes/No/Not Sure
  implications of having intercourse before
  having first intercourse?
Do you think that you and your partner decided to   Decided together/
  have intercourse together, or did one of you      You took the
  take the lead?                                    initiative/Partner
                                                    took the
                                                    initiative

Circumstances of First Intercourse

Did first intercourse occur when you expected       Yes/No/Not Sure
  it to?
Where did you have intercourse for the first        Your home/Partner's
  time?                                             home/Hotel or
                                                    motel/
                                                    Vehicle/Other
Did you/your partner use a condom?                  Yes/No
Did you/your partner use any other form of
  contraceptive?                                    Yes/No
At the time you had intercourse, was there          Yes/No/Don't
  alcohol in your system?                           Remember or Don't
                                                    Know
Was there alcohol in your partner's system?         Yes/No/Don't
                                                    Remember or Don't
                                                    Know
Were you on any drugs?                              Yes/No/Don't
                                                    Remember or Don't
                                                    Know
Was your partner on any drugs?                      Yes/No/Don't
                                                    Remember or Don't
                                                    Know
Did you find your first intercourse experience to   Yes/No/Not Sure
  be physically painful in any way?
Did you achieve orgasm?                             Yes/No/Not Sure/
                                                    Don't Remember
Did your partner achieve orgasm?                    Yes/No/Not Sure/
                                                    Don't Remember
Feelings/Outcomes Subsequent to First Intercourse

Did you feel physically satisfied with your first   Yes/No/Not Sure
  intercourse experience?
Did you feel emotionally satisfied with your        Yes/No/Not Sure
  first intercourse experience?
Did you and this particular partner ever have sex   Yes/No/Don't
  again?                                            Remember
Did you and this partner stay together as a         Yes/No
  couple, or, if you were not a couple at the
  time you had intercourse, did you and this
  partner become a couple?
Do you regret having shared your first              Yes/No/Not Sure
  intercourse experience with this person?
Looking back, what do you think about the timing    I was about the
  of your first intercourse experience?             right age/1 was too
                                                    young/I was too
                                                    old/Not Sure
Did you or your partner become pregnant as a        Yes/No/I don't know
  result of your first intercourse experience?
Did you or your partner get an STD as a result of   Yes, I caught
  your first intercourse experience?                something him or
                                                    her/Yes/he caught
                                                    something from me/
                                                    No/Not Sure
Overall, how would you rate your first              Perfect, wouldn't
  intercourse experience?                           change a thing/Very
                                                    Good/Good/Neither
                                                    Good or Bad/Bad/
                                                    Very Bad

Expectations About First Intercourse by Respondents who had not had
Intercourse

Will it be important to you that the person with    Yes/Maybe/No/Don't
  whom you have intercourse for the first time is   Know
  for the first time is also having intercourse
  for the first time?
Do you think you and your future partner will       Yes/Maybe/No/Don't
  talk about having intercourse beforehand?         Know
Do you think you and your future partner will       Yes/Maybe/No/Don't
  discuss condom use before having first            Know
  intercourse?
Do you think you and your future partner will       Yes/Maybe/No/Don't
  discuss other methods of birth control before     Know
  having first intercourse?
Do you think you and your future partner will       Yes/Maybe/No/Don't
  discuss STD's before having first intercourse?    Know
Do you think you and your future partner will       Yes/Maybe/No/Don't
  discuss what to do if you/your partner became     Know
  pregnant after having first intercourse?
Do you think you and your future partner will       Yes/Maybe/No/Don't
  discuss the emotional implications of having      Know
  first intercourse before having first
  intercourse?
Do you think your first intercourse experience      Yes/Maybe/No/Don't
  will be physically painful in any way?            Know
Do you think you will achieve orgasm at first       Yes/Maybe/No/Don't
  intercourse?                                      Know
Do you think your future partner will achieve       Yes/Maybe/No/Don't
  orgasm at first intercourse?                      Know

Table 1 Mean Age and Relationship Status of
Participants and Their Partners at Time of
Participants' First Intercourse

Age of Participant and Partner at First Intercourse

Participants' Age   Partners' Age

Men     17.31       Men's Partners     17.6
Women   17.04 *     Women's Partners   18.41 *

* Difference for women and partners significant p < .001;
n: men (63), partners (60); women (135), partners (130).

Relationship Status with First Intercourse Partner

        Couple   Other Relationship

Men     83%      17%
Women   85%      15%

Length of Relationship and Time Known

        Mean Length                 Time Known Regardless
        of Relationship             of Relationship

Men     5.74 months * (S.D. 5.46)   26 months ns
Women   8.14 months * (S.D. 7.89)   34 months ns

* Difference approaches significance at p = .051

Table 2 Participants Perception of Being in Love at
Time of First Intercourse and in Retrospect

                           "In Love" in
                           first sight? (%)

                           Men        Women       Men        Women

                           (n = 63)   (n = 136)   (n = 63)   (n = 136)

Yes                        43         63          41         47
No                         35         25          48         42
Not Sure                   22         12          11         11

[chi square](2, N = 199)        7.78 *                  ns

* p = .02

ns indicates not significant

Table 3 Participants' Perceptions of Their and Their Partners' Role in
Decision to have First Intercourse

Participants               Mutual     Male Partner   Female Partner
                           Decision   Suggested      Suggested

Men (n = 63)               57%        25%            18%
Women (n = 136)            61%        31%            8%

[chi square](2, N= 199)            12.53, p = .002 *

* When the decision was not identified as mutual, men
were significantly more likely to have been the ones who
suggested intercourse.

Table 4 Participants "Yes" Responses to Questions
about Prior Discussion, Circumstances of, and
Follow-up to First Intercourse (%)

                                    Men        Women
                                    (n = 63)   (n = 136)   [chi square]
                                                             (1, 199)

Pre-Intercourse Discussion

Having Intercourse                  76         74          ns
Condom Use                          63         73          ns
Other Methods of Birth Control      58         48          ns
Sexually transmitted infection      33         32          ns
Outcomes if pregnancy were          33         37          ns
  to occur
Emotional implications              33         40          ns

Circumstances Associated with
  First Intercourse
Did intercourse occur when          41         46          ns
  expected?
Was a condom used?                  75         80          ns
Were you drinking?                  19         21          ns
Was your partner drinking?          14         18          ns
Were you using any drugs?            0          0          ns
Was your partner using any drugs?    2          2          ns
Was first intercourse painful?       5         52          41.49 *
Did you have an orgasm?             76         12          81.91
Did your partner have an orgasm?    32         73          30.18 *
Feelings/Outcomes Subsequent
  to First Intercourse
Physical satisfaction               62         35          12.39 *
Emotional satisfaction              56         54          ns
Sex again with same partner?        87         89          ns
Stayed a couple or became a         83         86          ns
  couple after?
Pregnancy occur?                     0          0           -

* p <.001

ns indicates not significant

Table 5 Participants' Overall Ratings of Their First
Intercourse Experience (%)

Response                            Men        Women       Total
                                    (n = 63)   (n = 136)

Perfect, wouldn't change a thing       14         19          18
Very Good                              29         19          22
Good                                   29         23          25
Neither Good or Bad                    18         26          23
Bad                                     8         10          10
Very Bad                                3          3           3

Table 6 Expectations of First Intercourse Among Students who had not
had Intercourse and a Comparison with Those who had

Responses                                First Intercourse
                                         Expectations
                                         (students who
                                         had not
                                         had intercourse)

                                         Men        Women
                                         (n = 51)   (n = 108)

Partners not having had intercourse      36         29
  before is important?

Pre-Intercourse Discussion               60         66
Discuss having intercourse               70         83
Discuss condom use                       53         77
Discuss other methods of birth control   36         57
Discuss STDs                             55         53
Discuss pregnancy                        33         44
Discuss emotional implications

Physical Expectations

Pain at first intercourse                 4         34
Personal experience of orgasm            58         11
Partner's experience of orgasm           22         28

Responses                                Reported First
                                         Intercourse
                                         Experiences
                                         (students who had
                                         had intercourse)

                                         Men        Women
                                         (n = 63)   (n =136)

Partners not having had intercourse
  before is important?

Pre-Intercourse Discussion               76         74
Discuss having intercourse               63         73
Discuss condom use                       58         48
Discuss other methods of birth control   33         32
Discuss STDs                             33         37
Discuss pregnancy                        33         40
Discuss emotional implications

Physical Expectations

Pain at first intercourse                 5         52
Personal experience of orgasm            76         12
Partner's experience of orgasm           32         73
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