If you didn't lose your virginity on a canopy bed with pink satin sheets, surrounded by rose petals and flickering white candles while Enya crooned in the background, you're fucked (not in a fun way) for the rest of your sexual life, according to a new study which found that "your first time really matters." But please don't fret if your deflowerment was frustrating or forgettable, because these findings are about as believable as blue balls — and deserve even less attention.
Researchers at the Universities of Tennessee and Mississippi questioned a few hundred undergrads about when and how they lost their v-card, asking participants to describe the experience using dumb terms straight out of a '90s teen romcom including "connection" and "afterglow." (Serious question: has anyone ever actually employed the word "afterglow" other than Everclear?) The students also kept sex diaries describing all of their sexual interactions and rated their current sex lives in terms of "control, satisfaction, and general well-being."
According to a press release, "those who were most emotionally and physically satisfied the first time found their sex lives the most fulfilling" and "those who reported higher levels of anxiety and negativity with the first time reported lower overall sexual functioning."
"These results suggest that one's first-time sexual experience is more than just a milestone in development," the study's authors wrote. "Rather, it appears to have implications for their sexual well-being years later."
It doesn't take a scientist or a sex psychologist to point out a few key issues with that declaration:
1. Virginity = total bullshit.
The abstract and release don't specify, but we assume the researchers are referring to heterosexual p-in-the-v intercourse — that's what's implied and that's how the various media outlets running flimsy stories on "Does Your First Time Determine Every Time?" are framing it. Not to get all Gender Studies 101 over here, but virginity is a social construct primarily used as a tool to shame practically everyone: there are LGBTQ folk who have great sex but never actually lose what we think of as virginity, straight kids who have oral sex but don't go any further, and all sorts of other people who have healthy first sexual experiences that don't involve breaking a hymen.
There are also lots of kids who do lose their traditional virginity and then realize that, actually, they're not so into vaginal intercourse. They probably wouldn't describe their first time as awesomely afterglowy. But that doesn't mean much regarding their future "sexual well-being."
So let's not make blanket statements about what losing your virginity means when virginity as a concept doesn't actually mean much at all.
2. Undergrads are babies!
Seriously, we're talking about a sample of the population that has most of their lives still ahead of them. You can't conclude anything even mildly long term based on the opinions of undergraduates, who know nothing (it's statistically proven) and often have extremely low standards for how they should be treated. Haven't these researchers ever seen Girls? Only half-kidding.
The majority of teenagers lose their virginity at around age 17, which means there is nooo possible way most undergrads have a solid grasp on what their sexual needs are before they graduate. And if you're still in the midst of figuring your life out, you probably don't fully understand the effect your first time having sex had on your overall sexual well-being because your brain is still developing, for Christ's sake!
Speaking of Christ: did the researchers factor in the repercussions of growing up in the Bible Belt? If you're taught early on that having sex is the devil's work, you're probably not going to remember your first time without some church-approved shame. It can take years (and moving out of the house/abstinence-only school district) to wash that pervasive guilt away.
3. There are so many more factors at play.
Confession time: I lost my virginity my senior year of high school to my boyfriend, who loved me and always treated me with the utmost respect. (Thanks, Alex!) (P.S. Why did we do it while The Shawshank Redemption was on in the background? I've never been able to figure that out. Regardless, the experience has had no effect on my long term feelings about prison, phew.) I've had a few amazing relationships since then and sometimes I do wonder whether I've been ~lucky in love~ because the first person I slept with made me feel so comfortable and happy. But there's no way that's the only reason; my parents taught me that I had value, I had many strong female role models while growing up, and my school had a great sex ed program. I'm sure all those factors — and others that aren't coming to mind — have more to do with who I am now than that one night with Morgan Freeman.
I'm glad I'll always fondly remember the night I lost my virginity (February 19th! Is it weird that I remember?), but I have way more friends whose first times were troubling or disappointing or just plain forgettable. And no, they're not all currently wandering around the slums selling their teeth for money à la Fantine. So don't worry, and please remember that it's not your fault if you lost your virginity in the back of a cramped Mini Cooper or to a person you regret or if your definition of "losing it" isn't in our collective heteronormative dictionary yet. You'll be fine.