When You Lose Your Virginity, And When You Get Divorced

Illustration for article titled When You Lose Your Virginity, And When You Get Divorced

A University of Iowa study found that girls who had sex for the first time when they were teens are more likely to divorce later in life. While this information will undoubtedly spark more hand-wringing about sexy teen pop stars, the statistic mainly applies to girls who didn't want to have sex, not those who decided they were ready at age 17.


Sociology researchers studied the responses of 3,793 women in the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth who were or had been married. They found that 31% of those who had sex in their teens later divorced within five years, and 47% divorced within 10 years. Among women who waited until they were 18 or older, 15% were divorced after five years and 27% had split after 10 years.

On the surface, this seems to confirm the conservative view that women who lose their virginity as teens are chasing potential husbands away with their slutty behavior. They're just asking to be branded with a scarlet "A" and thoroughly shunned! Upon further examination, the factor that increases divorce risk is actually if a woman's first sexual experience was "unwanted or not completely wanted." Women who chose to have sex at 16 or 17 weren't more predisposed for divorce. However, the younger women were when the lost their virginity, the more they reported having "unwanted sex" (or in other words, "rape.") From UI News Services:

Just 1 percent chose to have sex at age 13 or younger, 5 percent at age 14 or 15, and 10 percent at age 16 or 17. Another 42 percent reported first sexual intercourse before age 18 that was not completely wanted.

So it isn't exactly age of deflowering that leads to more troubled adult relationships, but a woman's history of being coerced into sex or having a traumatizing experience at a young age. That's not so shocking after all.

The research really just confirms that we need to stop sending teens the unrealistic message that they must never have sex. In addition to safe sex instruction, we need to emphasize to girls that having sex is a choice they get to make, not one that's foisted on them by some dude. Speaking of men, it would be interesting to know how the age they lose their virginity affects their divorce risk, but of course they weren't included in this study. We're extremely concerned about the sexualization of girls, but boys are never pressured into sex and don't experience any negative consequences.

UI Study Examines Link Between Teen Sex And Divorce Rate [University Of Iowa News Services]

Image via Sakala/Shutterstock.



We're extremely concerned about the sexualization of girls, but boys are never pressured into sex and don't experience any negative consequences.

I think this is a great point, and one that should be studied in tandem with studies like this. Think of it as two sides of the same divorce-predisposing coin: boys can feel pressured to pressure a girl to have sex before they are ready in order to conform to an unrealistic standard of "masculinity," which then may find itself manifesting later in life when they find themselves pressuring women they're not sure they want to marry into a marraige they feel they are obligated to enter by a certain age. I'm sure boys/men in those situations would be just as unwilling to fight to make a marraige work as the women they are pressuring.

Or, to add another facet to the marriage side of this, men may be susceptible to giving into a woman who is pressuring them into marriage (because it's not just men who pressure women into things, it can and does work both ways) because they feel it is their duty (just as some girls may feel they are obligated to have sex too young), thus resulting in more divorces.

Which is all to say that this study is actually a very good starting point to a lot of research about both genders, in tandem and separately, to understand the social pressures that make us do things that result in great consequences down the line; for whether or not your divorce is a good thing, a bad thing, or just a thing, it's a very expensive, time-consuming thing and certainly something affects everyone involved deeply.