A blog post by Mary Jo Rapini, LPC, caught my attention. How you feel about losing your virginity depends…are you a guy or girl? begins with a discussion about the gender differences in the after-effects of the first sexual encounter as determined by a recent academic study (Body image and first sexual intercourse in late adolescence) and winds up with with the author’s own views on the same.
[From How you feel] The morning after can be difficult no matter if you are a guy or a girl, but it seems to be more difficult for girls than guys. A study from researchers at Pennsylvania State University reports male university students’ body images improved after having sexual intercourse for the first time, while the opposite pattern was found with females. The study which was published in the Journal of Adolescents and reported on 100 students from the university between the ages of 17 and 19 years of age who had sex for the first time during their time at the university.
Rapini outlines the study’s paramenters, including that each subject’s personal satisfaction with his/her appearance was assessed four times during the three year study. According to Rapini, the statistics show that the self esteem of females rose steadily throughout the study term until the point at which they had sex for the first time, then it declined. Conversely, the self esteem of males fell throughout the study term until the point at which they had sex for the first time, then it increased.
[From Body image‘s abstract] These findings demonstrate that first intercourse can lead to changes in well-being, even if the transition takes places in late adolescence. In addition, they suggest that gendered cultural expectations regarding sexual behavior are associated with differing psychological outcomes for male and female adolescents.
While the reasoning behind this is crystal clear to me without reading further, I actually can’t read further because I don’t have ScienceDirect credentials. Rapini spreads the knowlege, though:
[From How you feel] The researchers had several theories about why girls felt so much worse about their looks after having sex and why guys felt better. It could be that after sex guys felt desired and accepted in regards to their masculinity and sexuality which is very important. Girls on the other hand may have felt worse because girls in general have more sensitivity with body image, and they feel more judged regarding their body after their first sexual experience. Girls may have felt confused about the reasons they had sex. They may have felt abandoned after sex. Girls may have also experienced more guilt due to society’s double standards. There is an underlying tone in the US that good girls don’t have sex.
Yeah, I’m thinking the wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am-grab-your-hat-and-go behavior of many young men regarding sex has to do with the measured loss of self-esteem. Nothing bolsters that double-standard message as much as a guy who, after getting some, either (1) doesn’t want to talk to you again or (2) doesn’t want to talk to you again unless it involves “quality time,” wink wink nudge nudge.
[From How you feel] I have researched and surveyed girls to co-author a book for girls and moms regarding healthy sex. We learned that girls who are taught about their changing bodies, their sexuality, and how to keep their body healthy delay sex until they are mature enough to make wise choices in regards to sexual relationships. I am concerned when I hear parents say, “Let the schools teach my children about healthy sex.” Do parents really believe the school is going to teach their child about their own intimate bodies better than a parent could? Do parents depend on the school to teach their daughter about her menstrual health, her changing breasts, and body? What about her values and morals? Both of these will affect her relationships and both should be discussed within the family.
I wholeheartedly agree with Rapini on this point, with one caveat. By all means, let the schools teach the science of procreation and puberty if you like, but if the schools aren’t doing it, you’d better educate yourself and TEACH it yourself or your children won’t know.
Well-rounded sexual education involves science and psychology both, and not only as these apply to your own child’s gender but to the opposite gender as well. You wouldn’t build a house without a solid frame because a solid frame is imperative to a sturdy and long-lasting house. In the same way, a well-rounded sexual education is imperative to a healthy and fulfilling emotional life.