The terrible tales of losing your virginity are legion. It can be an awkward, disappointing, or straight-up harrowing experience. But a new study from Illinois State University looking at emotional reactions to first-time sexual experiences has some good news: It might be getting better.
The study looked at around 5,700 university students from 1990 to 2012. And for both men and women, ‘losing it’ became a more pleasurable, less nerve-inducing experience in recent years.
“[In 1990] men experienced significantly more pleasure and anxiety than women, whereas women experienced more guilt than men,” claims researcher Susan Sprecher.
Now for the good news: “Anxiety decreased over the three decades for men; pleasure increased and guilt decreased for women.”
Sprecher cautions that the gap, though lessened, still exists.
“The first intercourse experience continues to be a more positive experience for men than for women,” she wrote.
But in general, her findings are good news for ladies. “Women’s guilt may have decreased also because of a reduction, in general, of social regulation of female sexuality and in the double standard, and the increase of role models for sexuality in the media for females,” Sprecher wrote.
That makes sense. Certainly there are plenty of examples of women who are more empowered about their sexuality than celebrities of yore. Beyoncé, for one, and Jennifer Lawrence for another. The sex taboo for women is one that’s fallen by the wayside.
Better and more readily accessible information about sex probably also contributed to the trend. Thanks to the Internet, all kinds of answers are readily available to young women, from sex columnists like Dan Savage to WebMd to Go Ask Alice. And that’s progress that we can all be thankful for.