Back in high school and college, I remember my peers and I used to think curiously and nervously about what our first sexual experiences might be like. Or, if we’d had them, were they everything we’d hoped they would be? Could they have been better? Often we talked about the who quite a lot: Who did we want to be our first sexual partner?
There was always the camp who loved the idea of having sex for the first time with someone they loved. You see this dreamy cliché a lot in the movies, with young lovers usually sharing a passionate night together that flows organically from their strongly built connection and care for each other; during the scene, someone (usually the woman) admits it’s their first time getting intimate with anyone, and it’s all incredibly romantic.
As it turns out, this dreamy cliché actually does hold true in real life: A new study conducted by Plan B One-Step surveyed 1,320 women about their sex lives and sexual histories, and nearly 50% of women said their first sexual experience was with their “first love.”
The appeal of sharing your first sexual experience with someone you love.
“What the statistic says to me is that these women were choosing their first sexual experience, which is wonderful,” certified sex therapist Jessa Zimmerman tells health news. “They may have had other opportunities that they passed up, waiting until they felt emotionally connected. Or they may have developed the relationship and then become interested in being sexual. Either way, women who describe their experience this way probably feel very good about how they chose to enter sex with another person.”
Aside from the swoon-worthiness of the idea, there’s something to be said about the level of safety, communication, and care present within the context of a relationship that makes for a really appealing way to do something very vulnerable for the first time ever. It can just feel safer and more comfortable to have sex for the first time with someone you love and someone who loves you back, who you know cares about you and will look out for you during the experience.
Plan B’s findings showed women were 1.5 times more likely to look for respect from their sexual partner over sexual experience, and there was only a 3% difference in preferences between Gen-Z women and millennial moms. That means young women and those with more experience alike are seeking the same things in their sexual partners. Some 94% of women said they want “respect and trustworthiness,” and 86% want an “emotional connection” and “emotional maturity.” In comparison, just 65% of women noted physical attractiveness as a key attribute for who they wanted to get in bed with.
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Does it matter who you choose to have your first sexual experience with?
As appealing as it might be to share first-time sex with someone you love, it’s by no means a necessity. Many people choose to have their first time be with a stranger who doesn’t know them, so there’s no pressure to “perform”; others might choose to do it with a friend or acquaintance because they want the experience before getting into a serious relationship.
“What matters to people, I think, is not whether they were in love but whether they truly wanted to be doing what they were doing,” Zimmerman says. “I have heard too many stories that range from assault or rape (which I don’t actually consider sex, no matter what body parts do what) to drunken mistakes to just going along. These can leave people with lasting impacts around intimacy and sexuality. It’s certainly possible to reshape your sex life even if it started this way, but I find that people that reflect on their first experience with joy have an easier time later.”
At the end of the day, it’s totally up to the individual and what makes or made sense for them at time. Love isn’t a requirement for good sex or for a successful first experience with it—safety, consent, and communication are what matter most.
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