Lose Virginity, Lose Self-Esteem?

When women lose their virginity, they can lose self-esteem, too, experiencing a small drop. That’s what a recent Penn State study reveals.


Women college students were surveyed over time. Before sex the women felt increasingly good about their bodies. But after first sex they felt worse. Looks like when they’re in bed women start worrying about whether they look good enough. Masters and Johnson tagged the phenomenon of watching yourself from a third person perspective instead of focusing on sexual sensations or your partner, “spectatoring.”  Women are much more prone, being the objectified. Then, feeling they don’t measure up, self-worth drops.

Other usual suspects may also affect self-esteem, including the double standard that provokes worries about labels like slut and whore. Tracy Clark-Flory over at salon.com points to a 1995 study that found “women were significantly more likely to report that their first sexual experience left them feeling less pleasure, satisfaction, and excitement than men, and more sadness, guilt, nervousness, tension, embarrassment, and fear.” Even now women continue to experience that bind.

The double standard strikes again when women feel used, unappreciated, and worried about reputations after short flings or one-night stands.

Meanwhile, a study I recently posted finds 35% of women in strong partnerships feeling sad, anxious, restless, or irritable, after sex. Researchers don’t know why. Commenters, speculating on their own experience with the phenomenon, fingered sexual repression or difficulties with orgasm (which are related to repression) as culprit.

Studies repeatedly find that women are less likely than men to enjoy sex. Other research suggests the problem is not biologically based, or inevitable. Women in sex-positive cultures enjoy sexuality a great deal.

We are going to have to move beyond sexism for women to reclaim their sexuality. That would benefit both women and men.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on April 20, 2011, in body image, feminism, gender, objectification, psychology, relationships, sex and sexuality, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 71 Comments.

  1. Reading about the study made me sad because it’s absolutely true. A lot of women’s self esteem can be affected by loosing their virginity or encountering their first sexual experience. A lot of this is because of how society has been viewing a women’s sexuality especially in other cultures. Personally, women in my race or culture look down upon women for loosing their virginity. Loosing your virginity basically means loosing your value in society according to the beliefs of many people in India. I know some women who went as far as to get surgery to repair their hymen because they are scared they’ll be put to death in their homeland or won’t be able to get married. A lot of women from India are also not allowed to date because some people think dating means you are used and don’t want to marry you and glorify women who hold on to their virginities. Whereas no one really cares if men do the same or not. Another reason women’s first sexual encounter can leave them feeling sad, depressed or insecure is how they are treated by men. A lot of men ( not all) objectify women and worry about theirselves and their satisfaction while not caring about the women’s satisfaction which can leave women feeling confused or lower their self esteem. I think in sexual education classes its important to emphasize safety and men should be taught always to ask a woman if she is sure and comfortable rather than emphasize or impose beliefs on kids from a young age that sex can be bad and looses it’s value if you do it before marriage.

  2. A woman’s confidence definitely plays a role in her self-esteem after losing her virginity. Women feel like they have to meet a certain standard for their partner to feel satisfied with themselves. I would say confident women are less likely to lose self-esteem however compared to men, women seem to be more likely to feel anxious, nervous, and to think about whether they were good enough for their partner after sex. The media has definitely affected how women feel about sex and most of the time it has affected them in a negative way. For women losing their virginity seems like a much bigger deal than for most men. It can be more emotional whereas, for men, many see it as an accomplishment to increase their self-esteem and to compete with others.

  3. Once a woman loses their virginity, they become more insecure in themselves and their bodies. Mainly because they feel like they have to look a certain way or be a certain standard to be idolized and liked. I have met several individuals whom were embarrassed to be seen nude because they felt like they didn’t fit the standard or what is considered hot by society. Societies norms have dramatically impacted women and brainwashed them to believe to look a certain way. For example, I see frequent polls of women asking men, “do men care about stretch marks?”. That is something that only women pay attention to and beat themselves up over the idea. Myself and many men in the world, do not see it as an issue. It is not a concern when having a female in front of them. Overall women have created their own double standard and feel insecure with themselves after the loss of their virginity, resulted by the fact that another individual has seen them.

  4. Genevieve Escobedo

    After reading about how most women feel once they lose their virginity, I was surprised and a little relieved to find out that I wasn’t the only one who felt embarrassed and a little nervous as well. The idea of women being objectified definitely gives the went reason for why they experience negative emotions towards themselves immediately afterward and even weeks later. No matter what level a woman’s confidence is at before engaging in sex for the first time, they often overthink how it must’ve gone, what could’ve made it better, and ultimately if it was a good decision or not. Not only this, but women also grow up with an idea of how their first time should be because of what they see from media, which can often times be a perfect scene with that perfect significant other. It is rare to see the raw truth of how first times really go. I believe that most men look at losing their virginity as a trophy, something that they have accomplished and can talk about to their guy friends about. They strive to compete with one another and therefore tend to go into their first time more selfishly, while women are left with the inevitable questions and doubts about their experience because they physically feel that they have lost something.

  5. While a virgin myself and not really in a position to speak about the experience of sex, I would imagine that the mentioned loss of self esteem following sex which is described as “sadness, guilt, nervousness, tension, embarrassment, and fear” is certainly a compounding of the objectification and sexism mentioned above but not necessarily exclusive to sex. Certainly sex is likely the most prominent example of this unease and shame since it involves another party to a highly involved degree, but because women have been quashed in so many respects throughout society it is more likely for them to feel unvalidated in other respects as well. From the experiences of several of my female friends, the toxicity in many female relationships (where cliques and bullying are common), although more covert than that in male groups, is extremely belittling to the degree where sexist trends started primarily by men (e.g. dressing a certain way, body standards) are promoted by women in a manner that exerts negative peer pressure, thus causing minor instances of the “sadness, guilt, etc.” felt after sex in even the smallest things like not having a salad for lunch or not wearing the right shade of lipstick.
    Of course, these minor things pale in comparison to something as important as sex where the stigma and expectations increase a hundred-fold, but it is important to recognize that this uneasiness after sex is not just about sex and the culture around that; it is about the culture surrounding women in general and how important it must be to foster a more fluid and wide-ranging definition of what it means to be a woman. (Please note that I do not mean to belittle the strong feelings following sex to something as trivial as eating choices—as an outsider looking in, I cannot fully comprehend the culture at hand so please chime in as necessary!)

    • And one of the main problems is actually that women’s bodies are so judged that when they have sex for the first time they often become hypersensitive to their so-called flaws, because the survey found that both their self-esteem dropped and so did their body image after they had sex the first time.

  6. Cynthia Minton

    I agree with this article. Porn has put a damper on that as well, where the pornstars are perfect and everything in the video is staged. Real sex isn’t like that and has hindered men and women’s experiences. When you lose your virginity it’s almost like a validation that the person thinks you’re sexy enough to have sex with. This may sound cliche, but we all should be happy and not only care what the person is like on the outside but on the inside as well.

  7. With this blog I can relate a lot. With my experience, I use to be very body positive with myself, I never really noticed my stretch marks, my love handles, thunder thighs, until I started to be sexually active. I was nervous what my partner would say. Like “She’s heavy”, “Her stomach isn’t flat”, etc. For a couple weeks I wasn’t even able to enjoy what was going on because I was too focused on my figure. It would get me to the point where I did not want to have sex because I did not like my figure. Time passes and my boyfriend would tell me continuously that I am beautiful and I started to work out to better myself. All of that helped to regain my positivity back. I can see why others would feel insecure after loosing your virginity because you are letting someone else view your body the way others can’t.

  8. There’s so much to pull from this! For one, women’s experience of shame, insecurity, and loss of “purity” (whatever that means). But also, there’s the huge aspect that kit10phish brought up, of expectations. Vaginal- penis sex (assuming that’s the type referenced above), isn’t necessarily great for many women. Unlike the experience for men, women don’t have the same kind of nerve endings within the vaginal walls, so unless her partner knows their way around her body, her own experience is likely to leave her feeling…unsatisfied.

    But why does that affect self-esteem and sense of beauty? Seems pretty simple to me. The ability to bring a partner to completion is a fun, bonding act. Being able to provide that for her partner is nice, but if the partner and she are unable to get her there, there is a sense of loss, and a sense of unworthiness that is accompanied: is she not ____ enough to get there? Fill in the blank with whatever insecurity you please, and it could be valid. Sex is so complicated, and when you then introduce double standards, women’s expected sense of purity, and shame upon loss of that, it can be a recipe for disaster.

    • That’s another interesting point to add to the data that women’s self-esteem went down after losing virginity, but so did their body image, on average.

  9. I’m always told to lose weight and take care of myself because once I find a husband that they would expect everything to look nice. So even now I feel insecure and just the thought of being in bed with a guy makes me feel very insecure. I know that I feel good about myself but once I feel any sexual feeling I feel very disgusted with myself.

    • A lot of women can relate to this, unfortunately. Because of the way we portray women and men in sexual situations — and just on billboards — Women unconsciously learn to objectify themselves. Just as men unconsciously learned to objectify women.

  10. I feel like like losing your virginity is the key to truly discover your naked (no pun intended) self and begin comparing it to others. The issue of body image was already relevant with in our everyday, clothed life and is generally based on overall body shape, hair, looks, and style. However, once one get’s stripped down to parts of them that can’t be so easily masked or edited, less easily remedied insecurities can set in. Suddenly you have so many things that can be considered not ideal. Anything from the size and color of your nipples, beauty marks, tan lines, stretch marks, to the way your vagina looks all of a sudden become factors of your “attractiveness”. I believe that many of this is due to the unrealistic standard that the media and the porn industry portray. During sex, which can feel like a time of pure vulnerability, sometimes these characteristics get noticed by the other individual or even by yourself, and because of how exposed one may feel they seem like a major flaw. Seeing pictures of women radiating sexiness with glowing smooth skin, huge boobs, tight stomachs, and perky butts leaves most women feeling plain and undesirable. And as many mentioned above, if they do not experience the grandiose magic of their first time like they see in the movies, girls get the idea that maybe it’s because they’re are not worth it.

  11. Why are women losing their virginity along with their self-esteem. I think that part has to do with society. Women are afraid of being judged. They are afraid of what others think of them. Women have insecurities they worry too much about body image. They worry about reputation as well, they don’t want to be labeled as sluts or whores, feeling gulit and embarrassment also being womens self-esteem down. Another reason why I think women self-esteem may go down is because they worry about what their partner thinks of her. Maybe she thought it was going to be totally different, wasn’t what she hoped for. Its not what she imagined or dreamed her first time would be like. If society would stop putting so much vaule on virginity perhaps there would be more confident women feeling good about themselves.

    • Thanks for your thoughts on this. The study did notice that women’s body image and self-esteem both decreased after they lost their virginity, So it does seem likely that in bed women started worrying about whether they were attractive enough. Definitely not good for sex! Too bad we have a culture that puts so much pressure on women.

  12. I actually have the complete opposite feelings from this article because when I lost my virginity, I felt less pressure to look excellent all the time because there will always be someone who loves my body as much as I do. Before my first sexual experience, I felt the need to look and present myself as something I wasn’t, extremely confident and ready to take on the world. I personally didn’t feel that way because I was constantly pushed away from doing that from family members, keeping me out of trouble. After my sexual experience, I felt empowered. Maybe it was just how I lost my virginity that is different from other women.

    • I’m glad that you had the opposite experience. There is always a bell curve to these things. Not everyone is the same. But if our society stopped shaming young women’s bodies then young women as a whole would have higher self-esteem and more positive sexual experiences.

  13. In agreement with some of the previous comments, I feel like there are many factors that play into virginity’s correlation with self-esteem, and almost all of them can be blamed on society. With women already experiencing being treated as sex objects day in and day out, it’s no wonder that losing virginity could be seen as something negative. Sex is supposed to be enjoyable for whoever is involved, but when you throw society’s twisted perception of women into the mix, it can only bring women down, not push them up. That said, there are so many different standards attached to the social construct of virginity that it’s virtually impossible for a woman to live up to one of them without feeling disappointed in herself. For starters, there is the ever-present idea that a female losing her virginity is what changes her from a girl and into a woman. But what if she doesn’t feel “ready” to be a woman yet? What if she’s young? What if she was raped or pressured into it? Second, there also lies the idea that a woman should wait until marriage to be “deflowered” by her husband. But if she loses her virginity beforehand, many may deem her a slut, a harlot, etc., and there’s no doubt that having a soiled reputation thrust upon you would bring down one’s sense of worth.

  14. Hiroka Nakamura

    In my home country,Japan, it used to be a big deal and not appropriate to lose virginity for anyone until they get married and also girls didn’t have to care about how they looked or how much they weighted as much as my parent’s generations. But in my generation, it’s not a big deal anymore and I think it should not be this way. All the models in magazines or actresses and actors in dramas or movies usually are skinny or attractive and the “over sized” girls never get a chance to date with a cute guy or imaged in a bad way. I think not only my generation does it, but also all the social media puts pressure on young girls that they have to be skinny to have sex or even date. So it makes more sense to me why and how girls lose their self-esteem after the first sex and just in general.

  15. I feel like this topic could be related to the other posts I just read, “Getting Creeped Out to Fit In” and “Sex with Men Hoping to Feel Beautiful”. Perhaps, a majority of girls end up having sex before they truly feel ready for it. Maybe they engage in sexual activities because their friends are doing it, and they feel like that is the normal, expected, and socially acceptable thing to do. Another possibility, is that some girls may give up their virginity in the hopes that having sex for the first time will make them feel better about their bodies. I could see how all of these factors could contribute to a lack of self-esteem. Bedroom talk could also play a part. If a boyfriend references an old girlfriend or talks about things unrelated to his current partner, this could be very offensive and make the woman feel as though she is not engaging enough, or is not doing “it” right.

    • I think you’re right. Young women need to be more empowered to be in touch with their sexuality and have sex because they want to, Not for extraneous reasons that don’t really feel right.

  16. In my culture, loosing virginity is something significant and cannot for any other reason than marriage. A women will be shamed for the rest of her life if she lost her virginity for anyone other than her husband. I even heard in some areas in Egypt during the wedding the man has to go and take his wife’s virginity and show some blood on a white sheet and show it to the public so the family of the girl would feel honored and proud. Its just discugsting how this super intimate relationship turns to be as a race and everyone is depending on the result. In my country Jordan, if a man was to be found guilty for killing his wife/daughter/sister for any kind of honor killing, he will be excused and become innocent because he was just trying to “wash his shame”

  17. Why measure the self esteem through sex? Where does the perspective come from? The social norm, the pressure from the boys and friends. We live in a male dominated culture, that’s where the perspective comes from.
    I think the self-esteem comes from you are very certain about who you are. Forget about the society and church, ask oneself: is this really what I want?
    If yes, then explore it; it doesn’t matter if the outcome matches the expectation. This is the experience one choose for him/herself.
    If no, then don’t pressure yourself by listening to the opinions outside. People have opinion according to their experience, some might even have agenda. be very careful about what the intention is behind.
    Is virginity really that important? Who would I be without all the judgement ?

  18. i’m not sure what other people’s opinion, but i think it also depends on the culture and religion. For example, i first lost my virgin when i was 16. After the first sex, i felt so guilty and nervous because in my country’s culture, girls can’t lose their virgin before married. that’s why i was so panic and i totally lose my self esteem.i was worry that my boyfriend will leave me after the first sex, so i was trying to diet and take care of myself as much as i can because i wanna be more sexy. i lost confidence in my body
    Or other reasons can be because the girls doesn’t have a good sex or her partner feel unpleasure after the first sex. it can also cause the girls lose their self esteem

  19. I hate to admit it but I do think there is some truth to the phenomena of girls experiencing a lower level of self esteem after loosing their virginity. Young girls are torn between the media who portrays pretty glowing teens having sex and being very casual about it. Another side of the media makes out sex to be this huge event that will change their life and must be totally perfect or else the sex was not valid enough. In contrast, society (parents, religious leaders and schools) without media’s interjection devalues women to have been deflowered. It could be argued that the phrase “loosing your virginity” expresses the idea that once a women has had sex for the first time she is no longer whole but has lost an important aspect of her femininity. The connection between sex being something that harms who you are is something that society has deemed acceptable when it denotes the positive attributes that sex can uncover. Because the media has placed an enormous amount of pressure on girls to look a certain way and by looking a certain way they will have better sex, girls have become hyper-aware of their flaws. Furthermore, by only pointing out their flaws they dwell on the negative aspects of sex and their bodies rather than viewing this as a new phase of their adult life.

  20. Yeah but not all of it is from men being celebrated for having sex with random women. Secure guy’s don’t need validation from other men or do things to fit in or to get the pat on the back. Some guys who don’t need the pat on the back, still might want to lose their virginity just because they want sex and haven’t had it yet and it might irritate them they haven’t especially when other guys, who a man deem as inferior to them is. Basically a man wanting to have sex for the first time and get experience might simply be for the fact of basic hormones, and great frustration and then depression setting in, because he’s not feel wanted, when he feel he should be. This standard is stupid and hurts men just as much as women. It’s not good that women can be slut shamed for being promiscuous, but it’s also really not good for men. And why I never understood this mentality, especially guys thinking this way. They basicauly are de valuing themselves by being proud of how many girls they’ve slept with or patting their buddies on the back for it. BEcause the way I look at it, your value as a man is not innate if something else “women” decides your worth or value. You’re a stud because you sleep with these pretty girls? Well so basically, you were worthless before? So these guys never had worth until they were banging girls? really? I don’t see it that way for myself ha. Call me too proud or whatever, but I’ve always felt to be a studly son of a bitch regardless of if I slept with a girl or not or how many. Because I don’t put a girls sex on a pedestal which these guys apparently are. It’s like a man being proud of sleeping with girls is saying, men are not valuable sexually or a dime a dozen compared to other guys. I know how the game works and supply and demand, but I don’t see myself that way, it’s like these guys seem themselves as quantity, I believe there’s quantity and quality and I see myself as quality, so if so, why would I see hooking up with a hot girl as a knotch under my belt and sell myself short. She can have me as a knotch under her belt though if she wants….

  21. One of those other differences between men and women. I do think it’s because a woman might feel disappointed or used or did something because she felt pressured too, so guilty and low esteem after about it. Especiallly if it was not what she was expecting or from a man she was hoping would like her more than she liked him or she was hoping would be from a man she has a serious relationship with, etc. But as most know, it’s like the complete opposite for guys. SO low esteem in completely different ways. A women losing her virginity feels worse about herself after, whereas, many guys having low esteem from not losing their virginity. Some of that can be from social pressure, but even without it, I think many guys esteem can be affected even without the social pressure. Not all boys are around jocks talking about girls or getting laid, but with friends who actually don’t care whose baning who, but these guys can still feel bad for not losing their virginity. The reason being simply is guys don’t need feelings as much as women do and can desire and want sex, just for the sake of sex, and the physical, visual/ carnal desire. And a man not getting sex or never having sex, can be irritating and depressing for a man, as it’s most likely to cause a guy to feel he’s not desirbable or somethings wrong with him for not having sex or being sexually desired, or atleast confused and irritated when guys he perceives as less attractive than himself are getting laid, which is even more salt to the wound.

    • Yes, the experiences are different for women and men, partly for the reason you describe: men are celebrated for having sex with random women whereas women doing the same are sluts. But also because women feel judged by their appearance, whereas I don’t think men think about it that much – other than penis size – which they actually don’t need to worry about. (About 20% of women are more likely to be sexually aroused by a long penis that hits the cervix. Another 20% finds the same thing painful. And the rest don’t notice much of anything that’s pleasurable – women are much more likely to be aroused by outercourse than intercourse.)

  22. zaineb alkhaleef

    I wasn’t raised in a sex-positive culture. I grew up learning that I should wait until marriage before having sex. In my household with my parents, sex was never a topic to converse about, all I needed to know that if I lost my virginity before marriage then i’m worthless. Although this was the case, I didn’t need to grow up in a sex positive culture to enjoy my sexual life with my fiancé, I feel that I’ve gained more confidence afterwards because we both decided to wait so i’m not as worried about him comparing me to anyone. It does affect women in various ways, not all women will gain that confidence, especially when their first partner doesn’t treat them well.

  23. I find this post very interesting, I agree as well. It’s really sad how in our culture when men lose their virginity they are very accepted and seen as cool especially when this happens in high school. Whereas girls are seen as sluts or easy after such occurrences. I could see why this would make women subconsciously not as excitable when it comes to having sex and allow men to enjoy it more. Sex is such a huge concept in our culture and there is a large amount of pressure on it. No wonder women have anxiety during, before and after it.

  24. Casey Delgado-Miller

    In high school I knew a lot of girls losing their virginity for all the wrong reasons, they didn’t want to lose their boyfriend, or everyone else lost it and they wanted to fit in. I think a huge reason that self esteem decreases is because girls have sex for the wrong reasons with guys who are even less mature.
    Additionally, girls are put in a social culture that – in my opinion – glorifies sex. Movies and advertisements sell sex to adolescents. This is a crucial part in their life as peers have just recently become the biggest influence in their lives. While they remember church and parents impressing they remain pure, every other aspect of society pushes them to prematurely have sex.

  25. elizabeth rankin

    I believe that the reason why women feel good about their bodies before having sex is because they are simply covered up with clothes, they are not exposed. They are also in the heat of the moment. However, when a woman gets undressed and is completely naked in front of a man is when they begin to worry about their physique. They start to question “are my thighs to big? Is my stomach not flat enough? Are my breast not big enough?” etc. I believe women are this way because of what society values: thinness, big breasts, etc. These physical attributes are displayed everywhere in the mass media from magazines, television shows, celebrities, fashion shows, etc.

  26. I think girls tend to loose thier self esteem after they have sex because they get influenced by movies and media. For example if a girl watches a sex scene on tv or in a movie and the gir has a nice body of course they are going to expect the same experience. So once the time comes for them to have sex they ask question to themselves like, “Do i look good?” I wonder if i look as good as the girl i saw on tv?” So there self esteem drops knowing they dont look as good for their partner.

  27. I have had friends that are on both sides some that felt horrible that they did not wait until they were married and felt like everyone was judging them and I have had some friends that did not feel bad or lose self-esteem over it. I know my first time I did not feel bad or lose self-esteem but I was also raised by a strong mother who never put a double standard in my head and who always talked about sex with me but made it clear that it was my choice when I lose my virginity and just be care and safe. I personally do not believe in the double standard I feel like your sex life is your own personal stuff, its no ones business when or how many people you have been with. It just important that you are safe and careful for your own good health and the people you are sleeping with. I can see why women lose self-esteem and feel inadequate it pressure society put on women.

  28. According to our tradition, woman could just have her fist sex with her husband. If women lost their virginity before marriage, they would be condemned as obscene and and unclean. It would result in abandonment by the family and even sent to death. Though today women would not be physically punished if they lose their virginity, they seem to become less “valuable” when comparable to the virgins. Virginity is viewed like a gift to every woman that just to devote it to the only true love in life especially husband. If this gift is divided into pieces to different men, the value of the gift would depreciate. Therefore, women seem to lose self esteem because they use virginity to define their value.Losing virginity implies losing individual value which causes lower self esteem. When they meet new guys, they would concern if this man cares about virginity much.And they would care how others look at them. After marriage, these women believe losing their virginity to other guys would make their husbands less likely to treasure them. Then, they have lower self worth and feel so sorry to their husbands.
    But still, many women don’t care about virginity much. In modern society, pre-marital sex is common. Many women lose their virginity and their first sex is usually not their husbands. If woman thinks in this open minded way, she would say it is no big deal. And losing virginity wouldn’t lead to lower self esteem.

  29. I think that depends upon each situation. Looking at my own experience, I didn’t lose my self-esteem at all, since I did it with my first boyfriend. I think when you are in love with someone, it is a very important step. Moreover, the relationship gets more tight, and strong. On the other hand, I can understand that some women might lose their self-esteem. They might have done it because they were afraid to lose their boyfriend but weren’t ready. Concerning the fact that women enjoy sex less than men, I could understand too. As we talked in class, women are much more into feelings, and relationships. So if there is one little issue, that is going to drive her mind crazy, and will not focus on just enjoying the moment.

  30. Demi Battaglia

    I agree that most woman lose some sort of self confidence after they have sex for the first time. However, in my situation I lost my virginity to a guy that I really cared about and felt completely comfortable with. My self-esteem was boosted with him because I knew he cared about me and it reassured me that I had nothing to worry about. It wasn’t until we broke up and I started having sex with other guys that I felt like my self-esteem was at an all time low. Not being comfortable with the guys made me question everything. In a lot of ways I was afraid of being judged by my body image. I really had nothing to worry about, but not having that emotional connection with the guy made it difficult to even take part in any sexual acts. I have learned that being comfortable with a guy is something a lot of woman need and want to feel a sense of confidence.

  31. So many girls think that just because they have sex they will feel better about themselves and feel more accepted. When it reality that is not the case, a high percentage of girls who had sex for the first time report that they did not feel a sense of confidence but instead had increased low self-esteem. Girls are more pressured into feeling self-conscious about sex. Things like looks, STDs, pregnancy, and performance are some of the major factors that keep women from being able to completely enjoy sex. Therefore, they end up very disappointed and with low levels of self-esteem because girls assume that because the media (TV, movies, magazines, porn, etc.) tells them that they must look and act the part of those in the professionals in order to be successful in the sex department, which discourages girls from the get go.

  32. Society plays a huge role in how girls act when it comes to sex. We are afraid of being judged. Everyone wants a virgin or somebody who has had less sexual partners. Nobody wants a slut. Girls are so good at over analyzing and generally have less self-esteem than guys because we are being judged constantly. It atleast feels that way a lot of the time. It’s sad. Because once it comes down to the sexual act many may not be really into it because they are overthinking every action versus enjoying what happening. You only lose you virginity once. Once it’s gone many girls may feel that they don’t have anything else going on for them that it attractive to guys any more. This is wrong and not true. Virginity is something thats abstract. It’s more of a feeling than anything else. It’s not tangible. I think a girl can feel like a virgin if she reminds herself of the fact that she is worthy and loveable. Every girl should know that. You do not need your virginity to validate you or tell you that you are a ’‘good girl’’.

  33. With me it kind of similar my first boyfriend was a lot skinner than i was and when we would sleep together i would get embarrassed of how my body looked. It made me not want to have a sexual relationship with him or try out anything new. With my next boyfriend he was a lot bigger than i was and i don’t know his body type made me feel more comfortable with my body type and we couldn’t keep our hands off of each other. i am not sure if everyone has a similar experience or can relate to what I’m saying but i think that even if two people love each other they can still feel uncomfortable around each other when it comes to something so intimate like this.

  34. Women’s feelings about sex can be largely contributed to double standards generated by American society. It’s true that men are somewhat celebrated for being sexual active, while women are socially ridiculed. So it isn’t be so far-off why women would feel the way they do after having sex. Also gossip can be a cause for why women’s self-esteem decreases, many men see losing their virginity as a rite of passage and when deed is complete they run to their friends for praise. During the praising some tend to discuss how nasty or slutty the girl was in bed, which can ruin her social image and the way she feels about herself. However, that is only one possible explanation. Another could be that when a woman loses her virginty, she feels that she lost a part of herself, such as her innocence making her less valuable.

  35. I agree that for most women, perhaps not all, losing their virginity does cause a loss of self esteem. But this is definitely a multiple causation issue. One of those being with what others have already said, media romanticizing what that first time is supposed to be like. Then being highly disappointed, either with the experience itself, or with the relationship status with their partner afterwards. Also I think the age at which it happens is crucial. If the woman isn’t mentally mature enough to have sex then the impact could be greater on her self esteem. And of course there’s the pressure that society and the media puts on women to have an perfect figure. After a women loses her virginity her body is being speculated by another person, not just herself. Prior to having sex, a women is her only judge. The pressure of knowing, or should I say thinking that the male will criticize any little change in her physique creates an on going self esteem issue.

  36. There are very notable views and perspectives when it comes to how society views sex. From a personal level, I was somewhat taught and socialized by my parents (who, for the most part, ARE VERY CONSERVATIVE AND TRADITIONAL) that women had more to lose when it came to submitting themselves in intercourse. We have the ramifications of getting pregnant while bearing the child, attaining more sexually transmitted infections, and the likelihood of feeling a sense of low self-esteem. We are very critical of one self and women are particularly critical when it comes to the remarks made about them. We are constantly self-conscious of our bodies in front of our sex partners because we want to appear beautiful, sexy, ideal, what have you. Women are sexualized as objects because we are always expected to be “pure” as if our bodies are a source of sexual commodity utilized by men. It facilitates the double standard that men are praised for sleeping with a slew of women, but women are negatively looked down on for being promiscuous with other men.

  37. Tatiana Dehnad

    A lot of what we talk about when we talk about sex comes from society, obviously. Therefore, not only the connation of sex is negative, but also a women having sex has a double negative meaning. We are brought up watching romance, love and sex on movies and we fantasize that our experience will be the same as it is portrayed by Hollywood. The reality of it is that it does not occur in this way and that instead it may be the complete opposite. I feel that the reason women lose their self-esteem and confidence in their physical appearance is because they expect to look a certain way underneath it all, act a certain way in bed and it doesn’t turn out that way. Another reason I feel that women may lose their self-esteem is because when you start having sex you see/feel yourself naked against someone else. This makes you more cautious of your body and as human beings, as female human beings it is engrained in our DNA to judge our own bodies as well as others. We focus more on our flaws as oppose to our positives. Losing your virginity has been portrayed in movies as losing innocence and to a certain degree I feel that that plays a huge role in women losing self-esteem because they then feel they are worthless because they just lost their virginity and it is viewed this way by those surrounding them perhaps thus enhancing this feeling.

    • I agree with this completely. Also, becasue people watch hollywood movies they automatically believe sex has to be done a certain way. Women try to learn and men complain if they dont like it; thus, making their partner feel bad. And yes, women are expected to look a certain way and I like to find out why the presure is not on men to look SEXIER or do a better job. Women need to hold their head up high and when a man complains the need to let him go b/c they CAN find a good man.

  38. I believe the main reason why women lose their self esteem after losing their virginity is mainly the reason why, they decided to have sex. If they have the wrong intentions and are not doing it for themselves and being irresponsible about it, yes they will lose their self esteem. Because women are so objectified in our society media places so many requirements and guidelines of how a women should look. So much pressure is placed into a women’s lap and if they have wrong intensions going into sex, they will clearly be regretful and disappointed being in such a vulnerable situation. Obviously going into sex with a certain expecations, can cerainly have negitive consequences if its not what they expected.
    There are so many expectations in our society, and women feel the threat of it all. From physical expectations to expectations about how love should be. Growing up we listen to many stories about happily ever afters and romances, and we are conditioned to believe them in a narrow way and once we try to experience it most likely we get let down. Therefore inflicting women to have low self esteem.

  39. I also believe that some woman loose a sense of self-esteem when they loose their virginity. On a personal note, it was my beliefs that hit home on my self-esteem. I would sit in shame thinking that I was worthless, impure, and unworthy of good things. I didn’t like being so hard on myself. I think that many woman fall into this category. I mean, every Sunday I hear how men and woman alike are to stay pure (until marriage) and worthy for the Lord’s riches, so it is easy to feel like the oddball. –I know that God is a loving God, no matter what He loves me. It took me a long time to drill that into my head.

  40. I can see why some women feel like they have lost their self esteem once they loose their virginity because it’s a very sacred time when its your first time and your nervous and most don’t know what to do. Some women that I know personally that have lost their virginity regret it or they felt like when they lost it, it wasn’t that special. Women are very self conscious when it comes to their bodies so when their about to loose their virginity their thinking what their partners are thinking about what their body looks like instead of focusing on actual sex.

  41. Tatiana Dehnad

    A lot of what we talk about when we talk about sex comes from society, obviously. Therefore, not only the connation of sex is negative, but also a women having sex has a double negative meaning. We are brought up watching romance, love and sex on movies and we fantasize that our experience will be the same as it is portrayed by Hollywood. The reality of it is that it does not occur in this way and that instead it may be the complete opposite. I feel that the reason women lose their self-esteem and confidence in their physical appearance is because they expect to look a certain way underneath it all, act a certain way in bed and it doesn’t turn out that way. Another reason I feel that women may lose their self-esteem is because when you start having sex you see/feel yourself naked against someone else. This makes you more cautious of your body and as human beings, as female human beings it is engrained in our DNA to judge our own bodies as well as others. We focus more on our flaws as oppose to our positives. Losing your virginity has been portrayed in movies as losing innocence and to a certain degree I feel that that plays a huge role in women losing self-esteem because they then feel they are worthless because they just lost their virginity.

  42. In my opinion, women begin to feel all these negative emotions purely because of how women are objectified in our society, view as nothing more than a piece of meat in the very worst cases. For women who lose their virginity and feel this way is because their partner has made no attempts at comfort or security or even sharing in the pleasure and enjoyment. It has to be admitted that many men are only after one thing but I believe that enough women should know this fact and aim to enjoy any sexual encounters that occur, take charge and thus forget all low self esteem and negative attitudes.

  43. Kelsey Jackson

    I think women are more self- conscious of their bodies and that is why their self-esteem may go down after having sex for the first time. The men are concentrating more on the act, whereas women are worried about how they look and may feel they didn’t perform the way the should. I am not saying this is right, but I think as a society, that is how women are raised. Instead of enjoying the pleasures of the sexual act, we are worried about what we look like. Women should let down their “hair down” and not worry about what they look like… and enjoy the sexual act, just as much as men do. We are created equal and there should be no double standard.

  44. This article forthrightly addresses the problem, which is that women suffer from the images of their natural bodies. Women have always been the targets of consumerism, which mass media deploy in order to sell its sponsors’ products. While people compare women’s bodies, if they do not meet the criteria, women will lose the attentions and love from people around them so that their self-esteem automatically drops low. Women are more pressured that if they can not meet the criteria, they will not be able to be loved by the partner. It is important for us not to increase such nervousness, which can be lowered by short flings, or one night stands by avoiding such circumstances.

  45. Elizabeth Wright

    A large percentage of women (especially in America) deal with insecurities and worry about their bodies. We, as women, are oftentimes pressured (through subtlety or more extreme measures) to become the “ideal” woman. Not to put too much blame on films/other forms of media, but films often portray women to be sexy yet virginal. We are supposed to dress sexy while being unable to be sexual beings. There is a huge conflict with this. If a woman were to be proud of her sexuality, she would most likely face negative reactions (such as being labeled a slut or whore). On the other hand, if she were to dress “sexy”, but remain a virgin, then she would be labeled as a tease. It may be because of this that many young women are self conscious and insecure during/after their first time having sex. Most virgins are probably not too in touch with their body, so they feel as though they are meant merely for the man’s pleasure. This can create a feeling of being used while at the same time emphasizing paranoia about whether or not they “were good.” Telling women that they deserve pleasure is surprisingly difficult, it seems.

  46. I find this article to be very interesting, especially with the study and concept of spectatoring. After the concept of spectatoring being pointed out to me, I realize that this shouldn’t be surprising at all. The woman is laying naked (most likely) in the bed with the man whom she just had intercourse with. Of course she would be wondering if he was satisfied and if her body is up to his standards. She is at one of her most vulnerable times, it is only natural for insecurities to come up. Many women are strong and don’t care about these sort of things, but more women are victims to our self-esteem issues. You could be the most beautiful woman in the world, but at your most vulnerable I’m sure you would question things, too.

  47. This seems to be the general consensus, but I believe the issues that women may feel after sex, or with their sexuality all come from the way the female body is seen here in America. Sex is a taboo, yet the female body is constantly glorified and glamorized in every magazine. Women are expected to have a perfect body to be attractive, and this leads to many issues with insecurity. Since sex is seen as taboo, the act itself can bring on shameful feeling. Because of the media’s handling of sex, people can develop the impression that it isn’t something that should happen all the time, and I think that’s were the loss of self-esteem comes in. It should feel good to do something bad, but with sex, you’re in a very close, intimate (even if it’s a causal hook-up) situation. Your body is exposed, and it seems as though your partner’s enjoyment is entirely dependent on you. It’s demanding, and it can often be a lackluster experience, and that will develop the negative feelings. If you’re doing something perceivably bad, but it wasn’t very enjoyable, why did you do it? Not only that, you let someone inside of you. It can be heavy.

    • Yes. The research did specifically track women’s body image and self-esteem both before and after first sex, and found that body image and self-esteem both decreased after virginity loss. Other research has found problems tied to seeing sex, itself, as bad.

  48. I agree with what everyone above is saying about how women get an idea of how sex should be with a man from movies or books and it can be misleading. When they actually do have sex whether it be a good experience or a bad experience and the men do not act like they see in the movies or in books it could be possible that they develop issues because they think they don’t look how men want them to look. A woman may start to think that she is unattractive because she does not look the same way as actresses or heroines are portrayed and the flaws they have are ugly and not attractive and if they think that then they probably think that men think it too.

  49. I believe that many women in today’s society have a hard time dealing with sex and their own sexuality because of the negative connotations put on sex. Many teens in society are taught that sex is a precious thing and majority of parents still preach that abstinence is the best thing. For boys if they lose their virginity its a big accomplishment but for girls if they lose their virginity prematurely than they are considered corrupted and dirty. These ideas not only make girls feel insecure about sex but about their bodies. Society needs to let women claim their sexuality, Whether homosexual or heterosexual. Society has put this stamp on women that you need to be perfect all the time. That stamp makes women question their bodies and sex. The problem with society is that it won’t allow women to be comfortable with themselves no matter how much they want too because if a woman is too comfortable with her sexuality she is seen as a sexual deviant not a confident and sexy woman.

  50. I think the decrease of confidence and self esteem after sex is due to the expectations and pressures of society. I think it has more to do with, “what will he think after?” mind set that women have during sex. Even then, women do not want to be perceived as promiscuous and slutty. Even though they may enjoy sex during the intercourse, they may feel bad about themselves after because they are afraid of how others may perceive them. Also, I agree in the belief that women become angry and irritated after sex because maybe they did not reach their orgasm before their partner was finished, or maybe because she does feel used and unappreciated. I think men and women utilize their mind completely differently. In my opinion, women tend to over analyze their emotions and do almost everything with emotion and passion. While men, on the other hand, do things out of whim.

  51. I think it is true that most women in our society see virginity as a symbol of whole and wish to have their first sex with the man that they truly love while men are always more unconcerned about it. Just like what is stated in “The Construction of the Body” that “Girls, on the other hand, are to remain chaste until they pledge sexual allegiance to one man, who will then care for them and the children they will bear, or to renounce sexual desire altogether.” I also agree with that romantic scene in movie is a cause of women’s sexual repression. Most women including me think the thing will be the same as what is portrayed in the movie, but it is definitely different. And women are always seemed beautiful and elegant, so some women may think about how their partners will think of them after having sex.

  52. Jessica Bailey

    Though I also agree with what the two previous posts have said about the scene not being exactly the way it is portrayed in the media feeling less than, I also feel that after the first time many females may also start to feel inadequate because of their lack of experience. I believe many women would like that the person that is taking their virginity may be the person that they tend to want to spend their life with. With the media portraying these first times romantic, often meeting certain unflawed attributes in the women, and the female actively participating in the encounter, women start to reevaluate the situation in hopes of keeping the man interested in only her.

  53. I agree, the reason I believe most women lose self-esteem is because when there first sexual interaction has taking place; the experience wasn’t what they’ve hoped for. Kit10phish above mentioned movies and their love scenes and compassionate romance, which I also believe, have a huge impact on what women perceive. We look at these movies with love scenes filled with nothing but false allegations, which is portrayed as lust and love; all the things a women aim for in a man. When women are convinced they’ve found that passion, they risk it—with the hopes of creating that same affection expressed in TV shows and our society. Most women are pressured into sex as well, either from friends or boys, that urgency later creates self-esteem problems or moreover regret expressed as social norms.

  54. I think another reason women lose their self esteem when they lose their virginity, is because our society puts on such pressure by portraying sex as a perfectly unattainable scene. Movies and books romanticize the event–it should be the nicest, compassionate, studliest partner, the greatest cliche’ event, and of course only during the exact right time in a women’s life (and for the exact proper reasons). If things in real life don’t go exactly as the soaps portray them it casts doubt on the whole experience. Women wonder if society agrees she was ready to do the deed. Females doubt if the partner was her one perfect mate. Of course the event doesn’t match up to the closely choreographed dramatic version–so instead of happy, positive after effects, women are left with doubts, worries, and shame. . . I blame romantic comedies a lot!

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