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.
Posted on May 28, 2012, in body image, feminism, gender, men, psychology, sex and sexuality, sexism, women and tagged body image, feminism, gender, objectification, psychology, self-esteem, sex research, sexism, sexuality, women. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.