Women Waiting Longer to Lose Their Virginity
By Healthy SELF, SELF Magazine
Someone call the Gossip Girl writers! According to a recent survey, women are having their first sexual experience after — not before — they arrive on campus.
The “Ultimate College Girl Survey,” conducted by HerCampus.com, an online community for college girls, was conducted during the 2011-12 academic year and taken by 2,589 “collegiettes” between the ages of 17-23. According to HerCampus.com, respondents hailed from 677 different schools and the classes of 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 were almost equally represented.
Sixty-nine percent of those surveyed said that they didn’t lose their virginity until they turned 18, while 43 percent of respondents were still virgins at the time of the survey. For those respondents who had already had sex, 12.3 percent lost their virginity at 17, while 9.5 percent said that their first time was at age 16.
“What we’ve learned from our readers is that they are putting their ambitions and their academics first; they care more about being the one among their friends to score the coveted internship than they do about being the one to brag about having had sex,” Stephanie Kaplan, co-founder, CEO and editor-in-chief of HerCampus.com, tells HealthySELF.
Kaplan surmises that, among other factors, “shows like Teen Mom have beyond de-glamorized the prospect of teen pregnancy,” leading girls to be more cautious than in years past when it comes to sex.
According to Rachel Jones, Ph.D., a senior research associate at the Guttmacher Institute (a nonprofit organization focused on sexual and reproductive health research, policy analysis and public education), there is a national trend of teenage girls delaying having sex.
Jones points out that, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the proportion of 15- to 19-year-old females who have ever had sex declined from 51 percent in 1988 to 43 percent in 2006-2010. Moreover, she says, this decline applies to both younger female teens (15-17) and older ones (18-19). For males, the deline is even greater — the proportion of 15- to 19-year-old males who have ever had sex declined from 60 percent in 1988 to 42 percent in 2006-2010.
However, Laura Lindberg, Ph.D., also a senior research associate at Guttmacher, says that, according to nationally representative data from the CDC’s 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, about two-thirds of 12th grade girls have had sex.
“The delay in first sex in the HerCampus.com survey seems high, which may be due to selectivity in who is interviewed,” Lindberg says. “However, it’s not surprising that girls attending college wait to have sex later than other girls, for many reasons,” she says, citing a combination of different background factors such as race, income and parents’ education, as well as “differences in future aspirations and expectations.”
Whatever the reason, Kaplan feels that that being a virgin has much less of a stigma these days than in recent years. “We hear over and over from readers that they are waiting for the right guy to have sex for the first time, rather than simply viewing it as an item to check off their high school or college bucket list,” Kaplan says. “Results like this one will help to further mitigate the pressures to have sex.”