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Virginity Lost, Experience Gained

Your expectations may determine how losing your virginity will affect you down the line.
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The 'Gifters' Seek Romance

The people Carpenter calls 'gifters' anticipate virginity loss in romantic terms with a significant partner. Their virginity is a gift to be given only to someone special. Often they've been reared with strong religious convictions and believe it's a sin to have sex before marriage.

Gifters typically want the experience to be perfect. How satisfying it is depends on reciprocity from their partner and a sense that the relationship has been strengthened. If the experience doesn't meet their expectations, they can be disappointed or even devastated. Some seek to become "born-again virgins."

"A lot of people want it to be special, and I respect that," says Carpenter, who is assistant professor of sociology at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. "But you can get past the idea that because something went wrong you're doomed forever."

She advises thinking of the experience as a chapter in your sexual education. Consider what you can do differently the next time with the same partner or with a different partner or what can make this better for you. "People who can think about it in those terms ended up being a lot happier."

The 'Stigmatized' See Virginity as a Burden

The stereotype portrayed in the movie The 40-Year-Old Virgin is often true. By a certain age it may be embarrassing to be a virgin, especially if you're a male. Carpenter says the 'stigmatized' care little about romance and relationships. They want to shed the burden of virginity, and they engage in sex for physical pleasure.

Most of the stigmatized people Carpenter interviewed had positive experiences of virginity loss. But because they were trying to hide their inexperience and because they were with a casual partner, the stigmatized were the least likely of those she interviewed to have protected sex. Most of them altered their view about virginity loss later on and adopted the view of 'processors.'

The 'Processors' Are Most Satisfied

About one-third of the people Carpenter interviewed considered virginity loss a rite of passage or a step in the process of growing up. Processors are likely to plan their virginity loss and to use birth control or condoms. They're also better equipped to take a bad first experience in stride and move on.

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