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"If I Could Turn Back Time": Female and Male Reflections on Their Initial Experience of Coitus


Using a mixed methods approach this study compared young people’s reflections on their initial experience of coitus, exploring similarities and differences from a gender perspective, with regard to a reported desire to change, or not change, any aspect of the event. The sample population was comprised of 318 university students in the northeastern region of the United States (women n = 200, men n = 118). Thematic analysis was used to evaluate the open-ended question, “If you could go back in time to your first sexual intercourse, would you want to change anything? If so, what would you change and why?” Responses were subsequently transformed into quantitative measures for additional analyses. T-tests or chi-square tests were conducted to evaluate gender differences. Notable findings included a majority of both males (66.95%) and females (54.00%) reporting they would not want to change anything about their first coital experience. Among respondents who reported a desired change the three primary desired change themes were partner (15.72%), age (8.18%), and location (5.03%), although the percentages differed by gender. Qualitative responses to the most frequently reported desired change categories are presented to contextualize the quantitative data. The novelty of understanding what young people would change about their first sexual intercourse provides important contextual information to the research on the feelings experienced at first coitus.

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The code for this study is not publicly available.

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Correspondence to Israel M. Schwartz.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee (include name of committee + reference number) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.” (per instructions).

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.” (per instructions). Respondents were informed (through the survey text) that participation was regarded as giving consent.

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Schwartz, I.M., Coffield, E. "If I Could Turn Back Time": Female and Male Reflections on Their Initial Experience of Coitus. Sexuality & Culture 25, 1308–1320 (2021).

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  • First sexual intercourse
  • Gender
  • Sexual development
  • Reflections on first coitus
  • Adolescent sexuality