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First Sex Alters Body Image

A recent assessment of undergrads reveals a gender difference in how the students see their bodies after their first sexual intercourse. Christie Nicholson reports

Sex is a big deal. It can change how people see their partner. Or themselves.

Now research finds that young men and young women react very differently to that first sexual encounter. The research appears in the Journal of Adolescence.

Scientists studied a group of 100 undergrads who had their first sexual intercourse at some point during their four years of college. The researchers rated the students on their overall satisfaction with their appearance four separate times over these four years. And they found that men thought of themselves as more attractive just after losing their virginity than they had before, while women had the opposite experience: After sex for the first time, their body confidence dropped slightly.

The researchers  think that men may get a boost in self-esteem from feeling desired. And losing virginity is a societal benchmark for masculinity. But for young women, who tend to be more sensitive to body image, first sex might increase the insecurities brewing since puberty.

Over time, however, women’s body image improved. And men’s perception of their own attractiveness decreased slightly. Maybe when they realize that the Axe body spray doesn’t work in real life like it does in commercials.

—Christie Nicholson

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