Deconstructing virginity: Young people's accounts of first sex

Holland, Janet; Ramazanoglu, Caroline; Sharpe, Sue and Thomson, Rachel (2000). Deconstructing virginity: Young people's accounts of first sex. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 15(3) pp. 221–232.



In their first (hetero)sexual experience, young people are enticed into the gendered practices, meanings and power relations of heterosexuality. This paper draws on findings from two primarily qualitative studies of young people's sexual practices and understandings: the Women, Risk and AIDS Project and the Men, Risk and AIDS Project. The paper suggest that for young men, first (hetero)sex is an empowering moment through which agency and identity are confirmed. For young women the moment of first (hetero)sex is more complicated, and their ambivalent responses to it are primarily concerned with managing loss. By exploring and contrasting young people's accounts of their first sexual experiences and the meanings that virginity hold for them, the paper reveals the asymmetry of desire, agency and control within (hetero)sex. The paper concludes by considering the implication of these findings for practice.

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