Timing of first sexual intercourse and attractiveness

Today I want to highlight a paper in the current issue of Psychological Science titled “True Love Waits? A Sibling-Comparison Study of Age at First Sexual Intercourse and Romantic Relationships in Young Adulthood“.

This was a longitudinal study of adolescents that looked at the age that the participants first had sexual intercourse and various outcome variables. They did a lot of analyses, but I want to focus on one specific finding from the paper:

“On average, males who lost their virginity late were rated by interviewers to be as attractive as males who lost their virginity on time and more attractive than early initiators. Females who lost their virginity late were rated to be more attractive, on average, than those who lost their virginity either early or on time.”

Photo of couple holding hands.

Photo: © Bellemedia | Stock Free Images

So for boys, attractiveness doesn’t seem to matter. But for girls, being more attractive means you’re more likely to have sexual intercourse later than most. What’s going on there? Self-esteem issues? Any other explanations you guys can think of?

I think it’s especially interesting considering that the main result that the authors highlighted is that overall, people who were classified as having intercourse “late” (rather than “early” or “on time”) were less likely to get married or cohabit, and those that did marry or cohabit were less satisfied with the relationship! So does that mean that attractive girls are also less likely to marry or cohabit, or be in a bad relationship? I wouldn’t be convinced of that. Can there be an alternative explanation?

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3 thoughts on “Timing of first sexual intercourse and attractiveness

  1. Interesting! I think there could be something in your suggestion that low self-esteem may be at play. It’s possible that more attractive girls tend to be more perfectionistic (i.e., they take better care of their appearance, hence appearing more attractive) – more perfectionistic girls may also be more ‘picky’ when it comes to choosing a mating partner (or they may be more on the internalising spectrum, more shy, etc.), so may be more likely to wait for the ‘right’ mate. Not sure that there is evidence for any of these links though (attractiveness ad perfectionism or internalising symptoms)!

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