Early intercourse is not necessarily a bad thing

This and other findings from a government-sponsored sexual dysfunction survey in Britain.

By Lori Leibovich

Published December 13, 2005 2:10PM (EST)

A short article in the January issue of Elle reports on a British government study of sexual dysfunction that had some interesting findings. The survey of 11,000 people ages 16-44 found that among women, those who were married reported the most sexual-functioning problems (lack of libido, pain during sex, trouble climaxing), while among men, it was the single ones who had the most issues. "Researchers speculated that child rearing is often the culprit for married women, while markers for sexual difficulties among men included having paid for sex or having contracted a sexually transmitted disease within the previous five years."

The two characteristics that boded well for a person's sexual happiness were an ability to talk to their partners about sex and "sexual competence" (i.e. an "absence of duress" and using reliable contraception) when they lost their virginity.

"The goal was to 'go beyond the rather crude notion that early intercourse is a negative experience and to consider the circumstances," study author Catherine Mercer told Elle. "If the individual was 'sexually competent' early intercourse may have been positive."

It's hard to imagine the U.S. government funding a study like this.

Lori Leibovich

Lori Leibovich is a contributing editor at Salon and the former editor of the Life section.

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