My first sexual intercourse experience

Think back to your first sexual intercourse experience. Actually don’t think.. notice the sensations that come up in your body right now: warm glow all over, sudden pelvic  contraction, heart pounding , throat constricting, head throbbing plus plus . Merely checking into your body will be enough to tell you whether or not that first intercourse experience was positive and consensual or forced and non consensual. And if your body is giving you mixed ambivalent sensations, honour that. You may well be pretty confused as to whether or not your first penetrative experience was actually wanted or unwanted. Perhaps it was wanted – but not at that particular time , and not with that particular person . Take a breath as we talk about this experience.
At the outset I want to acknowledge that for most women first  penetration into the vagina can be painful . This eases with time .  For men , first penetration can be disappointing , even devastating , as erections are lost and ejaculation happens way too fast. Let’s push past this natural occurrence  and focus specifically on reflecting whether or not your first sexual penetrative experience was forced or not.
Sexual coercion has been defined as the act of forcing (or attempting to force) another individual, through violence, threats, verbal insistence, deception, cultural expectations or economic circumstances, to engage in sexual behaviour against his or her will.
This definition sounds so clear cut . Yet you and I know that first time is messy. Perhaps alcohol /drug induced and driven by many other factors that are not so clear to define. When asking  why do so many young people engage at about age 12 for girls and 11 for boys, in forced first time sexual penetration , which comes with a high HIV risk, we find our answer right here, in that uncomfortable spot to which we always return.  Namely, the intersections of  gender, power, toxic masculinity and socialised silence  in women so prevalent  in  South Africa.

Consider this fascinating piece of research : as mentioned, various gender roles, attitudes, and practices in South Africa create an environment that fosters submission and silence in females and hegemony and coercion in males.

This study  assessed potential gender differences in beliefs about forced sex and in prevalence of reported forced sex among high school students (N = 764) in KwaZulu-Natal. Results showed that significantly more boys were sexually active (26 %) than girls (12 %) and that boys experienced earlier sexual debut by over a year.

Boys also held a more positive view about forced sex than girls since they associated it more often with signs of love, as an appropriate way to satisfy sexual urges, and as acceptable if the girl was financially dependent on the boy. The perception that peers and friends considered forced sex to be an effective way to punish a female partner was also more common among boys. On the other hand, boys were less knowledgeable about the health and legal consequences of forced sex,

Questions for you to ponder :

  • Describe your first sexual intercourse experience
  • Would you define it as forced or consensual ?
  • Looking back now, would you still consider it consensual ?
  • Do you have any regrets about your first time?
  • How old were you ?
  •  As a woman, do you have any significant  health problems?

Discussing first sexual intercourse is not a trite conversation.

Sexual coercion is increasingly receiving attention as an important public health issue owing to its association with adverse health and social outcomes

Here is why .

Early sexual debut among young women and men (commonly defined as having had first sexual intercourse at or before age 14 years) is associated with risks to sexual and reproductive health.

These include risky sexual behaviours such as multiple partners, sex under the influence of alcohol or drugs, unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. Early sexual debut not only increases risks to sexual and reproductive health but is also associated with experiences of sexual coercion.

Adverse health consequences of sexual coercion among young people have been reported .These include self-destructive behaviours such as unprotected sex, non-use of condoms and early non-consensual sexual intercourse.

In severe cases sexual coercion culminates in prostitution and psychological problems (depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal ideation), and low self-esteem leading to inability to avoid or refuse unwanted sexual advances and/or negotiate safe sexual behaviours.

Social outcomes include acceptance of violence, especially towards women, adherence to traditional gender roles such as male dominance, poor educational achievement as a result of withdrawal from school, and inability to build adult partnerships with loss of marriage prospects.

According to a recent study in JAMA Internal Medicine.,  experts estimate that over 3.3 million women in the United States are forced or coerced into their first sexual experience,

Like South African women, these women also have higher rates of reproductive, gynecologic, and general health issues later,

The findings are based on data from 13,310 women aged 18 to 44 who responded to the National Survey of Family Growth between 2011 and 2017. Conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this survey addresses general and reproductive health, among other topics.

After adjustments, 6.5% of the respondents said that their first sexual experience was not voluntary.

Assailants coerced the women in a variety of ways. Approximately 56% of the respondents said their assailant used verbal pressure, and 46% were physically held down. About a quarter of the women were physically threatened or physically harmed.

A number of health outcomes were more common in women who experienced forced sexual initiation:

  • Unwanted first pregnancy
  • Abortion
  • Endometriosis
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Problems with ovulation and menstruation
  • Illicit drug use
  • Fair or poor health status
  • Difficulty completing tasks owing to a physical or mental health condition

Women who had had forced experiences were also more likely to:

  • Be nonwhite
  • Have been born outside the United States
  • Have incomes below the poverty level
  • Lack a college education

One may ask why such very worrying and serious health outcomes. The authors of the JAMA study state: ” Our findings are compatible with the hypothesis that experiencing sexual violence at a time of heightened psychological and physical vulnerability may have long-term deleterious sequelae.”

Consequently, health education programs are needed to inform both boys and girls about the risks of early sexual debut which increases risk of  forced sex, to convince boys and their friends about its inappropriateness and get  girls to empower themselves to avoid forced sex.

It’s a big ask but worth investing time and money into  the  important conversation with your child of   delaying his/her/they first sexual penetration and how not  to be seduced into forced sex.

Contact me for any more information about  Your First Sexual Penetration

 

 

 


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