NO REGRETS: “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” The influence of romantic love on girls’ first experiences of consensual heterosexual intercourse: Young women share their stories.
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The purpose of this thesis is to explore the relationship that love and romance have to young women’s experiences of and decisions to engage in heterosexual intercourse for the first time. Inspired by Sharon Thompson’s (1995) book Going All The Way, I wanted to listen to young women’s stories about love, romance and sex in order to better understand their first sexual experiences. I have interviewed six women based on their age (18-23), on whether their first experiences with sex were both heterosexual and consensual, and on whether their decisions to have ‘sex’ for the first time were influenced by a romantic relationship. I analyse the interview transcripts, contextualizing them within the relevant literature, and explore the ways popular culture and media might have influenced the girls in my study. I am concerned with intercourse because I want to gain a better understanding of young women’s experiences with it and to recognize what love and sex might mean to them. I was surprised to find that, even with third wave feminist ‘empowerment’ discourse and hyper-sexualized media and popular culture, the six women I spoke with felt that sex is about an expression of love and a “deeper connection of intimacy” (Krissy) rather than about empowerment or the fun of ‘doing it’. Even though I required that participants needed to have been influenced by a romantic relationship in their decisions to have intercourse for the first time, it was interesting to see the extent that they valued love in their relationships when love was not part of the criteria required to participate. The findings from this study will be useful to sex educators, including myself, who work with young women as well as to parents who might be able to worry less about their daughters, knowing that some girls are looking for love and commitment when they engage in intercourse, not simply casual sex or hook-ups.