Physical vs Emotional Motivation of Virginity Loss

The emotional and physical influences behind the transition from virgin to non-virgin status amongst African American youth will be explored in this study. The subjects consist of 22 college students (18 – 25 years old) attending Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas. Each participant was first provided full disclosure, and informed that the study concerned sexual behavior, sexual motivation, as well as sexual arousal and desire. Participants completed the Sexual Arousal and Desire Inventory as well as the Virginity/Non-Virginity Questionnaire. 64% of women were encouraged by emotional factors to have sex for the first time and 64% of men were encouraged by physical factors.

Crossing the threshold from virgin to non-virgin is a part of maturity and growing up, a natural right of passage that we all cross at one time or another, and in current times usually before marriage. The exact reasons behind the decision to have sexual intercourse for the first time may differ amongst every individual, but it is clear that the reasons often fit into two categories: physical and emotional. Physical motivation being defined as a reason to act that is in relation to the body rather than the mind or feelings, and emotional motivation for this study is defined as a reason to act that is in relation to strong feelings. During the duration of this study, the researcher will be exploring the motivation of African American men and women to have sex for the first time. The main concern of the study is to determine whether crossing the threshold into non-virginity is the result of physical or emotional aspects in the minds of African American men and women respectively. Also, factors such as subjective arousal and desire in African American men and women will be assessed. The researcher will use the background and environment of the African American men and women being compared when attempting to determine the motivation to experience sexual intercourse.

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Much of the research used in the study has linked sexual intercourse experiences to personality and social variables such as conservatism (Joe, Brown, &Jones 1976; Thomas 1975). Factors other than race also play a role in determining whether the motivation is emotional or physical, because of this one must also take into consideration the proximity of the ability to be aroused, desires for sexual intercourse partner(s), as well as the adolescent’s involvement with peers.

More specifically the current study will concentrate on African Americans at Prairie View A&M University. Considering that it is a historically black institution of higher learning, the location and the thesis for the study apply directly to the vast majority of students who attend the University. Both the emotional and mental response to sex for the first time, reasons of even being motivated to cross the threshold into adult hood will be analyzed. All influences that African American men and women share when it comes to motivation towards intercourse for the first time as well as differences will be taken into consideration. Taking into account that all of the research done for this study will be based solely on the African American community one must keep in mind that the results pertaining to sex are only reflective of one race, and do not reflect the motivated reasoning behind sex for the first time when it comes to all adolescents in general. Although one specific group will be pinpointed there can still be differences of background within one culture. In order to eliminate major environmental differences, all subjects studied will be Prairie View A&M University students.

The study also observes and takes into account the obstacles and pressures to have sex placed upon adolescents by either someone of their same gender or the opposite gender. Each area such as influence, background, and gender are those of concern. The mission behind conducting the study of motivation for African American men and women to have sex is to gain further knowledge of the matter, through which may come the possibility to divert youth away from engaging in premarital sex. It is believed that once one can understand and pinpoint the causes for adolescents to cross the threshold into non-virginity, then steps can be made towards prolonging the cross over.

The hypothesis for this study is that African American women will show a African American women will show a significantly higher rate of being more emotionally driven to have sex their first time, whereas African American males will show a significantly higher rate of having more of a physical motivation to cross the threshold into non-virginity.

Literature review

In a longitudinal research study done by Costa, Donovan, Jessor L., Jessor R (1983) it was found the occurrence of premarital intercourse was increasing and the age of onset sexual intercourse was on the decline. The focus of the study was to use the final data to predict the age of adolescence at the time of transition to non-virginity. The 430 participants for the study were randomly selected while in grades, 7, 8, and 9 in 1969. All participants were virgins during the 1st phase of the study during which they completed a 50 page questionnaire. By the final stage of the study participants had reached the ages of 23, 24, and 25 in 1979, and were then asked to complete a 60 page questionnaire, with an average completion time of 21/2 hours. It was reported that 93% of the participants had engaged in sexual intercourse by 1979. The motivational factor most commonly reported was being in “a steady dating relationship” (40% of the men and 60% of the women). 85 % of the participants cited reasons such as love and affection being important where as 24% cited things such as self esteem, coping, fulfilling one’s role obligation, or other manipulative reasons.

The average age at the time of onset sexual intercourse was 17.7 years for women and 18 years for men. One limitation of this study is that it does not take into consideration the environmental factors surrounding the participants. These findings show that adolescences were beginning to have sexual intercourse at young ages, even in 1979. With the increased amount of sex that adolescences have been exposed to in the thirty-two years since then, it is important to again review the transition of adolescents from the transition to non-virginity. Some of the limitations of this study include, some of the time-of-onset reports, were inconsistent, causing a number of participants to be dropped from the analyses, the analyses done was based on a small sample as compared to the population, and most importantly the sample was not representative of all cultures and races, including African Americans.

The current study takes a focus on African American males and females and their motivations towards sexual intercourse. Not much research has been done on just this one race alone, but in a study done by Bynum (2007) she set out to examine the roles of college, race, and mother-daughter relationships as they apply to African American females attitudes towards premarital sex. Bynum’s study came from the observation that it is families who play a major role in shaping the attitudes and motivations that influence African American adolescence to engage in sexual-intercourse. It was hypothesized that less conservative maternal attitudes about premarital sex and more communication about sexual topics would predict more permissive attitudes about premarital sex. The research done by Bynum (2007) is important because it takes steps toward furthering and understand all environmental aspects of African American adolescents, where as previous research done in the area had been limited to African American youth living mainly in more prosperous environments. “Research also suggests that positive

African American mother- daughter relationships during adolescence

delay pregnancy (Scott, 1993).” (Bynum 2007). This statement alone is important to the current research as the delaying of pregnancy may come as a part of delaying the onset of first time sexual intercourse.

The participants in the study (Bynum 2007) consisted of seventy-five heterosexual females, attending and HBCU or PWI, and their mothers. The Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment (IPPA; Arms den & Greenberg, 1987) was used to measure general communication. A seven-item questionnaire was also used to measure the mother’s communication about sexual topics, such as menstruation, dating, birth control, and premarital sex. Of the seventy-five female students 57% reported having sexual intercourse, with the age at first intercourse ranging from 12 to 18 years. The results of Bynum’s study did support the hypotheses, and reveal that general communication between mothers and daughters about sex led to less sexual engagement by the daughters. This study helps to reveal the importance of parents educating their daughters about risks that come with having sex, thus helping them to make more informed decisions.

In Cross & D’Augelli’s (1975) study they set out to determine motivational predictors of sex, and the causes of maintaining virginity and losing it. The participants included 76 unmarried college couples as well as 119 unmarried and single college women ranging in age from 17 to 22 years old. The participants were asked to complete several inventories including; Moral Dilemmas Questionnaire (Kohlberg, 1958), Forced-Choice Guilt Inventory (Mosher, 1968), and Sex Experience Inventory (Brady & Levitt, 1965), as well as go through individual interviews with a woman graduate research assistant.

Of the 119 women who participated 39% of the women admitted to being non virgins. Sex-guilt was found to be a forefront reason for the transition from virgin to non-virgin, more so than morality. Yet 61% of the non-virgin women expressed that they mad the transition with some one they felt very much in love with and had discussed sex with their partner before engaging in the act of sexual intercourse. And 43% of the women who stated that they were virgins expressed being open to engaging in sexual intercourse under the right circumstances, including meeting the “right” person.

Both experience and guilt were connected with sexual moral reasoning for men and women. The results of this study suggested that it is the males in relationships who play a heavier influence than their female counterparts in setting sexual standards for the couple. These results are important in finding the power and driving force of men when it comes to sex. One limitation of this study is that it did not dig deeper into the reasoning behind the subjects guilt. Also the generalizability of the sample is limited to Caucasian Americans.

The role of social control factors plays an essential role with girls and sexual intercourse. Koch (1988) examined the relationship of first intercourse to later sexual functioning and found that over half of females reported the experience as painful, a result suggesting that negative emotions might accompany the event. Zelnik and Shah’s (1983) study of first intercourse occurred both during and after the adolescence found the females had older partners than males and that younger adolescents were less likely to use contraception.


Prairie View A&M University was chosen because of it’s high minority population, 89% of which are African American. The subjects consist of 22 college students (18 – 25 years old) attending Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas. Students were recruited through verbal summons, the online web portal that is used to assist students and professors, known as ecourses, and also through postings made assessable to only Prairie View A&M students on the two social networks known as Facebook and Twitter. Of the 56 students to access the online survey ,11 male and 11 female students of African American decent were randomly selected to participate. All of the students to be informed of the study were from the main camps, located in Waller County approximately 40 miles of Northwest Houston. Students who failed to select “yes” when asked for consent in participation, were not of African American decent, and were older than 25 years of age where excluded from the study, and thanked for their interest in participation. Informed consent was obtained from each participant before they were able to take any part in the study. No incentive was given for students participation, all cooperation was of the student’s own free will and interest to be a part of the study. Full participant demographics can be found on page 13 of the document.


Each participant was first provided full disclosure, and informed that the study concerned sexual behavior, sexual motivation, as well as sexual arousal and desire. informed consent forms were provided to the participants to sign electronically, in addition to consenting the participants also had to print out their own copy of the form to be kept for their own personal records, before they could continue to the next step. Each participant was asked to complete a Likert- type inventory and an open ended questionnaire through the online Qualtrics website URL provided to them by the researcher. All participants were assured of confidentiality and anonymity, but were still provided with the chance to withdraw from the study if they chose at any given time. Once subjects logged onto the URL provided to them by the researcher they were to complete a demographic questionnaire, The Sexual Arousal and Desire Inventory (SADI), and The Virginity/Non-Virginity Threshold Questionnaire.

Research Design

The independent variable is the gender of the participants. The dependent variables are the physical motivation, emotional motivation, and virginity status. The gender of the participants has two levels, male or female, and the transition from virginity to non-virginity are also two levels. ANOVA will be used to complete the data analysis and correlation.


The Demographics. The demographic questionnaire was composed merely to acquire informative facts about the characteristics of the sample. It was also used to exclude any and all participants who did not meet the requirements of being African American or were over the age of 25. The questionnaire identified age, race, religion, level of education, and sexual orientation of each participant.

The Sexual Arousal and Desire Inventory (Toledano & Pfaus 2006). This inventory was designed to assess subjective sexual arousal and desire in men and women. The SADI is a reliable and valid multidimensional descriptor-based inventory. The 5-point Likert scale called for the men and women participants to rate 54 descriptors as they relate to their normal experiences of sexual arousal and desire. Results of the SADI were also used to correlate sexual desires with sexual motivation. The use of the SADI comes because the ability to be aroused and have desires are both physical and emotional factors that to some extent play a part for the onset of first sex. When participants were asked to complete the SADI for this study, they were asked to recall the last time they felt aroused. The results SADI will also reveal participants feelings towards their first time of sexual intercourse, as they fit into four factors including, Evaluative (or cognitive emotional) component, Physiological (autonomic and endocrine) component, Motivational component, and Negative/Aversive” (or inhibitory) component of sexual desire and arousal.

The Virginity/Non-Virginity Threshold Questionnaire was created specifically for this research by the researcher. The open ended questionnaire was designed by the researcher to gain specific insight about the subjects intimate experiences, their personal reflections of those experiences, and motivational factors that influenced their sexual experiences from their own personal outlook. The participants were given 3 emotional factors (love, peer pressure, and wanting to please their partner) to choose from, as well as 4 physical factors (personal physical needs, force, experience, and physical attraction) to select as their reason for having sex for the first time. A qualitative methodological approach was taken towards the correlation to determine the relationships between college men and women being physically and/or emotionally driven to lose their virginity. There were three possible results for the correlational study: a positive correlation, a negative correlation, and no correlation.

Participant Demographics

Data Analysis

The 54 descriptors of the SADI were clustered into four factors, including Evaluative, Negative, Physiological, and Motivational. The participants ratings (0-5) were scored 1-6 respectively, with the exception of the Negative descriptors which were reversely scored 6-1. Participants with scores 202 or higher were considered to be highly subjective to arousal and desirability, where as those with scores of 201 or lower were considered to have a low subjectivity to arousal and desire. 50% of all the participants scored highly subjective. Both Men and Women’s SADI scores were calculated separately and can be found on page 15. There showed to be no significant correlation between subjectivity of arousal and desire and virginity loss.

On the Virginity/Non-Virginity Questionnaire participants were given 7 factors to choose from as their reasons for engaging in sexual intercourse for the first time. The 7 factors were split into 2 sub categories for analysis: Physical, and Emotional. Physical; physical looks of partner, being physically aroused, force, and experience gain. Emotional; wanting to please partner, peer pressure, and being in love. 27% of women selected physical factors with 33% of them selecting force as the reason for their first time, 64% selected emotional factors, and 9% stated that they had never engaged in sexual intercourse, but selected being in love and married as the reasons that would lead to them having sexual intercourse. Of the men to take the questionnaire 27% selected emotional factors, 64% selected physical factors, and 9% selecting factors from both the emotional and physical categories.

The results also show that the older a female was when she lost her virginity the more likely she was to have a physical motivation for engaging in intercourse, and the younger she was the more likely emotional motivations such as love and pleasing her partner caused her to engage in intercourse. For men there was no significant correlation between age and emotional/physical factors for losing their virginity. The researcher can accept the hypothesis that African American men are more so physically motivated to engage in sexual intercourse for the first time, than are African American women. Also, that African American women are more so emotionally motivated to engage in sexual intercourse for the first time than African American men.


The goal was to identify the emotions and motivations accompanying the first encounter of sexual intercourse and to examine their relationship to selected behaviors and reactions during sex and personal outcome. Many women are apprehensive to engage in sex, but are more likely to agree to coessential sex if they are in committed relationships and will cooperate if there is an emotional attachment to the significant other.


purpose of this study was to gain insight and understanding on the main role playing factors for African American men and women to engage in sexual intercourse for the first time. Even though the hypothesis for the study can be accepted there are still an umber of limitations for the study. This study was only conducted on individual’s that attended Prairie View A&M University. Had the study have included individuals from a vast number of environments and universities, different results might have occurred. Also, only participants between the ages of 18-25 had results that were included in the study. a wider range of ages, could have left room for more individuals who possibly had never engaged in sexual intercourse, or simple of a variety in the results. Since this study was conducted in the rural area of Prairie View, Texas it is possible that more suburban and urban areas of the state would have also yielded different results. People that are classified in the categories of high, middle, and low socioeconomic status often determines the individual’s thoughts towards issues like sexual intercourse. The study was only tested on African Americans. If this particular study was tested on a variety of races such as Hispanics, Caucasians, Chinese, Indians etc. then the findings would have most likely differed. Different cultures and ethnic groups view the act of sexual intercourse another way and therefore this could offer different outcomes. Hofstede’s Four Cultural Dimensions describe power distance, individualism vs. collectivism, masculinity vs. femininity, and uncertainty vs. avoidance (Hofstede, 71). These four dimensions explain in great depth the different prospective that make up people’s culture and believes which will in turn better explain individuals thoughts on whether sexual intercourse is seen as a physical or emotional act. Special emphasis was placed on the academic achievement of the individual in college setting classes. The lack of research done in this area can also be seen as a limitation of the study. Had there have been more research done previously the researcher possibly could have had a stronger base to build upon when conducting her own study, including literature and instruments.

Implications for Future Research

Instead of just focusing on emotional and physical factors for males and females to engage in sexual intercourse for the first time the researcher can also include how environment and upbringing affect an individuals views on sexual intercourse and losing their virginity. There is no absolute way to determine if a subject is being completely honest about the reasons that pushed them into losing their virginity, but using an instrument with more variables and items for the participants to select from can help the researcher to better understand the subjects motivation. Given the influence of social programming and sexual stereotype can have on adolescents, it makes sense that both males and females could simultaneously share both healthy and unhealthy motivations for first intercourse, it is possible for future research to examine and determine the difference between the factors. Further research can be conducted to see if self-esteem factors are highly correlated with the motivation for loss of virginity, and also with the age of men and women at the time of virginity loss.

Participants who waited until 17 or later to engage in sexual intercourse for the first time were asked to give a reason for why those chose to wait, of the 12 participants who were 17 or older when they engaged in sexual intercourse for the first time none of them had parental influences that encouraged them to wait. It would be beneficial to future researchers to take an in-depth look into the family life of adolescents, and the presence or lack there of parental guidance and influence when it comes to sexual intercourse may play a major role in the transition from virgin to non-virgin.


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