Defining virginity and abstinence: Adolescents' interpretations of sexual behaviors
Purpose—The current study examined adolescent conceptualizations of virginity and abstinence and whether differences in adolescent definitions of these terms differed by age, gender, ethnicity, and sexual experience. Methods—A series of logistic regressions were conducted to examine whether gender, age, ethnicity and sexual experience predicted whether adolescents believed that an individual was still a virgin or abstinent after engaging in genital touching, oral sex, vaginal intercourse, or anal sex. Results—Findings indicated that loss of virginity was linked primarily with vaginal and anal intercourse. While greater proportion of adolescents attributed a loss of abstinence to lower genital touching and oral sex behaviors as well, significant variability emerged in how abstinent behavior was defined. Sexual experience was the strongest predictor of how adolescents defined virginity and abstinence. Conclusions—Significant differences exist in youths' definitions of abstinence and virginity. This suggests that additional attention is needed to ensure a common understanding of these terms in order to achieve successful sexual education and prevention programs.
Published in 2007.