Both male and female adolescents experience shifts in overall satisfaction with their appearances after having sex for the first time, according to a study published in the journal Adolescence.
Researchers found that in the short term, male subjects were more satisfied with their body image after having sex for the first time, while female subjects were less satisfied with their appearance in the same situation.
This trend wasn't apparent in the long run, though, as women maintained a better body image over time than their male counterparts.
Although campaigns promote safe sex among teens to limit unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, little research has looked at the psychological effects of having sexual intercourse for the first time. In addition, the authors point out, very few studies have focused on men and women in late adolescence — teens roughly 18 years old.
In the study, researchers surveyed 100 first-year college students who were abstinent at the beginning of the study but had sexual intercourse for the first time during the study's year and a half span. Subjects were asked whether they had engaged in sexual intercourse and answered questions about their overall satisfaction with their appearance.
Similar to previous research on younger adolescents, male subjects reported an overall higher satisfaction with their appearance after having sex for the first time, while female subjects reported the opposite.
Admitting more research is needed, the study's authors still think cultural influences might account for these differences.
Since having sex is often seen as a way for young men to prove their manhood, they write, it seems "doing it" for the first time would boost a male adolescent's image of himself.
Also, because of women's tendency to be more selective in choosing sexual partners, male subjects may receive validation from being chosen by a member of the opposite sex, the researchers say.
Taking a stab at why female subjects were less happy with their appearance after having sex for the first time isn't easy either. The researchers speculate that women's intense focus on their appearance — fed by unrealistic portrayals of women in media messages — is probably one of many factors.