Does First Sex Really “Just Happen?” A Retrospective Exploratory Study of Sexual Debut Among American Adolescents

Lisa D. Lieberman, Eva S. Goldfarb, Samantha Kwiatkowski, Paul Santos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


First sex marks a significant transition for most adolescents, yet teens often report that it was unplanned. Seventy-four college students participated in exploratory focus groups about their first sex. Although initially asked whether their first sex was spontaneous or planned, many participants revealed evidence of forethought or anticipation, signifying a third option, anticipation. This study suggests that the development and timing of sexual health messages should build on the apparent, albeit often unacknowledged, planning and thought that accompany the transition to first sex. Specifically, during the time immediately preceding first sex, young people might be particularly open to such messages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-256
Number of pages20
JournalAmerican Journal of Sexuality Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2017



  • Gender
  • qualitative methods
  • romantic relationships
  • sexual debut
  • sexuality

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