Send to

Choose Destination
J Sex Res. 2017 Jan;54(1):91-104. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2015.1134424. Epub 2016 Feb 18.

Is "Sexual Competence" at First Heterosexual Intercourse Associated With Subsequent Sexual Health Status?

Author information

a Department of Population Health , London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
b Department of Social Science , Institute of Education, University College London.
c Research Department of Infection and Population Health , University College London.
d Department of Social and Environmental Health Research , London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.


The timing of first sexual intercourse is often defined in terms of chronological age, with particular focus on "early" first sex. Arguments can be made for a more nuanced concept of readiness and appropriateness of timing of first intercourse. Using data from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3), conducted in 2010-2012, this study examined whether a context-based measure of first intercourse-termed sexual competence-was associated with subsequent sexual health in a population-based sample of 17-to 24-year-olds residing in Britain (n = 2,784). Participants were classified as "sexually competent" at first intercourse if they reported the following four criteria: contraceptive protection, autonomy of decision (not due to external influences), that both partners were "equally willing," and that it happened at the "right time." A lack of sexual competence at first intercourse was independently associated with testing positive for human papillomavirus (HPV) at interview; low sexual function in the past year; and among women only, reported sexually transmitted infection (STI) diagnosis ever; unplanned pregnancy in the past year; and having ever experienced nonvolitional sex. These findings provide empirical support for defining the nature of first intercourse with reference to contextual aspects of the experience, as opposed to a sole focus on chronological age at occurrence.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center