Going Most of the Way: "Technical Virginity" among Young Americans

Jeremy Uecker, University of Texas at Austin
Nicole Angotti, University of Texas at Austin
Mark Regnerus, University of Texas at Austin

Explanations for technical virginity have been based on weak empirical evidence and considerable conjecture. Using data from the National Survey of Family Growth, we examine technical virginity and its motivations among respondents aged 15–25. Despite perceptions to the contrary, the results suggest that religious adolescents are less likely than their counterparts to opt for non-vaginal sex over total abstinence. Abstinence pledgers who are virgins are neither more nor less likely than their counterparts to substitute non-vaginal sex for intercourse net of their (higher) religiosity. Moreover, religion and morality are the weakest motivators of sexual substitution among young people who have not had vaginal sex. Preserving technical virginity is instead more common among virgins who are driven by a desire to avoid potential life-altering consequences, like pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, and those who are simply waiting for the right person and time to come along before engaging in vaginal sex.

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Presented in Session 108: Healthy Sexual Development in Adolescence