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Trent University Researcher Dr. Terry Humphreys Finds Perceptions of Virginity Relate to Relationship Choices


Findings Have Important Implications for Sexual Education Programs

Thursday, February 12, 2009, Peterborough

According to Trent University psychology professor Dr. Terry Humphreys, virginity is a powerful cognitive schema that has different meanings for people and can affect their relationships choices and other life decisions.

In his recent study of 300 students who had experienced their first sexual encounter, he found that 55 percent saw their virginity as a “process”, or stage of life, that one goes through to become a sexually mature adult, while 35 percent perceived it as a precious “gift” with great value and something to be proud of. Another 10 percent interpreted virginity as a stigma – an embarrassment to be concealed and a burden to free oneself from as soon as practically possible.

While he stresses more research needs to be done in this area, there are implications for sexuality education and risk prevention. “If there are multiple cognitions with respect to virginity, they may not be equally influenced by current sexuality education messages,” said Professor Humphreys, who is also president of the Canadian Sex Research Forum. “For example, it may be far easier to convince a gift individual to practice safer sex, than someone with a stigma mentality, who wants to get it over with at the next available opportunity.”

He also noted some gender differences in the responses. While the “process” orientation was similar for women and men, more women had a “gift” orientation and fewer a “stigma” orientation than men.


For more details about this study, or further information, please contact
Dr. Terry Humphreys at (705) 748-1011, ext. 7773