by Karen Bouris
Conari Press, 1995
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Feb 28th 2005
The First Time is a short
book setting the results of a survey in which over 150 women of ages 13 to 74
reported on their first experiences of sex. It is set out in eleven chapters,
mainly divided into different kinds of experience. "Wedding Nights--Or
Almost" tells the stories of women whose first sex was with the man who
became their husbands; "Pressure From All Directions" is devoted to
women who felt an obligation to do it; "Just Get It Over With" is
about women who were tired of being virgins; and other chapters are relate the
experience of women who were raped, women who had sex with women, and women
whose first time was with a man they were in love with. The descriptions tend
to be brief and focus on the circumstances or the crucial event. Some of the
women explain their feelings but since the passages are generally about half a
page or less, readers do not learn much about what the episode meant to the
women. The methodology is reminiscent of Shere Hite's in The Hite Report: A
Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality, and so it is very readable but there
are plenty of reasons to question the objectivity of the results. Bouris
suggests that the book will be useful to girls and parents who want to prepare
for the special occasion, but while it is a worthy aim, it is hard to imagine
exactly how this book would help. Furthermore, at this stage, over a decade
after its publication, it may be a little dated, especially given the reports
in the press in recent years of sexual exploration and games in early teens.
Indeed, a book devoted to young people's feelings about more general sexual
activity and the role it plays in their lives would be more instructive than
this one that restricts itself to sexual intercourse. At the end of the book, Bouris
does argue that maybe too much is made of "losing one's virginity"
but she doesn't follow through on that in her research. Given the concern
expressed about precocious sexual activity, teen drinking and drug abuse,
sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy, there is certainly room on the
market for a more thorough book setting the current meanings and emotions
associated with losing one's sexual innocence.
© 2005 Christian
Perring. All rights reserved.
Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities
Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also
editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on
philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.