Identity and Social Relationships Research Group

University of Lincoln

Not “are or aren’t you”: More or less sex – more or less a virgin


Ava Horowitz from the ISR group has just published a paper, in collaboration with ex-undergraduate Edward Bedford, who collected the data as part of his third year dissertation study at the University of Lincoln.

The paper is titled “Graded Structure in Sexual Definitions: Categorizations of Having “Had Sex” and Virginity Loss Among Homosexual and Heterosexual Men and Women”.

People were asked to rate how far a group of behaviours ‘count’ as sex and as virginity loss. The findings challenge the assumption that defining sexual behaviours is about all or nothing judgments. Instead, there seems to be a hierarchy of acts, with some counting more vs. less than others. In addition, the sexual orientation of the rater was found to affect how some of the acts were rated. The paper offers a theoretical account for its findings, which may be of use to future researchers, policy makers and initiatives promoting health and wellbeing.

The paper is openly accessible at the following link from the website of the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior: 

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