The Relationship Between Sexual Debut and Eating Attitudes




May, Caroline

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Sexual debut is defined as the first time an individual engages in penetrative sexual intercourse. This experience, if negative, has been associated with adverse outcomes such as substance abuse, delinquency, depressive symptoms, and negative self-schemas. The purpose of this study was to expand the literature on sexual debut by exploring specific aspects of sexual debut (ie. age at sexual debut, and nonconsensual or consensual sexual debut) and their relationship with eating attitudes and behaviors. Participants (N=448) completed a single session online survey that measured sexual debut, self-esteem, body satisfaction, body esteem and eating attitudes and behaviors. A nonconsensual sexual encounter at sexual debut significantly predicted higher levels of disordered eating attitudes and behaviors. This relationship was mediated by variables of self-esteem and body satisfaction. Understanding sexual debut as a contributor to disordered eating and other variables that affect this relationship can be valuable in expanding the literature on the development of disordered eating as well as women’s sexual health and well-being.


LCSH Subject Headings