Timing of Puberty and Sexuality in Men and Women


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Abstract

We examined the relations among timing of puberty, timing of first experience of sexual arousal, strength of sex drive, and sexual attitudes and behaviors in 277 men (M age, 22.4 years) and women (M age, 21.8 years). Kinsey had suggested that earlier maturers have a stronger sex drive and, therefore, engage in a higher frequency of sexual behaviors (including same-sex contacts) than do later maturers. The purpose of this study was to test Kinsey's claim. Participants completed questionnaires on pubertal timing, timing of first experience of sexual arousal, sex drive in adulthood, sexual attitudes (e.g., sociosexuality or degree of comfort with casual sex), and sexual behaviors (e.g., lifetime number of sexual partners). Timing of puberty (i.e., emergence of secondary sex characteristics) was related to these variables for men but not for women. Timing of first sexual arousal was related to several aspects of adult sexuality in both sexes, but particularly in women. Earlier first sexual arousal was associated with having a higher sex drive, a less restricted sociosexual orientation, and with having had more sexual partners than was later first sexual arousal. Earlier first sexual arousal, but not timing of puberty, was related to sexual orientation for women only. We discuss classes of explanations for these results.

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