In an ideal world, no one would regret their informed, consensual sexual choices -- or feel like their sex lives need to fall in line with what's stereotypically "expected" from men and women. Unfortunately, we're not there yet.
In a study published in the October 2013 issue of Archives of Sexual Behavior, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin, analyzed data from three different studies, one of which included over 24,000 participants. They found that men and women had very different regrets about their sexual pasts. While men tended to regret the sexual adventures they hadn't pursued, female participants expressed regret over the things that they had done.
The most common regrets for women were:
1. Losing their virginity to the wrong partner (24 percent of respondents)
2. Cheating on a present or past partner (23 percent)
3. Moving too fast sexually (20 percent)
The most common regrets for men were entirely different:
1. Failing to make a move on a prospective sexual partner (27 percent of respondents)
2. Not being more sexually adventurous in their youth (23 percent)
3. Not being more sexually adventurous when single (19 percent)
The researchers posit that these differences are evolutionary -- i.e. that men are more likely to regret not having sown their wild oats, whereas women are more likely to regret casual sex because of possible reproductive or emotional repercussions. However, lead author Andrew Galperin has admitted that cultural standards likely play a significant role, too.
"We do not doubt that social norms, such as a sexual 'double standard,' play a major role in sexual regret," Galperin said in a Nov. 25 press release. "But these norms themselves might have roots in the ancient selection pressures shaping women's and men's minds."
For example, the intense cultural importance placed on women's sexual choices, specifically when and how they lose their virginity could contribute to the large number of women who report regretting who they had their "first time" with.
"I think that we’re all trapped in these stereotypes," Therese Shechter, director of "How To Lose Your Virginity," told HuffPost in May 2012. "Part of it is just millennia of double standards. But I also think we see these [ideas] reflected back to us through our popular culture. It’s pretty narrow, pretty shallow and pretty limited."
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