Age at first sexual intercourse in France

At age 17, about half of French teenagers have experienced their first sexual intercourse.

With a median age of 17.6 for women and of 17.4 for men in 2010, the gap between the sexes has narrowed to a few months.

A narrower gap between the sexes

In the 1940s, the median age at first sexual intercourse for women, i.e. the age at which half of all women had experienced their sexual debut, was 22 on average, four years later than for men. In the 1960s and 70s, women’s age at first intercourse fell sharply, becoming much closer to that of men, before levelling off in the 1980s and 90s.

Median age at first sexual intercourse. N. Bajos INED teaching kits.

A progressive dissociation between sexual debut and conjugal life

The changes in the 1960s and 70s reflect the progressive dissociation between sexual debut and conjugal life. For women in particular, the first sexual partner is very rarely the first spouse. The fact that age at sexual debut remained stable in the 1980s and 90s is probably the consequence of longer schooling, which delayed emancipation in France and across Europe.
The widespread development of modern contraception in the 1970s and the emergence of AIDS in the mid 1980s had no effect on the timing of first sexual intercourse.

Men and women see things differently

First sexual intercourse still means something very different for men and for women. Men see it as a personal milestone and do not necessarily associate the act with the start of a romantic relationship. They rarely claim to be in love with their first partner who, in a large proportion of cases, is an older woman. For women, on the contrary, it is a sign of emotional commitment. The first partner is always older than her, as is her first spouse.



  • The CSF survey on sexuality in France was conducted by INED and INSERM in 2006. It covered a random sample of 12,364 people aged 18-69 who were interviewed by telephone. The acceptance rate was 75 %.
  • The Fecond survey on sexual and reproductive health was conducted by INED and INSERM in 2010. 5,275 women and 3,373 men, age 15 to 49, were interviewed.
  • Baromètre Santé (health survey) 2010, INPES [FR]

Contact: Michel Bozon, Elise de La Rochebrochard

Online :  November 2014