From Sexual Debut to First Union. Where Do Young People in France Meet Their First Partners?

By Michel Bozon, Wilfried Rault, Catriona Dutreuilh


Twenty-five years after the survey on couple formation (Formation des couples, INED, 1984), in a context of mass educational enrollment, new modes of communication and lengthening periods of preconjugal sexuality, this article analyses changes in the settings where individuals meet their first sexual partners and first life partners. The findings are based on data from a survey on the context of sexuality in France (Contexte de la sexualité en France, CSF) conducted by INSERM and INED on a sample of 12,364 persons in 2005-2006. One new feature of contemporary sexuality is the fact that the first sexual partner is less and less frequently the first life partner. To study the specific characteristics of these two types of encounter, the authors study the places where respondents meet their first sexual partner and their first life partner, i.e. the person with whom he/she enters a first union. While the distribution of settings where respondents met their first sexual partner varies by sex (more often at school or university for men than for women), this is not the case for the meeting place of the first life partner. The article then examines the trajectories from the first to the second meeting place and shows that it varies by individuals’ social characteristics and by sex. The trajectories suggest that among women and among the most highly educated respondents of both sexes, certain elements of strategy may be used in the choice of meeting place.


  • meeting places
  • sexuality
  • couple
  • gender
  • education
  • qualifications
  • youth
  • France
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