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​Things You Learn as a Virgin in Your 20s

I'm approaching the twilight of my youth. and I still haven't done the deed. "Better act fast," I think to myself, which is a terrible mentality to have.
Photo by Flickr user Jennifer Lee

It's everywhere. From movie posters to music on the radio to commercials for everything from cars to clothing, sex is ever-present in the marketing schemes of our corporate overlords. As much as virgins try to ignore it, society seems keen on rubbing its corrupt genitals in our innocent faces.

Except, I'm not buying it. I'm 25, and I'm still a virgin.

For many people who have reached this point in their life without doing the deed, there's a degree of choice involved: They're "saving themselves" for religious reasons, or waiting for "the one." Those people might still have a pleasant, fulfilling first time. But if you're like me—meaning, celibacy isn't your intended goal—then you quickly start to realize that your first sexual encounter will probably be awkward, rushed, and riddled with false expectations.


The journey toward sexual intercourse is full of other realizations, too. Here are a few of them:

You Feel Like You're Having a Mid-Life Crisis
Settling into my mid 20s, I thought I was immune to having the kind of anxiety that comes with growing older. I was making peace with the slightly thinning (not balding, dammit) spot on the back of my head and the fact that I now inexplicably gain a pound of fat with each passing birthday. But when it comes to my sex life, which is nonexistent, I'm starting to panic. I'm approaching the twilight of my youth and I still haven't done the deed. Better act fast, I think to myself, which is a terrible mentality to have.

This kind of panic means going on dates with as many people as possible, often without feeling a real connection with them, and yet desperately wanting to. It's the same kind of hurried feeling I imagine women get when they feel like their "biological clocks are ticking."

When you're a twentysomething virgin, the best-case scenario is that the women you date will decline your proposition for a one-night stand. If a woman is friendly after a first date, then you risk latching on. And when she inevitably lets you down, you'll feel the real symptoms that people experience after ending a lengthy relationship—except that it hasn't been a lengthy relationship at all. This kind of emotional yo-yoing leaves you wanting to give up on the relationships altogether and ready to end your virginity any way you can, just to shut up your friends.


Your Friends Will Tease You, but They Don't Really Care
People are always surprised when they learn I'm a virgin, and I can hear the pause as they try to wrap their head around this discovery. It's almost as if I've told them that I've never watched television—it's so unfathomable, so foreign, that it takes people a second to think about what that must be like. Eventually, people kind of ease up and start brainstorming which of their friends they can hook me up with.

That's not to say my friends understand why I'm a virgin. It doesn't seem all that complicated to them, since they got it out of the way as teenagers in the basement listening to the Postal Service or whatever. At the end of the day, though, nobody is particularly mean about it. At worst, the conversations go something like: "Look, it's OK to be a virgin—you'll find somebody someday," which is basically the same way you'd tell someone with depression that they still have so much to live for. The reassurance feels disingenuous, and it's meaningless without proof.

Your Expectations Are All Wrong, Because Your Only Context for Sex Is Porn
Wait, you're telling me girls IRL don't all have perfect breasts, butts, and stomachs, or enjoy being in the most awkward, spine-ruining positions I saw in porn? Next you're going to tell me the kung fu moves I learned by mimicking Jackie Chan won't work in an actual street fight.

My relationship to porn has been strangely tumultuous, and how often I use it seems to coincide with how blue I'm feeling (that's not accounting for the state of my balls). If I'm feeling motivated enough to revel in the single life and all that it entails—focusing on passion projects, fulfilling professional obligations, staying in shape so I feel attractive enough to talk to someone—then I'm more likely to refrain from watching it. Occasionally, however, I go through a bout of negativity that is accompanied by loneliness and makes all things I have going for me seem like futile distractions.


Sometimes, though, porn is all a virgin has. It is the digital equivalent to the booty call for the sexless. While I have no idea what I should expect from the real act, I don't need my friends' anecdotes to realize porn is an exaggeration of the real thing—even though I'm still not sure what exactly the real thing feels like.

Virginity Puts a Lot of Pressure on Whom You Date
When you wait this long to lose your virginity, it builds a lot of hype on how it will eventually happen. One-night stands are basically out of the question. While part of me wants to lose my virginity to a stranger just to get it out of the way, I just can't bring myself to do it. It seems weird to me to hook up with a girl—who probably has way more experience—only once, knowing that both of us will probably leave unsatisfied. It's not like I'm waiting for "the one"—just someone who is capable of understanding.

Oh, you want my advice on when you should spill your secret? Well… actually, I'm still working on that. I rarely go on second dates, and the last time I revealed my secret to a girl, we basically became good friends. Still, I'd rather keep looking for someone who is understanding than go the one-night stand route.

Joking About Sex Is Always Uncomfortable
Have you ever listened to people talking about sex? Or, better yet, have you ever listened to yourself talking about sex? Almost everything the average person has to say about the act is completely trite, a way to derail otherwise meaningful conversations:


"So, what did you think of the movie?"

"A well-crafted narrative with excellent production value."

"Yeah, and Channing Tatum is so fuckable, right?"

That said, I wish I could join in these conversations freely. I wish I could use a that's-what-she-said joke without feeling like both a pervert and a fraud. It's not even that everyone knows or assumes I'm a virgin, but I'm sure I'm giving away some signals by my visible discomfort when participating in conversations about sex.

Being a Virgin Is (Mostly) Your Choice
I understand how nice it is to feel like you are the victim who has been robbed of something you're owed. In this case, it's easy to believe we're all owed love and physical intimacy and that by not getting any, we have all the right in the world to be angry. But for the most part, that's not the case: You're the one keeping it in your pants.

Throughout my life, my reason for remaining a virgin has boiled down to a lack of self-esteem. During my peak virginity-losing years, girls approached my friends but never me, and that crushed my confidence. Now, I suffer from an anxiety disorder that essentially makes every potential romantic or sexual encounter turn out like this: Oh, I see you've met a beautiful person. Think you're going to get lucky tonight? Ahaha! Think again, you prick! It's a vicious cycle, and I really need to overcome it before I can think about forming an emotional—let alone physical—with anyone.

Don't get me wrong: There are plenty of good reasons for not losing your virginity. Perhaps you're doing it for religious reasons. Perhaps you're saving it for the highest bidder or for an art project. Perhaps you're trying to focus on saving the planet or something, without the distraction of sex. Even Hugh Hefner was a late bloomer at the age of 22, so let's not be too hard on ourselves.

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