Ask Dr. Nerdlove by Harris O'Malley

I’m Afraid to Have Sex and I Don’t Know What To Do

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: Recently I have been frustrated, solely with myself. Because in the last few years I’ve lost 40 pounds, made impressive strides in my career for a man my age, and went from not being able to talk to anyone to making classes/groups of people screech in laughter. I say I’m proud of myself because I am, but there’s one last hurdle I need to get over and I’m hoping you can provide perspective.

Women who I consider beautiful, and who I want to sleep with, try to sleep with me, and I freak out (yes I’m a virgin). One of two things happen:

1. I completely begin over-analyzing and ask myself  “Do I want a relationship with this person? Or just casual sex? Will I ruin my chances if I have sex now?” I basically twist myself so backwards that by the time I have made a decision, they have completely moved on.

or

2. I panic and just straight up say “no”. Even when I mean yes! I will admit it stems slightly from a fear of performance, but I’ve been really working to overcome that and don’t really feel like that’s the main problem.

When I take a step back and analyze the situation I walk away with this conclusion: I don’t know if I really want to have sex with someone because I don’t really know what sex is, as stupid as that sounds. Of course I know what it entails physically, but not what it entails on an emotional level.

I know the standard narrative is that men are pressured to have sex with anyone as soon as possible, but I feel as if that’s been reversed. All my good pals tell me I should wait for someone special, but in all honesty I’m horny, and I feel like I’m being pressured to wait for this completely unrealistic fantasy that’s never going to just walk into my life. I want to have the physical act of sex so I can grow and learn emotionally, therefor when someone I do really love comes into the picture I won’t panic like I do right now.

To sum it all up Doc, should I have sex with someone who I do like, but know I won’t end up with in the long run, or am I wasting a valuable emotional moment in my life? Because to be honest the lack of sex has really been dragging on me mentally, I will not say I’m depressed, but I do have some serious slumps sometimes. I get distracted, I become angry at people who I love, and I can get easily agitated at times. These aren’t horrible situations compared to others but I feel like I’m suffering and having anxiety all for something completely natural that people do everyday.

Sincerely,

Dude Who Wants Some Wisdom

DEAR DUDE WHO WANTS SOME WISDOM: First of all: congratulations! You’ve made a lot of progress in your personal development and you’ve taken major strides to become the man you want to be. That’s impressive, and you should be proud of yourself for what you’ve achieved. Which is why it’s kind of a shame that you’re hobbling yourself with these self-limiting beliefs.

I realize that I say this so often that it’s basically a cliche around these parts but… dude, you are seriously overthinking this.

There’re a couple things going on here. The first is that you are dealing with a particular kind of performance anxiety. Normally when I hear from virgin men who are worried about their first time, they’re worried that they’ll be lousy in bed and this reputation will somehow follow them to every woman they’ll ever be interested in… even if she lives in an entirely different city and has absolutely no connection to anyone he’s ever known.

Because women are a telepathic hivemind, I guess. Don’t ask me to explain it, anxiety is never logical.

You, on the other hand are worried about what having sex will do to you. Will you set yourself up for a loveless life because you didn’t have a perfect first time? Will you have ruined your chances of dating someone — either that person, or some person to be named in the future – because you had a casual hook-up? This is getting you so twisted in knots that you’re freaking out over the possibility of banging someone.

The other thing is that you’ve bought into the cultural idea that losing your virginity Means Something. That you should wait for Someone Special — ideally someone you love or at least who’ll net you major props from others for having your first time with them — and have some magical, meaningful experience. Whether it’s the typical right-wing Christian idea that you’re only ever supposed to have sex with one person, ever, or that someone choosing to have sex with you means that you have value, there’re a lot of messages out there that sex has meaning and impact and you need to manage it carefully lest something bad happen. Bad things. Very bad. Don’t ask, they’re so terrifying nobody can really explain ’em to you.

Here’s what losing your virginity means: it means you’ve had sex. That’s it. Everything after that is what you bring to it, not anything inherent to the act itself. Virginity isn’t a state of being, it’s just a case of having never had a particular experience. I’ve never jumped out of a perfectly good airplane, but letting that define who I am as a person would be absurd, as much as believing that doing so would lead to massive changes in my life. After you’ve lost your virginity, you will be the exact same person you were before. The only way it will change you is if you decide to change, a decision you could’ve made at any time. Like Dumbo’s magic feather, all this did was give you permission to unlock the potential that you could’ve accessed at any time, if you’d so chosen.

My recommendation for who to have sex with and when is: when you’re ready and with someone who is worth having sex with. In an ideal world, you want a partner who’ll be considerate of your inexperience, who you can communicate with openly and honestly and who is interested in making sure you have a good time. While you’re more likely to find that in the context of a relationship — romantic, friendship or otherwise — you can find casual partners who would actually be thrilled to be breaking in a newbie. Casual sex doesn’t mean being casual with people’s feelings, after all. So if you have someone you know who’s warm for your form and wants to hook up and you feel like they’re someone who’s worth sleeping with… if it feels right, then by all means, go for it. Similarly, if you decide that you’d rather avoid the question of “well, what if I might want to date this person,” then do your research, find a sex worker who specializes in what’s known as the “girlfriend experience”, tell her what you want and tip her well afterwards; an escort is far more likely to be conscientious of helping you have a good first time than hooking up with someone you just met at a party.

And incidentally: if we go strictly by statistics: the first person you sleep with is unlikely going to be the person you stay with for the long term. That has nothing to do with being a virgin or inexperienced, it’s just the nature of how relationships work. I know people who’ve been with one person their entire lives — and they’re happy as clams, don’t get me wrong — but they’re outliers, not the norm. So don’t let the potential longevity of the relationship be a major deciding factor.

The key isn’t to get hung up on What It Means. It means exactly what you want it to mean, nothing more, nothing less. That’s why it’s fine if you don’t want to date them, or you don’t know if you want to date them; having sex with them isn’t going to slam the door shut. I can’t count the number of relationships I’ve seen that started as one-night stands that just never ended. Similarly, waiting for commitment or what-have-you isn’t going to make things better or worse. If someone only wants to sleep with you, making them promise that they’ll love you until the end of time isn’t going to change their minds.

The thing to keep in mind is that just having sex isn’t going to make you grow emotionally or resolve your inner conflicts; that’s something you do for yourself. You can have had dozens of casual partners and still panic when you realize you’re in love with someone because Now It Counts. It’s all going to come down to how you choose to look at it. If looking at it as “something to get out of the way” helps you then that’s the best way to do it. If looking at it as “well, I’d prefer a relationship,” would be better for you, then you do you, king. Hell, you could decide you’d prefer a relationship, then take the opportunity for casual hook-up instead and that is just as right and valid a choice. Regardless of which way you decide to go: just make sure it’s someone worth sleeping with… which is my advice for whether its’ your first partner or your hundredth.

It’ll be fine, my dude, and once it’s all said and done, you’re going to wonder why you were so worried about it all.

You’ve got this.

Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, doc@doctornerdlove.com