DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I (20, F) am a junior in college who is very busy all the time with school and activities. I am a nursing major, so I am constantly spending time in the library studying for hours on end. I’m a very social person and enjoy being with others, but one thing I’m lacking – I’ve never been in a relationship and I’m a virgin.
I know that it is something I should not be ashamed of, but in our culture, it brings my confidence down a lot. It’s not that I am not interested in a relationship, but I have just never had an opportunity for one, so I feel like I am behind and don’t know how to talk to guys.
Not many people know that I am a virgin, as I just try to avoid the topic and have even sometimes just went along with the fact that I’ve had sex, even though I haven’t.
How can I become more confident with myself and how would I go about talking to a guy about my lack of experience?
I could really use your advice, as I’ve been struggling with this for a few years. THANK YOU!!!
DEAR FIRST TIMER: One of the problems with how our society deals with sex and sexuality is that we end up creating problems where there really shouldn’t be any. Virginity is a classic example of this, because it serves as a perverse double-edged sword. Men have a difficult time with being virgins and having little sexual experience because it’s seen as a mark of being a failure as a man. We treat men’s sexual experiences both as a rite of passage and a mark of their value. We also assume that all men are horny satyrs who’re ready for sex at any time. As a result, we not only teach guys that not having sex is shameful, but we also ignore the times when guys have been abused or raped. When, say, a twelve year old is raped by his teacher or babysitter, we’re more prone to talk about how lucky he was or how much of a stud he was to bang an older woman.
Women, on the other hand, are taught that their value is in the sex they don’t have. That women are supposed to be sexy but not sexual, that by not having sex they’re staying “pure”. We can all think of times women have been shamed for having too many sex partners, when too many translates to “any”. Shitty dudes will talk about women “riding the cock carousel” in the same breath where they will brag about the dozens to hundreds of women they’ve supposedly plowed. But at the same time, women who are virgins beyond a certain age – again, when that age tends to translate to “teens” – are seen as damaged, broken or desperate. People joke about how virgins are great because they don’t know any better so they’ll assume you’re the best at sex ever, or how it’s risky to sleep with a virgin because she’ll get clingy and imprint on you like a baby gosling. They’ll assume she must have something wrong with her, physically or emotionally or that she must be a religious zealot, regardless of the actual facts on the ground.
And unfortunately, a lot of that shame gets in our heads and folks who have little or no sexual experience, for any number of perfectly understandable reasons, internalize that shame. You’re in that headspace yourself; intellectually, you know there’s nothing to be ashamed of, but you still feel awkward about it. And so you stay quiet about it. And perversely, that silence ends up perpetuating the stigma, because now nobody has that counter-example in their lives.
And here’s the thing: you’re hardly the only person who’s virgin in their 20s, whether man, woman or non-binary. While you’re a little to the side of the center of that bell curve, around 13% of women 20-24 are still virgins; not common, but certainly not rare or unheard of. All this means is that you’re in good company; there’re more folks like you than you realize.
So the first thing I would suggest is to not treat being a virgin like something to be ashamed of. It’s just a data point about who you are, not the summation of everything about you. It’s no more a defining characteristic than whether you’ve ever eaten roasted crickets before. The less you treat it like something unusual or shameful, the less other people will. The folks who do give you shit are just proving themselves to be assholes and assholes are gonna ass, no matter what. You’ve got better things to do than worry about the opinions of assh
The second thing is that if and when you do talk about it, don’t justify it as though you’ve done something wrong. People will respond to how you treat being a virgin. If you don’t treat it as something weird or unusual or a big deal, other people won’t either. You’re incredibly busy – I mean, you’re a nursing student, c’mon – and you just haven’t had time to date or pursue a relationship. That’s all. Folks understand what it’s like to be so busy to not have time for anything else. If anyone asks, all you have to say is “I’ve been too busy with work and school, so it hasn’t been a priority.”
How they react will tell you a lot about what you need to know about them. Some folks will fetishize your being a virgin. Some will think that your first time will be momentous or “a gift” or some other thing. Others will accept it as just one more fact about you.
And if and when you do decide you’re ready to sleep with someone for the first time, just make sure it’s someone who’s going to be considerate of you and your pleasure. Not in some “ok this is gonna be uncomfortable” way (which is more myth than truth) but in the sense of being a good lover in general.
After all, if you’re gonna sleep with someone, they should be worth it.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I saw you like to get follow-ups from previous columns so I wanted touch base and thank you so much for your help with my question last year (“How Do I Stop Sabotaging My Relationships”) about being clingy and sabotaging my relationships.
I followed the advice you mentioned and improved my communication style and figured out what was getting to me and how to focus on overcoming my fears. It turns out really talking with him about it helped so much. He’s not the most confrontational person when it comes to emotions (i.e. total goofball) but he heard me out, we talked about it and soon, the elephant in the room had dissipated – all while we got a better understanding of each other. So much so that we’re moving in together this summer (and yes, it’s miraculously somehow still in the same building! Serendipity, you’re seriously cool AF)
Thank you for taking the time to answer me and for all you do. Your column and podcast provide vital information for everyone, not just dudes but also the women ladies to understand each other better and I’m very grateful for it.
Rock rock on,
– Anne Nonymous
DEAR ANNE NONYMOUS: Awesome! Thanks for letting us know how you’re doing, AN, and congratulations on everything working out!
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org