DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’ve been severely repressed by family and religion for years. Forced to see people having fun and enjoying life while I was always locked in a room studying and praying. As a result, I never learned how to read social cues, or how to talk to people outside of a professional setting.
I’m a 22 year old virgin. It’s an awful thing in on itself. Problem is, in my country the average age to get rid of your virginity is 12. Being denied any casual social contacts and venues to obtain relationships and sex wrecked me, and the knife was just driven further in college, where my ineptitude and constant pressure for academic accomplishments I ingrained into myself ruined any chance I had at having sex or friendships.
I now have a ton of issues, crippling loneliness, self harming and constant seizures where I bust out laughing and crying at the same time whenever I see happy couples enjoying each other’s company. Can’t watch music clips or any kind of videos of music festivals. The vision of people being happy, partying, enjoying their youth is too much to handle.
At times I catch myself thinking if I would be ok with being used like those 14 year olds who get in trouble for having sex with their teachers. I’d be perfectly ok with being someone’s sex toy. Better to be a toy than a dirty sopping wet rag in a dark corner.
I wish I could’ve been young. Had fun. Go to at least one orgy in college, get drunk and do something stupid, smoke a blunt or a bong. Have sex in a dorm and leave a sock in the knob. Get rid of this festering wound of virginity at the proper age.
I wish I flipped the bird at my parents and at my religion. I wish I never listened to them. If I didn’t, I’d be a human right now. I’d have lived, instead of just existing locked in a room, studying.
What do I do?
Too Little Too Late
DEAR TOO LITTLE TOO LATE: Y’know, TLTL, I get a lot of letters from people who feel the way that you do. They feel like they missed some window where they needed to do… something. It ranges from “have my first sexual experience” to just “go on a date”. And what’s amazing is how wide that window seems to be; I hear from just as many literal 40 year old virgins as I do from 17 year olds who think that they’re just too old to start dating now.
And here’s the thing: they’re all wrong. Just as you’re wrong about this. In fact, not to put too fine a point on it but… you’re kinda wrong on a lot of things.
As an example, you mention that the average age of someone’s first sexual experience in your country is 12. And first of all: I’m gonna need to see some citations, because that’s not actually the case. Studies show that globally, the average age of one’s first sexual experience tends to be 17, with younger countries bottoming out at around 15.5 years old. Similarly, according to the Guttmacher Institute, not only is sexual activity at ages 12 or younger incredibly rare, but more than half of the girls who lost their virginity at 12 or younger did not do so voluntarily. So I suspect that “the average age is 12” is either folks talking s--t to sound cool or you’re dealing with a horrific epidemic of rape in your country.
Second of all, however: 12 year olds aren’t ready to have sex. They don’t have the emotional or intellectual maturity to handle sex or sexual relationships and — again, going back to the Durex study — the younger people are, the far less likely they are to use contraception or practice safe sex. We have a word for folks who had sex at 12, especially those who had sex with older partners: raped. Chris Brown — who famously bragged about having lost his virginity at 8 — wasn’t just that manly or seductive; he was sexually assaulted. The people who brag about having had sex at that 12 — and aren’t, y’know, lying — are almost always trying to rationalize what had been done to them. Never mind discussions about legal age of consent; most 12 year olds aren’t capable of consenting to sex because they don’t have the experience, capacity or maturity to know what the f--k they’re doing, even if they’re legitimately horny as hell.
As an experiment: try talking to a 12 year old about damn near anything… then come back and tell me honestly that they’re capable of consenting to sex or that they’re in any way capable of handling the emotional complexities of sexual relationships or the responsibilities of sex, ranging from pregnancy to sexually transmitted infections, to even understanding the ramifications of having sex with someone… particularly someone who has power over you.
But that same [CITATION NEEDED] is necessary for the idea that you were missing out on orgies in college. Despite the hand-wringing that goes around about “hook up culture” (when they aren’t also wringing hands about the “sex recession” millennials and Zoomers are undergoing), college isn’t just wall to wall f--k parties that would make Caligula blush with envy. What you’re thinking of is 90% wishful thinking and braggadocio, and 5% rounding up to make things sound far cooler, and 5% just straight lying. There’s actually a lot less sex going on in colleges than people think. It’s not zero, no… but it’s also not 4 years of The Best of Porn Hub either. Most of the time, it’s garden variety serial monogamy and occasional casual hook-ups.
But here’s the thing: even if all of that were true — it’s not, but even if it were — none of that means anything. You’re not a freak for being a virgin at 22, my dude. You’re a little on the right of that particular bell-curve, but frankly you’re barely past the margin of error. It’s uncommon, but not rare, unusual or even particularly noteworthy. I know folks who lost their virginity in their 30s… and far from being seen as objects of pity, they’re in happy, successful and fulfilling relationships. There are many, many women — women I know personally, women who read and comment on this column, women who participate in the NerdLove Academy Facebook group and others — who have slept with male virgins your age and older. The people who most look down on older virgins are almost always other men; the bulls--t spread about older virgins is spread mostly by guys who have bought into toxic forms of masculinity and who are invested in perpetrating those very same beliefs.
Just as importantly though: you keep acting like it’s “too late” and you missed your window, and that’s simply not true. You didn’t do crazy s--t in college… but college isn’t the only time you can have adventures. There’s literally nothing stopping you from smoking a blunt or using a bong (which, honestly, is highly overrated) now. There’s no reason that you can’t travel, go on adventures, meet incredible people, have parties or have wild and crazy sex right now. You’re 22 years old, my dude; you’re in a place where you have relatively few responsibilities, plenty of opportunities and — critically — the metabolism of youth. Trust me when I tell you: the only major advantage of youth vs. experience is the way your body can recover from things like minimal sleep and s--tty food.
Here is another truth: the sex people have in their teens ain’t great. Nor, for that matter, are the relationships they have. Nobody knows what they’re doing, nobody has any measure of self-control or endurance and enthusiasm and energy don’t make up the difference. No matter what folks tell you, everyone’s fumbling around trying to figure things out; it gets romanticized because we’re told, over and over again, that this is supposed to be the most amazing time in your life. Pop culture sells that message constantly, not because there’s any great truth to it, but because 13 to 25 year olds are the most demographically desirable for the entertainment industry.
The relationships you have in high-school and college are very rarely the ones that will lead to marriage and family. Not because of your age but your inexperience. With age comes maturity and experience. The things that were overwhelming and of dire importance when you were 15 are absurd to you at 20; the things that seemed so incredibly important at 20 are laughable at 30. The fact of the matter is that the best years of your life can be at any time, and it becomes even easier to have them when you have not just experience under your belt but greater resources and knowledge. To paraphrase the sage, your 30s are basically your 20s but with more experience and better credit.
Here is a final truth: the fact that you didn’t do all the wild and crazy things you think you were “supposed” to have done at an earlier age doesn’t mark you out as a loser or that you missed your chance. All it means is that you weren’t ready yet. You weren’t in a place where you were capable of doing those things. You made the best decisions you could have at that time with the information you had and as the person you were. But now? Now you’re in a place to change all of that. You’re in a place to try things for the sake of trying them, to make the conscious decision to get out of your comfort zone and — importantly — at a point in time where you have greater resources, greater access to information and greater experience. You’re actually better positioned now to have crazy adventures than you ever have been before.
And so you have a choice. You can either choose to be bitter and resentful about what you didn’t do… or you can choose to forgive yourself for making the best choices you could have at the time, put the past behind you and let go of that anger and resentment. Once you free up your emotional bandwidth you’ll have the freedom and the opportunity to go do amazing things, collect great stories and pursue all sorts of new experiences. But you can’t do that as long as you’re focused on what has already happened.
You’re at a flexion point. You can wallow in impotent anger about a past you can’t change… or you can let that all go and build an incredible present and amazing future.
But you have to make the choice to do so. It’s up to you.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org