The Realities Of Being A 27 Year Old Virgin
The Debrief: ‘I sometimes think it would be better to tell someone you had an STI than tell them the truth’
Why don’t you have a boyfriend? Are you on Tinder? How many people have you had sex with? All fairly normal questions you hear people getting asked and rolling their eyes at – but what if you're 27 years old, and still haven’t had sex? Somewhere between those saving themselves for marriage and those who love regular one night stand sex, lies everyone else, worrying about what to do with their bodies. And then there are the people who are still virgins.
Anna*, 27, has never had sexual intercourse. No other human has seen her naked. I chatted to her about her fears and anxieties, which left me wondering: aren’t they pretty similar to those of us who have had sex? Here’s what it’s like if you’ve never had sex, and you're in your late twenties:
You’ve still got to start from scratch
‘I worry that my absence of a sexual history is damaging – not in the sense that I am weird, but that any decisions I make romantically are misinformed. Like, that a sexual relationship now would not be informed by a long history of repeatedly making sexual decisions and learning from them. Now, it feels like I'm past the point where a total fuck up in bed would be laughed off. I’m also a bit terrified of stalling and deferring and waiting and missing out because of this lack of experience.’
‘Broadly speaking, yes, there are classic, overarching concerns. But are they any different to a non-virgin’s? That I’ll die alone. That I’m incapable of love. That I’m unloveable. It’s common practice, now, for me to like someone and them be unattainable. They’re either with another girl or downright uninterested. But I’ve got friends who’ve had long-term relationships and still think they’re incapable of love, which doesn’t so much please me as relieve me. No one likes to feel alone. The thought of fancying someone and them actually fancying me back is totally alien.’
You might be scared of telling people
‘I’ve never said it outright: “Hey guys, I haven’t actually done any sex yet.” That I’ve never been fingered – the only thing the so-called frigid girls at school seemed to do until 18 – or, God forbid, seen an erection, other than at work (I’m a nurse). I suppose there are multiple reasons why I avoid saying it out loud. One is that people will think I am alien, like I have a weird vagina that I’m ashamed of or something. I don’t. I sometimes think it would be better to tell someone you had an STI than tell them the truth.’
You’ll put off saying it aloud
‘I do worry that if I speak about it directly, some friends will be so uncomfortable, not know what to say, and will freeze me out. The other reason is that if I say it out loud, it makes it really real. You know when you have to go to the dentist, or if you’re putting off calling the bank about your overdraft, or you have to take the bins out down flights and flights of stairs? It’s like that. You know in reality it won’t be all that bad – saying it aloud that is – but the longer I can avoid it the less I have to think about it. It’s become so familiar to me that I’ve become an ally to my virginity of sorts. I wonder where I’d be without it. At moments, I get angry and confused about this burden, but I never let it bother me for long. A huge part of me has accepted this is how my life will be: sexless. And sometimes, I imagine telling someone I like that I’ve never had sex – that I’ve never had a boyfriend – and fantasise about them finding that the coolest thing.’
Your sexuality becomes less important to you, as a person
How ironic that nurses are so often sexualised in popular culture. My job has always entailed a lot of studying, late nights, a lot of responsibility. I can’t have an off day and I’ve learned to prioritise – and I don’t see my sexuality as something of paramount importance in the grand scheme of things. It’s like I’m a machine – I allow myself moments to ponder over why I can’t just go out and fuck like a regular person, but I only allow these mental deviations in an allocated spot of time. I’ve worked my tits off to get here, what if getting close to someone affects that?’
Masturbating can make you feel bad
I don’t think it would if I was having sex with other people. I do think I was a late bloomer. I had two drunken snogs as a teenager and all I remember was that my technique was all off. I didn’t masturbate until I was about 22 and I felt few urges. I don’t do it much now – maybe once every few months – as it makes me feel pathetic and depressed afterwards. Being physically close to others has always made me feel a little claustrophobic, rather than warm or even aroused. But even though just sharing a bed with a friend makes me feel a bit weird, I’m good at living and interacting with other people. Rather than fending for yourself, you have to learn to. Singledom is different in this day and age; you’re forced to co-exist due to financial logistics. I dread to think how lonely I’d be if I lived alone. Sometimes I think I get all the intimacy I need from my friends.’
You'll worry it’ll affect other people
‘I don’t come from a fucked up family and I wasn’t abused which, horrendously, an ex-friend once implied. My parents just did not and do not discuss sex. It wasn’t a religious or a regimented household; it was warm and fun and there was lots of storytelling and laughter – but they never encouraged us to bring people home. Parental distance from your romantic life isn’t necessarily a big plus. I learned to sort of brush romantic feelings aside as it didn’t seem to be a welcomed topic at dinner. It’s more about me not bringing boyfriends home, but I have two younger siblings and I worry that my behaviour will discourage them. Where most of my friends talk with their brothers and sisters about sex, I so obviously avoid it and I know my siblings are aware of it.’
Rejections stay with you
‘The people I’ve liked have always been work colleagues. Most of the time I am of the mentality that I don’t have time for another person. During training I fell hard for my peer and housemate. He was so overtly alpha-male – kind of a douchebag, actually – and it was the first time I'd really felt desire. I shaved and waxed, bought new underwear, plotted countless evenings where we were all drinking and convinced myself each time that he would have sex with me. Mentally, I’d prepped myself, even though he gave me few signals that this would happen. Physically, I was terrified. What if it didn’t work? What if I looked or smelt weird? What if I bled or it was agony? What sounds or facial expressions do I make? Weirdly, I didn’t compare the imagined experience to the feelings I felt when I poured over him, or when I masturbated. I just felt excitement mixed with dread. I lived in fear of my body failing me.
On Halloween we were having a house party. I dressed up as a cat. It was unoriginal, but I was scared to do anything overtly sexy. I looked boring, and literally like a cat, whilst all the other girls looked incredibly sexual. It was like that scene in Mean Girls. And actually, that’s sort of what happened, except worse.
Alone in my room with him, I was wasted and overjoyed. He seemed interested in my life back home. I remember speaking and hearing my voice, but wasn’t aware of what I was saying as I was so concerned about what might happen next. He was doing things like resting his hand on my knee and moving closer, and the next thing I knew, we were kissing, then he tried to unhook my bra. He struggled with the clasp and I could tell in that moment he started to change his mind. I literally saw the doubt creep over his face. I was all tense and sat up and pulled my dress down. He hadn’t even touched my vagina. I made a comment about needing to go downstairs to see a friend and dashed out of the room, and sobbed in the bathroom. I proceeded to get so wasted that I threw up in the kitchen later on, and I remember him watching.
I didn’t tell anyone about our liaison. The following day, I found out he’d fucked my best friend who lived next door. They started going out and I had to watch them lie on top of one another in our living room. It was the worst.
After that experience I was fully put off liking anyone for a long time. I kept thinking there was something about me that repelled men. Now I know it’s just a confidence issue, and though so much of me is resigned to the fact I’ll never do it, I want to believe differently. Only recently have I started to allow myself to like someone again. I work with him and he’s totally different to the other guy, more gentle and unassuming. I do let my imagination wander when it comes to him.’
In the end, it’s actually OK, though
‘The main thing I want to get across, and am thinking about tattooing across my forehead is: IT’S OK, I STILL LOVE MYSELF. The main issue with my virginity at 27, or my singleness – the two aren’t mutually exclusive – is the pity. As if pity has ever fucking helped anyone. I prefer spending time friends who come out and ask me about my love life and make jokes rather than gawp silently. But I’ll also still leave the room if there’s a sex scene on TV, but I like hearing graphic sexual discussion and I appreciate that my real friends don’t hold back for me. It’s just like a country you’ve never visited and can’t picture until you’ve actually been there – it doesn't mean I won’t make it there some day.’
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