Sexless in the City: The Truth About Adult Virgins
Adult virgins aren't as rare as unicorns.
By Therese Shechter
Let's face it: if you haven't had sex by college graduation, or (the horror!) by your 30th birthday, it's hard not to feel some serious social stigma. Pop culture repeatedly brands adult virgins as religious freaks or shut-in action figure collectors. Advertisers work hard to push the message that everyone cool is getting laid as well: "Hey, loser! Buy this body spray/bustier/pickup artist book, and you'll get play like everyone you know." It's easy to believe everyone is having sex but you – and that until you start getting busy, it’s best to lock yourself in the virginity closet and hope no one finds out your secret.
But here's the actual reality: there are a lot of people not having sex. How can I be so sure? In the course of making How to Lose Your Virginity, a documentary about virginity myths, and collecting over 200 stories for The V-Card Diaries, a website compiling the personal stories of adult virgins, I've talked to a lot of people who consider themselves older virgins. It’s time to end some of the myths out there about this diverse and interesting bunch of abstainers.
Adult Virgins Aren’t as Rare as Unicorns.
A recent study from the CDC reported that for people ages 20-24, 13 percent of men and 12 percent of women haven't had any sexual contact with another person. For adults 25-44, the study reports that 1.6 percent of women and 2.3 percent of men have not had any sexual activity. It may not sound like much, but it's actually 2-3 out of 100, or several adults on each NYC subway car. Think about that next time you're on the F Train.
Virgins Are Sexual People
Lorelei is a 27-year-old woman who lives in New York and owns "a variety of sex toys that would make a mother cry." She has a sizable dildo collection, and if hymen-breaking counts for anything, one of those babies was her first special someone.
Last year, she told me, "Some days I feel like the biggest saddest freak in the world, the girl who can’t handle human intimacy, because everyone else makes hopping into the sack look so easy, and then there’s some days where I feel really proud of myself, not because I’m ‘pure’ or anything, but because I simply haven’t allowed myself to be coerced by peer pressure or media or dates into doing something I’m not sure I want to do yet." When I checked in with her again last week, she said she still didn't buy the idea that someone had to have a certain amount of sexual experience by some arbitrary age. "Giving myself an amazing orgasm is probably a lot more gratifying and affirming than cruising bars for a one-night stand."
Virgins Aren’t All Religious Prudes
Judy is a classically trained violinist who believes virginity isn’t just a physical thing. "You can be just as impure without actually doing the physical act. I belong to God and my body belongs to God and my life belongs to Him," she told me when I interviewed her for my film. But Judy’s life isn’t just church sermons and prayer circles: she recently spent a year and a half on tour with Lady Gaga, one of the most sexually provocative celebrities out there. Judy, who has lots of tattoos and a partially shaved head, performed on the tour in a black lace minidress, alongside scantily clad, writhing men. When she performs she often loses herself in the experience. The irony isn’t lost on her.
“I don't keep to myself and study the Bible in my room and pray,” she says. “My human nature, my flesh, has struggled and said: I want to experience it. But God’s been teaching me a lot about myself. If there’s any place he wants me to be it would be here. It’s like ‘I’m exposing you to this, so let’s see where you, where you go with it.’” Now that the tour is over, she's still committed to waiting for the person she’s going to marry “whether it happens or not.” In the meantime, she’s been collaborating with a wide variety of artists and is making her own very cool music wearing very cool outfits.
Male Virgins Aren’t Losers
If it’s tough for older female virgins coming out of the closet, for men it's nearly impossible. In a world where manliness is often defined by having lots of sex, who wants to be “the 40-year-old virgin" with all the cultural baggage that comes with it?
My friend Matt has always had a curiosity about the world, and seven years ago he embarked on a career as a sports journalist which has taken him all over Asia and the Middle East. A self-described 32-year-old virgin, he says that in the places he's lived "there's been plenty of sex to be had, and not at a high cost." But that’s never been his scene, and considering his work place is pretty much "a sausagefest," opportunities for romance have been few and far between. But he's still doing his best to get out there. "You need to risk rejection, and anyone who'd reject you, you don't want to be in a relationship with them anyways."
Matt’s not alone in the unexpected male virgin category. A V-Card Diaries contributor who calls himself Just A Guy didn’t expect to find himself still a virgin on his 30th birthday. With a high sex drive, he says he's “played it safe by turning to porn and masturbation" but now he's plagued with a fear of failure and his own inexperience. To look at this 29-year-old physician from California who loves sports and travel, you wouldn't pick him out as the guy who's never been on a date or even kissed anyone, but there you go. They don't all look like Steve Carrell in a Best Buy uniform.
Being a Virgin Means Many Different Things
Whenever someone tells me they’re a virgin, I'm never actually sure what it is they mean. Lots of serious sex can happen without a penis going into a vagina, so it's confusing to hear people talking about virginal status when they're having oral sex, like one couple in my film, or BDSM play, like the woman in a recent NY Times blog or the members of BDSM networking site Fet Life’s Virgin Submissives group. Sex is a process, and even if you want to one day do the P in the V thing, everything you do up until then counts as well.
Meghan is trans and refers to herself as a 50-year-old virgin, despite the fact that she's had plenty of intercourse. But sex never felt quite right to her before her transition. ''I could never get comfortable [as a man]. I always wanted to feel what the woman was feeling." Now that she's preparing for her gender reassignment surgery, she emailed me to say that as she gets closer to the date, she's starting to feel like the teenage girl she never got to be. "I wonder if I’m going to become protective of my yoni and not rush into penis-in-vagina sex play. Maybe I can be forgiven for feeling frightened of the first time." The traditional definition of virginity definition is starting to feel a bit narrow to her anyway. She's been having "sexual experiences of all kinds with men and women and transpeople," and just wrote me that "if there is such a thing as an anal virgin, it is a thing I am no longer."
“How to Lose Your Virginity” airs Feb 8th at 8PM EST and 11PM EST and Feb 9 at noon EST on Fusion.
Image via How to Lose Your Virginity