Yes, It’s Okay If You Are Still a Virgin

Silhouette of a hand and rose before a sunset.Losing your virginity can be a rite of passage signaling a transition from childhood to adulthood. For some people, having sex for the first time is an act of committed love. For others, the loss of virginity is a path to greater sexual pleasure and personal fulfillment. In a sex-saturated culture in which everyone is expected to have and enjoy sex, virginity may be stigmatized—especially for adults.

Virginity is a cultural construct. It means different things in different societies, and its definition has shifted with time. Most studies and many people define loss of virginity as having penile-vaginal intercourse for the first time. Yet this is a heteronormative definition of sex that excludes many sex acts.

Virginity is not a medical term. You cannot tell if someone is a virgin by looking at their hymen, penis, or other genitalia. Since there are many definitions of sex, there is no single, clinical definition of a virgin. The very notion of virginity or virginity stigma depends on a social construct, not a biological one.

The Stigma of the V-Card

Virginity comes in many forms. Some virgins may be eager to have sex, but unable to find the right partner. Others may be comfortable waiting, while quietly worrying that their inexperience means something is wrong with them. Some people remain virgins because of a lack of interest in sex. Asexual and aromantic people may face both virginity stigma and sexual minority stigma.

Some examples of virginity stigma include:

  • The idea that everyone wants to lose their virginity, and that people who remain virgins remain so because they cannot find a partner.
  • Shame about remaining a virgin.
  • Viewing virgins as categorically different from non-virgins.
  • Using “virgin” as an insult or a way to bully someone.

Virginity stigma is often gendered. Traditional notions of masculinity demand boys and men be very sexually active. Men who are unable or unwilling to conform to this norm may feel ashamed and self-conscious. Some men may engage in aggressive sexual behavior in an attempt to get partners to have sex with them.

Women often face conflicting pressures around sex. Some religions prize virginity in women. Some cultures and families even demand virginity, using virginity pledges and virginity balls as a way to encourage girls and women to abstain from sex. Yet women may also feel pressure to hew to their romantic partner’s desires and face criticism for putting up boundaries. Women who are interested in sex may feel ashamed of their desires, while others may be pressured into sex before they are ready.

More People Are Making Their Sexual Debut as Adults

When you’re anxious about still being a virgin, it can feel like everyone else is having sex. Media depictions of rampant sexual activity don’t help. Yet research actually shows that more people are remaining virgins for longer.

The average age of loss of virginity is around 17 years old for both males and females. However, fewer high school students are having sex. In 2007, 47.8% of high schoolers had had sex. By 2017, the figure had dropped to 39.5%. Research published in 2005 found that, among adults age 25-44, 97% of men and 98% of women have had vaginal intercourse. Research published in 2013 found 1 to 2% of adults remain virgins into their forties.

Most people assume others are having more sex and are more sexually experienced than they are, which is usually not the case.Young people today have less sex than the youth of two previous generations. A 2017 study found that, on average, they have sex nine fewer times per year than young people did a generation ago. Today’s young people are also on track to have fewer sexual partners.

Rachel Keller, LCSW-C, CST, a Maryland therapist who helps individuals and couples with sex and intimacy concerns, says perceptions often do not match reality.

“Most people assume others are having more sex and are more sexually experienced than they are, which is usually not the case. Young men in particular tend to assume that everyone else has had sex but them. They feel ashamed and wonder how they can possibly tell a future partner that they are a virgin. Once they finally have the conversation, they realize it’s not nearly as big of a deal as they thought. Being confident in who you are, open-minded, and generous are more important in creating a positive sexual relationship than the amount of experience you have,” she explains.

Some people may feel so ashamed of their sexual inexperience that they lie about their sexual history. This can actually compound stigma by contributing to the illusion that people are having more sex than they actually are. Additionally, anxiety about sex can make a person’s loss of virginity stressful and less pleasurable than it might otherwise be.

When people feel ashamed of their perceived inexperience, they may feel uncomfortable communicating with partners about their sexual history, preferences, or needs. This can make sex less enjoyable.

How Therapy Can Help With Virginity Stigma

Virginity is not a psychological problem. There is no “normal” age at which to have sex or appropriate amount of sex to have. Yet misleading and conflicting social norms about sex can lead to a toxic stew of self-doubt, sexual shame, mistaken notions about sexuality, and relationship frustration.

Therapy can help people navigate these complex issues. A therapist can work with a person to identify and understand their own values and sexual goals. For example, a person raised in a family that demanded virginity might interrogate this norm, then decide whether they wish to embrace or reject it.

A couples counselor can help couples who struggle with virginity stigma. For example, a couple who waits until marriage to have sex may need support to talk about sex and feel comfortable losing their virginity. Or a couple in which only one partner is a virgin may need to master sexual communication to reduce shame around virginity.

Some other ways a therapist can help include:

  • Destigmatizing virginity with education and research about typical sexual behavior.
  • Discussing issues of sexual identity and orientation. Some people remain virgins because they are asexual or aromantic. Others worry they can’t be certain of their identity until they have sex.
  • Supporting a person to talk about sex with their partners and identify sexual acts with which they are comfortable.
  • Encouraging a client to draw their own sexual boundaries rather than relying on the sexual boundaries that friends, family, or society want them to draw.
  • Talking about issues of self-esteem, shame, and gender norms.

Therapy can play a key role in helping sexually inexperienced people prepare for a healthy sexual relationship. When a person does not want to have sex at all, therapy can support them in embracing that identity and pushing back against stigma.

You can find a therapist here.

References:

  1. FAQs and sex information. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://kinseyinstitute.org/research/faq.php
  2. Fewer U.S. high school students having sex, using drugs. (2018, June 14). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2018/p0614-yrbs.html
  3. Haydon, A. A., Cheng, M. M., Herring, A. H., McRee, A., & Halpern, C. T. (2013). Prevalence and predictors of sexual inexperience in adulthood. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43(2), 221-230. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3947171
  4. No such thing as virginity, author says. (2010, August 3). Retrieved from https://www.today.com/popculture/no-such-thing-virginity-author-says-wbna30353377
  5. Twenge, J. M., Sherman, R. A., & Wells, B. E. (2017). Declines in sexual frequency among American adults, 1989-2014. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 46(8), 2389-2401. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28265779
  6. Virginity and the hymen myth. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.justthefacts.co.nz/about-your-sexual-body/about-virginity-hymen-myths

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  • Jayson

    Jayson

    February 26th, 2019 at 11:53 AM

    I am a 46 year old male virgin and I will tell you why. I have never wanted to have kids. I have felt that way since I was a young teen. Up until my early 40’s, almost every girl or woman I have ever met or have had a date with has wanted to have kids. Not being one to destroy their fantasy of what they want in life, I have chosen to break off such relationships before they even got started. This also explains why even though I very much desire to get married, why I have never married. It is very frustrating to be told that being 40 years old or older and never being married is one of the the biggest red flags for females when it comes to online dating profiles. It has nothing to do with emotional immaturity, or the fact that I am a player. I just don’t want kids, and so far in my 40’s, I have not discovered a woman who either doesn’t want kids or who I have been able to connect with.

  • DWIGHT

    DWIGHT

    August 28th, 2019 at 9:45 PM

    Just like Jayson I feel you I am a 45 year old virgin & sexless I also have the good attitude, courage & good guts to believe that I am also a natural & normal human being & should be respected.

  • Nancy

    Nancy

    September 5th, 2019 at 5:29 PM

    I am a 43 year old virgin, female. I just wanted the guy to court me and like me, hopefully love me. No one has ever thought I was worth it. Just wanted an introverted guy, to laugh with.

  • Grady C

    Grady C

    September 5th, 2019 at 7:06 PM

    I am also a 46 year old virgin and enjoy my life. I agree and join with both Jayson and Dwight in their life path. I believe that being a virgin as protected from the pitfalls of getting some woman pregnant (and having to paying child support), getting an STD or HIV, having to pay for expensive dates (but receive nothing in return), false rape or sexual assault/harassment charges, or having to deal with a crazy woman after a breakup.

  • Penney

    Penney

    September 10th, 2019 at 9:58 AM

    I am a 44 year old virgin. I was diagnosed with ADD as a child, and fitting in or making friends was difficult. Growing up I was bullied a lot in school to the point that I became severely depressed and had anxiety disorder. All my life I believed I was ugly, stupid, and unworthy of love. I did have boyfriends in my late teens and twenties, but nothing came off it. I still struggle with depression anxiety, but am slowly getting better with therapy. But my biggest fear is that I will never be accepted as one worthy of love. That time has fun out. I know this is irrational, but I feel it anyway. Just do not want to feel like I am the only one suffering from this insecurity.

  • Isaac

    Isaac

    December 6th, 2019 at 2:14 PM

    I’m a 28 year old virgin, and I’ve had my self confidence shattered by a research site known as healthy strokes, and the reason for this is because the author of the site said that no man should ever be a virgin past the age of 21.

    Because it will lead to sexual dysfunction, and other health, and psychological problems that will get worse, and worse the longer he is a virgin. So 40 year old virgins, or older will have a lot less chances of getting a partner, having sex, and having it properly, and healthily.

    He also said that it damages their masculinity, and that you’re not a true man until after you lose your virginity.

    I am a 28 year old virgin. I’m scared, and insulted at the same time.

    On the one hand, I’m scared that he is right since you can’t argue with a science, and empirical research based site that has credentials, and doctor’s, and scientists, and therapists backing them up.

    Yet on the other hand,

    I am insulted because I feel like the guy is a bigoted idiot, and wrong, and that sex should be a personal choice that we do when we are damn well ready for it, not something we should do by a certain age because we have to for our health.

    The problem is that one is an objective fact (healthy strokes) while the other is a subjective opinion (my own feelings) which might make me the one who’s wrong here.

    I would like to think that this is just some conservative male superiority idiot who supports the patriarchy, and that his views are objectively wrong, and based on outdated immoral concepts of inequality etc.

    But when I google the site looking for any evidence against his site, I find NONE. Which pushes me even further into the fear that he is objectively right, and I am objectively wrong.

    After all, the sky is obviously objectively blue, and even if I disagree, and give my subjective opinion that the sky is actually green, the sky is objectively still blue.

    In other words, the sky doesn’t suddenly, and magically become green just because I say it does, and don’t like that it is blue, and not green, or get mad at people for saying it is blue. The sky remains blue no matter what I say.

    That sky analogy is how I feel, and fear about healthy strokes. There’s is the blue sky, mine is the green sky.

    I’ve never been interested in PIV sex, or nudity for that matter. I know I am not ASexual because I have erections from women, am straight, and like the idea of having a partner someday.

    I just don’t feel any need to go looking for one, or looking for sex. I don’t like the passing of bodily fluids, and I don’t like naked bodies for some weird reason.

    My idea of sexy times is massages, tickling, foreplay, kissing etc. Just not BDSM stuff.

    I’ve always felt like sex, and a partner will come when it does, if ever. If it does, it does. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. The idea of never having a partner, and staying a virgin for the rest of my life doesn’t bother me that much.

    I still like porn, and jerking off. Is it also true that porn, and jerking off is unhealthy, and leads to sexual dysfunctions, and is the reason why people who do it are still virgins at older ages?

    Is porn really destroying the world, and our health?

    Is preferring to jerk off over having real sex really destroying the world, and our health?

    Healthy strokes says that jerking off is fine, and even necessary for our health, but that porn is bad, and should be avoided at all costs. He even says that marijuana is bad for you, and that no one should ever take it at all for any reason, and that pot, and weed also causes sexual dysfunctions, and other health problems.

    I have three questions:

    Is porn really so bad that I should practice permanent abstinence from it?

    Is jerking off really necessary for a man’s health? Will I develop sexual dysfunctions, and other health problems if I decide not to jerk off ever again? I don’t plan to stop, but if I don’t do it every day, is that really bad? How often is jerking off required for men’s health?

    Is marijuana, weed, and pot really that bad for our health where it will destroy men, and cause sexual dysfunctions, and other health problems?

    I also don’t like the idea of just sex for sex like most men like. I have the more feminine ideals of sex. I have to either be married, or in love, and emotionally connected to them before anything sexual will take place, and even then maybe still not. I’m not religious though.

    How long is it okay to be celibate, and a virgin for a man before it becomes a problem, and unhealthy?

    Do I have to go out, and screw someone ASAP, or can I just keep doing things the way I’m doing them?

    But after reading that site now I don’t feel like a man anymore. Is there something wrong with me?

    Note:

    It’s not that I don’t ever want sex, but I am kind of nervous about being intimate with someone, and even going out to look for, and meet someone. I am high functioning Autistic. I also don’t like the idea of sex, and the passing of bodily fluids. I’m not REALLY into BDSM, but I do kinda like Fetish, and Kink stuff. Just not extreme, or anything involving pain.

    I’m also weird because I have to be in love to have sex. I feel weird because I am a man yet I have a female’s ideals.

  • Nancy

    Nancy

    December 10th, 2019 at 9:01 AM

    I am a 43 year old female virgin. I have learned that you have to be true to yourself. Honor your own instincts and views on sex and sexuality. Who cares about what others say. I know there are females out there that honor male virgins. Don’t give up! Hold out for love.

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