Tuesday, October 7, 2014

"I'm a Virgin! Why the Heck Does it Matter?!"

            I am a 22 year old female and I’m a virgin. I know there are relatives of mine who just sighed with relief after reading that. Honestly, I was very hesitant about writing about my own experience with virginity, but upon a lot of research and discussion with many people, I don’t think I could write this blog without that fact being made known. I’m a virgin by choice because it’s something I value and I want to wait until marriage. Personally, I think my virginity is nobody’s business but my own and any potential serious partner I have in the future. But I thought it was important to share my experience and what I’ve learned.

           My experience: I hate that my virginity is some sort of an issue to some people, or that it’s shocking or unbelievable; I hate that I’ve begun to feel a little embarrassed about it; I hate that the older I get, the less proud I feel to be a virgin; I hate the increasing insecurity I feel about being a virgin and the increasingly less understanding of it from others; Most importantly, I really hate the unspoken pressure of feeling like I’m too old to be a virgin. No guy has ever pressured me into having sex with him. None of my friends have ever put me down for my choice. In fact, guys and girls admire and respect my decision. Even guys I have dated have told me they are completely okay with me being a virgin and that they wouldn’t pressure me.

            But this pressure comes from comments and reactions about my virginity. The most recent was from a doctor. About a month ago, I had to go to the emergency because of intense pain I was experiencing in my lower abdomen. When the male doctor saw me, he asked when was the last time I had sex (he said it in more doctory terms). I told him I wasn’t sexually active. So, he still asked when was the last time (thinking I meant I’m not currently sexually active), to which I responded I’ve never had sex. He literally sat back in his chair with a look of astonishment, but then said good for me (or something cheesy like that). I understand that I’m in the minority at my age when it comes to not having sex, but I didn’t like his assumption or reaction. That was one incident with a professional, but I once dated a guy who didn’t believe I was a virgin because “virgins don’t exist [at our age].” Once he found out the truth about me, I was suddenly a precious fragile treasure, which really bothered me because I saw myself no differently.

            It’s this reaction of shock and disbelief that really started to annoy me, because it means the expectation is that, Of course you’re not a virgin, you’re 22 (or 21 when these incidents started happening).” People make me feel like I was supposed to lose my virginity already, thus something must be wrong with me because I haven't. Especially in the dating world, this expectation that I’ve already had sex comes with the expectation that I’m going to eventually have sex with the guy I’m dating, which just leads to another sort of issues I won’t get into here. But also this reaction comes from this idea society tells us about how our sex lives should be – 1. We should be having sex starting in our teens, 2. Most people are having lots of it.

            So, as is my norm, I did some research, well a lot of research, ranging from average age of virginity loss to proponents and opponents of sex before marriage to various other thoughts on the subject.

            Jon Fortenbury, writing for The Atlantic, explains that there are many reasons people lose their virginity late, such as religion, choice, circumstance, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, body issues, low-esteem, insecurities about how they’ll be in bed, etc. He says, “… late virginity loss can bring anything from pride to sexual dysfunction for the few Americans who experience it.”

            Some stats from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (*stats only represent heterosexuals):

  • “the average age Americans lose their virginity (defined here as vaginal sexual intercourse) is 17.1 for both men and women”
  • Ages 20 to 24 – virgins make up 12.3% of females and 14.3% of males
  • Ages 25 to 29 – below 5% of men and women are virgins
  •  Ages 40 to 44 – as low as 0.3 percent are virgins

            In an unscientific poll, most people thought “25 was the first late age” for virginity loss. According to a friend of Fortenbury, “for secular people, “late” is 20 and older, and for religious people, 40 and older. But this is all subjective, and really different people, cultures, and religions have their own standards for what counts as late.

            I want to believe it doesn’t matter if you’re late to the game or not, but there are legitimate concerns for “late bloomers.” Fortenbury says, “According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, survey respondents who lost their virginities “late”—a mean age of 22—more frequently reported sexual problems than those who lost it at a “normative” age—a mean age of 17.5, in this study. These sexual problems include having trouble reaching orgasm, maintaining an erection, and becoming sexually aroused.” Dr. Stephen Snyder, a sex therapist explains that “men who lost their virginities in their 20s or 30s most commonly suffer from extreme shyness, social anxiety disorder, or anxiety about their bodies.”
late bloomers

            And while there are a myriad of fears and concerns regarding losing your virginity late, there are also studies that should put you at ease (that is, if you fall into this category). Fortenbury found, “A University of Texas at Austin study showed that survey respondents who lost their virginities at 20 or older reported having more satisfying romantic relationships than respondents who lost their virginities younger than 20.

            Naomi Louise wrote an article titled, “8 Reasons to Remain a Virgin for as Long as You Can.” Here are a couple highlights of reasons I really appreciated:
  • “It is a well known fact that if you have a hard time pleasing yourself, the man in your life won't have too much luck either… Waiting to have sex and making yourself climax instead, will not only build your self confidence but no doubt make you a better lover in the future.”
  • “Sex isn't just about the act of sex, it is a relationship you have with yourself. The way you approach sex for the first few times and the sexual relationships you have can impact how you view yourself sexually. Set yourself up for a life of healthy, enjoyable sex by making your first experience pleasurable and loving- something you chose for yourself wholeheartedly.”
            There are plenty of reasons to wait or not wait to have sex, and neither choice you choose is wrong. Yet, there will always be people who will make you feel like whatever you have chosen is wrong. For me, though no one has made me feel like it’s wrong to be a virgin, I have a growing feeling of being an outcast, which is ridiculous considering the different types of people I know. I grew up in a public school, so naturally by now, all of my friends except one have had sex. That one friend went to a party school for college where being a virgin definitely wasn’t a good thing, so she hid her virginity. For the past four years, I went to a private Christian school, and actually more than half of my college friends are still virgins. So, I know I’m not alone, and that virginity is treated differently in different circles.

            Reactions to Virginity according to a survey commissioned by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy (in collaboration with MTV):
  • “69% of young adults (ages 18-24) say it is acceptable for someone their age to be a virgin”
  • “46% say they "feel respect" for those their age who have not had sex”
  •  “34% say when they hear that someone they know is a virgin, they "don't give it a second thought”
            Laura Stepp, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist found a survey of 18- to 24-year-old adults conducted by GfK Custom Research that says, “Virgins are not ashamed to admit they're virgins.” For the most part, I’ve found this to be true. I’m definitely not ashamed to admit it, but I do think it’s personal and no one’s business (even though I'm publicizing it right now). It shouldn’t matter to anyone I’m not dating. Yet the media turns it into such a big thing with shows like “Virgin Territory,” which I’ve refused to watch so far. Yet, Stepp also found that virgins wanted to be more represented in popular media, which makes sense considering that after 20 years old we are a minority.

            What my “virginity problems” all come to are summed up very well in Rachel Hill’s Ted Talk “The Sex Myth.” The Sex Myth is the idea that young people are hooking up like crazy and having a lot of sex, especially with many different sexual partners. Part of that myth is that you’re a loser or a prude if you’re not having sex. She says, “The Sex Myth is the idea that sex holds the key to who you “really” are.” Her response to that notion – “The Sex Myth is bullshit,” and I couldn’t agree more. Every statistic in the world doesn’t matter, because it’s your sex life, your choice, and there’s nothing you should or shouldn’t be doing right now. You do whatever you feel comfortable doing.

            Hill wants us to “[Challenge] the Sex Myth and the notion that your desirability and your sex life say more about who you are than your friendships, your talents, your compassion for other people.” She explains that sexual freedom is the right to do what you want, or not do what you don’t want, without it affecting who you are. And I have the freedom to say, why the heck does it matter if I’m a virgin or not? It doesn’t make me a different person.

            I know who I am. I’m not a prude; I’m not a child; I’m not immature; I’m not unusual; I’m not less desirable; I’m not a precious fragile treasure; and I’m definitely no less of a woman for my choice of not having sex yet. I am thankful for my decision thus far, because I’ve heard too many people say they wish they would have waited for someone special. Another reason Louise listed for waiting was: “… when you are ready to have sex you can be proud of your decision and know that you are making the choice because it is what you want, not because of peer pressure, guilt, nervousness or uncertainty.” I’m proud of my choice, because it is mine.

p.s. I didn’t get to add any of this, but here’s an article about 5 myths about people who wait until marriage: http://waitingtillmarriage.org/top-5-myths-about-people-who-wait-until-marriage/

and this one, which includes posts on the app Whisper about virgins in college:


1 comment:

  1. I have a deep respect for you J. Iliana.

    Not very many people have the courage to talk about such things.

    Keep it up! I know I regret not saving myself for the man I love now. It was his first time, but not mine. It didn't make it any less special, but I was never and will never be able to give that experience to him; the experience of it being my first time. You aren't just saving yourself for you, you're making it special for the man you choose to have your first time with (hopefully being your husband). I know my husband never treated me or loved me any differently knowing I wasn't a virgin, but there was a time I felt like he and I both would have liked to discover and experience sex for the first time together. I wish we did at least and I regret that he was not my first.

    So, though you may not think you are a precious fragile treasure, treat your virginity as such, because once its gone, its gone.