On ‘Late’-In-Life Virginity Loss (from The Atlantic)
(Link): On ‘Late’-In-Life Virginity Loss (from The Atlantic)
- Those who don’t have sex during their teen years are in the minority, but the reasons for—and effects of—waiting differ for everyone.
- The average American loses his or her virginity at age 17. Virgins make up 12.3 percent of females and 14.3 percent of males aged 20 to 24.
- …Like McDorman, many individuals who lose their virginities “late” do so for many reasons—not just the stereotypical “can’t get laid” or “super-religious” assumptions. Whether it’s by choice, circumstance, or both, late virginity loss can bring anything from pride to sexual dysfunction for the few Americans who experience it.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average age Americans lose their virginities (defined here as vaginal sexual intercourse) is 17.1 for both men and women.
The CDC also reports that virgins make up 12.3 percent of females and 14.3 percent of males aged 20 to 24.
That number drops below 5 percent for both male and female virgins aged 25 to 29 and goes as low as 0.3 percent for virgins aged 40 to 44.
Of course, those statistics only represent heterosexual penile-vaginal sex.
The question of “what is virginity?” obviously has a different answer in the LGBT community. And straight people, too, sometimes feel that oral or anal sex counts as virginity loss.
Still, the most common definition of virginity loss is penile-vaginal intercourse, as Planned Parenthood points out on its website.
Statistically, if you didn’t have sex in your teen years, you’re in the minority. But most people I asked in my unscientific poll felt virginity loss wasn’t “late” if the person was still college-aged.
Many thought 25 was the first late age.
One friend told me that for secular people, “late” is 20 and older, and for religious people, 40 and older.
The popular 1999 film American Pie suggests that late is freshman year of college. And the character Jess (played by Zooey Deschanel) on New Girl stated in a flashback in a recent episode, “In three years, I’ll be 25. I can’t rent my first car as a virgin. They’ll know.”
Not only does the perception of what is “late” vary among individuals, it also varies among communities. For Sarah and John Devaney, who lost their virginities to each other on their wedding night, being a 30-year-old virgin was not too outlandish within their Christian community. When they got married, Sarah was 31 and John was 30.
…The couple’s Christian convictions partially motivated their decision to wait until marriage but they say those weren’t the only reasons.
The two also wanted to avoid STDs, pregnancy, and the emotional damage they had heard can come with having sex with someone who ultimately leaves.
They speculate that they would have lost their virginities later than average even if they weren’t Christians.
John thinks he would’ve lost it after college, in his 20s, since he admits he didn’t know how to talk to girls before age 20 and wasn’t ready for sex before then. Sarah says she had low self-worth before age 25, making her believe she would’ve eased into sex piece-by-piece in college.
Their wedding night wasn’t spectacular but their sex lives continue to improve.
“The first time felt good to me but he didn’t orgasm,” Sarah says. “We knew we wanted to keep learning, to figure it out more. It took lots of experimentation. Neither of us had anything to compare it to. If I didn’t orgasm or he didn’t orgasm, it’s not like, ‘You don’t love me.’ It’s more like, ‘Oh, how can I do that better or different next time?’”
….Not every person who loses their virginity later in life fares as well as John and Sarah, though.
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 in New York City, has seen his share of sexual dysfunction among his male patients.
These patients, who often are virgins or men who lost their virginities in their 20s or 30s, most commonly suffer from extreme shyness, social anxiety disorder, or anxiety about their bodies.
“It generally has to do with how sex is done and how it’s arranged in the secular modern world,” Snyder says. “The man usually is the initiator and has to take some risks in order to ask someone else, indicate he’s interested, and find out whether the answer is yes or no. So a man who is socially anxious is going to have much more difficulty taking that risk.”
… Snyder says his patients’ feelings about being older virgins varies from somewhat embarrassed at 25 to extremely embarrassed at 45.
Sometimes their issues could be low sex drives caused by hormones or even a lack of interest in sex (such as with asexuals), but many times it’s linked to anxiety. In those cases, Snyder often prescribes medicine and performs psychotherapy to de-catastrophize negative thoughts.
Childhood physical or sexual abuse can also, understandably, leave some hesitant to have sex.
….Emotional abuse can also lead to sexual abstinence. That was the case for designer Stacy B. of Boston, whose father regularly told her she was worthless and ugly. This made her distrust men. She’s 39 now and lost her virginity at 37 after going to therapy for seven years.
Stacy says her mother taught her that sex is special (a common reason people wait) and she kind of believed it.
Later she realized that the emotional trauma she faced growing up caused her to keep her distance from men, rather than the belief that sex was special.
She tells me over the phone that she never got a lot of attention from boys, not because she’s unattractive but because she put up walls. She wishes she had dealt with this a long time ago, before becoming too old to have kids.
… Stacy lost her virginity to a guy she met on the casual encounters page of Craigslist, who she says was very accommodating to her inexperience.
According to Stacy, her first time was fantastic: It didn’t hurt and she had an orgasm. In fact, she still has sex with him sometimes and says she has an incredible sex life.
“Would you say you’re making up for lost time?” I ask her.
“I’m certainly trying,” she says, laughing.
…Adding body insecurities or a fear that you’ll be bad at sex to one of these non-ideal family situations, makes a likely candidate for holding back sexually, according to Zoldbrod.
But it’s never too late to work it out and have great sex: One of her clients was 60 when she lost her virginity.
(Link): Asexuality and Asexuals
(Link): Problems Created by Conservative Christian Teachings About Virginity, Sex, and Marriage: Christian Couple Who Were Virgins At Marriage Are Experiencing Sexual Problems – Re: UnVeiled Wife (Marriage does not guarantee great sex)