by B. Wong
“You can go without sex. That’s much less of a problem than going through life alone, and without affection.”
It’s Not You, It’s Me is a series that looks at dating in America from the perspective of different ethnicities, sexual identities, life experiences and circumstances.
Forget butt play or the pull-out method: The latest trend in sex might be forgoing it altogether.
According to a recent study out of University College London, millennials are waiting longer to have sex than members of previous generations, with 12.5 percent of them abstaining until age 26.
But some wait even longer than that. We recently talked to three people who have remained virgins well into their 30s — one by choice, the other two by happenstance. Below, they tell us more about how they’ve remained abstinent this long and what it’s like to date when you’ve never had sex.
Responses have been edited for clarity and style, with last names withheld for privacy.
People remain virgins for so many different reasons. For you, was it an intentional choice to abstain from sex?
Brianna, a 35-year-old programmer from Indianapolis, Indiana:
My reasons are a bit of a mixed bag.
I was raised very conservatively and was told that sex before marriage was a sin, so that kept me a virgin for a while. Then, when I outgrew that thinking, it was a matter of waiting to find someone I felt comfortable enough with to consider that next step.
It just hasn’t happened. I date and have had a couple of relationships get as far as three months or so, but no one long term. So, I’m still a virgin.
Matt, a tech industry worker in his mid-30s who lives in Lansing, Michigan:
I grew up with fairly severe social anxiety, which I’ve never completely overcome. I had some early rejections in late high school and early college that completely ruined what self-esteem I had.
We live in a society that mostly expects the guy to be the initiator and ask a woman out ― in a heteronormative context, anyhow. At the same time, you hear platitudes like, “It will happen when you least expect it!” quite often, so I went through my 20s thinking, “It will happen when it happens.”
Then I got into my 30s, the last of my close single friends got married, I had never been in a relationship, and I realized that I had a problem. I’d always struggled with my weight.
In my 30s, I got bariatric surgery, where they removed 80 percent of my stomach. I lost 140 pounds, thinking that was the problem.
And while I do land a few more dates now than I did before, I’ve never had anything progress past the second or third date.
It is difficult to step outside myself, but in a nutshell, I blame my social anxiety and introverted personality.
….How do people you’re romantically interested in respond when you tell them you haven’t had sex yet?
A couple of the guys were virgins, too ― and relieved.
Some also grew up in the same kind of church as I did, and while they weren’t virgins, they understood how I could still be one.
But with most dates, there’s never a second or third date. We just didn’t date long enough for it to come up.
When I get to the point where I’m starting to get more physically intimate with someone, I’ll make it a point to tell them the next time we’re together. I don’t do it in the middle of any action, though.
That can throw cold water over the whole situation.
I’d say the reaction is mixed. Most guys that I know or have dated are really supportive, and many even share my beliefs.
But I do get guys every once in a while that give me hassle about it ― and the worst is on social media.
I’ve gotten a lot of vile attacks from men on social media following an op-ed I wrote on about my beliefs.
Unfortunately, I’ve never had a relationship progress to the point where this has come up.
What misconceptions about late-in-life virginity bother you the most?
That we’re all crazy cat ladies sitting at home in sweaters.
I don’t know what conceptions people have about people in their 30s who happen to be virgins.
It certainly isn’t something that I advertise. In this day and age, I suspect that a lot of people would think of the incel community ― a group I do not in any way identify with or condone.
I’m not angry about being a virgin ― it is only one facet of the incredible complexity that makes up a person. I don’t hate women. I haven’t lived with my parents in over a decade.
I’m a classically trained musician, have a full-time job with a living wage, my own apartment, my own car and good personal hygiene.
That it isn’t a feminist choice. As a 33-year-old single woman, looking back on my life, I can honestly say that I’m glad that I chose to buy that chastity ring at 16 and that I chose to live my life in this way.
There are so many times throughout my short life that my commitment to chastity has saved me from bad situations, bad people ― and has, in fact, provided me with the freedom to live an incredible life and live out my dreams.
I’m living out the feminist dream, in part because of my commitment to chastity.
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