I’m a 29-year-old straight guy, I’ve never had sex, and I’m deeply self-conscious about it. Though I’m sure it’s not actually the case, it feels like I’m the only person my age in the world who has never had sex. Even worse, I feel the need to lie about it with male friends or during flirty banter with women, and I’m always afraid that they can tell.
To be totally honest, I’ve never even had a girlfriend, but that doesn’t bother me nearly as much as never having had sex. It’s not that I’m fixated on finding the ‘right’ person, or that I want to be in love with them or something. I live in a big city, and I meet plenty of women I think are interesting and attractive, but I’m not necessarily attracted to them, even when I think I should be.
On the rare occasion I do feel attracted to someone, I majorly overthink it and worry that my sexual inexperience would be obvious to the point of embarrassment. At that point, I usually talk myself out of making a move. So, clearly, I need a plan with lower stakes. My question is, should I just go on Tinder and get it over with? I hate feeling like I’m missing out on a fundamental life experience for reasons I can’t even seem to sort out. The idea of being a 30-year-old virgin fills me with dread.
SO Ready For Sex
Dear SO Ready For Sex,
You seem to be aware of this but I think it bears repeating: you are not the only 29-year-old in the world, or even in your city, who has never had sex. Far from it! Some folks are waiting for the right person, some are religious, some are asexual, some are closeted, some have trauma, and some don’t have a reason at all besides it just hasn’t happened yet.
What I’m getting at is, all kinds of people have made it to 30 and beyond without having sex for all kinds of reasons. It’s actually more common than you think: young people these days are having less sex than ever, with teens delaying their sexual debuts and Millennials having less sex than Boomers and Gen X’ers did in early adulthood.
But I sense that this knowledge alone won’t soothe your angst, because it sounds like your distress is rooted in how your peers perceive you. You describe feeling the need to tell tall tales to friends and dates, only to become more anxious once you do. So I have a question for you: How would you feel about not having had sex if no one’s opinion mattered but your own?
Would it still bother you some, but much less? Would it not bother you at all? Is it possible you might even feel relieved, and stop caring entirely? I know this is an almost-impossible thought experiment, given the way we’re hard-wired for social approval. But determining your motivations is essential here, because there’s a lot here that can cloud your judgment.
I mean, we still live in a ‘sex sells’ world. There are very few things money can buy that haven’t been advertised by a bikini-clad model on a billboard somewhere. And then there’s the peer pressure. I’m not a man, but from what I understand, sharing stories from your sexual history is a common pastime, and the pressure to embellish can be huge.
How would you feel about not having had sex if no one’s opinion mattered but your own?
So the next time you’ve got a quiet moment to yourself, without all of that external influence, I want you to dive into your memories and fantasies. When were the last times you experienced true sexual desire? What did it feel like in your body? What was your relationship to the person who inspired it?
I wonder if you’ll notice that an emotional connection was present in the past experiences that surface. Perhaps you’ll struggle to come up with anything at all. I would recommend connecting with folks on the asexual or aromantic spectrum about their experiences, by consuming their writing and podcasts on the topic, or even by reaching out directly. There’s a chance that their stories might feel familiar to you, or provide some new language that helps you untangle your experience.
Finally, depending on where you live and the relevant laws in place, you may also want to consider hiring a sex worker to help you create exactly the sexual exchange that you’re looking for. This can help you sidestep the messy business of emotion and attraction, while achieving the level of sexual engagement that you’d find satisfying.
By the way, I couldn’t help but notice that your letter includes the word ‘should’ quite a few times. Let me be the one to assure you, there are no ‘shoulds’ when it comes to sex. We’re all much too different in terms of what we want and need from it, if we even want or need sex at all. Even someone being objectively attractive on paper doesn’t mean you should be attracted to them.
Likewise, I can’t tell you whether you ‘should’ just find a warm and willing body to relieve you of your "v-card." All I can say is that learning to tease apart your true desires from what you're supposed to what from sex and love is the surest path to an understanding of your sexuality that really resonates. What follows is a deep and enduring peace that comes from knowing exactly who you are, and I can’t recommend it enough.