Wednesday, December 07, 2005


I came across the site Almost 40-Year-Old Virgin and was both interested and fascinated by the author's situation. I had never really thought about it before, but I suppose virgins, especially male virgins, face quite a bit of anxiety, shame, and judgment. Especially so as time goes on and they get older; not just the disdain of others, but I think at some point the virgin begins to question themself, what is wrong with them and whether it is ever going to happen at all.

My personal history includes a few virgins, in addition to having been the first female experience for several women. I have a very tolerant and relaxed view of sex and while, to some degree, I am guilty of the same sort of judgment of older virgins that the predicament elicits in most people, I feel less that it's a big deal, or that it reflects badly on them personally, and more concern and empathy for the person's underlying phobias or insecurities. I suppose because sex and physical intimacy have come very naturally to me, I find myself wanting to help someone who is struggling with those things.

One of my ex-girlfriends was 31 and had never had sex with anyone. She had been kissed a few times and got to second base once with a guy, but she confessed that she really did not enjoy any of the experiences. Her personality was such that she had put relationships and sex on the back burner while all her focus was on what she considered to be most important at the time: school and straightening out her life. When I met her, she hadn't even sorted out her sexuality at all, instead using what few experiences she had with men as further proof that being intimately involved with someone was a waste of time and energy. In a way, her virginity was somewhat accidental because opportunities hadn't surfaced for her in the way they have for me. At 31, she was a mixture of terrified, uncomfortable, and grossed out/unexcited by the idea of sex.

We started out as friends, but as we knew each other, our feelings grew. Finally we both admitted we had crushes on each other and after a long talk, we decided to explore things. When I'm excited and/or eager about something, I have a difficult time with patience and not pushing, but I honestly did try to go as slowly as I could. It wasn't easy breaking down the walls she had built up and admittedly, I made some errors with her, but overall, I was definitely a turning point in her life. Even though things didn't work out between us, I'm sincerely glad that despite my mistakes, she has gradually opened up to the world of sex and relationships. She's had several girlfriends since and according to her, some rewarding sexual experiences.

If you watch The Apprentice, you know about Adam, a 22-year-old virgin. Almost 40-Year-Old Virgin's post about the virgin apprentice offers a different perspective. On the show, Adam is sort of scoffed at and made fun of for his virginity and his discomfort with sex, in addition to being very much put on the spot for it on several occasions. My reaction to his virginity and squeamishness was probably not far from the reaction of the others on the show. I was so busy paying attention to how Trump would handle Clay's homosexuality that I failed to realize everyone's judgment of Adam was wrong. What's sort of perplexing to me is that according to Trump, it is better to be gay than a virgin.. this, in a country that is petrified of and which constantly marginalizes homosexuals, gay men in particular, so to make such an allusion just goes to show how low virgins rank on the social totem pole. Sorry, guys.. that just sucks.

I think part of it is that most people don't realize there is a segment of the population that is terrified and uncomfortable at the prospect of intimacy. It's so easy to hear that someone is a virgin and chalk them up as having some innate personal flaw that has precluded them from shrugging off the onus of virginity. But think about it.. we don't marginalize people who are phobic of air travel, or dogs, or swimming in large bodies of water. So does having social phobias make someone a loser? I think not, at least no more than anyone who has a different phobia, but what's odd in our society is that if such a phobia prevents someone, especially men, from being sexually active, then automatically something is wrong with them.

The 'virgin apprentice' post got me thinking and looking at the situation in a new light. I have lately realized that I'm not just 'shy', I think I have some real social phobias, especially when it comes to large groups of people. I know it's not logical, but I have real fears when it comes to other people in social situations. So even though my fears manifest in a different way, I completely understand and empathize with both Adam and Almost 40-Year-Old Virgin. And in that light, I think the judgment isn't fair. A phobia is irrational by nature and anyone who has one knows that it takes a lot of work to overcome.

Lastly, I think the dichotomy of male and female sexuality rears its ugly head in this area. As ever, it is considered the norm for men to act like dogs and fuck whatever moves, but failure to conform to this ideal results in harsh social judgment. It definitely is different for men. While there will always be men lining up to relieve a woman of her virginity, no matter her age, male virginity automatically puts in mind the question of what is wrong with the guy.. is he a loser, ugly, nerdy? Of course, the older one gets without having sex only compounds the issue. It challenges the stereotype of the virile man who wants to dip his pen into whatever well is available and people can't seem to wrap their minds around the fact that not all men are like this.

Now that I think of it, shame on both Clay and myself. As non-heterosexuals, we both should know full well that you cannot judge a person or their quality based solely on their sexuality. In my mind, that includes someone who hasn't explored it yet. I'll be checking back on Almost 40-Year-Old Virgin to see how things unfold.