It happened one Friday night at the store I currently work for. I was off the clock, but hanging around waiting for our after-hours Eclipse Phase game (a cool sci-fi/transhumanist RPG), and I overheard a conversation between 2 young twenty-something year old customers, one of whom I didn’t know. I’ve changed the names of those involved, but the discussion is as close to word for word as I can recall.
Rick: Holy crap, man…I just can’t believe it! That’s sooo lame! *laughs*
New Guy: Will you just shut up about it? God, I’m sorry I even told you. It’s difficult, ok?
Rick: *still laughing* No, it’s really not, unless you’re a total pansy-ass. I mean, there’s tons of women on your campus…how the hell have you not gotten with one yet? Or in high school? Fuck, I knew people in middle school that weren’t virgins! *snorts*
New Guy: Listen, I just haven’t met the right woman yet. That’s all. I’m not gay, I’m not a prude, I’m just waiting.
Rick: Yeah, to be a 40 year old virgin! Too afraid of pussy to…
Me: Rick, don’t you have anything better to do? For Gods’ sake man, leave off. Being a virgin isn’t a bad thing. Go away if you’re gonna be moronic. *He shrugs and leaves to find his friends*
New Guy: Hey, umm, thanks for that. You’re, ah…you’re the first person I’ve met my age who doesn’t think it’s a huge deal.
Me: How old are you?
New Guy: Just turned 20.
Me: *grins* Well, I’m a bit older than you, but you’re right, being a virgin isn’t a big deal. To tell you a secret, I was still a virgin until 2 weeks before my 22nd birthday. You have plenty of time, and shouldn’t mind people who say you don’t.
New Guy: *grins back, relieved* Yes, you get it. Thank you for understanding! *laughs*
At that point, the new round for their tournament started so our conversation ended. But it got me thinking; Why are so many men and women shamed for being virgins? We don’t shame people for never riding a bike, or not learning to swim, or not taking motorcycle lessons…Why shame them for not having the experience of sex?
I believe that it stems from our odd Western culture, and especially American culture. We have such a weird relationship with sex…it’s everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Our country tries to hold on to it’s prudish Puritan values while many music videos and popular songs feature huge amounts of male groin grabbing and female t&a. We pass laws and get up in arms about showing pixelated breasts in videogames, but think nothing of buying our children ones where they use drugs, alcohol, and massive amounts of weaponry to eliminate competing gang members. Communities try to ban topples beaches, even as the typical fashions of the day accentuate cleavage to unbelievable proportions. And of course, male sexuality is made out to be something to be feared or caged…but female sexuality is generally accepted by mainstream media.
For these reasons and more, I feel that people engage in virgin shaming because they’re just so used to seeing sex as the normal course of growing up. There are those who say “you’re not a real man til you’ve done it” or “real women are sexually liberated”. Movies like The 40 Year Old Virgin tackle this issue from a humorous standpoint, but it rings true in everyday life: Peers believe there’s something wrong with the woman or man who is still a virgin after age 25, and sometimes even younger.
Obviously this is incorrect, as many reasons exist for remaining sexually inexperienced:
1. You want to wait for marriage
The majority of the American populace is Christian, with Jews and Muslims coming in 2nd and 3rd. Sex before marriage is still condemned as a sin in various houses of worship in the US, and even moreso in private homes. Thus, men and women who are very religious will often stay virgins til their wedding night.
2. You want it to be special
With how cheaply our culture sells the idea of sex, there are some who revolt against this image of it. Much like the New Guy of my story above, some want to wait for the right person to share themselves with. In my opinion, wanting one’s first experience to be worth remembering is a valid reason to not have sex just because everyone else is.
3. You are homosexual
Even in this day and age, parts of society are against citizens who love and are attracted to the opposite sex. Thus, some choose to stay celibate rather than have relations with a sex they find unattractive. Not living a lie is more important to them than gaining peer acceptance in the sexuality department.
4. You are asexual
If you just don’t seem to have any libido whatsoever, you’re probably asexual. While there’s more women who would admit to just “not feeling it”, there is a substantial number of male asexuals as well. As this is not talked about very much, even in health class or sexuality courses, it can be difficult for non-asexual people to understand. However, it is still a very good reason to stay a virgin.
5. You have an anxiety disorder
If one is already very panicked or anxious just from talking to others, being in crowds, having direct conversations, or similar encounters…then it’s pretty safe to say that having sex is off the table. Although I think that people who live with such severe anxiety should strive to get help for normal day-to-day life, no one should feel pressured into such a difficult process just so they can say they’ve had sex.
6. You are afraid of sex
This can take many forms, one of which I am personally familiar with. If you are like me, and suffered sexual abuse at some time in your life, you may have a fear of sex. Part of the reason I waited til 22 to have intercourse was the many nightmares, flashbacks, and fear of touch that I had (and still deal with today, though they are far fewer). Despite the constant mocking of my peers in high school and college, I couldn’t bring myself to “just do it” until I found someone I felt safe with and let me learn about sex at my own pace. Staying a virgin til you have a trustworthy partner is very important to some people!
7. You are consciously celibate
There is a growing segment of the Men’s Rights Movement who are choosing to remain virgins (or going celibate) because of the fear of accidental pregnancy, being falsely accused of rape, or paternity fraud. These men are not gay, but are also not willing to have “a few moments of pleasure for a lifetime of pain”. While I believe that this is taking caution to an extreme, I do understand and sympathize with their position, and do not fault them for taking this path if it makes their lives easier.
Of course, there are also those who are virgins because they are nuns or monks, who are against using birth control, who are demisexual, or who are just very unsure of what to do during sex. Whatever the reason, men and women who are sexually inexperienced are NOT to be shamed. They will have sex when they feel the time is right, or maybe not at all. If someone first shares their body with another at age 17, they are in no way better than someone who does so at age 45. If you, dear reader, are a virgin due to any reason, I hope you have sex when you are ready and not before. If you are a non-virgin, just remember that not everyone has had sex and let’s try to speak out against virgin shaming in society.
*Please note that this post deals primarily with the idea of voluntary virgins being shamed. I recognize the fact that there are many people who are incel/involuntarily celibate, some of whom deal with the issues listed above or have different problems. While no virgins should ever be made to feel poorly, there is a definite separation between those who want to be celibate and those who don’t, and even though I do not truly address it here, I believe incel sufferers deserve our support and respect just as much if not more.*