"It was so weird!" My date took another gulp of his Guinness as he sat across from me, talking about a woman he'd recently met at work. "She was 24 -- and a VIRGIN!" His third beer had apparently provided the social lubricant required to loosen up his inhibitions. "You don't meet those very often."
This otherwise nice, normal, polite, and funny guy was horrified anyone in their 20s wouldn't be getting laid. It was like he thought "those" virgins were somehow unnatural mutants with no place in this world. But what this bro from Murray Hill didn't know (and what I won't be the one to tell him, since I haven't spoken to him since), is that being a virgin in your 20s is waaaaay more common than people may think.
Millennials in general aren't having as much sex as everyone once thought. We -- males and females alike -- apparently have fewer sexual partners than Gen-Xers and baby boomers did at the same age. And people younger than 20 are reporting fewer instances of first-time sexual intercourse than in previous generations. So scientifically speaking, being a virgin once you hit 20 is pretty damn normal for the men and women of my generation.
In fact, I surprisingly know 11 women* -- all very normal, functioning, exceptional members of society -- who survived well into their 20s without sex. VIRGINS! In their 20s! I asked them to tell me why, and to discuss the unfortunate stigmas and embarrassments they were subjected to for making it to adulthood without cashing their V-cards. Spoiler alert: it's not all chastity belts and waiting for marriage.
Celibacy can be an evolving concept
"In eighth grade, we were given golden V-cards -- like a VISA, but you signed it saying you'd remain abstinent until marriage. All the girls were given these and you had a friend sign it to keep you accountable. At the time, this seemed completely normal. [Now] I want to have sex with someone I genuinely care about. But the fact that I haven't had sex makes dating really hard. Fingers crossed it happens soon -- because 22 years [of being] abstinent leads to severe sexual frustration." -- Isabel, 22
"I'm not waiting to be married or in love, I'm just more about having sex with someone I trust and someone I know who cares about me and isn't just going to have sex with me and leave." -- Mia, 24
"I was raised in a Southern Baptist church, where basically having sex before marriage put you on a short standby list for a flight straight to hell. A little dramatic maybe, but it was certainly frowned upon and viewed in a negative light and that definitely influenced me in the beginning. As I grew up and my views began to toe the liberal/conservative line, my choice to be a virgin was less about religion and more about myself and how it made me feel. I would tell you now that I'm open to having sex. One hundred percent, because I'm human, and that is a natural urge that even I have." -- Grace, 23
"I guess I've never really felt like I had the opportunity to lose my virginity. I didn't like anyone enough to want to have sex, so I didn't. It wasn't really any sort of conscious decision not to have sex as much as it was [that] there wasn't anyone I wanted to sleep with." -- Leona, 25
"I don't have anything against sex before marriage or, on the flip side, waiting until marriage… it's just a choice that I've made. I think for me personally, I want to be emotionally and mentally ready for whenever that time comes." -- Elizabeth, 22
"Sure, there have been a few guys here and there. Through it all, I never truly felt ready or as though it would be the right time for me." -- Stella, 21
"There has never been someone who has truly turned me on enough to make me want to have sex with them. People are very, very weirded out by this." -- Alicia, 22
"It's not that I was waiting for the person I was going to marry or anything, but I don't find people sexually attractive unless I know them very well and feel a certain connection with them." -- Mariah, 21
Not having sex doesn't mean you're a prude
"[People will say] 'you don't know what you are missing' -- but trust me, I feel like I do. I want to, I just haven't met the right person." -- Mia, 24
"I think it's important to remember that someone who's a virgin can still have a sex life without actually having sex. Just because someone's a virgin doesn't mean that they can't be sexually intimate with a partner." -- Elizabeth, 22
Waiting can make a woman feel left behind
"I felt embarrassed about my lack of experience, and scared to be vulnerable with someone I didn't know that well in the grand scheme of things." -- Kaylee, 25
"I wasn't alone in my virginity amongst my group of friends. I didn't feel much pressure to lose it, but I still felt like I was way behind the rest of the world." -- Zoey, 22
"Personally, the fact of being a virgin in my 20s never bothered me. It was the sense of missing out on something big -- and social pressures that suggested it was odd or weird to have waited this long. On the first day of college orientation, a speaker shared with the crowd the statistic that 70% of college freshmen were sexually active. I remember sitting there thinking I was already an outlier among my peers. Fortunately, I surrounded myself with friends who didn't care or even discuss my virginity." --Samantha, 23
There's slut-shaming, and then there's virgin-shaming
"Whenever sex is discussed in a social setting, I inevitably have to voice my lack of experience. I laugh it off, trying not to make a big deal out of it, because being a virgin doesn't mean I'm a nun. But even still, I'm immediately defensive because people are so in awe of me and either tell me they're jealous of that purity and/or assume I'm a lesbian and/or question why I would ever CHOOSE that path." -- Grace, 23
"My friends will sit around and talk about their sex lives in great detail. Meanwhile, I just sit there and listen because I can't really participate in the conversation because I haven't had the experiences they've had. It doesn't make me feel bad about myself because I've made the decision not to have sex yet, but I'll admit that the stigma makes me feel like I'm a naïve outsider or that I'm missing out on all the fun stuff." -- Elizabeth, 22
"One time, a red-blooded, all-American male asked me, 'So, when are you going to get rid of that pesky virginity of yours?' I'm pretty sure I just shrugged and told him it wasn't a priority. I've got better things to worry about than who I'm going to give my Magical Societal Unicorn Prize away to." -- Alicia, 22
"I've had many people laugh at me or be shocked that I haven't had sex yet. I don't really let it bother me because I hear such crazy stories of people being hurt or being called names for having sex with people they barely know or people they thought they could trust." -- Mia, 24
In the end, it's nobody else's damn business
"In this society, it's just expected that after two or three dates, you do the deed. I ain't about that. Therefore, I will remain a virgin until some sweet guy that is genuine and kind falls in love with me and I, him." -- Isabel, 22
"There's this idea, I think, between most women that we all know what's up. We know that virginity and this societal idea of purity is messed up and that it really only matters to men." -- Alicia, 22
"I'm a 23-year-old virgin and it in no way defines me. I'm just waiting for that right time and that right person... not so patiently." -- Grace, 23
"It shouldn't have to be shocking to hear someone say, 'I'm a virgin.' Nobody cares if someone's having sex, so no one should care that someone hasn't yet either." -- Elizabeth, 22
"I've realized that (being a virgin at) 21 really isn't that old. I have a lot of life to live, a lot of people to meet, and a lot of places to go." -- Zoey, 22
"I wish that more people would respect that it's a very personal decision, and that in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn't affect anyone other than me. If I'm happy with the choices I've made, you should be too." -- Stella, 21
"Being a virgin that late in the game is not a big deal and is a lot more common than you'd think. AND it's a lot more important to know yourself and your own body and desires first." -- Mariah, 21
*Names have been changed
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