Overcoming shame of virginity in 20's
January 12, 2013 9:41 PM   Subscribe

I used to struggle with depression and had a complete lack of confidence. As a result I went through my teen years with such a lack of confidence that I couldn't entertain the notion that any girl would be interested in me despite several making it bluntly clear that they were. Either way I am now 21 and have started getting my life on track. I still struggle with depression but for the most part I am in a much better place with my self confidence and my life overall. The issue I have is that I am a virgin and have literally never even kissed anyone. Obviously I feel great shame over this but I am attempting to not go into a shame spiral as a result.

There is someone that I am interested in. We get along well and it is pretty clear that she is interested in me romantically. I am reluctant to tell the truth but at the same time I am afraid of what would happen when my lack of experience becomes obvious. I am sick of passing on potential relationships because of the shame of my situation. Should I be honest or roll the dice and hope it isn't too embarrassing? Thanks.
posted by mrdrummed to Human Relations (40 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
As a female, I can tell you that both of the men I have dated as an adult were virgins into their 20's. My ex lost his virginity at 23 (not to me). It's so not a big deal. I'd rather have that than a guy who has been around the block several dozen times.

I think you should just be honest about it, not make a huge deal out of it, and it will be fine. 21 is young and there is nothing to be ashamed about, really.
posted by thank you silence at 9:48 PM on January 12, 2013 [8 favorites]

21 isn't even that late man, it's totally common for people to be virgins at 21. Anybody who wants to have sex with you is not going to be turned off by the fact that you're a virgin -- if anything, they are probably more likely to be thrilled at the prospect of being your first.

Now it sounds like you're not already in a relationship with this particular woman, but you're already worrying about whether you should disclose your virginity to her. Let me be clear that you should not disclose it *yet*. Wait until you have at least been on a few dates and then broach the fact that "Hey, this is a little hard for me to say and maybe it's a little hard to believe, but I've actually never kissed someone before. Ever. But I know I want to kiss you." And hopefully you'll get both your first kiss and an opportunity to have a conversation about the subject.

Don't be worried about it. Contrary to popular opinion there's not actually that much skill involved in kissing or fucking (well, depending on what you're into) and once you get a few chances you'll pick it all up quite quickly -- it comes naturally to most people, believe me. Good sex is mostly about chemistry and compatibility, the occasional medical or psychological disorder aside.

You will be fine. Your virginity is never going to be a dealbreaker for anyone. Do disclose beforehand, because it's just a nice thing for someone to know about a partner and will explain any awkwardness that you might have your first time or two, but don't worry about it beyond that.
posted by Scientist at 9:52 PM on January 12, 2013 [25 favorites]

I forgot to add, the first guy was a two year relationship and the second a three year relationship. We broke up for reasons completely unrelated to sex. Their lack of experience was never a problem. When you're in a trusting relationship, you feel comfortable seeing what works and what doesn't. That's part of the fun!
posted by thank you silence at 9:55 PM on January 12, 2013


Look, I appreciate that your feelings are what they are, but...seriously, you are doing yourself a great disservice here. Being a virgin (even a 'kissing virgin') at 21 is SO not a big deal. In fact, it's not even a small deal. It's nothing!

Get out there, enjoy yourself. There is no shame. It's all in your head.

(You sound awesome, for what it's worth.)
posted by Salamander at 9:55 PM on January 12, 2013 [9 favorites]

You'll be fine, sweetie. What everyone else is saying about this not being unusual.

One caveat: Real sex is not like porn. Well, it can be and that can be fine but ... don't try to start that way and don't use it as a model, throwing the poor woman into a new position every 30 seconds. Trust me on this one.

Enjoy! Sex is awesome.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 9:59 PM on January 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

The way Scientist phrased it is perfect. Most women would find that not only sweet and genuine, but rather romantic. There are many of these people out there, so rather than dwell on the shame you might feel, remind yourself that you deserve to be accepted for who you are right now by any romantic partner that you have. If this woman doesn't accept that (and I'm not saying she won't), than its good that you found that out, and focus on finding someone who will accept you.

Also, I (straight male) was a virgin until I was 22. I was self-conscious about it too, but in the long run it doesn't matter. You'll be fine.
posted by dry white toast at 10:02 PM on January 12, 2013

You should tell her the truth. Your lack of experience will become obvious in any case and it's better to communicate. I was a virgin at your age and I thought I was the only 21-year-old virgin in the world. Actually it's not that uncommon. When I lost my virginity I told the girl I was a virgin beforehand and she was thrilled at the prospect of being my first.

In any case, whether you end up kissing/having sex with this woman or someone else, you should know that it usually isn't like in the movies. Most people's first time is pretty awkward and weird-feeling, and not instantaneously life-changing in the way you might expect. Give yourself a break if that happens. There's a learning curve.
posted by zeri at 10:06 PM on January 12, 2013

I don't advocate lying, but as someone who is gay and lacked confidence as a teenager, I didn't have my first kiss until I was 20 or 19, I think. Coincidentally, I also lost my virginity with that same person at that same age. I felt embarrassed being that old, not having kissed anyone, so it was easiest for me to admit that I had not had sex, but to pretend I had at least kissed people.

For not having been kissed, no one would ever suspect or think about it, so just don't say anything about it and don't even think about it. Kissing comes pretty naturally and even experienced kissers sometimes suck at it (at least to me) because everyone has a style for how they kiss. (I've gotten significant others to kiss how I like, and vice versa. That's half the fun.) You kiss how you kiss, like handwriting. No one needs to know you've never been kissed, and you won't be a bad kisser, so I would just put that out of your mind.

I don't know how sex with a man works, so I don't know if inexperience would show, but at 21, I really don't think there's any reason to be ashamed to say you never did it for whatever reason you want to give. Hadn't met the right girl, wanted to be in love, was shy, etc.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:08 PM on January 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

Anecdotally, a boy I dated in college was 20 when he lost his virginity to me. On top of that, I was his first kiss! He disclosed his inexperience from the very beginning, which I appreciated. I didn't think it was a big deal at all. It was a little awkward at first, but with some more time and direction, he ended up being amaaaazing in bed. Like, the best I've ever had to this day. (Damn.) Don't worry too much and have a good time!
posted by colorproof at 10:15 PM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

The shame isn't going to help you, so get over that ASAP (21? 21 is nothing. That's actually rather more common than you'd believe).

I'd advise telling her that you are a virgin (never kissed/been kissed? That's up to you). Not on the first date, but if you are in a situation where clothes and inhibitions are dropping then I think it's okay to say "Hey, just so you know, I've never actually done this before". You don't have to drop anything cheesy like "I was waiting for the girl of my dreams", because those lines only work in movies. Just say that it never happened and leave it at that. With a bit of luck, she'll be the one to take charge. If not, just take it easy. For many people the smooching and cuddling and fooling around can be just as enjoyable as the sex (particularly if one or both parties aren't very experienced). Don't try to be Captain Longdick McFucksallnight because (a) you'll fail and (b) it's not the only way to give someone a great time.

Honestly, the big deal for me wasn't having sex (which wasn't all that great the first time around. Or the second, to be honest), but finding someone who really thought that having sex with me was a fantastic idea. Even before we did the deed, she'd made it pretty clear that she thought that I was awesome and that sleeping in my arms was a great way to spend the night. It was a wonderful feeling.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:18 PM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Don't sweat it. Way back when, my 21 year old boyfriend nervously told me that he was a virgin. No problem. I thought it was actually pretty awesome.
posted by (F)utility at 10:23 PM on January 12, 2013

Um... From what it sounds like, you want to just blurt it out to her that you're a virgin. You probably shouldn't do that. If you're going to disclose this information, you should probably wait for an opportune time to mention it, like before you're actually about to engage in sexual intercourse. Or when it feels right. Or whatever. I dunno.

Also, this is more general advice, but it bears repeating, always: most issues that you (not you personally) tend to focus on (say, your virginity) don't matter to other people. They've probably spent like 1/100th of the time you've spent going fucking insane obsessing over some (in retrospect) trivial shit. Even though your virginity is a huge deal to you, odds are, when you tell her, she's gonna be like, "alright, that's cool." Will probably not be a big deal to her at all. (Though if she makes a big deal about it and makes fun of you, she's probably a bitch anyways and you're probably better off not hitting that.)

For example, from my personal experience, I've agonized over things like class presentations. I always get really nervous - my hands get really sweaty, my heartbeat speeds up like I'm falling down a mountain or something, and I begin to shiver involuntarily. Y'know, a real internal battle with my personal demons. This shit is a big fucking deal. Then when I present, I notice people on their phones, or looking out the window, eyes closed. These people don't give a shit, so why am freaking out over it? To sum: try not to care so much about it, because she probably doesn't give a shit anyways. If you assume that she won't make a big deal about it, then the only way it'll become a big deal is if you make it a big deal. SO DON'T MAKE IT A BIG DEAL. THIS SHIT IS SMALL PEANUTS COMPARED TO THE REST OF YOUR FUCKING LIFE.

....Of course, you should probably take this advice with a grain of salt, considering I'm in the same situation as you (But, you should still probably listen to me because it's always easier for someone coming from the same perspective to see your problems. The problem's always obvious when it's someone else's problem, because I'm more likely to be objective about it. Even if I'm dealing with the same shit).
posted by Qberting at 10:30 PM on January 12, 2013 [7 favorites]

What everyone else said.

You are in for a treat.
posted by LarryC at 10:31 PM on January 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

I never even got to first base until I was 28. I eventually fiigured it out, and once I stopped fixating on that and picking up a bit of a carefree go-with-the-flow attitude, things quickly turned around. You don't want to be desperate... it's easily picked up on. Dating actually gets much, much, much better when you're near 30, too, since women by then generally have more day to day stability in their lives and have figured out what they want in life, so you'll have to deal with a lot less personality conflict and drama. Focus on yourself, college, or career in your 20s and good things will come later.... trust me. That's kind of what I did and it really gave me a head start for dating later on. "Late" in dating I'd have to peg at 35 years old, and even then some may argue that.
posted by crapmatic at 10:36 PM on January 12, 2013

Having lots of sex before you turned 21 would make you kind of unusual, right? Some people have, but most people that age don't have that much confidence/opportunity. There are also lots of people (waves) who weren't all that experienced at the dating/kissing stuff before then either.

Shame is your enemy and you need to do the best to kick it out of your head. There is nothing wrong with you, you are perfectly normal in this. Really really you are.

So: Ask her out on a date. If she says yes, do something fun. Whether to kiss on the first or second date depends on how well it goes. Second date is pretty safe if you're not sure about the first. Start with kissing and do lots of it, and if she is interested and you are both getting handsy and so on, you can both work to the point where you will talk about/request sex. At some point in all this, you will tell her you are a virgin because things just turned out that way, and that you really want to sleep with her if she wants to, and you hope she will tell you what she likes (in whatever way it works to tell her this). This will also help you get past the "dudes know automatically what to do in bed" myth that some people have. If she is also a virgin or inexperienced, which would not be surprising, well, then you both can start out with the "tell me what you like" setup, which is something many couples have to struggle with.

In case things go incredibly well, keep condoms with you from the beginning, but don't expect to need them right away. They can keep till you need them.

And if it doesn't go well; if she says no, or the first date is no good for either/both of you, determine beforehand that this is not the end. You will ask another woman out. You will not assume that whether a particular person wants to date you is the only thing that matters.

Because you don't need that kind of pressure on yourself or on her, right? A date is just a chance to see Does This Work? Maybe it will, maybe it won't; maybe you'll have sex, maybe you won't. Just decide that whatever happens, you are ready to be out there looking. And then keep doing that, in whatever way works for you.

Good luck!
posted by emjaybee at 10:45 PM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Shame's a bitch. Go for it man. It's really liberating taking a chance. I had to mentally rework some of my "dating skills" in my late 20's, and it's easy to fall for the "I'm so behind" negative self-talk. Which is bullshit, basically your fear talking yourself out of doing something new. Nothing else.

If you can both roll the dice and be honest, that's really empowering.
posted by phaedon at 10:45 PM on January 12, 2013

Fwiw, things moved so fast with the woman I lost my virginity to that I did not even have a chance to tell her. Honestly, to this day, some 28+ years later, I still don't think she knows or knew. I just kept asking her what she wanted me to do sounding as considerate as I could because well I was trying to be considerate. We dated for many years. Sex was great.

My point is that no matter how you approach it, and I agree with scientist's suggestion, no worries, it will be fine. Kissing and sex is one of those things that come naturally and instinctively when you first try.

21? Meh. You are well within the bell curve!
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:47 PM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, two of my most memorable partners were virgins when we got together. The first had never kissed anyone before, and wow - he was a great kisser, right out the gate. We never had sex, but it was because we weren't compatible as romantic partners and so the relationship didn't last long. If it had, I would have gladly had sex with him. (We're still good friends). The second partner had kissed a few others before, but not much more than that. Sex with him is still great, 18 years later. :) A lack of experience doesn't necessarily mean you will be a bad partner. Just try to stay focused on the moment and pay attention to the signals your partner is sending you, and you should be fine.
posted by RogueTech at 10:54 PM on January 12, 2013

One of my boyfriends was a virgin until he was 27, and another was a virgin until he was 20. I actually really liked it and thought it was sweet (I didn't have much experience either). It's not a big deal. I know this won't help from this side of the mountain, but once you start... doing things... it really comes naturally.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:54 PM on January 12, 2013

Also yeah it's gonna be fucking awesome. Good to get over that initial hump (pun fully intended I guess).
posted by stoneandstar at 10:56 PM on January 12, 2013

Adding to the "really, this is soooooooo not unusual" chorus.

Also want to recommend Scarleteen.com as a great resource on sex and sexuality. Despite the name, there are many people in their early 20s posting there!
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:59 PM on January 12, 2013

I read a book. I had a plan. I was complimented about it later behind my back. If they are having fun, they do not care about how many times you've done this before.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:09 PM on January 12, 2013

Super common, nothing to worry about. You have no idea how young you are. Have fun and be safe(r).
posted by ead at 11:59 PM on January 12, 2013

I was 26 when I lost my virginity and I felt pretty much the same as you at 21. Except that the reason it took me so long was I didn't properly realise that there were girls who were actually interested in me. You seem to have crossed that particular mental bridge already so you're way ahead of me!

Do tell anyone that you are getting romantic with that you are a virgin, but don't make a big deal out of it. I think my girlfriend was actually as nervous as I was. Just relax, enjoy it and be aware that it will hopefully be the first of many times that you will have sex so the first time doesn't have to be perfect. Also, in my experience, sex in the real world is less serious than in movies/porn. It's totally OK to talk and joke a lot. This was a pleasant surprise to me!
posted by neilb449 at 12:07 AM on January 13, 2013

Adding to the "really, this is soooooooo not unusual" chorus.


I was chronically shy growing up (still am for the most part, but now I'm old enough that I can claim it's grumpy old man misanthropy). Even at college it was unusual if I said more than 1 or 2 words to others during the day (and very unusual if those words were anything other than 'yeah', 'nah', or 'indeed').

Hence I ended up being a virgin till I was 23 (probably still would be if not for the internet; Tim Berners Lee has done a lot of great things, but getting me laid is definitely in the top 10). Seriously, the sex is the easy part of relationships, once the hormones are flowing then it all pretty much takes care of itself. Be observant and attentive of your partner and you'll be doing better than all those who started out at 13 behind the bike sheds and haven't changed their methodology since...
posted by titus-g at 2:13 AM on January 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Two thoughts:
*Virginity into your '20s is FAR more common than you might realize; sure, TV/movies/etc. show every 14-year-old out there as extremely sexually experienced, but that's not reality..... Reality is, being a virgin at age 21 is totally normal and average.
*You're a 21-year-old virgin --- so what? There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with that; sex without an emotional attachment is nothing more than using someone else as if they were an inflatable doll. It'd be better to be a *40*-year-old virgin than to be the kind of person who treats their partner like a sex toy.
posted by easily confused at 2:37 AM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sex without emotional attachments can be super fun for all parties involved, with nary a regret for a mutually satisfying experience!
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:56 AM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would tell the truth, once you're in a situation where sex looks likely. When one of my boyfriends (older than you are now, by the way) admitted this to me, it was a big relief, because I was trying to figure out how to tell him the same thing about myself.

If you decide not to say, though, it's not really this huge dice-roll where you should fear being "discovered". Despite cultural mystique about casanova-like lovers, it's not like there's a specific skill here you should have, where not having it is going to be a big giveaway. Sex with a new person is always different even if you're not a virgin, so people who are experienced expect there will be a bit of learning and discovery.

The things that really make sex good -- enthusiasm, kindness, attention to your partner's needs, the ability to laugh -- you can bring even if you have no experience at all.
posted by shattersock at 3:36 AM on January 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Honestly you've got nothing to worry about. Any decent person won't be bothered by it. In fact a couple of months ago I started dating a guy who was 40 and still a virgin, we're not dating now as we weren't compatible. I wasn't bothered by it at all. Though I will say if you really want to impress her then read as much as you can about foreplay and ways to please her etc. My ex had obviously done some research as the foreplay was great. Many men think that the clit is like a button for a lift, that if they press it really hard and grind their finger against it they think they'll make you come faster. This is just incredibly painful, it's worth remembering that a woman's clit contains as many nerves as a guy's penis but in a much smaller area making it incredibly sensitive. Be gentle to start with and ask her how she'd like to be touched. Just try not to stress about it too much. Remember that making love to someone is more than just the penetration. It's about being there with them. Exploring their body, finding all the places they like to be touched, from their ears, neck, shoulders all the way down to their knees and toes. It's about being comfortable with each other, respecting each other and being able to have a laugh about things as well.
posted by Ranting Prophet of DOOM! at 4:51 AM on January 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

6 points for having a good first time:

1. Being older than 20 is REALLY not a big deal. I didn't kiss anyone until I was 22 and didn't have sex until I was 25.
2. If she cares about you she won't be put off by it. Honesty is definitely the best possibility, if she thinks it's a bad thing then you're better off with someone who will treat your introductory experience with the respect and understanding it deserves.
3. Don't use alcohol to bolster confidence, because it will not be as fun. A couple of drinks to help relax = fine, drinking until you've worked up the nerve = bad idea.
4. If it's all over in about 5 seconds for you, that is completely normal. Spend a bit of time learning how to make sure your partner's enjoying herself and try again later.
5. LISTEN to her when she tells you what feels good for her, TELL her what feels good for you.
6. Do not think of condoms as optional. A night of fun is not worth a morning of terror and recriminations.
posted by fearnothing at 4:56 AM on January 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

Scientist's point about WHEN to tell her is fantastic advice. Follow it.
posted by fearnothing at 5:02 AM on January 13, 2013

Somebody who loves you or even genuinely likes you, is not suddenly going to start hating you because of this.

Imagine the absolute worst happens, you go in for a smooch, she finds out you have the Scarlet V. She shrieks "blaaargh! Ptui! He kissed me with his disgusting virgin lips!" And then runs 300 miles into the hills screaming "Cooties!" to anyone who will listen.

Well, wouldn't that be her issue and not yours?

I really really strongly agree that it's better to not have sex until you have an opportunity to do so with someone who matters to you, not someone that society has pressured you to treat like an inflatable sex toy, as someone put it above. Sex isn't a commodity and you're not a commodity. I know it's hard to believe in a society that convinces you you should have a Scarlet V on you, but that's one of society's evil values that you should make a conscious effort to reject.
posted by tel3path at 5:36 AM on January 13, 2013 [8 favorites]

Do tell her! My ex was 21 and I was the first girl he was with, I was so glad he told me in advance so I could make sure it was a positive memory for him, and we just kept practicing til he got the hang of it, which he definitely did! No girl worth knowing is going to expect you to be the perfect lover the first time round, anyone who's had sex knows first time sex can be awkward (hey, even first time sex with a new partner can be awkward!) but remember it's something fun you're doing TOGETHER!
posted by lifethatihavenotlivedyet at 5:58 AM on January 13, 2013

I hear you when you say how uncomfortable this makes you. I am not minimizing what you are feeling. Try to remember, your lack of experience won't matter to anyone who should matter. Enjoy!
posted by Silvertree at 6:11 AM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

According to the Kinsey institute, about 80% of young people have had intercourse by age 21. Your situation is just not rare. About 1 in 5 young people is in the same boat. And I bet there are plenty of people who WISH they were in your position, having had a first sexual encounter when they were younger that they did not enjoy or even regret.
posted by Cygnet at 6:22 AM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Adding to the chorus: There's nothing to feel shame about here. Nothing at all. By the time you're 80, when you lost your virginity won't matter - so some people will have had four or five more years of sexual activity to remember. So what!

I lost my virginity in my twenties. I think 22? Maybe 23, maybe as late as 24. It's over 20 years later and at this point it is literally so unimportant that I'd have to go back and look at my diaries to find out exactly. My point is, it matters now, yes, but it won't take very long at all for it to fade away.
posted by lemniskate at 6:24 AM on January 13, 2013

Watch this. Trust me. And then work your way through some of her other videos.

23 Year Old Virgin?...

Or to sum it up, communicate. Even in the bedroom.
posted by DisreputableDog at 6:29 AM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I was a virgin and had only kissed one girl when I was 24. It's really no big deal and nothing to be ashamed about, though I was embarrassed about it at the time and never talked about it. You don't have to tell her ahead of time, but even if you tell her, she isn't going to laugh or run away from you, and if she did, then you probably just dodged a bullet.
posted by empath at 6:47 AM on January 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

There is someone that I am interested in. We get along well and it is pretty clear that she is interested in me romantically.


I am reluctant to tell the truth but at the same time I am afraid of what would happen when my lack of experience becomes obvious.

It's probably worth a bit of circumspection here. For you the whole virgin-never-been-kissed-thing is huge and weighing heavily on your mind. It sounds like you think about it a lot, and in some ways have let it come to define an area of your life.

She's not going to be thinking about any of that. She's thinking, "This guy is cool, he makes me feel good." and ideally, "Hopefully he likes me as much as I like him."

Kissing and sex involve being vulnerable to another person. Opening yourself up. That's part of the magic. Two people, taking their barriers down, and literally connecting their bodies in different ways. And a common way of dealing with vulnerability is humour. You're going to have to learn how to kiss, and how to be a Masterful Lover. It takes time. Fortunately, the practice is quite fun. ;)

And if it helps, we've all been there. Anyone who's ever kissed has had a first kiss. And anyone who's ever had sex had a first time.

I am sick of passing on potential relationships because of the shame of my situation.

You're ready to move beyond that part of your life. Congratulations. You've probably worked quite hard to get here, and you've done well.

Should I be honest or roll the dice and hope it isn't too embarrassing? Thanks.

Don't fire hose her with honesty. You may even not have to mention it. Have the kiss, let it be a beginners kiss. Then laugh, and when she asks what you're laughing about, tell her it was your first time.

If you mention it, it's going to put all kinds of pressure on it. Kissing is supposed to be fun and spontaneous. Let it happen. Allow it to happen. Accept that is already is going to happen. When it happens, be authentic, enjoy yourself, and then tell her. She'll probably think it's sweet if you laugh at it. Then you can laugh at it together. And keep practicing. :)
posted by nickrussell at 10:15 AM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

21 really isn't THAT old, for your first time. Most people have probably had sex by then, but a whole lot of people haven't. And you don't have to come right out and tell her you've never had sex before. If you're nervous, just say you're a little nervous. (I'm not saying you should lie, just that you don't have to volunteer the information that you're a virgin, before you do anything.) She may even find your anxiety flattering. It's nice to know you make somebody weak in the knees!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:24 PM on January 13, 2013

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