Let's talk about ... virginity!
July 26, 2013 6:38 AM   Subscribe

30 year old virgin. History of sexual assault as a teen. Terrified of sex for a number of related reasons. The fear is holding me back and stunting my growth.

And yet.

Asked out often. Go on many fun first dates. Love being in a relationship. Love kissing and romance.

I am so ashamed of my virginity that I have not even told my therapist of a year, or anyone else for that matter. Yes, the reason I went to therapy was because I was having relationship problems rooted in this fear of sex.

What can I do to overcome this? How do I bring it up to my therapist? She is about my age, which I think makes me feel more embarrassed. Any anecdotes or advice would be incredibly reassuring. I want a normal long-term relationship. I want to be in love. I just can't get past this roadblock.

Also: I am a straight woman.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (29 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

Show your therapist this post. If you think you need to, find another therapist. You can defeat this issue but you have to do the work.
posted by txmon at 6:45 AM on July 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

Just tell your therapist. She likely knows you are holding something back. Also, try and focus on detecting other emotions that might be holding you back.

These problems are solvable.

Best of luck.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:47 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

How do I bring it up to my therapist?

It might be easier to simply write it down in a short note and hand it to her. If you can't stand the thought of her reading it while you're there, then hand it to her halfway through the session and then leave. That way she has that block of time still devoted to you to read and digest the info and you have a week (or whatever) to deal with knowing she knows.

But really, it's no big deal. People have sex when they're ready. You haven't been ready, for very good, sound and understandable reasons. You're working on getting ready and this is part of the process. You're fine.

You might also want to look into EMDR therapy, which some have found useful in helping with past traumas.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:47 AM on July 26, 2013

Would you feel better talking to a sex therapist?
posted by travelwithcats at 6:53 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Be kind to yourself. You are not at all the first 30 year old person who happens to be a virgin. You are probably not the only 30 year old virgin on this website. This one fact about you is neither something that defines who you are, nor is it something deeply shameful that you should feel bad about. It really is just a thing.

If you have a good relationship with your therapist, perhaps you can explore some of this stuff in a limited way, just to get a feel for how they are going to respond. Maybe you can say, "there's a thing about me that I haven't talked about, because I have a lot of shame and strong strange feelings about this thing, and I want to talk about how I can talk about this thing, with you, my therapist, in a way that feels safe for me."

And if your therapist is any good, they will help you to make a space for the conversation that feels safe for you and not at all shaming or pathologizing or whatever you fear. If they are not, you can tell them, "this isn't working for me. I feel like you're shaming me or whatever and it's playing into my fears about this thing." And you can always, always get a different therapist.

But, again, I want to assure you that this is no big deal. It feels like a big deal to you, but really it's not. You are fine.
posted by gauche at 6:56 AM on July 26, 2013 [10 favorites]

I think the first thing you need to understand is there is no shame to be had here. None.

Many people for many reasons do not have sex until well into an adulthood. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It's your body, it's your decision.

And you're not in bad company, either --- Lisa Kudrow didn't lose hers until she was 31, among others.

The second thing I think you need to understand --- for yourself is two-fold:

If you're not ready, you're not ready and that's really very much okay. But if you've found yourself wanting to take that plunge and unable to out of fear or your history or shame, then that's something you want to work on for sure --- either with your current therapist or a sex therapist.
posted by zizzle at 7:01 AM on July 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

What can I do to overcome this? How do I bring it up to my therapist?

If it's too hard to say straight out, start from outside the issue and work your way towards it. That is, you can say "Something has been weighing on me for a long time and I'd like to talk about it, but I'm ashamed and I'm not sure how to talk about it". Your therapist will help you get to the point where you can talk with her about it.

She is about my age, which I think makes me feel more embarrassed.

Remind yourself that it's her job not to judge you. She's a professional non-judger.

Any anecdotes or advice would be incredibly reassuring.

I've been in pretty much exactly this boat. The thing with shame is that it's hard to distinguish among the fact of the matter, how you yourself feel about the situation, and how these things would be judged by others. Therapy really helped me disentangle these, at a pace I could control.
posted by Jpfed at 7:04 AM on July 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

I am not your therapist, but I am a therapist. The issue here is shame (which is deeper than embarrassment). The not-having-had-sex is just "fronting" for what the not-having-had-sex MEANS to you.


(1) you are projecting onto your therapist your own feelings about your life -- that is, you have certain awful feelings about yourself, so you make the erroneous assumption that anyone, if they knew the "real" story about you, would have them. But this is incorrect. It's actually only you who feels terrible about yourself;

(2) I have been hearing people's secrets for over 30 years, and each and every time anybody tells me their most shameful secret, (a) it doesn't not evoke in me the feelings that the client thinks it will (shock and horror; contempt; mockery; etc.); (b) it's never unique to the person, although they often think it is, and (c) I always feel deep compassion for the person, because their suffering is so great and so *unnecessary*.

This kind of secret that you're keeping is a way for you to feel that your *real* secret: that you are whatever you think this secret stands for (e.g. that you're immature; that you're unlovable; that you don't know how to be with a man; that you're flawed; that you're not sexy; that you're crippled emotionally; etc. (obviously these overlap)) will remain a secret: that is, you've encapsulated all those horrible feelings into this one issue, and then you can tell yourself that if you keep that one issue to yourself, "they'll" (i.e., everybody) never know the truly awful things about you. But (1) it's not true: because you're NOT awful, unlovable, etc. (because nobody is!); and (2) the cost-benefit ratio here is VASTLY Unfair to you -- that is, it's costing you WAY too much to retain this secret.

I highly suggest that you tell your therapist. That's what therapists are for -- to hear all this stuff from a vantage point of a caring Other, whom you are paying to help you, within a setting of total confidentiality.

Remember, as you consider telling her: it is NOT the fact of your virginity that is important -- it is what that fact MEANS to you.

Now, as far as your actually never having had sex -- you are trying to protecting yourself from all the hurt you've suffered. Given what you've gone through, is it any mystery that you don't want to make yourself vulnerable?? You deserve to respect yourself for the way you are trying to take care of yourself. As per not telling the secret of your virginity, however, that caretaking is coming at a cost (deprivation of sexual intimacy). But sexual intimacy can only take place when you are not terrified. Right now you are terrified, and that's why you're in therapy (which is great - good for you for doing this for yourself).

The first step for you may be to tell your therapist that you have secrets and that it is terribly painful for you to think about divulging them. You could talk about the issue of secrecy itself without having to divulge THE secret. TRUST/Secrecy/protecting yourself/vulnerability/why you feel so vulnerable -- this sort of conversation could be a dipping-your-toe-in-the-cold-water first step toward discussing the virginity secret.

Really, this is about trust. Explore with the therapist whether or not you trust her with your scariest feelings, and why or why not. Remember, it's not ultimately about "reality" -- it's about your FEELINGS, which may not seem rational to you, but they are always, on some level, rational, as they constitute "the best you can do at this moment" to protect your very wounded, vulnerable self.

(Once again, I'm not your therapist, and this is a general opinion, not meant as any substitute for mental health counseling, which I do not do online.)
posted by DMelanogaster at 7:05 AM on July 26, 2013 [72 favorites]

You have nothing to be ashamed of. Virginity isn't a disease. You are perfectly fine.

The way I'd bring it up with my therapist is to be 100% honest. "One reason I want to be here is because I have a lot of shame about still being a virgin. A lot. I'm here because of issues in having relationships and a fear of sex. This is so hard for me, I'm afraid that you'll judge me because we're similar ages." Or as DMelanogster says, just tell your therapist that you have secrets and that they cause you great shame, and you can work together to get to a point where you feel comfortable discussing them.

But, I think that if you can muster the courage to blurt it out, that SUCH a weight will be lifted from your shoulders it's not even funny.

Your therapist is a good person, she knows you're hurting and she'll want to help you deal with these issues and get you to a healthy place. Just saying this out loud will help you so much. Practice it. Say it over and over. The more you do, the easier it will be.

If you are interested in dating someone, I think you should. You can tell him early on, "I really like romance and kissing and cuddling, but it may be a while before I'm ready for sex. Is that a problem for you?" A good guy will roll with that, or honestly tell you that it's a deal-breker. But that's okay. You don't have to get into the details, but you can have relationships on YOUR terms. As you get to know someone, and you begin to trust him, you can explain the what's and the why's of your issues.

Also, everyone has issues. EVERYONE. You are not alone, not by any stretch. You are perfectly okay exactly as you are.

Hang in there kiddo.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:11 AM on July 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

>> You are probably not the only 30 year old virgin on this website.

You are not. Take comfort. Never having had sex does not define you or me. It's a label but not everything about you. You are lovable and worthy of a long-term relationship.

Do I feel ashamed sometimes? Yes. But then I remind myself that this is a deeply personal thing and everyone else who might judge me for it can fuck off. This includes your therapist. If she reacts poorly, makes you feel degraded or ashamed or like you suddenly sprouted a third eyeball, find a new therapist.
posted by royalsong at 7:27 AM on July 26, 2013 [7 favorites]

Yeah just wanted to say I've known people who lost their virginity at 24, 28 and 36 years old.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:39 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Having sex -or not- honestly isn't as big a deal as the American media, and, well, pretty much everybody, makes it seem. I do agree that your previous history of abuse is likely a large, large contributing factor here, and is interfering with your goals for your life now. Discussing it may be hard, but I can think of no better thing to do for yourself than work on this in a safe environment.

Have you considered a sex abuse survivor support group?
posted by Jacen at 7:50 AM on July 26, 2013

You know, in medieval times, people thought that abstaining from sex gave them special (possibly magic?) power and physical strength, and the longer one could go without compromising their "virtue", the more awesome they were.

Fashions change. Right now it's fashionable to be sexually active in certain ways to certain degrees. Ten years ago, different levels and types of sexual activity were popular. Fifty years ago, there were different expectations.Twenty years from now, maybe abstinence will be cool again.

There's no shame in making intimate decisions about what happens to your body based on what is best for you, instead of letting fashion dictate when or if you have sex.

For the record, I'm not technically a virgin, but I am religious and I've been abstinent for several years- and I'm in my mid twenties which is an odd time to not be having sex. My non-religious friends have been briefly interested but no one ever acted like my decision was bad or shameful; we're not high-school students in a production of Grease where anyone not getting it on is a loser. Telling my boyfriend was a bit awkward, but he did not try to shame or pressure me and was quite sweet. We have sleepovers where we actually sleep, and I feel very safe. I did date a guy who tried to shame and pressure me; I dumped him because anyone who acts like that isn't worth the time of day.
posted by windykites at 7:54 AM on July 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Sorry, meant to say I am religious... and consider myself a "renewed" or "born again" virgin.
posted by windykites at 8:00 AM on July 26, 2013

I think that there are a couple of things going on here.

One is how our culture talks about virginity (I'm guessing you're American or Canadian, apologies if I'm wrong). The biggest revelation I had when I lost my virginity was: That's it? I felt like I'd been duped. To be sure, it wasn't an experience I took lightly, but there's so much baggage around "losing your virginity" that I thought it would be some kind of transformation. And... it wasn't. We have all these social and cultural expectations around when and with whom and under what circumstances it happens--you shouldn't be too young, but you also shouldn't be too old; according to some people you should be married, according to others that's crazy; there are plenty of people who think that virginity makes you "pure" and plenty of others who think that it makes you a weirdo; and on and on. In many ways, my experience of losing my virginity was much like my experience of having my first kiss or my first date--a beginning, not a transformation. A milestone on a long path. So, that's a wordy way of saying: cultural baggage and talk around virginity doesn't always map onto lived experience. On preview: what Jacen says.

The other thing is how you're feeling about your sexuality. I wonder if it would help you to start the conversation with your therapist if you thought of yourself not as "Anonymous the Virgin" but rather as a whole person who has fears and anxiety around sexuality and has been avoiding certain sexual experiences as a result. My point about cultural baggage isn't that you should just think of having sex as no big deal. My point is that you as an individual are having your own issues with regard to sexuality, and you deserve to address them. Being a virgin doesn't make you "weird" and losing your virginity won't make you "normal." Having anxiety around sex is making you unhappy, and you'd like to find a way to become comfortable with having sexual experiences. Your therapist will not judge you for this. I promise.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:02 AM on July 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm not a virgin, not an abuse survivor, not a therapist and not even a woman -- but in case it helps, on hearing your story, "that woman should feel ashamed" is absolutely the opposite of what I feel for you. It's the opposite of what anyone would feel for you.

You have some anxieties, you have a very good reason to have formed those anxieties, and it sounds like you're on the verge of being ready to deal with those anxieties. You have nothing whatsoever to be ashamed of or embarrassed about.
posted by ook at 8:25 AM on July 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

One thought that I don't think I've seen here yet but needs to be said: you are really, really brave for bringing up this issue which is so hard for you, here on MeFi.

You are brave and you did it.

You posted this anonymously, which is totally fine. But what that means is that you were brave enough to send this question so that a moderator would post it for you.

You did it. You are brave. You can be really proud of that. I'm proud of you. You took the first step.

I think you can be brave enough to take another step. Keep going.

One last thought--if you really can't tell your therapist yet (though I concur, they are professional non judgers and secret keepers, so she would be good to tell)-- but if you aren't there yet, call an abuse survivors hotline anonymously and talk about it with someone there. That would be another good next step too. You don't have to tell your name but you can talk about your experience and your body.

Good luck.
posted by Sublimity at 9:17 AM on July 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

Yes! Go you for being brave! If it helps at all, I have known women who were virgins into their 30's. And pretty much what Sublimity just said re abuse hotline.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:23 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Absolutely go you for being brave. This is an incredible thing you've done and you should be proud. For what it's worth, I am.

Echoing the fact that you're likely not the only 30-year-old virgin here.

As someone who is 25, a virgin, and likely will have no cause to change that for a very long time (yay demisexuality!)... there is nothing wrong with you for not having had sex, or even being afraid to have it. You went through a traumatic event, and it is natural and reasonable for you to be having PTSD from it even years later. It is okay for you to be anxious about bringing it up to your therapist.

That said... believe me, no-one with any damn sense will think that this is something to be ashamed of. If they do... the hell with them, you are strong and amazing and wonderful, you deserve better.

Seconding the recommendaton for sex abuse support groups. A friend who is a survivor found them incredibly helpful, and it might ease your anxiety to know other people have been through some of the same things you did.

Good luck!
posted by Tamanna at 10:06 AM on July 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Up through a certain point in life, virginity is basically a cult meant to keep you from having sex and to keep people from trying to have sex with you inappropriately (it doesn't always work very well), until enough people in your cohort actually have sex and figure out that the hype is just hype. From there, the mystery starts to fall away and eventually all it means is that you haven't had penetrative sex. Which a lot of people choose not to do for a lot of reasons.

But if you suffered abuse at the point in your life where the cult was supposed to be protecting you from exploitation, when virginity was still one of the highest stakes in your life, it must be very very hard to let go of that enormous concept that came wrapped in fear and anxiety and authority and a heaping helping of deliberate misdirection that the first passage of a penis into a vagina released magic smoke or made you a different person.

For you, at 30, from a therapeutic standpoint, being a "virgin" isn't significantly different from another person sitting down and saying they haven't had sex in 10-15 years. It doesn't make much difference if you've still got your magic smoke, except for what it means to you.


Consider the conventional wisdom about sex (if it's coming from a sane, rational source): don't do it if you don't want to, wait until you're ready. That's not just about the first time, that's about every new partner - actually, that's really about every time. Don't do it if you don't want to. Because of circumstances and feelings, you haven't been ready so you haven't done it. That's actually a fantastic reason, because you can do a lot of really difficult damage to your own mental health and your partner's by having sex out of obligation or shame.

So now you're at a point in your life where you do want to want to. You want to be ready. It's causing you a lot of anxiety and pressure that you're not having sex, and that's probably a mix of your own personal desire and social pressure (real and imaginary), and you need help developing the skills required to be ready to make that choice.

Some people have sex for years and then end up in the exact same place you are, too. There's nothing about this that is specifically related to virginity. Your fear just started earlier than your sexual life.

All of this is what therapy is for. So it's handy that you're already there.

I'm not saying it's that easy. Fifteen-ish years of shame is a tough habit to break. It is very hard to be a sexual person in the face of that much bad feeling. You will have to talk the hell out of it, which isn't always going to be fun but it will be freeing. It's okay to be scared of that, but don't let the fear make you stop trying.

For your therapist, this is actually what she went to school to do. You should be suspicious of your shame, because shame works just about exactly like anxiety: it has self-preservation mechanisms. It wants to stop you from getting rid of it. It wants you to believe that it is right and you are wrong. It's a virus of the psyche.

You can totally do this. The worst part, maybe not the hardest but the most terrifying, will be saying it once. Just once. And then you'll break the spell, and everything after that will be less worse than that one moment.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:18 AM on July 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

The Hairpin has been running an excellent series called "Interview with a Virgin" which offers some interesting perspectives on these issues. I particularly recommend the interviews with Eliot, Will, and Maya. Human sexuality is incredibly diverse, and there are many, many people out there who are choosing not to have sex (for lots of different reasons). You are definitely not alone in this!
posted by catalpa at 11:21 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

A lot of the answers here are focusing on therapy, which is fine, but: how are you acting vis-a-vis romantic partners? Have you told any of your fun dates that you're a virgin? If things have progressed toward sex with any of these guys, what happened then? Has there been anyone who you might feel safe confiding this to? I'm asking because, though therapy can certainly help, I think what you really need is to find a sensitive guy who loves you and who you feel safe with. This (if you reverse the sexes) is what eventually happened to me when I was in a similar position to yours: I found a woman who was not only not in the least judgmental, but thrilled to be my first. And there's more of a stigma around virginity for men than for women, so your odds are much better than you think.
posted by zeri at 12:36 PM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm the one you'd tell. People tell me things that they just flat would not -- have not -- told anyone. Not anyone! For whatever reason, I'm just one of those kind of people. In high school, there were like four guys that I was their best friend.

I really like being this guy, I know it's an honor, a privilege. But it's also a responsibility; I have to listen closely and be alert, because whatever it is that Melvin or Myrtle just told me, hey, it might be their Number One Life Secret, and if I then say "Whoa, heavy -- pass the salt, 'k?" it takes some of the buzz out of The Moment.

Though of course sometimes that's exactly what's called for, because it's just another thing, it's just a slice of life, and yes, it's important, and yes, it's interesting, and yes, I really do care about you very much, but I really also do wanna sprinkle some sea salt on my peanut butter toast here, and I'm finding that pretty important, too.

So, I dunno. I think that they just trust me, is all, and even if/when I do it "wrong" by asking them to pass the salt or whatever, then they can get all fussy about it and they know I'll hear them, and apologize to them, and listen closely, and we're going to be laughing again here real quick.

Maybe they tell me because I'm so broken my own self, and I'm surely not shy to mention that fact. No telling.

One day Virginia and I were bopping around in my pickup, we went down to Galveston for whatever reason, and we're just sortof careening through the afternoon and then Virginia stops dead and looks at me all serious, and a bit scared, and she tells me words to the effect of "Jesus christ! I've told you things today I've never told anyone, not even my therapist, and I've been in deep therapy with this guy for years! wtf! What are you doing?" But I wasn't doing anything, just driving 'round some.

People just tell me things.

I told you that to tell you this: If you told me, maybe bopping around in my pickup one afternoon, or just wherever it is that we were and whatever it is we were doing, here's what I'd tell you. I'd tell you that you rock. I'd tell you that this thing can sure be a big messy painful son of a bitch sometimes and I'm sure sorry you got bit the way you did, but that I sure am glad you're my friend. Probably I'd buy you a coke, or some ice cream, or something. Maybe a hat, maybe we could find you one of those stupid hats with stupid stuff emblazoned across the front of them, I'd tell the guy behind the counter that you'd told me you really, really wanted the one that said "Hey! I'm a big buffalo fart!" in bright green letters and you'd be all scandalized and/or ashamed and going red in the cheeks and you'd say "I! Did! Not! Say! That!" and I'd tell they guy that you did too say that, just that you were shy about your deep needs and stuff. Fun! What a great day we'd have!
Once I was with Laura in her car and for whatever reason she got all mad and slugged me and then she was totally aghast, hadn't hit anyone since she was a young child, and she was all Into Peace or whatever, and while I didn't much care to get slugged I sure was happy to see that part of her, which not too many had ever seen.

Almost certainly I'd tell you some of the ways I'm broken, likely I'd suggest that we find a tall building and leap off of it, screeching, or, in lieu of that, maybe we could just keep on being in our afternoon, and having fun with it all.

I want you to tell someone about it.
If you were here, right now, that's what I'd tell you. In fact, I'd tell you that hey, you already did tell someone -- you told all of us here -- so you needn't even worry about that piece any more. You've done it. You'll still want to do it face to face of course, to get all the goods.

You say you want to be in a long-term relationship. You are in a long-term relationship, with your dang therapist. That's what it is. It's skewed, because we're paying them for their attention, their time, their skills -- in a word, their love -- so it's skewed in its way but it's still Real Life. Your therapist is a real person, you are in a real relationship. Like all relationships, it's fraught with expectations and fears and projection(s) but it's also hopeful, it's the best that money can buy, or I sure hope that it is. People -- by which I mean me, too -- people always want to think of therapy as this warm and safe and loving cocoon, and see their therapist as a good-hearted neurotic who wears casual yet arty clothing and eats vegetarian or whatever, we see it all as warm warm warm, safe safe safe, peace peace peace. And in any good therapeutic relationship, warmth and safety and peace will be right there, in that room; that's what you're paying for.

But you're also paying for help. And resting in that warmth and safety and peace is not going to help you if you don't use it. Spill the beans. Spit it out. From the warmth and safety and peace of the relationship you've built there, launch into your healing, knowing that you are safe, that you can come right back there, that in fact you need not even leave. Your therapist will be honored with your confidence. The depth in that room you share with increase significantly, the warmth peace and safety become larger, ever more tangible. Myself, I like that the silences in the room can get deeper, and I don't mean silence that no one says anything, just that it feels different once I cop to something, and sounds different, and I'm not articulating this well and maybe it can't be articulated well, just something that I notice, that's all. I notice it and I like it.

If you're not going to tell your therapist I'm still going to insist that you tell someone. This is me now, right here, right in this sentence, looking you dead in the eye. Tell someone. Start moving. I want you to have all the goods that life has to offer, I want you to have hot, urgent, needful sex, I want you to have long, languorous late Sunday morning sex, I want you to look some guy straight on as you come undone in his embrace, I want you to allow yourself that, all of it. But more than any of that, if you want to know the truth, I want you to have the peace of laying in someone’s arms, after sex, sprawled, spent, open, warm, loving on him, and accepting his love, too, when he loves on you, when he tells you how wonderful you are, how much he cares for you.
posted by dancestoblue at 12:49 PM on July 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

I have much in common with you, or did. I had never had sex, nor any romantic relationship quite late in life, was hiding it from my therapist (and everyone else) and felt dreadful about it. Things turned around very fast for me once I was able to speak aloud my situation and my fears. I was also doing group therapy. Having a whole bunch of people hear my concerns with sympathy and not a drop of disdain or shock helped me immensely. Less than six months after I "confessed" my situation, I started dating and found myself in a great relationship. We're approaching our second anniversary.

It won't be easy but I urge you to find a way to talk to someone about this. If you can't face the thought of telling your current therapist, find someone else, but I suspect that won't be necessary. People above have made some some good suggestions about how to go about it. My approach was to simply spill my guts at the beginning of a random session without much planning. You might try opening up the conversation by telling your therapist that there is something you would like to tell her or him, but you don't feel ready yet. You can talk about your reluctance to share with your therapist to get the ball rolling. But whatever method you use, get your secret out into the open, because learning to speak aloud your secret shame is a transformative experience.
posted by reren at 1:14 PM on July 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Your are not the only one on Metafilter. I was a virgin until I was 32 AND he was the first person that I ever dated. Along with you I am a survivor of sexual abuse.
The first time I told a therapist about that was like diving into a pool. Do you remember the first time you dove into a pool? Were you a bit scared, even though every one was like Do It!? And then you just let go and did it and it was over. Telling your therapist is like that. Try to picture it like that if you can.
In addition to telling your therapist, perhaps you might want to read a book about shame? This is the one I like the best - The gift (by Brene Brown). Its best taken in little chunks, a chapter a week maybe. or go right to the chapter that speaks the most to you.
Good Luck! I can picture right now the smile on your face when you realize that you have done it- you have told your story to someone.
posted by SyraCarol at 3:11 PM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, sweetie. I was you. It's going to be ok.

I lost my virginity at 28 and was terrified. I had also been abused as a teenager, and I was horrified by sex. When I finally felt sort of ready, I was so terrified to tell my boyfriend that I wrote him a letter and sent it in the mail. He quickly and compassionately reassured me it was nothing to be ashamed of, and that he loved me regardless.

I felt I was finally ready, but he and I tried, and it was painful and uncomfortable for me. I finally talked to a doctor about it. Upon hearing my history of abuse, she told me that because of the trauma, my body was physically trying to prevent another painful experience. She suggested a lot of foreplay, and starting with something very small, like a finger, and over some weeks, working up to two fingers, then three. She also suggested *no* thrusting at all, to begin with. We experimented, very slowly and carefully, over the course of several weeks, until I felt comfortable enough to actually have sex. It took a few tries to get the hang of it, but things progressed very happily after that.

I definitely recommend talking to a therapist-- if this one feels too young to you, find someone with more experience who you can trust. If you have a close, trusted friend, you might be surprised as how supportive and understanding a friend can be. You might also talk about it with a trusted doctor.

And if you do end up in a caring relationship, don't be afraid to simply say, "You know, I have something to share. I had X experience at Y age, and as a result have been kind of a 'late bloomer' sexually. I'm working on it, but I wanted you to know. It's taken me a while to work up to this. I feel healthy now, and I'm ready to move forward now, and I trust you, so if you're up for it, I'd like to explore sexuality with you."
posted by airguitar2 at 5:24 PM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Can you write your therapist a letter and have her read it during your next session? It puts some pressure off the actual "telling" and you can still talk about it later.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 5:46 PM on July 26, 2013

I am so ashamed of my virginity that I have not even told my therapist of a year, or anyone else for that matter.

Who is "anyone else"? The guys you date will, and should, eventually know. Other than the dates and the therapist, its nobody's business. Decent guys will be fine with it!

Part of the shame likely comes from the attitudes toward virginity in popular culture. Take your fear of sex, which likely stems from the teenage assault, out of the picture for a moment and think about this- why is it not okay to be a virgin at 30? Say you have a friend who is 30 or over without any history of sexual assault and she is a virgin, why is it such a bad thing? Who gets to decide whether something is okay or not, and why?

What can I do to overcome this? How do I bring it up to my therapist? She is about my age, which I think makes me feel more embarrassed. Any anecdotes or advice would be incredibly reassuring. I want a normal long-term relationship. I want to be in love. I just can't get past this roadblock.

A different suggestion regarding the therapist: If she is a woman, and your age, and it makes you uncomfortable to bring certain things up because of this then consider a different therapist. Possibly one who is much older. Perhaps even a much older male therapist. And by older, I mean 55+ or such, not 5 years older. Older people tend to have more life experience and compassion younger ones simply cannot beat. You already have enough on your plate to deal with; you don't need a therapist your age reacting poorly and adding to any over-generalizations. Just a thought to think about.

You seem like a fairly self-aware person who is taking the right steps (asking questions, looking for answers, seeing a therapist- all things that require a lot of courage!) to figure some things out. You can and will overcome anything. You may not know this, but the rest of us, 30 and over, women and men, virgins and no-where-near virgins, are fallible, flawed beings doing the best we can. We have insecurities and issues and we are just as fearful about them. We are all trying to figure things out. It doesn't happen in a day but we are all work in progress. You are already aware of what you'd like to change in your relationships AND you are taking the steps to do it! I cannot tell you how far ahead in the game you already are because of it. So, please, take heart. You are doing better than many older, non-virgins you can possibly imagine. Love is something I cannot comment on but I assure you that you will have the long term sexual and romantic relationships you yearn for.
posted by xm at 10:47 PM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I highly suggest that you tell your therapist. That's what therapists are for -- to hear all this stuff from a vantage point of a caring Other, whom you are paying to help you, within a setting of total confidentiality.

Just wanted to comment that I recently started therapy(for different reasons, but I've also got baggage that I've never talked about to anyone) and I try to keep this in mind.

The other thing that helped me was talking to my therapist about how I have things that are difficult for me to be honest/forthcoming about. So in your case I like the suggestions to tell your therapist that there is something weighing on you that you haven't been able to talk about...planting that seed might make it easier for you to just rip the band-aid off and tell her.

That said, I know I am still talking to a human being who has thoughts and opinions, so the most helpful thing for me has been to remind myself has been that everything I say is confidential and that regardless of whether or not my therapist has a personal opinion about stuff I say, I am there to get help and I trust her to help me. I told my therapist this as well.

Also, I don't think it is necessary for you to disclose this to the guys you date unless you want to. I think putting extra pressure on yourself to tell them just makes it into a bigger deal than it is.
posted by fromageball at 5:48 AM on July 27, 2013

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