The ethics/practicalities of an older woman dating a younger male virgin
September 16, 2013 4:06 AM   Subscribe

[This post contains somewhat graphic descriptions of our intimate experiences and sexual topics generally, so if you are sensitive or perhaps at work it is good to know that.] I am in my early 30s and my new boyfriend is in his mid 20s. I am the first woman he has ever dated, the third he has ever kissed and if we progress in the relationship I will be the first he has ever had sex with. He is a phenomenal human being and I can hardly believe how lucky I am to know him let alone get the chance to have a relationship with him. I am worried about a few things, however and want to weigh them carefully before proceeding any further.

One, I am concerned that it might be unethical for me to "lock him down". He is a young and very attractive man and could easily have the whole "sowing the wild oats" period were he to gain a bit more confidence in himself and develop the urge to do so. It could also be the case that it's wrong for him to be with the first woman who he managed to get to the dating stage with (I made all the first moves-- asking him out, asking him if he was attracted to me and then kissing him, etc.). Is it wrong for me to pursue a long term relationship with him seeing this? That said, I have asked him if this is something he is likely to want to do and he has said no, that he sees no need to ever play the field. He hates dating and likes the idea of being with one person for a lifetime.

A bit about him: although he is more confident now than before, I can tell that he still doesn't quite get how amazing he is. He suffered from depression for many years which has resolved itself within the last two. During his late teens and early 20s he was quite overweight and I bet he still somewhat views himself as unattractive. Which understandable but nuts (technically speaking) as he is basically the hottest man I have EVER seen and I have had the good fortune to have known many adonises. Oh, but more importantly, he is ridiculously kind, considerate, hilarious, smart, interesting, multi-talented, cultured, etc. I don't know if I have ever met anyone as sweet as this man. He's one hell of a catch and I feel like, hm, I'm not good enough in a way and that perhaps I should protect myself by cutting out now rather than a few years down the road where he will HAVE to realize that he's too good for me.

...Then again, those are my own insecurities talking, perhaps. My friends tell me this and experience tells me this if I were only to listen to it. Many people think that I am just sabotaging myself by raising needless doubts here, but I really feel both quite guilty about sequestering him from the traditional fucking around period most modern western people have AND worried about him eventually leaving me when thinking long term with him. For now, however, he seems very into me. He talks a lot about our future, even the very long term. He wants me to meet his parents and his friends. He has even updated his Facebook status to say we're in a relationship together (although I didn't reciprocate because I feel like it is too soon). I do feel like he and I are very emotionally similar in many ways. When I was much younger I waited six months to have sex with my first partner and would have been very happy to stay with him for a lifetime had he not treated me very badly. So I guess I personally know it can happen and might just be scared myself due to bad past experiences with men.

The second issue is more immediate. He is very love shy naturally and we've only been physically intimate five times. The first time was perhaps the most awkward and stressed out makeout session I have ever had, understandably so. The second he was much more calm and said he felt at peace. The third even better and so on. He seems to be getting more and more comfortable each time we're together. That said, every time it is possible for us to have sex, he backs off subconsciously. He says he gets nervous and scared. What we do engage in is very warm, eager and loving. I really love the way he touches and kisses me and I am hopeful that he will be a wonderful lover once he finds his sea legs. I am trying to be very patient and am willing to give him a lot of time to come around.

There are a few things that worry me, however. I know that he is straight and able to masturbate. He does so a few times a week using porn. I am a bit worried that since he has been using porn for over a decade to get himself off that he will be "stuck" on it-- there are studies that show that porn use is pretty much like sexual crack and that exposure to such intense stimulus in the absence of the "real thing" can severely disrupt male sexual response. I also know that he's into anime and I did glimpse that he had a folder in his collection of digital photographs labled "4 chan". This worries me a lot as, well, 4 chan is not remotely my thing and neither is hentai (I have a theory that the birth rate is so low in Japan due in some part to the overwhelming preponderance of pornography depicting images of women that are literally unreal so that real women stand no chance of inciting desire). I don't know what kind of impact being exposed to that kind of stimulus your whole adult life has but I bet it is not good. What does mefi think? What kind of impact has it probably had and can it be undone?

Also, he has immense trouble with the idea of touching me very intimately. He says that it feels like it would be "dirty" and as though it might "hurt" me. Similarly, he has a lot of trouble with me touching him. He is ok with kissing and cuddling but has a hard time with me kissing his torso and I have only touched his genitals once, which was very intense for him. He can kiss my breasts but he has not touched my genitals.

I worry about his conception of sex as dirty and wonder where that comes from? Could it be due to him having seen so much porn and knowing on some level that it is a grotesque caricature of human sexuality?

As far as I know, he has never been sexually abused and his childhood was very good and stable. Oh, and he is 100% atheist and was raised that way. He was raised in a northern European country that is overwhelmingly atheist and sexually liberated/gender equal. So there's no cultural baggage here of that kind that I can think of.

So, to sum up the questions:

1. Is it right for me to try to be with him in a long term relationship?
2. Is it smart of me for myself to try to do that? Are my insecurities and baggage creeping in to ruin what might be a very lovely thing?
3. What damage has his being "raised" on porn and probably hentai perhaps done?
4. Where might his conception of sex being "dirty" come from and how can I help him overcome that?
5. Are there any general tips and tricks or other input for this kind of situation?
posted by telomere to Human Relations (36 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Have you noticed that you hid the paragraph about yourself right in the middle of all these paragraphs about your worries about him? If this is really about him, trust him. If this is really about you, I think you should let him go while you work on that.
posted by Houstonian at 4:22 AM on September 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

The porn stuff is a red herring and you might be showing a bit of your own prudishness by focusing on it so much. Lots of young men look at lots of porn and yet are still able to have sex perfectly well when the time comes.

You can get a guilt complex about sex from all kinds of things -- for example, was he raised Catholic?

To answer your specific questions.

1. Yes
2. Yes. Yes.
3. Probably none.
4. A hundred possible things, and he might just get over it when he actually has sex. Also, thinking that sex is 'dirty' doesn't stop lots of people from enjoying it.
5. Be patient and stop worrying so much.
posted by empath at 4:28 AM on September 16, 2013

It's a pretty giant leap to say that by dating him you are taking away his chances to be with other women. I mean it seems like you both need a lot more time with each other before it will be clear whether you want it to be long-term.

However, were this to turn into an LTR then perhaps he would have had an LTR with his first even if she were also in her mid-20s. I think you have to let him take some responsibility in determining whether he wants wild oats or a committed relationship.

Lots of men look at porn and are still able to enjoy sex. You can look at "make love not porn," though.
posted by bunderful at 4:33 AM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I can't speak to the cultural/age/porn aspects of your question but one thing I have learned in my decades on the planet is that some people (yes! including men!) have what I call 'the commitment gene'.

Sewing wild oats has no interest to these men. Their own gorgeousness to the opposite sex has no currency for them. Sincerity and personal intimacy are what they value. Porn for these men may only be a vehicle for fantasy when there is no reality to cuddle them close. Like a teen who collects pictures of cars before he can actually buy the car of value that he desires. That's probably a bad analogy because I don't mean to imply that he may see you as a commodity, a vehicle or a manufactured product. What I mean is that he may see you as his partner in life because you are the first to take him seriously as a driver. (Oh dear, I may be torturing that analogy).

So, to answer your specific questions.
1. If that is what you want.
2a. Love and smarts are not synonymous.
2b. Yes.
3. If you guys can enjoy and develop your sexual intimacy without porn getting his way: none
4. Shyness, sensitivity, overt awareness of how women are objectified in mainstream porn, a 100 other things.
5. Love openly, generously. Believe what he tells you about himself. Read his signals, not signals coming from not-him.
posted by Kerasia at 4:41 AM on September 16, 2013 [8 favorites]

You don't 'lock' people down. People decide to turn the key themselves.

He's swinging the keys.
posted by mippy at 4:46 AM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you are hedging your bets. You are doubting what he tells you about himself because you believe he's too inexperienced and naive to know his own mind. That's unfair to him. You're looking for confirmation that the future you won't get hurt. Unfortunately that's impossible to predict. Either take the risk or don't, but you deserve to be 100% in or out.

FWIW in my experience, people who are in all other ways functional adults but who are squicky about sex remain squicky about sex.
posted by headnsouth at 4:50 AM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wait... how long have you been dating now? It sounds very early!

1. See how you feel about this six months or a year into your relationship. I began a relationship with an older person in my late-early 20s, and I did have these concerns when it became clear, after a few months, that the relationship had the potential to be lasting. Being able to talk about it with my partner made it easier for me to deal with. Ultimately, I wanted to be in the relationship more than I wanted to fuck around. It's no longer an issue for us. I don't think you can predict whether or not this will come up, at an early stage--just be prepared to be honest and understanding, and it will probably be nothing more than a midnight worry, if it ever even comes up.

2. I suspect it's really too early to tell, but probably no to part one of this question and yes to part two.

3. Rethink your ideas about porn. Japanese population decline is not related to porn, it is related to other socioeconomic factors. Many people of all genders enjoy porn, including animated or unreal porn, without any disruption to their sex lives. It's not for everyone, but it's not going to automatically break anyone, either.

4. His worry that he might "hurt" you would worry me, if I were you. Have you asked him why he thinks this? Might be a good topic for discussion out of bed, before you guys move further.

5. Talk to him and trust him. Even us youth know ourselves.
posted by snorkmaiden at 4:59 AM on September 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

So, to sum up the questions:

1. Is it right for me to try to be with him in a long term relationship?
2. Is it smart of me for myself to try to do that? Are my insecurities and baggage creeping in to ruin what might be a very lovely thing?
3. What damage has his being "raised" on porn and probably hentai perhaps done?
4. Where might his conception of sex being "dirty" come from and how can I help him overcome that?
5. Are there any general tips and tricks or other input for this kind of situation?

1. No
2. No. Yes
3. Some but likely easy to overcome
4. Unfamiliarity with women and their bodies
5. It's not your age gap that's the issue, but your over analysis and fixations that could possibly deprive him of a more natural, carefree relationship.
posted by Kruger5 at 5:14 AM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I really feel both quite guilty about sequestering him from the traditional fucking around period most modern western people have

You don't say how long ago you met him, but I doubt that you've been entirely responsible for keeping him from having sex for this long.

Plenty of men like hentai and are also attracted to real live women. Japan's population decline is far more complex (and plenty of women are choosing not to have children, it's not as though men have all the agency as to birthrates), but you don't have to worry about that because your relationship is unlikely to be affected by demographic shifts in other countries.

These days there are plenty of men who use porn for years before or between partners. It's extremely common, although many men won't discuss it.

snorkmaiden points out something important with 4 above. Do discuss that. Do not dismiss it with "oh, you won't hurt me", find out how he feels it would hurt you. What is he concerned that he would do that would hurt you?
posted by yohko at 5:20 AM on September 16, 2013

This question seems more about you and your fears, rather than him.

1. Is it right for me to try to be with him in a long term relationship?

You're not his mother, why are you trying to take on that role and decide what's best for him?

2. Is it smart of me for myself to try to do that? Are my insecurities and baggage creeping in to ruin what might be a very lovely thing?

Smart? The heart wants what the heart wants. Unless you think a potential mate is going to abuse you, go for it. And yes, your insecurities are raging all over the place in this question.

3. What damage has his being "raised" on porn and probably hentai perhaps done?

You say he's wonderful, so it doesn't seem like much on any of the big issues. At best, you might have to retrain his penis, but that's the fun part.

4. Where might his conception of sex being "dirty" come from and how can I help him overcome that?

You know him better than anyone on this website ever can, so asking us is pointless. Talk to HIM about your questions. It might be abuse. It might be him still seeing his body as ugly. The only way to know is to talk it out at a speed he is comfortable with.

5. Are there any general tips and tricks or other input for this kind of situation?

Be honest and clear as you express what you want and need.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:36 AM on September 16, 2013

You're infantilising the guy, and your theories sound pretty far-out. Sorry. Stop overthinking, don't rush him, if he has psychological problems with sexual contact it's likely there are some very private events from his past that caused them - don't expect him to share that stuff soon.

If you like him, hang onto him - but treat him like the adult he is. Good luck!
posted by dickasso at 5:36 AM on September 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers so far! I guess I just wanted to chime in and go a bit deeper into why I think the porn thing might be a big issue as most of you seem to be dismissing that and I have thought a lot about it. I am not a prude and in fact am quite sexually experienced myself. I have been with many men my own age, older and younger. I find that the younger ones have the most trouble with sex. Of course, that is often due to inexperience but from their own self-reporting it often sounds like they are simply more accustomed to and inclined towards porn due to having grown up with it.

One of the last men I dated seriously was 25 and relatively sexually inexperienced. He was the one who really drew my attention to how pornography rewires the brain. He's a cognitive scientist and had done his own independent research into the subject. I take his word for the fact that there are indeed many scientific studies that show correlation between porn consumption and sexual desire although I did not ask him to show me those studies. I also remember reading a big article in the Economist about Japan's population decline that had a box on how porn was impacting it (obviously it is only one piece of the puzzle, but it is a piece) but couldn't find it on their site. I did some googling just now and couldn't find any on first glance, but I will look further and ask him to send me what he found (we are still friends and that mostly ended due to circumstance). The best I came up with was this:

Which is a pretty good and easy to consume piece that summed up a lot of what he said. I recommend reading it. Basically it says that the oxytocin and dopamine released during orgasm "bonds" males to porn and since the stimulus is so intense real women just can't compete. That guy stopped using porn shortly after we were dating of his own accord and his sexual performance dramatically improved. I feel somewhat confident that it was correlation rather than causation.

Other anecdotal datapoints include my first boyfriend, who I was with for seven years-- he was an amazing lover and despised pornography. The next man I was with for four and a half years was an astoundingly horrible lover and secretly consumed a lot of very disturbing pornography (featuring very young girls being abused (which is why the 4chan thing in particular freaks me out as I get the sense there's a lot of that type of stuff there)). That said, the one after him was a wonderful lover and used pretty normal porn in moderation so it is true that it can happen that a balance is struck.

Porn aside, it seems that you are mostly all coming to the same conclusion that my friends are: my insecurities are picking up on the idea of him being "too young/inexperienced to try with" and running with it as an excuse for me to leave him and thus protect myself from yet another failed relationship. It is good to hear this from strangers and I think it is true. I can see this in myself and I will discuss it with him. I feel like as I am willing to work with him with his weaknesses, it might not be so wrong to ask him to work with me and mine-- especially since I am becoming more aware of them and want to change. I have to learn to trust him and respect that he is telling me what he feels. I do tend to overanalyze things and this is perhaps a prime example of that.

It is also a good point that I really have to figure out WHY he thinks he will hurt me by touching me intimately. I DID ask him that but he had no real answer for it. It's part of why I asked here. He didn't know. I guess we have to try to figure that out.
posted by telomere at 5:36 AM on September 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh, also, we have only been dating for just under a month! The speed at which he decided to call me his "girlfriend", update his facebook status to relationship and introduce me to his loved ones both charms me and terrifies me! Also that he is talking long term already scares me a bit too but also entices me.
posted by telomere at 5:39 AM on September 16, 2013

1. Is it right for me to try to be with him in a long term relationship?

It's certainly not "wrong". He's not a child; he can leave if he needs to.

2[a]. Is it smart of me for myself to try to do that?

The key issue here is his own attitude towards his sexual ignorance. It's highly likely that he'll have weird ideas about sex, but if he already knows that he should actively update his beliefs, things will go a lot better for both of you.

[2b.] Are my insecurities and baggage creeping in to ruin what might be a very lovely thing?

Maybe? See 2a. If he recognizes and works on his sexual ignorance, the probability of your relationship being lovely should be on par with that of other relationships.

3. What damage has his being "raised" on porn and probably hentai perhaps done?

We can't know the answer to this. Different porn is different. Liking porn and anime does not mean that you like anime porn. Maybe you can learn more about his collection with him to understand what especially turns him on (and whether there really is something there that squicks you out too much to deal with)?

4. Where might his conception of sex being "dirty" come from and how can I help him overcome that?

It could be pretty much anything. The porn might have something to do with this, depending on the porn. Even though there probably isn't a religion that comes out and says that sex is dirty, families can certainly pass on this belief through their particular instantiation of their religion. It's an incredibly common belief. See 2a.

5. Are there any general tips and tricks or other input for this kind of situation?

Ruminating and extrapolating will probably not help as much as they hurt. Go slowly enough to cross each bridge when it comes.

The "I might hurt you" thing is not a big red flag to me. I believed it, and was afraid of it, myself when I was a late virgin male. He knows that males are big and strong and portrayed as occasionally hurtful in the media. There might not even be any actual specific kind of hurt that he is imagining. It's just a vague impression that virgin males can be aware of. On preview- "He didn't know"!
posted by Jpfed at 5:47 AM on September 16, 2013

...Then again, those are my own insecurities talking, perhaps. My friends tell me this and experience tells me this if I were only to listen to it. Many people think that I am just sabotaging myself by raising needless doubts here

This, this, a thousand times this. So that's questions 1, 2, and 5 taken care of.

The porn thing: it sounds like you have firmly fixed opinions on this, which I'm not going to try to change; instead I'm going to suggest that you stop peeking into his collection of digital photographs, let his porn be his business, and make it your business only if and when it actually becomes a problem in your relationship. Which I'm guessing will be never, but who knows; anyway it doesn't matter right now because right now it isn't a problem. Don't go making it into one.

As for his awkwardness, fears, misconceptions, etc around the sex act: he's a virgin in his mid 20s. And not the religious "saving yourself" kind of virgin, a yearning-for-but-not-achieving-it kind of virgin.

He has with a certainty built sex up in his head into a BIG THING; of course he's a little awkward and weird about it, of course you touching his genitals for the very first time was "extremely intense" for him, of course he comes off as "love shy" the first time and becomes nervous when the chance arises, because he's never done this before! He doesn't know what he's doing! He's probably afraid of disappointing you, not doing a good enough job, doing it "wrong", yada yada yada, all the awkward junk most of us work through in our teens. It would be much more worrying if he were totally smooth and self-confident about all of this.

As with the making out, it'll be awkward the first time and will get very much better very quickly. As with the other four questions, this isn't a problem. Don't try to turn it into one.
posted by ook at 5:49 AM on September 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

(Also, congratulations! It sounds like a good relationship! Relax and enjoy it!)
posted by ook at 5:52 AM on September 16, 2013

Have a sit down talk with him. Make it VERY clear you are willing to take sex/physical intimacy at his pace. It might be a very good idea to slow that down some. While I am sex-positive in general, I firmly believe too much phys intimacy too soon can (but might not!) derail? pressure? stress? Accelerate in the wrong ways? A relationship. Taking things slow can have a lot of perks.

Anecdata, and not very good one, but I have heard 'afraid of hurting' type comments from some of my nerdy/shy/inexperienced friends who turned out to be into BDSM. Very small sample pool, but more than once, less than a dozen. YMMV

In general, relax. He is old enough to make choices. You need to respect them, and calm your own insecurities down some.
posted by Jacen at 6:07 AM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

why I think the porn thing might be a big issue

You seem to have a lot of detailed information about how to answer your question 3, so I'm not sure why you asked about that here.

If you don't want to date guys who watch porn, or who watch certain types of porn, then don't. If you are are looking for permission to not date guys who watch porn, with the powers vested in me by metafilter I hereby grant you permission not to date guys who watch certain/all/some porn. They are out there. Go forth and date as you wish.

I wouldn't make any assumptions as to what sex acts are depicted in the porn based on the porn coming from 4chan or that it's hentai, or not.

If you are wondering if this guy will be an amazing lover or not, experimental verification is the only way. Certainly he's not a practiced lover, and he's going to seem like an inexperienced lover because he's inexperienced. If you don't want an inexperienced lover, you should probably not date virgins, unless you are willing to put some time and effort in to turning him into an experienced lover.
posted by yohko at 6:11 AM on September 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Early thirties/mid twenties doesn't actually sound that outlandish to me. You're not exactly playing Mrs Robinson here.
posted by Segundus at 6:15 AM on September 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh, and I've seen anime titles that were categorized as "hentai" due to a brief topless scene, far tamer than a typical movie.
posted by yohko at 6:17 AM on September 16, 2013

1. Is it right for me to try to be with him in a long term relationship?
2. Is it smart of me for myself to try to do that? Are my insecurities and baggage creeping in to ruin what might be a very lovely thing?
3. What damage has his being "raised" on porn and probably hentai perhaps done?
4. Where might his conception of sex being "dirty" come from and how can I help him overcome that?
5. Are there any general tips and tricks or other input for this kind of situation?

1. No, it's not wrong. If you want to pursue this, go for it.
2. I don't see how being with him would be any better or worse than anyone else. Let him decide what he wants and you decide what you want.
3. Probably none. His relationship to sex is likely bigger than that datapoint. But you've been with him a month? Give the sex part more time. I'm sure he'll warm up if it's something he wants to do. If not, then you have to decide if you want to live without that.
4. Religion? Popular culture?
5. He has you on a pedestal like you have him on. Cut it out, both of you. Be real with each other. He has to stop being afraid to hurt you and you have to just enjoy the ride.
posted by inturnaround at 6:26 AM on September 16, 2013

If he was a virgin aged 20something who DIDN'T watch porn, that would worry me. Just go slow and stop thinking of this as some weird situation. Lots of people, including guys, start having sex later than they allow their friends to believe.

I know it's my personal drum to beat, but really, 27-year age gap over here--is it helping to think of yourself as an older woman?

After six months I would worry. One month is too soon.
posted by skbw at 6:27 AM on September 16, 2013

He's one hell of a catch and I feel like, hm, I'm not good enough in a way and that perhaps I should protect myself by cutting out now rather than a few years down the road where he will HAVE to realize that he's too good for me.

So, you're considering breaking up with him because you like him a lot? That doesn't sound like a great strategy moving forward.

It's been a month. He's got a lot of history with body image issues, and what your eyes see and what his brain/heart sees is likely not going to match up for a good long while. Be gentle with your grown-up ugly duckling. He doesn't know he's a swan.

Give the boy time. Woo him. Calm him. Entice him. He likes you.
posted by heatherann at 6:35 AM on September 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Can you elaborate on what you're hoping to get from the porn question? If everyone here came in and basically backed up what you already believe, what would you do - are you looking for support to try to get him to quit looking at porn? If so I think that may be a little unfair (or possibly unrealistic) on your part, although of course you can discuss your feelings on the matter with him. And as yohko says, if what you're really after is validation of your desire to date guys who don't look at porn that really is fine, although I'd add that it's maybe not great to try to make someone into that who isn't.

As far as your questions about seeking an LTR with him go, like everyone else here I'd agree that there's nothing wrong with that at all (and honestly, the age gap doesn't sound that big to me). However, I'd also add that plenty of LTRs fail, and especially if this is his first one and he's still relatively young you guys may not end up being together forever - but this does NOT mean that if you split up it's because he ultimately realized you're not good enough for him. Changing desires, incompatibilities that only reveal themselves over time, or even "just because" are all a lot more likely breakup reasons than him being too good for you. Just something that's worth remembering.
posted by DingoMutt at 6:35 AM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I cannot answer your questions, but know that this is about you, not him.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:37 AM on September 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

You both sound kind of nuts to me.

The only thing really worrying to me about him is that he seems to think that sex is dirty, touching a woman defiles her, and being touched by a woman defiles him. That is a huge enormous red flag for issues of self-hatred, identity, and misogyny. Not that he is consciously any of those things, but these issues can be incredibly deep seated and seep out in insidious ways.

The fact that this is so far down the list of your concerns makes me worried about you. It doesn't sound like you see him as a peer. You consider that you might know better than he does what is good for him, that it's somehow your responsibility to make those choices for him, and in some ways even more worryingly, seem to assume that if you have a long term relationship with him now he is guaranteed to stay by you forever and ever, forgoing wild oat sowing presumably until you predecease him.

I think you're really worried about committing to him only to have him break up with you later. There are no guarantees about that and part of the experience of loving someone is risk of loss. Either he's worth the risk or not. If you're the older woman, grow up a little and leave yourselves both room to fly.

I think what you *should* really be worried about are whether his sexual issues are something he's addressing and growing out of, or signs of deep rooted parts of his character that could poison far more than your sexual relationship (which it sounds like may not be that important to you).
posted by Salamandrous at 6:41 AM on September 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

Former mid-twenties male virgin here. You are over thinking things. Virgins aren't some special treasure that needs to be handled with a lot of special care, it's just someone who doesn't have a lot of dating experience. I personally don't miss the "sowing the wild oats" period you are talking about, which I mostly imagine to be a series of failed relationships before I was mature enough to figure out how to be a good relationship partner.

Also I've used porn to masturbate since I was about 12. Personally I don't feel that porn made me into a bad lover or gave me unrealistic perceptions of female anatomy. I went through puberty pre-me-having-Internet and my sexual fantasies back then were probably more bizarre than hentai. I would say as an accomplished masturbator that the biggest difference between masturbating and having sex with someone is that with masturbation it's much more mental and about intensely focusing on a fantasy, whereas with sex there's a lot more things going on and a lot more things to think about, some of which are not that sexy (for instance "My leg is starting to get sore in this position but she seems to be enjoying it, but I should try not to focus on that because I want to try to last longer"). I would say overall that you should maybe not worry so much about porn and feel like you have to fix him somehow to undo all of the damage. There are a lot of people who enjoy porn and a lot of people who don't, and if it's a deal-breaker for you you're probably better off finding a guy who already doesn't like porn than try to convince someone who does that's it some horrible thing that is causing him harm.
posted by Sexy, Sexy Anonymity at 6:54 AM on September 16, 2013 [5 favorites]

You are not "an older woman," as far as I'm concerned. And you're not his mother. I don't see any ethical quandary here, I just see you trying to rationalize away a relationship.

Do you want to date this guy or not? If not, move on. I don't think viewing this guy as a youngster that needs you to hold his hand at every turn is going to help either one of you (particularly in making him feel like a sexy dude), in any case.
posted by thirdletter at 8:20 AM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

You are not "an older woman," as far as I'm concerned.

As a mid-twenties female with an early-thirties male partner, I agree. You barely have a gap, and once you're both in you thirties you will feel part of the same demographic I'm sure. However, I guess the gap is amplified from the wider gap of sexual experience. I would perhaps be wary of assuming that a lack of overt sexual experience means that he is emotionally stunted - he is an adult who has had life experiences of one sort of another. (Maybe I'm wrong, and reading too much between the lines, so feel free to disregard this if so.)

The porn may or may not be an issue, but that will only become apparent once you've established regular sexual contact. I think a larger, more immediate issue is his general discomfort with naked bodies and touching genitals. You're evidently prepared to take your time with him, which is great. However, again I wonder if you're shying away from discussing this with him in greater depth because you want to in some way protect him from conversations he's not used to yet. Again, reframe this as a coming together of two adults; yes, you need to be sensitive and gentle, but you also need to be direct with your needs, especially as you are embarking on something you both think has long-term potential.

Good luck.
posted by dumdidumdum at 8:44 AM on September 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

For some people, the sort of sexual hangup you're describing comes from low self-esteem. "Nobody would ever freely consent to sleeping with someone like me, so if you're sleeping with me then I must be violating your consent." "Nobody in their right mind will ever want me, so if you want me then there's clearly something wrong with you."

For some people, it comes from social anxiety. "Oh shit, I'm probably doing this all wrong and you're secretly laughing at me."

For some people, it comes from fear of hurting someone they love. "It would be a terrible terrible catastrophe if I ever did anything that upset you, even accidentally. And I've heard that bad sex is sometimes upsetting, and I'm not 100% sure I'll be good at this, so it's not an acceptable risk for me to take."

For some people, it comes from sour grapes over blooming late. "God dammit I'm still not getting any. Well, whatever. Sex is probably just dirty and nasty and unpleasant, and the people who are doing it are probably total freaks, so I really didn't want to have sex anyway."

For some people, it comes from putting sex up on a pedestal because they bloomed late. "Everyone said that when I finally lost my virginity it would be this perfect magical transcendent moment. Well, this is a whole lot of fun, but it isn't Perfect or Transcendant. Like, for instance, right now my butt itches. Shit, I must be doing it wrong."

For some people, it comes from badly repressed kinks. "When I'm turned on I think about spanking people. And that's CLEARLY AWFUL AND MORALLY UNACCEPTABLE and I'm probably some kind of terrible rapist-in-training and it's safer just to never get turned on around another human being ever."

Porn can contribute to this stuff, and can interact with it in complicated ways. Though FWIW, not all of those ways are about holding women to an unrealistic standard. A guy with low self-esteem might be comparing himself to male porn stars, reinforcing his belief that nobody will ever want him. A guy who's afraid of hurting his loved ones might be totally aware that a lot of porn is fucked up and violent and degrading in morally problematic ways, and really terrified that it's impossible to have sex without bringing up those same moral problems.

But in any case, the main point I'm trying to make here is that porn is not the only possible cause for these hangups. A guy who grows up in an awesome feminist liberal environment, with great sex-ed and no weird religious prohibitions and no abuse, can still have all sorts of emotional or philosophical problems that make sex complicated without porn ever even entering into it.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 8:56 AM on September 16, 2013 [10 favorites]

You have MeMail.
posted by wwax at 10:00 AM on September 16, 2013

I'm a guy, who was a twenty-something virgin who had never kissed a lady before my first girlfriend, who was assertive. If not for her, I would have stumbled around for a while and might have eventually asked someone out. And it was so exciting, she was great and a lot of fun. I jumped into that relationship, to the point where I was clingy. Why would I want to be away from my first girlfriend?

Anyway, she coached me through my first sexual experiences, though we never had intercourse. The first few times were awkward, but then it got better. I ended that relationship, because of issues between the two of us, but she broke the ice for me for future relationships.

1. Is it right for me to try to be with him in a long term relationship?
It's not wrong, as you are not tricking him into some trap with a lure like a hunter traps an animal. He is an adult who can make his own decisions. True, he might latch onto you as this is his first real relationship, but that doesn't mean he won't also be the one to end it.

2. Is it smart of me for myself to try to do that? Are my insecurities and baggage creeping in to ruin what might be a very lovely thing?
Only you can answer this. You might be the person he needed to re-set his notions about what he can and can't do, and how to go about being involved in relationships. Because you're questioning this, you might be a good one to talk to him about relationships in general. You can tell him about how you felt in past relationships, how they progressed, things that mean more coming from a partner than a random book or the internet at large.

3. What damage has his being "raised" on porn and probably hentai perhaps done?
I think "damage" is the wrong word, but I agree that porn can warp a sense of sexuality. But from my experiences, unless someone holds onto porn as an ideal by which to compare personal experiences, porn loses out to real physical relationships.

4. Where might his conception of sex being "dirty" come from and how can I help him overcome that?
Now there are two. covered a number of options. Don't get too hung up on why (unless you want to spend time unpacking that baggage with him), focus your efforts on helping him become comfortable with sex as a consensual act of love and fun between two adults.

5. Are there any general tips and tricks or other input for this kind of situation?
Don't be afraid to slow him down, if he's jumping into the relationship faster than you are comfortable. Sure, he's the one who is lacking experience, but that doesn't mean your comfort is secondary.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:07 AM on September 16, 2013

1. Yes. You are not ethically obligated to worry about him passing on his oat-sowing opportunities.

2. Maybe, maybe not. This guy sounds...not entirely ready and prepared for a serious relationship with another human person. You might invest lots of time and emotional energy into getting him into shape for that only to find him discovering that maybe he'd like to play the field after all, or test out his newfound skills and confidence elsewhere. Can't say for sure that this would happen, but it's a risk you take with young inexperienced guys, and you can't always take them at their word when they say they already know and have decided what they want out of life in terms of relationships.

3. Who can say at this point? You'll have a better idea if there's evident damage once you start having sex with him, but you won't really know whether the porn/hentai interest caused the damage or was merely a symptom of it or is completely unrelated to any problems he may or may not have.

4. This, too, is unanswerable. Messed-up ideas can come from any number of sources. But I agree with previous answerers that thinking that doing sex stuff with a lady is "dirty" and will "hurt" her is a huge red flag. I'm not even going to begin to pretend to know how you could help him overcome that but it might be a fairly big undertaking.

5. Coaxing people out of the weird emotional shells they've built for themselves and teaching them how to live according to their true potential is painful, thankless work. You talk about how great you think this guy is but he's not really a man in full as far as having adult relationships, and if he gets to that point, with or without your help, you don't really know if he's going to be the gem you think he is, because there's all kinds of hard decisions and methodologies for dealing with life choices, sex, conflict, other people's needs, etc that he hasn't really had to face yet. From my safe distance I'd say cut him loose and tell him to find his way back to you once he's got grownup relationships figured out, if he wants to. But that's easy for me to say.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:17 AM on September 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm surprised no one has passed along Dan Savage's advice for sexual relationships with age/experience gaps. Savage advocates the campsite rule; if you're not sure you're going to be with him permanently, your obligation is to leave him better than you found him. Having a healthy understanding of sexuality and adult sexual relationships is doing exactly that.

Have fun!
posted by JMOZ at 5:28 PM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

There was an eight year gap between me and my first serious girlfriend. I, too, was inexperienced - in relationships and otherwise - and absolutely disinterested in sowing wild oats; I wanted a serious relationship and had always wanted one.

I never felt deprived - how can you feel deprived of something you've never wanted? My inexperience did mean that I acted in ways in the relationship that looking back I would never do now - I was learning as I went along, basically. I'm definitely not sure I was dynamite in the sack, and was definitely umm, tentative, and liked a lot of reassurance and suggestion.

I think some of your issues may actually be caught up in a stylised way of thinking about genders - I feel like some of your discomfort is stemming from the way that both of you are undermining/outside traditional ways of thinking about gender. I think this is particularly obvious in the way that you talk about sex, and your frankly strange ideas about casual porn consumption. It is an unfortunate stereotype that all men are sex-hungry poon hounds, to use the vernacular - and it's utterly untrue. There is much more heterogeneity to human beings than that. I think you need to confront your own thinking about this, before putting it all on him.

Additionally, have you considered that one of the reasons he's worried about too much sexy contact is that he's worried he's gonna come when you touch or not last long enough in general?

I would say the answer to everything is take it slow, and keep it relaxed. Sounds like you're both overthinking a little.
posted by smoke at 5:34 PM on September 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

The part that bothers me the most about this whole question is that you have grouped everyone into little stereotypes and you are asking for advice about how those stereotypes should work, based on all sorts of scientific and anecdotal evidence. But you and he are not stereotypes and your relationship is not the same one that "statistics say" will either work or not work.

Treat him as an individual, behave yourself as your own individual and see what happens.
posted by CathyG at 7:33 PM on September 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

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