Dating in college as a virgin was an emotional battlefield. It felt like I had this horrible secret I needed to keep hidden at all costs or I'd lose any chance of finding a boyfriend. It didn't help that my alma mater, Northwestern University, was fervently anti-dating. You either hooked up with people, or you were magically in a relationship — there was no in between.
I joke that Northwestern operated like Tinder years before Tinder was a thing. Most guys I met my freshman year were in a fraternity, and that meant they were of one of two mindsets — they were looking for their future wife or a one-night stand. Since I was looking for neither a husband nor a quick fix, I often found myself going home alone on a Saturday night. After a year of this and watching all my friends go through crazy and fun (-looking) experiences with guys, my virginity started to become a heavy burden. While part of me was more than ready to give in to the hookup culture and just get it over with, the other part was determined to make that first time special.
Thus, I ended up losing my virginity to what I thought would be a one-night stand but ended up becoming an unnecessary relationship. The guy — let's call him Tim — was an amazing drummer who was never not sans girl on his arm. My friend who played music with him told me he liked me two days before he and his roommates were having a party. Thus the stage was set for my de-virginizing.
I arrived two hours late, quickly downed four shots of vodka and approached him. Within minutes we were in his tiny room populated by a large marimba and other drum accoutrements. I'll skip over the dirty details — let's just say he did not expect to have sex that night, but I was on a drunken mission with very little training under my belt. It was awkward, then uncomfortable, then painful, then awful. I sneaked out early that morning and shame-sprinted back to my dorm to pass out. I woke up to a voicemail from him saying last night was fun (euphemism) and would I like to go to dinner sometime. This might've been a happy ending if I'd actually liked him like that (which I didn't) or if he hadn't felt obligated to date me because I gave him my virginity. This "relationship" went on for months, until I got up the courage to say, "Who are we kidding?"
Now imagine this somewhat weird, virginity-losing experience 10 years in the future. Suddenly it's not so adorably sad and teen movie worthy. Older adult virgins live lives that are far less funny than Steve Carell's in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. It's lonely, anxiety-producing and usually doesn't come with a happy ending.
The Kinsey Institute recently published a study on how adult virgins experience the dating world today in The Journal of Sex Research. When they asked 5,000 people on a wide age spectrum whether or not they'd date a virgin, most who'd had sex said no. This simple survey question confirms the fear most adult virgins have, which in turn makes them even more reluctant to date, thus perpetuating the cycle.
But it gets worse. Even though a much larger number of college-age students are in fact virgins, the survey found that the majority of younger virgins were not interested in dating other virgins. So you can see how I could've developed a bit of a complex around my own virginity when I was in college. Similar to job hunting, people are generally reluctant to go with inexperience no matter how desirable the candidate might look on the outside.
While the percentage of Americans who remain virgins past 30 is relatively low (1.9 percent, according to the CDC), if you're currently in the dating world, you should be aware that they're out there. And if they don't come clean about their virgin status until right before you get sexually involved, don't hold it against them. You know it was probably the only way you'd end up in such an intimate situation with them in the first place, and if they were comfortable enough with you to make it that far, the awkward sex might be worth it.
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