The 26-year-old virgin: what it’s really like
Kate Couttas felt like a ‘weird, defective twentysomething’ when, at 26, her V-card was still in play…
WHEN I became a bornagain Christian at age 15, sex was the last thing I was thinking about. I’d developed an interest in boys, but it was more in that unrequited love, daydreaming about kissing behind the demountables at school kind of way. My friends and I were still too scared to tell each other when we had crushes, let alone had the kind of confidence to take anything further than a flirty look and a shy smile.
I got my first boyfriend at 20, and had two years of frustrating makeout sessions that never got beyond a boob grab. And then, at 24, something shifted. The Christian belief system didn’t feel like ‘mine’ anymore. After my first trip to Europe (and the only three months I hadn’t attended church since I had started), I drifted away from this lifestyle I’d been in for all my formative years.
To say getting into the standard twentysomething life was a shock to the system is putting it mildly. I’d been abstaining from not just sex, but alcohol, partying, the lot.
Playing catchups when it came to long, drunken party nights was easy. But the one area I couldn’t throw myself into was sex. For someone who hadn’t even seen a penis IRL yet, that was pretty damn confronting. I basically put losing my virginity on the shelf for a year and focused on getting my life groove back.
Then I developed a deep, allconsuming crush on a guy I worked with – we’ll call him Retail Boy. After months of dancing around each other, we finally hooked up one night, went back to his place, started to get naked – and I blurted out that I hadn’t had sex.
‘Wait, so you’re a virgin? Aren’t you 26?’ he said in the kind of shocked tone you don’t want to hear in the bedroom.
‘Uh… yeah,’ I replied, and gave him a bulletpoint version of my story. We made out a bit more, and I went home assuming all was fine because OBVIOUSLY if a guy wants to lock lips with you after that confession, he is totally into you.
Wrong. The next day at work, he told me he ‘couldn’t do the virgin thing’. HOLY HELL JUST RIP OUT MY HEART, IT’D HURT LESS. It wasn’t just the fact I’d been rejected by my one true love, it dug deep into my soul and brought up a sneaky little fear I’d been hiding. A fear that said, ‘No one will want you, because you’re still a virgin.’
I was stuck. I wanted to have sex, absolutely, but I also knew that if I rushed into it, I’d risk emotionally wrecking myself. Even though I’d left my beliefs from church behind, sex still meant something to me – at least, my first time did. Given all my new, nonchurch friends were doing it, talking about it and taking a drink for every question during Never Have I Ever, I felt like this weird, defective twentysomething.
Turns out, I just had to wait another six months. I ended up meeting my next boyfriend right after Retail Boy broke my heart. I was fully prepared for him to have an issue with my virginity situation. Surprisingly, though, when I brought it up on the fifth date he had zero issue.
When we finally did have sex, it was nothing like what I’d expected. I mean, all my friends had lost their Vcards as teenagers – their stories were about pain and awkwardness and guys orgasming in under a minute. The bar was set pretty low, so I was well and truly surprised when my experience was a little bit of discomfort, a LOT of pleasure and an orgasm – primarily because I was having sex with someone who’d already been doing it for a decade.
We ended up breaking up and I was quickly thrown into the dating world – and casual sex. I honestly thought, given my upbringing, that I’d have heaps of hangups about sex, needing it to be with some one I love and all that, but I took to casual sex like a duck to water. I didn’t become a sex maniac or anything, but in the several years since I became sexually active, I’ve had many casual flings, f*ck buddies and onenighters.
It also took me only a year or so to feel ‘caught up’ to my friends and be able to win (lose?) Never Have I Ever. You know what really threw me? Once I started being open about my recentlylost virginity, I found out loads of my friends had sex hangups similar to mine. One had been in a longterm relationship through her early twenties, and at 27 found herself single again – with only one sexual partner behind her. Another was still with her first love, and had only ever slept with him. Basically, I was never alone in my fear of being the ‘weird’ one who didn’t know shit about sex. There were all these women feeling similarly – we simply weren’t talking about it with each other.
If I could go back in time to when I was 15, get myself a highschool boyfriend and lose my virginity in his single bed, honestly, I would. It’s not a deep regret, though – more that it’s an experience I think I missed out on. But that being said, if there’s one thing my story’s taught me, it’s that shit just has a way of working out. And if you think your sitch is weird as hell, a ton of people are having a similar – if not the same – run in life as you. And that’s comforting.
‘IT BROUGHT UP A SNEAKY LITTLE FEAR I’D BEEN HIDING THAT SAID, “NO ONE WILL WANT YOU BECAUSE YOU’RE STILL A VIRGIN”’