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Ask Professor Foxy: Should I Lose My Virginity?

This is a cross-post from Feministing.com Also, please check out the great comments with first-person thoughts on losing your virginity. [Bolding here is ours]

Dear Professor Foxy,

I am 22 and half years old and I am still a virgin, and frankly, I worry a lot that this is strange and unusual.

From age 17 to 20, I dated two different guys seriously. Coming from a pretty religious Roman Catholic background, at first I didn't want to have sex for all the wrong reasons -- because nice girls don't do that outside of marriage, etc etc. As I got a little older and a little more in touch with my feminist self, I realized I didn't want to wait for marriage, but that I simply wasn't ready yet to have sex, and not with that particular guy. It will work itself out later, I figured.

But now all of a sudden I'm 22, just graduated from college, and things seem different from this perspective. The majority of my friends have had sex, and as a feminist and a student of women's studies, I'm very much surrounded by writing and thinking that advocates women to take charge of their sexuality and be sexual and have sex if they want to. And I support that 100% -- its just, I also start to feel like I am the ONLY ONE who hasn't had sex yet!

The thing that makes it more difficult is that I could have sex if I wanted to. I am involved with a very nice, kind guy right now. But it is very casual and at the end of the summer we will be moving to different coasts and we both expect things to end. I'm sure having sex with this guy would be a perfectly nice experience, we've done everything else ever there is to do already, and I'm very comfortable with him. A large part of me says hey, you're 22, you'll definitely like sex a lot, who knows when you'll be in any sort of relationship again (my new job will not be very conducive to being in any sort of serious relationship for various reasons), just do it. But then another part wonders, what if I regret it -- I don't want to do it just to get it over with.

I guess what I am wondering is basically, how unusual is it to be 22 and still a virgin? And am I making far too big a deal out of this one little act?

Thanks,
L

Hey L -

Two major thoughts occur to me:

1. How much people want to be normal when it comes to sex. Have sex at the right time. Make the right noises, Smell the right way. And how there really is no normal. The only thing that actually matters is what is right for you.

2. I can't give you a clean answer to have sex or not to have sex. Culturally, we tie a lot of import to THE FIRST ONE for women. While we can go through a lot of feminist deprogramming, that deprogramming does not always reach our own feelings and self-judgments. This is a decision you have to make for yourself, both how much it matters it to you and whether or not to have sex.

What it really comes down to is how much emphasis you place on what you are defining as sex. And I think that the "defining" part is key. I am not sure how sexually intimate you are with your current partner. Are you doing everything but putting penis into vagina? Or are you at the kissing and above the waist groping stage?

If you are at a clothes on or no exchange of bodily fluids or no penetration stage, having sex is a pretty big step and one you do not seem ready to take.

If you are already getting naked, exchanging bodily fluids, etc, you are closer to having vaginal-penile intercourse and it may make more sense to have sex.

I think there is something emotionally safer about having sex with someone who is leaving. No matter how emotional or invested you find yourself afterwards, they are going to be gone and you cannot tie unrealistic expectations to them. Time limited relationships also allow the person to stay closer to perfection. Traits that may later become annoying (leaving the seat up, an obnoxious laugh) are sweet and endearing in only a few months.

You also get to get over your first time jitters with someone who you are not trying to build a long-term relationship with. That can make all the potentially embarrassing moments less embarrassing.

The other side is you may regret it. Regret is a funny thing because there are very few predictors of what we will regret. Keep in mind you can start to have sex and stop at any point. If your inner voice starts to tell you that sex is not right, stop. You owe no one sex.

And if you decide to have sex, make sure to make it safe. Use condoms, women get pregnant, become HIV positive, or catch a sexually transmitted disease the first time.

You need to make your own choice, but weigh the pros and cons and listen to your gut. Only you can know what is best for you.

Best,
Professor Foxy