Yes, It’s Okay if you are a Virgin in Your 30s
When it comes to losing one’s virginity, everyone has a fucking opinion. The only one that really matters is your own. But since we can’t swipe our V card alone, it’s impossible to ignore others’ thoughts completely.
It shouldn’t matter who or how many people you’ve slept with but the concept of virginity especially still carries a lot of weight. In our amatonormative world, the assumption is that everyone wants, needs, and benefits from being in a romantic, sexual relationship. Behaving in a way that doesn’t align with this is thus perceived as strange or the sign of some major flaw.
Being a “later in life” virgin is scrutnized for being against the norm, which can lead to feelings of shame in a person who hasn’t had sex for any number of valid reasons. When the topic of waiting until your late 20s and beyond to have partnered sex came up on Bellesa’s Instagram stories, our DMs were flooded with shares about the highs and lows of being an older virgin, having your sexual debut later in life, and navigating this in dating and relationships along the way.
Regardless of the reason someone goes into adulthood without having partnered sex, being an older virgin comes with its own set of challenges.
What counts as an older virgin?
When we use the terms “older” and “later in life” here, we’re not talking about senior citizens. On average, Americans have reported losing their virginity by the age of 17, and virgins make up 12.3 percent of females and 14.3 percent of males ages 20 to 24. While 30 is still far from any natural descent to the grave, it's “older” by this standard of the national average.
That said, we have to take this data with a grain of salt. The definition of virgin varies and is full of loopholes. And because virginity is often considered the first time you have penetrative sex, these numbers may not account for any non-penetrative partner sex or sex between queer partners.
What even is Virginity?
Put simply, being a virgin means you haven’t had sex. But even that can be confusing because there’s quite a range of what different people define as “sex”.
The whole idea of virginity today is a little dubious, given its gross origins. Historically, virginity refers to whether or not penis-in-vagina (PIV) penetration has occurred. This is all wrapped up in the patriarchy’s obsession with female purity, which stems from the notion that women are goods to be sold.
Some well meanin folks have tried giving virginity a feminist rebrading by dubbing it one’s “sexual debut” but by most interpretations, this doesn’t do anything to reduce the pressures that come of pedestalizing partner sex over other forms of sexual pleasure. After all, it’s not our partners or the things we do with them that makes us sexual beings.
People Are Having Less Partered Sex in General
A recent social survey found that we’re at a 30-year low in partnered sex. Millenials and older Gen Z’s are waiting longer to have sex than their predecessors. So while this stigma around not having sex in your 30s and beyond may persist, it’s not so uncommon for this generation.
The suggested possible reasons for these trends are vast: religious reasons or lack thereof; easier access to higher quality porn and erotic media, increased use of sex toys; the financial strain of working more to make less and having to live with parents longer, all of which can make it more difficult to date and bring a sexual partner home; increased isolation and social anxiety; being overwhelmed by online dating and not having an alternative means of meeting prospective partners. And off course, we rarely acknowledge the existence of asexual people through all of these ponderings.
Even the double-edged sword of online sex positivity has been suggested. For many, it encourages them to raise their standards and prioritize self-pleasure while it amplifies the insecurity for others. "[You] see many (warranted) tweets just ruthlessly dunking on men who don’t know how to make women orgasm or who don't know their way around a vulva or are just generally bad in bed for whatever reason,” one interviewee told GQ. “it’s hard to believe I wouldn’t be one of these men in the bedroom."
The Bellesa Community Answers
When we posed the question to the Bellesa Instagram community about if/when they had their sexual debut and how they felt about it, the candid responses poured in. Some common themes wove through them.
Many of those who sought out to “lose” it and get it over with because of the pressure they felt to do so look back with indifference or disappointment on that first time. Those who are still virgins today are a bit of a mixed bag. The camps of people who are proud of their choice to wait and the ones who feel a sense of shame around it are both noteworthy. A lot of people feel both simultaneously.
Most reassuringly, the ones who waited are glad they did. That time gave them the time to grow into themselves, learn about their own bodies, refine their relationship values, and know that was the most authentic choice for them. As such, this group of responders tended to feel empowered by it when they shed the virgin label on their terms. One bb put it perfectly when they said: “It was great b/c I already had no tolerance for bullshit.”
Of course, the path to empowerment is not a straight road. “Not having partnered sex in my twenties leads me to the irrational feeling of being unattractive,” one responder said. While another admitted, “It felt so empowering to finally start having sex but shaking off the feeling of shame is difficult.”
While it may cause some anxiety before and even after, the general consensus is that no one regrets having waited for the right time with the right person (whatever that means for you), and that you’re never too young or too old to advocate for the terms of your pleasure.
Your Pleasure is Yours
While someone might feel shame because of it, there really is no shame in being a virgin at any age. If the hundreds of Bellesa bbs are to be believed, you’re more likely to come away from the experience more empowered if you do it when you want to.
The focus lately has broadly been on the sex people aren’t having, but the real questions we should be asking are: How much pleasure am I experiencing? If I’m not satisfied with that, what could I do to feel more pleasure based on who I am today?
Partner sex is something to be enjoyed and you should only do it if and when you feel comfortable doing so. The problem lies in how people are made to feel about it when they’re not having it, which doesn’t do anyone any favors.
While it doesn’t address the issue of unfair societal pressures, self-love can go a long way to cultivating confidence in the face of them. When you honor yourself and your pleasure, and meet yourself where you are rather than where society tells you to be, you open yourself up to so much more, alone and with any partner.