‘You’ve never kissed anyone? Does that mean, you know, you’ve never had sex?’ Yes, Jonathan from Tinder, that is exactly what it means.
I’m 23 years old and I’m a virgin. That’s not something you hear everyday I know, but we exist and I am sick of not talking about it, tired of tiptoeing around the topic and of it being a ‘bad thing’ in my head.
The fact that I haven’t had sex yet has nothing to do with religious reasons, strict parents or being ashamed of my sexuality – I just haven’t ever got around to it, as crazy as that sounds.
I wasn’t a social butterfly at school, I didn’t go to house parties or under 18 clubs, I didn’t have a large social circle, plus my family moved a lot when I was younger, which I think meant I never really acted my age, got a boyfriend and did everything else most people my age were doing.
Throughout my late teen years and even my early twenties, I felt as though I was trailing behind almost every other female my age who was in her third serious relationship, or about to move in with a partner, thinking about buying houses and having children. It was like I was the leper of my generation.
Underpinning this was a constant fear that I would never find love, and I worried that men would think I was unworthy of it. Being a virgin is down to my personal choice but that didn’t stop the anxiety about how other people would judge me.
Then something interesting happened.
During lockdown 1.0, I decided to download some dating apps. I had recently moved to London, I knew nobody in the area and like the hopeless romantic I am, I thought that isolation might somehow lead me to meet my match and fall madly in love.
It’s safe to say that did not happen but when speaking to men online, sex inevitably came up – it’s bound to when so many people essentially treat Tinder and the like as hook-up apps – and it turns out, men aren’t at all bothered by my virginity.
At first, I was nervous about telling whoever I was talking to about my virginial ways. How would they react? Would they deem me inexperienced and therefore not ‘girlfriend material’? But when the time came, I was honest and told them straight – then nervously awaited their response.
The first man I spoke to, Simon*, asked me what had brought me to Tinder, so I messaged back and told him that I was looking for something serious rather than a hook-up because I was a virgin. I was sitting on the edge of my seat when my phone pinged with his reply.
I was met with his disbelief – ‘No way! Really?’. Then he messaged again ‘I don’t believe you, you’re gorgeous, surely you’ve had offers?’
Simon and I continued chatting via text for a few weeks and while it fizzled out (lockdown meant we couldn’t meet up) he wasn’t phased by my virgin status at all. In fact he never brought it up in conversation again. He neither fetishised my virginity or shunned me because of it, and my confidence soared.
This happened time and again. Almost every time I brought up my virgin status, nobody cared. The men I spoke to didn’t find it weird or strange – they simply just accepted it and were positive about it.
Of course, I also got the odd messages saying ‘I can change that’ complete with a winking emoji, which made me feel like I was being auctioned off as a weird attraction at a circus.
Only one man shamed me. He was a few years my senior and quizzed me with intrusive questions before finally telling me there must be something wrong with me if nobody wanted to sleep with me. It knocked me but only for a while – it would have been far worse had I not had so many affirming interactions already.
Perhaps I should have guessed that masturbation would crop up too. After finding out about my virginity, some men probed me about ‘how far I had gone’ and had I ‘you know, touched yourself?’
I was always transparent and said that of course I had, because honestly, which female on this planet hasn’t explored the most important act of self care?
This time my response was always met with puzzled emojis – because if I hadn’t ever had sex, surely that means I’m a nun locked away in a convent somewhere? It doesn’t help that when girls are 12 and taught about wet dreams in primary school, boys aren’t taught about female self pleasure (neither are girls, but that’s an issue for another day).
The men of Tinder et al seemed far more perplexed by the fact I masturbated than my being a virgin, which I suppose is positive, although I would have thought it would be the other way around.
It’s taught me a lot about myself and what my virginity really means to me, though.
Being a virgin is not just about the act of penetrative intercourse and breaking the hymen because, let’s be real, women can penetrate themselves if they choose to.
For me, it’s about so much more. It means prioritising intimacy with somebody, trusting them, exposing myself at a pace that suits me and letting them into my heart and soul rather than my body.
In the exact same way that some people feel empowered by having sex, I feel empowered because I am a virgin. I have a better understanding of who I am, I do exactly what I want and I no longer feel the need to conform to societal pressures. Virginity, after all, is a social construct, and one I believe was created to keep women controlled and at the beck-and-call of men.
It has long been seen as something that men take away from women, as if the male anatomy works like a magic wand that breaks girls out of some kind of spell – ‘tah-dah’ they’re instantly changed and renewed and transformed into a woman.
Young girls are told they shouldn’t engage in sexual activity because it will make them a ‘slut’, but if they don’t want to they get labelled a ‘prude’. This pressure built up during my teens and contributed to the magnitude of my thoughts and fears but I refuse to be ashamed of it any longer.
I’m not someone who thinks virginity is sacred, or should be saved for the right person or until marriage. Sex means different things to different people and I don’t even know for sure what it means to me, but I know that I want my first time to be special and to mean something. While the men I’ve met online have really helped me trust my decisions, I don’t really want to lose it during a one-night hook up.
Although I have yet to find any form of love online (perhaps dating apps just aren’t for me), I have made peace with my so-called virginity (whatever that really means).
My virginity just is. It simply exists and will do just that, until I decide otherwise.
Last week in Love, Or Something Like It: My boyfriend lives with his ex – it’s our new normal
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Love, Or Something Like It is a regular series for Metro.co.uk, covering everything from mating and dating to lust and loss, to find out what love is and how to find it in the present day. If you have a love story to share, email [email protected]
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