I’m a virgin.
This might surprise you. Not because being a virgin is actually particularly rare – about 16 percent of 20- to 24-year-olds are virgins, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On our campus of about 40,000 students, that means there are at least 6,000 students who are just like me.
You might be thinking to yourself that I have no business writing a column about sex. Society has told you that virgins have nothing of real value to contribute to sexual conversations. We are portrayed in the media most commonly as socially awkward freaks who either want to have sex really bad but can’t get it or are literally terrified of it.
For my part, I went to a Catholic elementary and middle school and was raised accordingly — in Arizona. Needless to say, sex was not discussed. A media stereotype of my background would show a sniffling, prudish geek sitting in her overly pink bedroom alone, watching nature documentaries but fast-forwarding past the parts where the animals fuck, muttering to herself about how sex is “sinful.”
Even the definition of virginity itself is problematic. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a virgin is defined as “a person who has not had sexual intercourse,” and sexual intercourse is defined as “sexual activity in which a man puts his penis into the vagina of a woman.”
I identify as a virgin, but only insofar as it is defined by society. It is, in some ways, an unfortunately necessary designation so that partners can understand me succinctly. But a term that many folks use to describe experiences outside of penis-in-vagina sex, or PIV, is “sexual debut.” Having your sexual debut means that you’ve entered the period of your life in which you engage in various sexual activities; for someone like me who partakes in “everything but” the act itself, it is a useful expansion on the term “virginity.”
This past summer when I was doing an internship in San Diego, I was hanging out with a group of interns at a Fourth of July pool party. It was getting late, we were all a little tipsy, and we were sitting in a circle, unsure of what to do. Naturally, we turned to the classic – Never Have I Ever.
As I waited for my turn, I had the internal debate of whether I should use the obvious tactic to get them all out. I hadn’t known this group of people for that long. I wasn’t sure I’d like how they’d react when I revealed my “maidenly status.”
Eventually, my turn rolled around. “Never have I ever had vaginal sex,” I announced. My confession was met with shocked stares, mouths agape and then a shout of “You’ve never had sex?!” It felt like I’d just told them that I’d murdered someone in cold blood and had buried them in the backyard only moments ago.
Just because someone has not had a dick inside of them or has not put their dick into someone else, does not mean they are innocent angels who know nothing about sex. Everyone has their own reasons for remaining virgins, and I had mine.
For most of my life, I just wasn’t ready — it had been a choice. But recently, I’ve developed a new perspective. Over winter break, I was diagnosed with vaginismus, which is a medical condition that prevents me from having vaginal intercourse.
I finally feel ready to have sex — but my body won’t cooperate. It’s incredibly frustrating to be unable to make this decision for myself. It not only feels as if I’m broken, but also as if society judges me for a condition totally beyond my control — my state as a 22-year-old virgin.
We live in a world where folks do all sorts of things with their bodies and use all sorts of parts to get off and experience their sexualities, both alone and with their partners. The straight-and-narrow definition of sex as exclusively a PIV affair is incredibly outdated and, frankly, insulting both to me, who considers herself a sexually experienced person but is just unable to stick it in, and to others for numerous reasons.
Since my time starting college, I’ve been on a journey of sexual liberation. It’s certainly had its ups and downs, and I’ve discovered a lot about myself from it. My privilege as an able-bodied white woman from an upper-middle-class family will have its impact on my understanding, but I want to learn with you.
I love sex. I love having it and talking about it. Now that I have the honor of writing this column about it, I’m eager to spill all my sexy secrets to you.
I’m ready to pop Sex on Tuesday’s virgin columnist cherry.