A few hundred hang-ups kept me from having sex until my late 20s.
When I did take that leap, yes, I did tell him it was my first time, and no, he didn’t run from the bedroom screaming… which was how I’d imagined he’d react in the movie version of this scene that had been playing out in my head for years.
While the gent in question was perfectly lovely about my being a virgin at age 28, not everyone had always been so kind. Considering that the average woman loses her virginity at 17, I heard plenty of difficult questions during those atypically sexless years….
1. So… what’s the deal? Do your panties come with a padlock on them?
Let’s cut to the chase: My parents didn’t hover over me about my relationships and sex life when I was growing up. While I was raised Catholic, religion was more related to the Golden Rule than it was about action in the bedroom. Like many Midwestern families, we lived in a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” environment regarding anything slightly salacious, which probably didn’t help my comfort level regarding all things sexual, but wasn’t horribly restricting. Still, I took a sex-ed class in both high school and college (yep, you can get science credits for that!), and I was well aware of all the ins and outs. #punintended
I’ve never been a wallflower, and I don’t dress like someone who’s especially repressed, either, as proven by my go-to gold sequin pants…
…and a double-sided tape-required Rent the Runway dress.
My decision to wait was never related to being shy, religious, or a square. I was just a weird virgin with no easily explainable reason for being one… well, besides being wickedly insecure about being a virgin, which at some point became a Catch-22.
2. What are you afraid of?
Look, there’s no doubt that I was totally afraid of my body during puberty, when my weight skyrocketed from 120 pounds to 180. I felt lumpy and lethargic, so I started hitting the gym and quit hitting the drive-thru, eventually shrinking back down to 120, which was a pretty healthy weight for my body.
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But since I was encouraged by all of the positive comments—especially those from my first-ever boyfriend—I kept pushing myself to lose more. By the end of my high school days, I ran and starved myself down to 94 pounds… which made me feel skeletal and sick.
It took another five years or so for my body and brain to moderate. By my mid-20s, I felt confident enough showing my body to someone to become a Brazilian wax devotee, and finally felt self-assured in a bikini.
3. Is this sex toy party making you so uncomfortable?
It’s a bit awkward to play that “Never Have I Ever” game where everybody holds up their hands and goes around the circle, putting their fingers down and giggling about the questions, like if they’ve ever given road head or whatever… especially when you’ve never actually seen a man with his clothes off before. But it’s not like I was particularly afraid of the idea of sex. (And no, I’m never judging you, and I don’t think you’re a slut for being more experienced!)
After coming to terms with my body, I was more afraid to admit my lack of experience than I was scared to actually get laid for the first time ever. This was probably part of the reason why I couldn’t fully commit to a relationship until I found the guy I was comfortable enough with to share my secret. I’d hop around from crush to crush, but after a couple months—when things felt like they were moving forward—I’d run for the hills.
So yeah, the admission was scarier than the act for me… but when it comes to checking out toys, that 8-inch, 10-speed toy will always be intimidating, in my book.
4. What do you tell guys you date?
When I was a virgin, I’d tell them as little as possible about anything of substance, to be honest. I was queen of small talk, but the moment things started to get deep, I’d divert. I’d struggled to find and keep friends in junior high and high school, and was often on the sidelines or completely left out of the “cool kid” parties. So why invest when people are going to ghost? Something as intimate as my virginity was definitely not on the table for discussion with basically anyone.
Eventually, I found my core group of friends—the ones who I’d call if my car broke down or my grandpa received a scary medical diagnosis—and realized the more I put into a relationship, the more I get out of it. And that, in turn, led to being more emotionally open and honest.
5. Have you seen The 40-Year-Old Virgin?
You bet. And I laughed just as hard as you did at the “AHH KELLY CLARKSON!” scene. Not all late bloomers are socially stunted; interestingly, scientists at the University of Texas at Austin have found that those who wait to have their first sexual experience until the “late” era of their life—defined as 19 or older—tend to experience happier adult relationships.
Why? Those who wait may naturally err toward a “secure attachment style,” causing us to be fully invested in a relationship before taking the next step. Or we might just be downright pickier regarding partners of all kinds. I think that when a relationship is built on common interests and friendship first, rather than physical attraction, there’s a solid groundwork present that can last a lifetime.
6. Do your parts even work?
They’ve been officially put to the test, and hooray! They do! Turns out, you’re not necessarily “broken,” wrong, or Steve Carell-levels of awkward if you don’t have sex until later in life. Regardless of what your girlfriends tell you—and definitely regardless of what happens on The Bachelor—sex is a very personal decision. I’m glad I waited, because with all of the other baggage I had to work through (hey there, head-to-toe body insecurity!), I don’t think I would have been mentally or emotionally ready in my teens. But that’s not to say that everyone needs to wait until their late 20s before losing their virginity. You do you.
Karla Walsh is a social media editor and freelance writer based in Des Moines, Iowa. Follow her adventures with fitness, fashion (often of the sparkly variety), food, and more on Instagram @karlaswalsh.