I’m a 23-year-old man and my virginity is a burden

I want to meet the right person but I am so afraid of telling anyone I get intimate with about my lack of experience

PROBLEM: I am a 23-year-old man and I have never had sex. This was not some ideological or religious choice. I am in favour of casual sex but I just have never done it. It’s not like I planned on waiting to meet the right person, but now, because I have waited so long, I feel that is what I should do.

I feel if I lost my virginity to someone I didn’t really care about, I would somehow be betraying myself.

I feel like my virginity has become a burden that gets heavier the longer it goes on. I want to meet the right person but I am so afraid of telling anyone I get intimate with about my lack of experience that I never progress past the initial stages.

I met someone recently who I really like. We’ve been on a couple of dates and she asked me to spend the night at hers last week, but I was too scared so I got up and left abruptly. I’m worried she thinks I don’t care about her because of how I acted, when really I was just too nervous to tell her the truth.

I wish my virginity was not such a big deal. Part of me thinks I should just get as drunk as I can and get it over with, with the first person I meet. I’m tired of being labelled a virgin and of feeling ashamed of it. It really feels like I’m the only one in the world my age who has never had sex.

ADVICE: On the one hand you say you do not have any ideological position regarding losing your virginity, but then you say you feel as though you would be betraying yourself if you had your first sexual experience with someone you don’t really care about. So it seems you do have an ideological position and your body has followed your intentions and not engaged with someone you do not consider worth having an intimate relationship with.

This sounds like a worthwhile moral viewpoint. However, it seems that fear has entered the equation, and that fear now guides your actions. This is worth tackling.

Fear – of ridicule, humiliation, judgment or rejection – stops you from telling the truth to someone you are attracted to and care about, and this is not something you want to cultivate or bring forward into your life and relationships.

Many people “get rid of” their virginity as though it is a burden, to make themselves feel mature and worldly wise, and so the first experience is often a disappointment, even if it contains some relief. Many young men have a very difficult first sexual experience because they feel they should have prior knowledge. As a result, they hide their inexperience, with often disconcerting results. They look to porn for guidance about what is normal, and compare their own performance to that. Think of the judgment and fear that can result.

Research suggests that for orgasm to happen, fear and vigilance need to be absent, and this is very unlikely when the first-timer is hugely concerned both with his own performance and the judgment of the other person.

In other words, fear needs to be dealt with first. Then you will have to find someone worthy of your attention. Getting drunk and having a one-night stand will probably result in your body becoming even more resistant, as it has so far stopped you from becoming intimate with someone you do not care about.

The chances are that the situation you will need for a successful sexual experience is one where you feel safe, respected and where no judgment is involved.

It sounds like the girl you dated is someone you are interested in. You should trust the desire you feel. You care about her enough to worry about how she is reacting to your disappearance, so this might be an opportunity to be truthful and to take a risk.

The first step involves speaking honestly to her. This will require courage but you will learn from her response whether she is a person you want to share this first intimate experience with. Most women would feel honoured to be trusted with your innermost self, and the intimacy this creates will create a closeness that you might find exhilarating.

The first sexual experience is often like the first time you try anything new – exciting – but you become more skilled with practice. The aim is to share this experience with someone you trust and who is willing to take the journey with you.