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4th May 2022

SeXion: Why I’m a virgin

Just because someone doesn’t have sex doesn’t mean they’re judging your sexual activity
SeXion: Why I’m a virgin
Marriage: Samantha Gades @ Unsplash

I’m 21 years old and I’m a virgin. This is not perhaps considered shocking, but what tends to confuse people more is that I’m deliberately celibate. I’m also planning on remaining a virgin for quite some time, as I plan to stay a virgin until (and if) I get married.

Arriving at university at 18, I was expecting to feel a little out of place. I had not been raised in a cave, and knew that I would probably be in the minority amongst my friends and flatmates by not wanting to have sex. What I was not expecting was the level of discussion it would awake in strangers. I thought, perhaps naively, that given my sex life would be non-existent, there would be nothing to talk about!

This was not the case. This lifestyle choice was influenced by my Christian faith, which I don’t hide, and which I was expecting to evoke questioning. However, I expected the questions to be more philosophical, or scientific: Why do I believe in God? Do I believe Jesus was historical or mythical? Do I believe in evolution? (I do, by the way)

What I wasn’t expecting was the almost instantaneous question, often from complete strangers: “So, do you have sex?” I was shocked. Not in discussing sex – I don’t believe talking about it should be taboo, and I’m ok talking about why I don’t sleep with people at the moment. My friends and I chatted about relationships at school, and as some of them were having sex by Sixth Form, we’d started to talk about that too.

What confused me is that I’ve never heard my sexually active friends being asked such intimate questions by a stranger. Not necessarily the initial question “do you have sex?”, but more the follow-up conversation that inevitably ensues. Random people I get talking to outside nightclubs or in university bars asking me what my sex drive is like, if I masturbate and exactly how far I would go (it’s worth noting that these, quite genuinely, were not propositions).

I don’t really understand why people think those kinds of questions are appropriate. For people who have sex, I wonder how they’d feel about strangers asking after their complete sexual history, whether they’ve ever caught an STD, or even just why they have sex? If people want to talk about these aspects of their lives, they shouldn’t be shamed for it, but there’s a double standard that needs to be addressed.

This is why I’ve chosen to write this article anonymously. I’m not ashamed, and those who know me well will know these words are mine. However, I’ve decided it’s time for me to start reclaiming my right to privacy around my sex life. There is unfortunately no virginity equivalent to the so-called ‘confidentiality of the bedroom’.

There’s also a common assumption that I’m judging other people, even when I make no mention of their own sex life, and only reply to questions they’ve asked. Being unashamed of living my life differently is not the same as feeling superior about it.

I find that people who consider themselves incredibly liberal are still highly judgemental about my personal choice. Vegetarians are not assumed to judge meat eaters just because they don’t eat meat.  Why am I assumed to judge sexually active people simply because I choose not to have sex?

Sexism and Virginity

The sexism surrounding sex has also not left the virginity narrative unaffected. As a female virgin, I’m fetishized. Fortunately, that’s yet to happen to my face, but I’m not so naïve to be ignorant about the creeps who, often online, fantasise about taking someone’s virginity. I’m fortunate to have grown up in an environment where at least virginity was not paraded as a woman’s defining feature.

Nonetheless, it makes me uncomfortable. Not just because it makes me feel vulnerable – I know I would often be seen as an easy target – but because it casts untrue aspersions on my sexually-active female friends. I am not better than them. My virginity doesn’t make me pure, and in contrast to sinful teachings by conservative churches, women who have had sex outside of marriage are not ‘spoilt’ or ‘lesser-than’.

On the other hand, my male friends who choose to stay celibate face an equally bad, but altogether different narrative. The historical, untrue assumption that women don’t want to have sex means that men are even more likely to be seen as weird. They’re also less likely to be believed when they tell people it’s by choice.

The representation of male virgins in the media mostly involves nerdy, incels, desperate for sex at any cost. It is interesting that male virgins are often seen as less masculine, whilst female virgins are often seen as more feminine. Both stereotypes are damaging.

In addition, I don’t deny that the church has contributed to sexist narratives about sex. As in wider society, women have often been held to a higher sexual standard than men.  I was fortunate enough to grow up with Christian conversations about sex that were often less sexist than those I heard elsewhere, but I know that many did not share this experience. I also know that Christian teachings on virginity have often been – and still are – abused.

I can only beg to be believed when I say that the vast, vast majority of Christians I meet are horrified by religious contributions to hidden mother and baby homes, forced marriage after sex, and vicious hatred of those who engage in extra-marital sex, to name just a few examples. Power can often corrupt, and judgemental people often unfortunately seek to justify their behaviour by claiming a religious high ground.

Why do I wait?

My personal desire to abstain does not come from some fear of God, or of other Christians, despite widespread public opinion. I don’t deny that I first learnt about the idea of waiting until marriage at church, but my desire to wait goes beyond this.

In a doubting period during my mid-teenage years, I wasn’t sure if I even believed in God anymore, but I knew that, ideally, I’d still wait until the night of my wedding to have sex. My only worry was that it would be harder without the religious ‘excuse’.

So why am I waiting until marriage? Basically, I believe it will give me the best chance for joy. To me, it feels far more romantic than it does restrictive or difficult. I hope my marriage, if I choose one, will consist of two people growing to know each other more and more closely throughout their lifetime.

I will learn about sex with one person, will improve at it with them, and I won’t be distracted by comparisons with exes. It will be more than physical. A way to deepen my relationship with someone I’ve chosen to commit myself to. In addition, I know the person chose me because of who I am, not just because of any initial spark of sexual attraction, which any realist knows can often fizzle out with time. I don’t have to worry about being bad at sex!

My faith also means that I believe that as God created sex, he loves it and knows it better than me, and guides me to live in a way that means I get to enjoy it best. However, that doesn’t mean he loves those who choose a different path any less, and I don’t love them less either. It is difficult to get this across in an anonymous article, but I hope my friends would attest to this fact.

Am I missing out?

Waiting doesn’t mean, however, that I simply hang around, miserable and lonely, desperate to marry. I’ve hinted already that I’m not even sure I want to get married – I have plenty of time to decide. I hardly think this points towards someone unfulfilled and impatient.

I live a full life. I date interesting people, go clubbing with friends, and love the opportunity to dress up. These things don’t disappear without the motive of sex, which I think sometimes people forget. Sometimes I think the lack of pressure in that area improves them.

There are also practical benefits that my sexually active friends laughingly envy me for. I can wear the comfiest, ugliest underwear I want; my bedroom can be left in a complete state after I get ready for a night out; all decisions about my pubic hair are left completely uninfluenced by outside opinion (as they always should be, but rarely are)!

Joking aside, I find an inability to imagine a life without sex as strange as people find my lack of sex life. Sex sounds great, but I hope that if I start having it, it won’t become the most vital part of my life. I think most people would confirm that sex is not the most important thing they do, but you wouldn’t know it from my chats with strangers.

I’m a virgin. I don’t put myself on a pedestal, and I don’t demand that you change the way you live your life. I simply ask that you respect the way I choose to live mine.

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