This Is What A 25-Year-Old Virgin Looks Like

by Alice Elizabeth Riley

I'm 25 years old, and life isn’t too shabby. I have a good job in digital marketing, a good group of friends, I’ve travelled to some amazing places, volunteered, and climbed Kilimanjaro for charity. But I’ve never had sex.

I’m not waiting for marriage. I’m not asexual, or lacking interest in sex. It’s something I think about and can’t wait to give it a try someday. I’m not hideously unattractive. I don’t have crippling body confidence issues or social anxiety. I socialize, and date a lot.

I just never met the right guy.

In school, I was the class freak. Being stick-thin, a foot taller than everyone else, braces-wearing, shy, awkward, and getting top grades on everything meant boys didn’t pay me much attention, unless they were looking for someone to laugh at.

I switched schools at 16, and all of a sudden, there was a shift. The braces came off, I filled out a little, dyed my hair blonde, and developed an interest in fashion and makeup. For the first time in my life, people showed an interest in me. Girls invited me out to underage drinking sessions, and there I met boys, who, unlike before, started conversations with me and took an interest in what I had to say. I was still quite shy, but on nights out, I turned to liquid courage, finding I became a lot more talkative after a couple of drinks. I’d get described as “pretty,” or even “hot.” The novelty of male attention meant I kissed more than a few guys in my last couple of years of high school. But I didn’t take it any further.

Some of my female friends would do, for want of a better word, “stuff” with guys, but I never really understood the appeal. For me, anything below the waist was a very intimate thing, something I only really wanted to do in the context of a relationship. I had guys have crushes on me — but the few I had crushes on were only interested in a one-off thing.

By the time I got to university, I was started to panic. I’d yet to find a boyfriend, or do anything more than kissing with a guy. I fancied guys. But I was still pretty shy at this point, so while I got propositioned for sex, the genuine romantic attention went to the louder girls.

Nobody had a problem with my being a virgin, but people had a massive problem with me not engaging in hook-up in culture in general. At 18, I’d gotten to the point that most people get to in their early 30s; I’d lost interest in making out with random guys in clubs, and felt ready to settle down. But every time I declined a guy on the dance floor, I’d get a mouthful of abuse from the other girls in my halls for not getting with him. I’d get interrogated by the guys as to why I wouldn’t go for “a bit of foreplay” with random guys. Every time I went back home in the holidays, a guy in my friend group would attack me for not having “seen a cock” at university. Erm, I didn’t go to university to “see a cock.” I went to get a degree. And I didn’t want sex. I wanted love.

When I went into second year, I lost contact with people from my halls, connected with more likeminded women from my part-time job at the student bar, and gradually became more confident in my decision to wait to have sex. I wasn’t waiting for the guy I was going to spend the rest of my life — I just wanted a boyfriend as opposed to a casual encounter.

In my third year of college, I finally had my first boyfriend. It was a whirlwind romance that got intense very quickly. Two weeks in, we’d both said we’d never felt this way about anyone before, and had a date set up for me to meet his parents. He was my first time doing “stuff.” It came surprisingly naturally; I’d always been told that I had to do stuff with random guys beforehand otherwise I’d be terrible at it, but it was fine. We tried to have sex a couple of times, but for various reasons it’s best not to go into, it didn’t happen. Shortly afterwards, he did a 180 and decided he didn’t want to be in a relationship anymore (for unrelated reasons).

Yes, when my birthday approaches each year I do get a sense of "oh sh*t, it hasn’t happened yet" — but I’m not looking to " just get it over with," either.

I graduated, went traveling, began my career, and moved to London — and dated. OKCupid, Tinder, Plenty of Fish, you name it, I’ve tried it. But I just never connected with those guys. Apart from a few weirdos, most have been nice enough, but there’s been no-one I’ve been really attracted to. My family tells me I'd being too picky, but if you're not feeling it, you're not feeling it.

Being a virgin at 25 isn’t something that massively bothers me. I realized a long time ago that it's not a big deal. Yes, when my birthday approaches each year I do get a sense of "oh sh*t, it hasn’t happened yet" — but I’m not looking to " just get it over with," either. Western culture has a throwaway attitude towards sex, which works for some people, but it's just not my thing. Not saying you have to marry the guy (although some people do wait for marriage, and that’s completely fine too), but in my opinion, it should be something that is meaningful, or at least comfortable.

While some people find one night stands enjoyable, the idea of being that intimate with just anyone makes me feel a bit sick. I get told I’m missing out on “fun,” but my idea of fun is going out with friends, or traveling to a continent I’ve never been to before. Ideally, I'd like the first time I have sex to be in the context of a relationship. I've realized that I need to feel that connection and actually want to have sex, rather than be pushed into it by society or the guy.

In our society, casual sex is presented as mandatory rather than a choice. People seem to think there’s somehow something wrong with not doing it. When they find out I'm a virgin, people assume I’m not a sexual person, or that I must have some kind of fear of sex or body insecurities. People rail against “slut shaming,” but I think the opposite is also as prevalent, and that’s not just restricted to virgins.

A friend told me about a 24-year-old girl he’d recently met who’d had a couple of relationships at 18 and 19, but who hadn’t really met anyone since then; she’d dated and kissed guys, but hadn’t had sex for four years. To me, that seems normal — dry spells are common once you start work and not everyone is into one night stands — but when he told one of his friends about her, his reaction was, “What’s wrong with her?” Meanwhile, women complain about men being “misogynists” if they don’t want a relationship with a woman who has slept around, yet in the same breath say they would never date a male virgin. In order to try and dispel some of these myths, I think it's important that I be honest about my experience.

Sometimes, I worry that I’ll lose out on my dream guy due to my lack of experience. That virginity will be a deal-breaker, or that he’ll leave because he wants to have sex before I do. But I think it's important to have sex when you feel ready — not to please other people. So for now, I'll continue to enjoy the rest of my life and appreciate the things I do have, and accept that sex and love were just meant to happen for me a little later than I planned.