Can you tell if someone is a virgin or not just by looking at them?
Back in the fall of 2013, an old roommate of mine leaned against my bedroom doorframe, likely wearing her Ann Taylor Loft workwear, while I sat on the floor with my red afro, surrounded by band posters and London indie club flyers.
By all appearances, I looked edgy and maybe even cool (maybe), while she looked conservative and prim. But she was the one talking about hookups and old flames, sex, and intimacy. I was the one who revealed that I’d never been kissed.
When she stared at me agape, I didn’t exactly blame her. I was 22 years old at the time and had never experienced anything borderline romantic with another human being.
But I don’t think age alone was responsible for the shock: We all still hold on to static images of what a virgin looks like and how a virgin acts.
Admittedly, even I’ve fallen for this. After my post about finally having sex, I received a message from an acquaintance who told me that she recently had her first kiss as a 20-something-year-old.
I was just as surprised by her revelation as I imagine everyone else was about mine. I couldn’t wrap my head around it: She’s pretty, smart, hilarious, and really fucking talented.
How could she have made it to her twenties without locking lips with someone? There’s another woman I know, slightly older than me, who–as far as I know, has also never had sex.
Despite being tall, slender, and vivacious as fuck, sex isn’t a part of her life, even though she’s desperately seeking love in the swipe-left hellhole of New York City.
A woman who is a virgin in her twenties isn’t normally depicted as any of these things. Grown women who’ve never had sex and lack a life of intimacy are portrayed as squares, meek, and reeking of the kind of social ineptitude that “cat ladies” are graced with.
They’re not interesting or adventurous. They’re prudes. The words “pussy” or “cock” or “cum” make them blush. Porn scares them, and they can’t identify the clit. Oh, and they’re definitely not black like me because we all know that black women are hyper-sexual nymphos, right?
Where do we get these assumptions from? We definitely don’t get them from the secret virgins in our lives because if we did, then we’d know that virgins can’t be reduced to the tired stereotype of a mousy woman wearing a sweater vest and a purity ring to compliment that abstinence-before-marriage pledge she made in 10th grade.
So we definitely get these images from the movies, television shows, and books we consume. Even when the media tries to broaden the image of the virgin—from mean girl Claire in The Breakfast Club to the popular Cher from Clueless or the bubbly Shoshanna from Girls—the v-card reveal always feels like we’re getting a fast one pulled on us. “Surprise! She’s actually a virgin! “Isn’t that crazy?”
I mean, is it? Not really, not once you actually take the time to consider that the way somebody carries themselves isn’t the sole determiner of the activity level of their private parts.
It’s like when people are peeved that seemingly homely or unattractive individuals have partners. The audacity to think that one’s propensity to have sex, or their deservingness of sex, is determined by physical factors.
But we can even look at the flip side of this and consider the ways that a lack of sex has led so many of us to believe that we, in turn, lack worth or beauty.
Even though I rarely found myself in an angst spiral about a lack of relationships growing up, I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t have felt validated by welcome male attention or someone other than a creepy stranger wanting to kiss me.
I did, in fact, believe my lack of a sexual life had to do with being unappealing to the people around me, a notion that definitely didn’t do wonders for my confidence and still lurks within me to this day.
If being a virgin for 25 years has taught me one thing, it’s that sex doesn’t discriminate.
It doesn’t give a fuck how cool you are or what kind of music you listen to. It doesn’t care about the fact that you can fit into a size two pair of pants, and it sure as hell doesn’t care how well you can carry a conversation.
It isn’t a gift only bestowed upon the beautiful, and it doesn’t determine your value. The sooner we realize this, the sooner late bloomers in the romance department will stop feeling like something is wrong with them or the universe at large.