Hear from the ‘sexperts’ breaking the taboo around virginity

Virginity – a word with immense social and personal meaning, and a wide range of expectations and emotions. But how much does it really matter?

Picture this. You’re on a first date. The conversation is flowing, you’re flirting, the sexual tension is there and everything is going perfectly. But there’s a persistent worry in the back of your head – how do I tell them I’ve never had sex before?

Georgia, using a false name, is all too familiar with this, and admits to feeling the pressure of not losing her virginity at the age of 22.

“I do often feel like the only person in my entire circle who still hasn’t had sex”, says Georgia. “It’s not something I think about daily, but definitely when I’m on a first date, or involved in conversations surrounding sex, it does play on my mind.”

Georgia, originally from Sheffield, is currently studying for a degree in business management at Newcastle University. She explained the worries she initially felt moving to a new city, and the pressure of countless strangers informing each other of their sexual history.

“I remember when I first moved to University, there’d be so many drinking games like Never Have I Ever, which had such a big focus on sex.  I’d feel so awkward”, she recalled. “Sometimes I’d lie as I was worried people would look at me differently. 9 times out of 10 people probably couldn’t give a sh*t, but when it’s you, it feels like the whole room of people you’ve just met is assessing you and trying to figure out why you haven’t had sex yet.”

However, Georgia admits to no longer feeling ashamed, and attributes this to her solid friendship group and growing older. However, when it comes to first dates, the anxieties regarding her virginity creep to the forefront of her mind.

“I still find first dates difficult. I could be having the best time and getting on so well with them, but in the back of my mind I’m always thinking ‘what is he gonna say when I tell him?’ I always have the assumption they’ve slept with multiple people, and worry they’ll then view me differently. 

“I haven’t actually had a bad experience yet, luckily”, Georgia admitted. “When it gets to the third date or so I try to bring it up casually, and it’s always been received quite well. I mean clearly sex still hasn’t happened for me yet, but I don’t view it as a reflection of myself. I used to feel like there was almost something wrong with me, especially when I was 18 and most of my friends were having sex, I’d question myself.

“Now that I’m a bit older I’m definitely more accepting of it. In day to day life this really doesn’t affect me, but I will admit, it never really gets easier telling people I’m interested in that I haven’t had sex before.”

According to YouGov, the average age people in the UK lose their virginity is 17, therefore it is no wonder people feel societal pressure for losing their virginities later than their peers.

The concept of losing your virginity is something we are all familiar with, but what does it even mean? Luckily, we have expert insight to break the stigma surrounding virginity, and hopefully put Georgia’s, and many others, concerns at ease.

Rhiannon John is a certified Sexologist, and even has a Master’s degree in Sexology, and explained the concept of virginity further.

“People lose their virginity at different ages for a whole variety of reasons. It’s essential to recognize that virginity is not a universally or biologically defined concept”, she says. “Instead, it is a social construct moulded by societal norms, moral perspectives, and symbolic meanings.”

Although virginity is a social concept, Rhiannon acknowledged the worries people like Georgia may have, and explained why it is important to let go of any potential shameful feelings people may have, for not ‘losing their virginity’.

“There are many reasons that people ‘lose’ their virginity later in life, and this can be due to religious reasons, lack of accessibility to people they find suitable or attractive, sexual identity factors, social factors, fear or anxiety, past traumas, and medical factors. And all of these reasons are completely valid”, says Rhiannon. “Even though there shouldn’t be a stigma surrounding virginity, it definitely still persists within society. Dealing with this stigma can be challenging.”

Luckily, for anyone worried about their virginity, Rhiannon provided us with tips to overcome these anxieties, and to reverse the negative attachments.

“The first thing I would advise is to challenge the beliefs that you have about virginity, to reframe your perspective. Being a virgin doesn’t determine your worth or happiness, so instead of focusing on the negative and outdated aspects of virginity, focus on the other aspects of life that you find rewarding”, she said.

“If you find that isolation may be contributing to your virginity, challenge yourself to step outside of your comfort zone and interact with more people. This interaction doesn’t need to be sexual in nature, but putting yourself in these situations increases your chances of meeting people, as well as your social skills.

“Lastly, if the stigma of being a virgin is really getting you down, I would suggest speaking with a mental health professional who will be able to offer you individualised support, advice, and tools to overcome this stigma.”

So, virginity is a social construct. Realistically, whether you’ve had sex with someone before or not has no weight on your worth, and shouldn’t affect your happiness. More importantly, it’s crucial not to feel the pressures from society. It might feel like everyone around you is doing it, but that does not reflect on who you are.

It is also important to ensure you are really ready. Even if you feel like you’re the last in your group to have sex, it absolutely does not mean you should be rushing. 

Magda Kay, an intimacy expert, agrees with this viewpoint, and gives us further insight into ensuring you make the right decisions for you, and take ownership of your virginity.

“Losing your virginity should only happen when we feel ready. Often, people may feel pressured externally, but this decision should always stem from within. We must ensure we are fully prepared and that it feels right for us”, says Magda.” In our sexually open society, many people lose their virginity early, but it’s crucial to realise that shame thrives in secrecy. By openly discussing these topics, we remove shame.”

Magda Kay, Founder of the School of Intimacy

Magda, founder of The School of Intimacy, emphasised the importance of being open with potential sexual partners, rather than feelings of shame.

“If you’re dating someone and feel ready to explore intimacy, be open and communicate about it. This openness can lighten the experience, reducing tension and allowing for a more positive encounter. Take things slowly throughout and discuss expectations, fears, and boundaries beforehand. Preparation is key to feeling safe and secure”, she says.

“Don’t expect perfection; it’s normal for first experiences to be clumsy or awkward. Human sexuality isn’t always flawless. If someone isn’t ready for intercourse, remember that intimacy includes many other forms of connection and exploration, like kissing and self-exploration.”

Hopefully, the sexperts have been able to ease any concerns you may have. The most important thing to remember is your virginity is not a reflection of you. Although it is natural to compare yourself to others, and feel external peer pressure, virginity is nothing more than a social construct, and should not define your worth or confidence.

If you have not lost your virginity, and feel negatively towards it, it could simply be a case of becoming more accepting with age and maturity, and surrounding yourself with positive people, like Georgia.

“Despite the worries I sometimes feel on first dates, overall I am so much more comfortable with my virginity now that I am a bit older, and have such good friends where we have a laugh about it”, says Georgia. “I look back at the girl I was when I moved to University, and felt plagued by it, like everyone was judging me, and I just want to give her a hug.

“My virginity doesn’t define me. I almost feel proud that I’ve not given into pressure and done it for the sake of it on a drunken night. I’m confident the right person for me will come into my life at the right time, and until then I’ll continue to put it to the back of my mind, and remain happy and confident in myself”.

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