Dear Miss Lonely Hearts,
I came to Reed a virgin, and sort of assumed college would happen and I'd be de-virgined pretty quickly, but a few years later I still haven't found the right person and I still haven't had sex.
It's not that I haven't found anyone that I could have sex with, if I wanted to. I've hooked up with people during my time here, and we probably could have had sex if I'd wanted to. But I'm 21 now, and being a virgin at 21 feels pretty freaking awkward sometimes.
I want my first time to be with someone I love, but I've never fallen in love with someone at Reed and been in a position where we could have sex. I do, however, hook up (i.e. make out, grind, cuddle) with guys occasionally, but I feel like the fact that I have no idea what to do with a penis sort of makes it awkward at a certain point, too.
I'm stuck in this endless loop of being self-conscious about hooking up with guys because I don't feel comfortable getting them off and then it feels weird and awkward, which makes me not want to hook up with anyone. But then if I don't hook up with anyone I will never learn what to do with a penis, which will only make me feel more shy and awkward about hooking up with anyone, and it goes on and on.
Part of me just wants to get this whole sex-for-the-first-time thing over with so I can have casual hook-ups (I feel like I might be missing out on the whole "casual college sex" thing), but I also don't really feel comfortable sleeping with someone I don't at least sort of love. What should I do?
Chaste and Confused
Dear Chaste and Confused,
I know everybody says it, but I’ll say it again: you’re not alone. While everybody at Reed might pretend like they’re getting it, it’s almost certain that most of us aren’t. Studies from publications like TIME claim that millennials aren’t having as much sex as the generations before them, and 40 percent of college participants polled by New York Magazine said they were virgins.
That being said, it’s totally normal for you to oscillate between wanting to get it over with and wanting to wait for the right person. Even though virginity is just a (stupid!) social construct, it’s hard to escape the stigma that’s attached to it—all virgins are clingy, all virgins are prudes, all virgins are waiting for marriage, etc.
Although college hook-up culture is undoubtedly a thing, don’t worry about missing out on it. After graduation, you might not be in the position to go to an SU dance and go home with somebody who lives only minutes away, but you have your entire twenties for casual hook-ups. While your Reed career is almost over, your casual sex career certainly isn’t.
Even though you might fret about awkwardness, it seems like you already know that don’t want to have sex until you find the right person who will make first-time awkwardness the least of your worries. And, of course, the right person will laugh at the awkwardness with you instead of making you feel inferior for being a 21-year-old virgin. Maybe you’ll be in love with that person, maybe you’ll just know that they’ll be a good “quotes?first,” but regardless, you should be comfortable with them. With that in mind, it shouldn’t matter if your partner has been having sex since 16 or if it’s their first time too, because they will respect you.
Now, what to do in the meantime? If you want to hook up with people without having sex, then you should! It’s your prerogative to do what you want to do and nothing more, and you should never feel self-conscious for not wanting to get somebody off. As for knowing what to do with a penis, it’s up to you whether your “teacher” will be your “first” or somebody else; no matter who it is, seek out someone who is patient and respectful. Regardless, you should do things with a penis because you genuinely want to, not because you feel like obligated to give a blowjob or handjob in lieu of sex. If somebody makes you feel awkward for coming back to their room with them and not doing things with their penis, they aren’t worth your time. If you want to go further than you have in the past and they make you feel uncomfortable for not knowing what you’re doing, then tell them to fuck off.
Hook-ups can be awkward even as a not-virgin, so don’t let your v-card trick you into thinking your experiences are especially awkward. And whatever you do, don’t let some fuckboy or societal expectations dictate what you do sexually. In time and with the right person, things will fall into place and you’ll be sorry that you ever worried about your knowledge of penises. Let your vagina—and your heart—come first and you’ll do just fine.
Miss Lonely Hearts