Like a virgin

When it gets hot and heavy, I always decide not to, even if my body is screaming for it.

Published March 20, 2003 8:30PM (EST)

Dear Cary,

I'm a virgin at 21, soon to be 22. I'm OK with that as far as my self-esteem, self-worth, etc. I'm attractive and I know it. I also like to think of myself as intelligent and friendly. I'm a good girl. Most people say I'm too nice, some people think I am strong, and a few select people think I am outright confrontational. I'm from a pretty traditional, conservative family (my parents will never know about a guy unless I'm really serious about him). I'm rather leftist. I go to an all-women's college (there aren't too many guys here). Sometimes, I like to act bashful (it's almost like a part I play), but really I'm not at all.

Sex is exciting to me. I'm very sensual, and I enjoy experiencing the world through all five senses. I think people base too much of life on sex (like Freud for instance -- life is not all about women wishing we had penises or men wishing they could kill their fathers). Sex is so very interesting. The big problem? I want sex, but I have this emotional, relationship "thing" where I can't even make out with a guy unless I like him, much less screw a guy if I'm not sure I love him. OK, I'm old-fashioned. But this leaves me unsatisfied. Yeah, I can go find a nice vibrator till the right man comes along. But masturbation only helps when I'm feeling very frustrated. And there is something about being pressed against hot flesh and blood -- the real honest to goodness sex. And what if he never does come along? I want sex -- I don't want sex. What do I want? I have such long breaks between guys that I seem to almost forget, contently living rather asexually, until one day I realize how much I yearn for it. Making out is fun. I love kissing. But when it gets down to hot and heavy making out, I always decide not to, even if my body is screaming for it. Why oh why do I have this hang-up? Is it bad? Can I get over it? Do I even want to get over it? My world isn't falling apart because I'm not having sex, but life would be more pleasant with some more action. Why can't I just do it?

Still a Virgin

Dear Still a Virgin,

You sound like an extremely intelligent and well-adjusted young woman, and there's nothing wrong with having scruples or a highly developed sense of your own physical boundaries. I love the idea of your waiting for the right man. And I think that the competing desires and hopes that you describe are a good reflection of reality -- that is, you're not crazy for not knowing exactly what to do; there is plenty of built-in ambiguity about the issue that you rightly express.

Nonetheless, what concerns me is that if you do not make a firm decision, you might drift into doing something spontaneously that later you're not comfortable with. So I think if you can settle on a course of action, you can have leeway for experience but avoid actions you had not expected or were not prepared for. I'd say pick one of three resolutions: 1) You firmly commit, today, to putting off sex until you find a man who, if he asked you to marry him, you would say yes without hesitation. 2) You decide, today, that your curiosity about sex is too great to put off any longer, and you pick a man you just want to have sex with, and you sort of just go for it -- you know, open a condom, lie down and take your clothes off. Or 3) You consciously decide, today, that if sex should happen unexpectedly, that's OK, and if you should remain a virgin indefinitely, that's OK too.

If you decide to put off sex, you can always change your mind in the future. Just don't change your mind while you're kissing a boy. In fact, don't make any decisions while you're kissing a boy. Make decisions with your clothes on, sitting at a table in the afternoon.

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Want more advice from Cary? Read yesterday's column.

By Cary Tennis

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