On Young Men and Virginity

On Young Men and Virginity

Figure 1. Jamie Fraser, post cherry-busting

Figure 1. Jamie Fraser, post cherry-busting


This all starts where everything seems to start. With The Walking Dead and Daryl Dixon. Who is a character not even featured in the source material comic.

I can’t remember if Norman Reedus said this but the idea of Daryl Dixon Is A 40-Year-Old Virgin is a long-time headcanon for fans.

There is a sort of har-har-har involved when dealing with male virginity – or debut sex, if you want to be fancy – and it just gets worse the older the dude involved is. He’s a nerd, he’s awkward, he’s got some awful problem, blah blah blah. Because the larger myth we’re contending with is that Men Are Rapacious Sex Monsters Every Waking Moment.

Yet, the deflowering of Jamie Fraser in Outlander is one of the best things I’ve ever seen (or read). The prospect of seeing Daryl Dixon have sex for the first time (with Rick, Michonne, Carol, Beth or all of the above) makes me get weak in the knees.

And the fact that Perfectly Good White Boy opens with a boy’s first sexual experience with a girl? Well, that also happened for a pretty selfish reason, too.

Here are some disordered thoughts on the matter.

1. In adolescence, I think it’s fair to say that the Hormonal Surge responsible for libidos is often fairly overwhelming for boys. I don’t know if it’s overwhelming for girls – not in a physical sense. I don’t want to generalize that, at least. I think girls have libidos and sexual interests, but I’m not sure they manifest in the same way (and that is the subject for its own post).

2. Though the Surge can be relentless, that doesn’t mean all guys successfully execute all of their sexual urges.  The long pent-up period of desire, though, has an effect on many men for years to come, even when they are in relationships and have actual sexual partners. The desire for sex remains a top physical priority for men, long after the resultant hormonal surge has evened out.

3. Just because guys feel this way doesn’t mean they have no interest in relationships. That they don’t want to be seen or cherished. That they don’t want someone to spend time with outside of sex.

4. However, that guys are comfortable and able to reside inside a mutual relationship is another matter. Wanting that and knowing how to make that function are two different things. The importance of relationship skills is not something we really hammer home to young men.

5. The reason we need to see more fiction that deals with debut sex – and that deals with how young men encounter such sex – is that though mechanistically, porn gives us lots of data, what is important for young people contending with sexual experience and identity is the context in which these decisions are made. A shorter way of saying this is you cannot fully understand what CONSENT means if you only know about sex outside of any kind of interconnected CONTEXT. Porn is staged sex between paid performers. It’s lovely and informative, but it is an act. Whereas fiction has the power to go beyond nudity and show us even more. We can see the naked thoughts and responses of the people engaging in sexual activities.


Figure 2. Shh. Daryl's not really a virgin. He's actually in love with Rick.

Figure 2. Shh. Daryl’s not really a virgin. He’s actually in love with Rick.


6. Is debut sex always awkward? Do young men always orgasm 10 seconds after penetration? Do there exist young people who find and enjoy sexual pleasure? These are interesting questions. The answers are varied. The myths and stereotypes about male virginity are not. Why do we expect first sex to be competent and masterful? If you’ve never understood your own body’s response vis a vis another person’s body, then of course it’s going to be a little strange. Even if you’re a girl who knows how to masturbate; even if you’re a boy who is comfortable with his body. Every person you encounter in sexual activities has different baggage and needs and histories. Even among grown people, sex is awkward. It’s not a fluid choreographed dance like we see in porn. You have to take your socks off. One of you needs to move up on the bed more. Someone’s phone rings. There is stopping and starting.

7. Being a man in our culture is about competence and leadership and mastery. It’s about being perceived as capable and strong. Yet there is no way a guy having sex the first time can exhibit all those ideals. None. At some level, he will fail on all those counts. No wonder men get up and leave after sex, don’t call the person back, don’t want to acknowledge anything happened afterward. Facing those inadequacies involves a strength we don’t cultivate in boys.

8. Virginity is often lost in increments. Not everyone waits for the Big Night At Prom.

9. Negotiation is something that kids dealing with first sex may not understand. The reasons can be this: there are time constraints, there isn’t much privacy, they don’t have access to things like birth control and lubrication, they haven’t been taught to talk about their bodies in any capacity, much less sexual capacities.

10. If you understand other ways to get girls off besides penis-vagina sex, then why do we care about premature ejaculation so much? Increasing the sexual self-interest and education of girls is a measure I think makes the most sense for moving away from the notion that boys “get” or “take” something from girls via the sex act and the girls are then “robbed” or “diminished.” If sex doesn’t end when the guy ejaculates, then who cares what order things go in?

11. The idea of going around in an obvious state of arousal sounds wretched to me. As a woman, my sexual interest is hidden or capable of being hidden. There are no T-shirt bras for your math class boner.

12. Vulnerability in men is absolutely heart-breakingly sexy. I cannot be the only person to think this. And I thought this as a girl, too.




  • Erin on Dec 11, 2014 Reply

    I think there tends to be a need in life which is reflected in fiction that when a girl has sex for the first time, it’s known to be painful and awkward, so the ideal partner has just enough experience not to fark it up too badly. The easy/common way to handle it is a guy seduced at a young age or living a life of privilege where sex was simply available or he had an earlier love that ended in tragedy. But now she is the ONLY one.

  • Anon on Nov 10, 2014 Reply

    I agree with most of this, although I will say re #1: I was a girl for whom the physical surge was indeed overwhelming. In fact, my interest surpassed that of many guys I knew at that age. And it really bothered me that the stereotype was: guys will be aggressors and girls will either fight them off (a successful defense) or give in (an unsuccessful defense). The right to say no was an important part of sex education, but nobody seemed to think we would ever want to say yes–much less be the ones initiating, asking for a yes ourselves.
    And if I felt that social dynamic, I’m sure that guys felt it too.

  • Karen Jensen on Nov 10, 2014 Reply

    Carrie, great post as always. Wanted to mention that both Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt and This Side of Salvation by Jeri Smithy-Ready feature a boy losing his virginity, in both cases to an experienced female.

    Also, I love how you talk about the importance of context re: sex. Thank you for beating this drum.

  • Kiersi on Nov 07, 2014 Reply

    Can’t agree with this stuff more. I had such a weird experience in high school with a boy who had convinced me he wasn’t a virgin, and that he had had a number of sexual experiences. Then he confessed he was still a virgin—he’d just felt pressured to say he wasn’t.

    It’s such a hypocrisy to demand that boys BE experienced and girls NOT be experienced. I don’t get itttttt. There’s also this expectation around what the “first time” should be like that I imagine boys have just as much as girls that gets in the way of being really honest about sex. There’s nuts and bolts, and there’s a whole emotional level that doesn’t really get talked about in sex education or shown in porn.

    • Carrie Mesrobian on Nov 09, 2014 Reply

      I ALSO had a boyfriend who made up sexual partners so he’d be “equal” to me in experience. Isn’t that weird? It wasn’t like I was hauling out my history and explaining every detail – I just wanted to get clarity prior to sex-having so we could figure out our birth control/health status, you know?

      I want to believe in a First Time where it’s kind of awkward but also kind of lovely, because we accept the idea that the First Time is going to be strange for all involved.

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