Snyder says his patients’ feelings about being older virgins varies from somewhat embarrassed at 25 to extremely embarrassed at 45. Sometimes their issues could be low sex drives caused by hormones or even a lack of interest in sex (such as with asexuals), but many times it’s linked to anxiety. In those cases, Snyder often prescribes medicine and performs psychotherapy to de-catastrophize negative thoughts.
Childhood physical or sexual abuse can also, understandably, leave some hesitant to have sex. Mare Simone, a Los Angeles sex surrogate and Tantra educator, has had older virgin patients who have been sexually abused. As a sex surrogate, she has intimate encounters (sometimes intercourse) with people to help them overcome sexual issues, often working alongside with a therapist in cases of abuse.
“If you had trauma in the body, that trauma can get reawakened just by touching the area where you were traumatized,” Simone says. “Even if the touch is gentle and loving, if it’s not backed with a certain amount of strength, confidence and support, it can continue to re-traumatize that same issue and cause a crazy, spinning-nowhere cycle.”
Emotional abuse can also lead to sexual abstinence. That was the case for designer Stacy B. of Boston, whose father regularly told her she was worthless and ugly. This made her distrust men. She’s 39 now and lost her virginity at 37 after going to therapy for seven years.
Stacy says her mother taught her that sex is special (a common reason people wait) and she kind of believed it. Later she realized that the emotional trauma she faced growing up caused her to keep her distance from men, rather than the belief that sex was special. She tells me over the phone that she never got a lot of attention from boys, not because she’s unattractive but because she put up walls. She wishes she had dealt with this a long time ago, before becoming too old to have kids.
“I guess I needed to work through a lot of things and learn to trust my instincts,” Stacy says. “Then I needed to learn to trust other people before ever doing something like that.”
Stacy lost her virginity to a guy she met on the casual encounters page of Craigslist, who she says was very accommodating to her inexperience. According to Stacy, her first time was fantastic: It didn’t hurt and she had an orgasm. In fact, she still has sex with him sometimes and says she has an incredible sex life.
“Would you say you’re making up for lost time?” I ask her.
“I’m certainly trying,” she says, laughing.
Dr. Aline Zoldbrod, a sex therapist in Boston, says the environment you grew up in can make all the difference in how you approach sex. The ideal environment, according to Zoldbrod, is a happy home where sexual curiosity is encouraged, questions about sex are answered age-appropriately, and privacy and independence are not only respected but also cultivated. Other environments, such as homes where sex is never talked about or where parents are not openly affectionate with each other, can lead to issues.