Turns out I was an early adopter!
Jezebel posted this piece a couple of days ago on the “sex trend” (air quotes mine) of young women losing their virginity in their 20s, with Girls’ Shoshanna as the crowning example. I’m 36 and far from a virgin (what do you mean how far? You mind your own business!), but I fell instantly in love with Shoshanna when I first met her. At 22, she was the “least virginy virgin” ever, she said, and I dug that, because once upon a time, I was, too.
Even today, closer to 40 than 30 (oh my God, I don’t think I realized that until just now; or I did, but early-onset senility made me bad at math), I still feel alienated when I see teens on-screen giving it up, sneaking out of their parents’ house to go paw at their boyfriend in some car. I feel equally out of sorts watching kids who are desperate to have sex but resisting in the interest of waiting until they’re ready (virgins by logic). And my goat is equally got by young characters dying for a roll in the sack but refusing to because of religion (virgins by Jesus). I was none of those. And I had a lot of friends who were in the same sexless boat I was.
We were smart, hard-working, overachieving teenagers. We weren’t goody-goodys, really. We drank, we smoked pot, we had mad crazy crushes on boys. But we didn’t fool around, and most of us hadn’t had any relationships beyond the occasional chaste date or soul-ruining, going-nowhere crush on a boy. My crushes were almost entirely asexual, and I guess, in retrospect, that was by unconscious design. When I got to college and a hot shot a cappella guy (I swear that wasn’t an oxymoron where I went to school) took a shine to me and somehow duped me into phone sex, I had absolutely no idea. (“He kept asking me what I was wearing,” I told my similarly hymenated roommate. Somehow even she knew what the sartorial curiosity and quickened breathing meant. Makes sense: She’d at least rounded some of the bases. I’d only ever made out. And really just a little.)
Of the late-blooming ilk, we were more Liz Lemon than Donna Martin (graduates). We were innocents, in a way. Sex just wasn’t something most of us were considering. In fact, when a friend went home one winter break and ended up punching her V-card with her sometime boyfriend, she broke it to us like she was admitting she’d pledged a sorority. I think she was afraid we would judge her, and I’m sure that we did, if only because she was instantly foreign to us.
All these years, boyfriends and sexcapades later (that’s right, I said sexcapades), I still feel like a confused loser when I compare myself to Girls’ Hannah Horvath or Tina from the magnificent (and canceled) I Just Want My Pants Back, modern-day Mary Richardses relocated to New York City. It’s confusing because I was them—only, not really. Sexuality is an important, if not the most important aspect to both characters. We meet them when they’re just out of college, and it’s clear that both said bon voyage to their virginity a very long time ago. So even now, technically old enough to be their incredibly young mother (excuse me while I go take a Xanax), I feel excluded. Not just because they got it on early but because they wanted to. I didn’t. Not until I realized just how late it was getting.
Enter Shoshanna. She is horrified that she somehow ended up 22 and a virgin. She has no idea how it happened. But the thing you don’t hear her saying is that she’s been dying for sex. Because she hasn’t. Of course she hasn’t. Those of us who were still virgins in our early 20s weren’t really dying for it until after we’d done it, when we realized what we’d been missing. (And then we were really dying for it.) When Shoshanna does give it up, it’s exactly how (I think) it should be: with someone nice and respectful and cute and whom she doesn’t actually know very well. The point wasn’t that she have great sex—the point was that she couldn’t be a virgin anymore.
The Jezebel piece references the sex hold-outs who have boyfriends but just don’t want to be stank hos (paraphrasing), and those women alienate me as much as the sluts ever did. Same goes for the virgins by circumstance: In High Fidelity, as John Cusack’s Rob goes back to find/torment his lost loves, one accuses him of being the reason she became Grandma Virgin. All his constant sex pressure in high school made her unable to go through with it in college, “when you’re supposed to have sex.” She was a virgin only because her high school boyfriend had tried so hard to make her not one. Her circumstance was sexual aggression. I remember watching that movie and having this exact reaction to her: “Oh! Oh.” It was rare to see a simpatico on-screen, so I was elated, but then her V-ness was qualified by circumstance, and I was disappointed. My only circumstances were fear and indifference. Until I met my own respectful, cute stranger. And then my 20s got much more interesting.
So yeah, up with late bloomers. There are more of them out there than you think. And Shoshanna at 36 is going to be unstoppable.