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Ask Dr. Helen: The 47-Year-Old Virgin

Middle-aged virgins are not necessarily the stuff of comedy. Choosing to wait is just fine, writes Dr. Helen Smith -- unless past sexual abuse or a debilitating lack of confidence is making the choice for you.

by
Helen Smith

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January 23, 2008 - 12:45 am

A reader is concerned about being a middle-aged virgin:

Dr. Helen,

I am a middle-aged virgin. I’m a 47-year-old heterosexual male and I’ve never had sex with a woman.

I saw that movie, The 40-Year-Old Virgin and it hit way too close to home. (Also Steve Carell looks a lot like me in that movie, which bothers me.)

I think that there must be a lot of middle-aged virgins out there, but most people are too ashamed to admit that.

Back when I was fifteen years old I was violently, sexually assaulted by an older teenager at high school. I never told anyone about it, but that experience has made me afraid of intimate contact with anyone.

My co-worker listens to Tom Leykis on the radio and he would describe me as a man who has “got no game” but I don’t want to be the kind of man who would trick women into having sex with him. I can’t believe that I’m alone in not being able to “hook up” with the opposite sex. What do you think? Are there a great number of people in the United States that have not been able to have sexual relationships yet, or am I just a statistical irregularity?

Thank you for your time. I have always respected your opinions.

Dear Reader:

I think that rather than focus on whether or not you are a statistical anomaly, it would make more sense to focus on why you have not yet had a sexual relationship. There are a number of reasons men are virgins after the age of 40; they feel comfortable this way and have no desire for sex (asexuality); their faith prohibits premarital sex; they want sex but don’t know how to approach a woman and feel unable to “compete,” (in other words, “got no game”); and finally, prior sexual abuse that may have interfered developmentally with their desire and/or their confidence in attracting women.

Some men are asexual, I have met some that don’t care about sex and deny being interested. There are even studies that put asexuality at about 1% of the general population. Some men are religious and feel that it is wrong for them to have premarital sex. They have never been married and stay true to their religious faith. These two reasons are perfectly legitimate and if they apply to you, you may want to learn how to accept both as reasonable alternatives.

However, I have a feeling that the latter two reasons I mentioned, a lack of confidence in approaching women and the history of violent abuse that you mentioned may be at the core of why you have not had sex by now. If it is lack of confidence, know that you are not alone; other guys like Brian on a thread regarding middle-aged male virgins had this to say:

FYI, I didn’t lose my virginity until I was 34…..The reasons were clear. Being 5`5 and overweight, I wasn’t that good looking. There are times that I was just completely shut out of the dating scene entirely. People have asked me how could I go for so long? My answer, how could you want something that you have never experienced. I didnt know what sex was until I had it myself. I will have to admit though, I was pretty horny because I was J*rking off twice a day.I don’t think there as many female virgins(if any) because there is more pressure on men to perform. It`s simple as that..

Perhaps your lack of confidence is a result of being terrified to engage in sex with anyone. A violent sexual encounter in your formative years can shape how you view sexuality as an adult. Unfortunately, you may now tie sexuality with violence, shame and unhappiness. Since you have not had any other sexual experience to prove otherwise, this negative pairing may be forefront in your mind when you think of trying to approach someone of the opposite sex.

This terror may keep you from entering into a relationship that might lead to possible sexual relations. My suggestion at this point is to seek therapy with a licensed therapist or certified sex therapist who is knowledgeable about sexual abuse and sexuality. You mentioned that you have never told anyone about the sexual abuse you mentioned; discussing the abuse and its impact on your future sexuality in confidence with a professional might start you on the road to the relationship you are looking for or help you to realize that you are where you need to be. Good luck and keep me informed.

Any male readers out there who started to have sex at a later age than is typical — after your early twenties — why did you wait, and do you have any advice for our “40-year-old virgin”? If so, drop it in the comments below.

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If you have a question you would like answered, please leave it below or email me at askdrhelen@hotmail.com. Your questions may be edited for length and clarity. Please note that your first name only or no name at all will be used to identify your question-if you want me to use your name, tell me, otherwise you will be referred to by your first name or as “a reader” etc.

Helen Smith is a psychologist specializing in forensic issues in Knoxville, Tennessee and blogs at drhelen.blogspot.com . This advice column is for educational and entertainment purposes only and does not purport to replace therapy or psychological treatment.

Helen Smith is a psychologist specializing in forensic issues in Knoxville, Tennessee, and blogs at Dr. Helen.
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