JJ Vincent thinks he finally knows why he and his friends did not understand the 30-year-old virgins.
Once upon a time, I knew two guys, “Jack” and “Clark.” I was friends with them from age 20 to age 30. Rarely a week went by that I didn’t see them. There was very little we didn’t know about each others’ lives. We shared friends, refrigerators, cars, video games, you name it. One thing we did not share? Virginity. Jack and Clark were virgins-by-choice. Not because of faith, not because of promises, but by choice.
And certainly not for lack of opportunity. A 30-year-old virgin male conjures up an image of a guy living in his parent’s house, eating cheetos and playing video games, or a guy inept at social niceties and personal hygiene, or a guy so shy or creepy that he could never approach or be approached.
Jack and Clark were none of these. They were both attractive by conventional standards, both gainfully employed, both had cars, both had college degrees, both lived, at various points, alone or with roommates. Neither drank heavily or smoked anything. Jake cussed up a storm and could be argumentative, and when Clark got involved in a project (art, random vacations, rearranging his furniture), he’d disappear for a week or two. None of this stopped them from regularly being approached by conventionally attractive women who made their interest very obvious. Their reciprocal interest was, in a word, polite.
I’d like to say we were caring and supportive friends. I’d like to say that we never tried to interfere. I’d like to say that we respected their decisions and never questioned them or teased them or nagged them.
I’d be lying.
Clark got the lighter end of it. He never really gave a reason for his celibate life. He just sort of shrugged his shoulders and said, “Not interested.” He didn’t go out much or approach people as much, so he rarely had stories to share.
Jack, unfortunately, did.
I can’t tell you what was in our 20-something psyches that had us semi-obsessed with his sex life, or lack there of.
The rest of us were getting it as much or as little as we wanted. Our group was pretty tight and very tentative with outsiders, so why we were encouraging him to bring one in, I don’t know. We teased him, heckled him, tried to set him up with girls (he said very plainly that he was straight), tricked him into double dates and ditched him (once), badgered him about “Why, why, why?” as though the answer would change. He told us about going to this party or event or that bar and meeting this or that girl, but he didn’t even kiss them and rarely used their numbers. We’d roll our eyes and say, “Dude, why not just CALL her?” All he would say, over and over, is that he didn’t want the hassles or complications and that he didn’t want to get involved. One of my less-refined buddies told him that he didn’t need to get involved—he just needed to get laid.
Now, 12 years and many conversations later, I think I have the answer.
Jack and Clark refused to conform to what was normal in our world.
Among many of our college friends, sex was a recreational activity. You did it, talked about it, and got grilled if you didn’t, because that was a sure sign that this one might be sticking around for a while. A few people settled down along the way, either with a steady partner or a job that sucked the will to party right out of you. It didn’t matter if you weren’t doing it. It mattered if you hadn’t done it, didn’t want to do it, and wouldn’t do it.
We were accustomed to the “no-sex-before-marriage” crowd. We were accustomed to the “recently-heartbroken-I hate-all-men/women” crowd. We could even deal with the “don’t-want-to-deal-with-it-right-now” brigade. We had all been the last two, and the first one, none of us were interested in challenging that.
What we were not prepared to deal with was two of our peers actively and proudly choosing to say “no” for no other reason than the fact that they wanted to say “no”.
We all knew that sex, even the promised no-strings-attached variety, was fraught with peril. We knew that one wrong move, one wrong person, would bring the wrath of the group down on us. But we were generally happy with our sex lives. Why didn’t they want to join in?
Jack was our main focus. We thought that if we nudged him enough, he’d give in. He’d be a happier, better person. But when we parted company when I was 30, he was still a virgin, and not just a technical one.
I think he knew something that most of us figure out later. Sex is great and wonderful and fine and dandy, but it shouldn’t be a competition or a race or a contest. It shouldn’t be something you do with a sigh just to get it over with. It should be pleasure, not drama. It can complicate your life and have ripple effects far beyond what you imagine. Jack and Clark never had to worry about running into a one-night stand. They did not have their scanners set on “cruise”. They were not looking for an angle or going anywhere with an agenda, so if they left someplace alone, they were not disappointed. On an even more mundane level, they did not have to worry if their places were clean enough to bring someone home to, what they were going to do about breakfast, or what to do if the person started calling them a dozen times a day.
Our group did not spend the whole of 10 years pestering them. We gave up after a time, Clark first, then Jack. They were not going to budge, for us or a girl or their libidos.
Some people think that the measure of a man is in how many women he has conquered, how many notches he’s got in his belt, how far he can get how fast. I think that these two guys, holding on to their own personal “no” with no outside pressures telling them to, is a pretty damn “manly” thing to do.