Losing Your Virginity Later in Life: Your Body, Your Timeline

If you’ve been here before, you’ll know that at Hana® we think virginity is a social construct that ultimately makes a big deal out of something which is 1: a very personal decision that is nobody else’s business and 2: not actually a big deal at all. 

The idea of ‘losing your virginity’ feels inherently problematic. For one thing, it implies that virginity is something that can be lost or given away, something that is either a prize for whoever wins it or an embarrassing burden that you need to get rid of. It makes virginity sound like an object that can be handed to the first person you have a specific type of sex with, which just isn’t true.

The problem with the word ‘virginity’

‘Losing your V-card’, ‘Giving it away for free’ and any phrase that mentions locks and keys puts a value judgement on sex and, in particular, female sexuality. 

“The word ‘virginity,’ as well as the phrase ‘losing virginity,’ is both sexist and heteronormative and has had very real implications for women and non-heterosexual people throughout history,” says  Rhiannon John,  a certified Sexologist with a Master’s degree in Sexology, working at Bedbible.com

“The concept positions women as the bearers of purity, tying their value and worth to their sexual innocence. This belief perpetuates the idea that a woman’s body is not her own, but a societal commodity to be controlled and regulated. This places an undue burden on women to conform to a prescribed standard of purity, dictated by societal expectations rather than personal autonomy.”

“As a mental health professional and sex educator, I actually despise the term ‘virginity’ and the terminology around what it means to ‘lose it,’ agrees Jillian Amodio, licensed social worker, sex educator, and founder of Moms for Mental Health.  “The idea of virginity and what it means to ‘be a virgin’ is a social construct and it means nothing at all.”

Virginity also means different things to different people depending on what type of sex you engage in. ‘Losing your virginity’ typically refers to having penetrative, heterosexual vaginal sex (i.e. penis in vagina) for the first time. This definition excludes people who have sex but don’t happen to have p in v sex, such as lesbians, gay men and people who just prefer other types of sexual intimacy. By this definition there are people who have very active sex lives who would still be classed as virgins. 

“The term is focused solely on the penis-in-vagina sex, which is not only extremely limited and not focused on pleasure, but also doesn’t capture the diversity of sexual expression for people outside of heterosexual relationships,” says Rhiannon. “The term ‘virginity’ inherently carries a gendered and judgmental connotation, emphasising control and judgement over women’s bodies. On the other hand, ‘sexual debut’ is more neutral and inclusive, recognizing that one’s sexual experiences are personal and not a measure of worth. It encourages a more respectful and equitable understanding of sexuality, free from the historical baggage of sexism and control.” 

We are using the phrase ‘losing your virginity’ later in life to describe people who are in their mid-20s or older who have not had sex yet. The sex they have not had depends on each individual person’s interpretation of virginity, so it may mean different things to different readers. We will be using the phrase ‘losing your virginity’ for SEO purposes, not as an endorsement of the term.

What age do most people lose their virginity?

There isn’t one universal average age that people have their sexual debut. In Britain, the median age of having sex for the first time is 17 as of 2023. On average, women seem to have sex for the first time earlier than men do. In other parts of the world, the average age differs slightly. In Malaysia, Singapore, China and India the median age is around 22-23, whereas in Iceland the median age is 15.6. 

Why do some people choose to lose their virginity later in life?

“There are various reasons some people may choose to delay or abstain from sexual experiences,” says  Dr. Martha Tara Lee, a Singaporean Chinese sexologist. “These reasons can include personal beliefs, cultural or religious values, lack of opportunity or interest, focusing on education or career goals, or simply not feeling ready for sexual experiences.”

Being a virgin later in life has been explored in films like The 40 year old Virgin, which is a bawdy but sweet story about how early sexual mishaps can hit someone’s confidence. Andy, the 40 year old virgin, lives up to multiple stereotypes about older male virgins because he is shy, introverted, nerdy and has loads of action figures, but he’s also a kind man who does end up in a fulfilling romantic relationship where he developed emotional intimacy before getting physical. In Jane the Virgin, a parody of traditional telenovelas, Jane is a multi-dimensional, empowered female lead who chooses to stay a virgin until marriage and goes on to become a sexually confident woman who enjoys sex, thus shattering the stereotype of female virgins being ‘prudes’.

It may feel like everyone around you is having sex all the time, but the truth is everyone’s relationship to sexual intimacy is individual and unique. The reasons why people have sex or don’t are endless,” says Jillian Amodio. “Some people have moral or religious beliefs that make them feel as though sex should not occur outside of marriage. Some people have a history of trauma, stigma, or shame surrounding bodies and sex. Some people are not interested in sex with a partner(s) and that’s totally fine! Some people have a sense of fear, discomfort, and uncertainty that surrounds sex, sexuality, and sexual activity. Sexuality develops throughout our life and people are ready (or not) to engage in sexual activity in their own time. There’s no ‘normal’.”

Lucy* is 26 and has never had partnered sex. “I’m very shy and cautious when it comes to romantic feelings in general – I’ve never been in a romantic relationship, and apart from a few random drunk party hookups, I’ve never engaged in any (sexual/romantic) physical intimacy,” she says.

 “I also tend to develop romantic feelings for people I’m already close to (i.e. friends), and my lack of self-confidence and concern about jeopardising the friendship usually stops me from being honest about how I feel. As for sex without romantic feelings, I don’t think that’s ever happened because (1) I rarely feel attracted to someone just physically, (2) if I did, I’d never act on it, and (3) if I don’t trust someone, sex with men is often associated in my brain with domination and patriarchy, which adds an extra mental barrier.”

The pressure to have sex in your early 20s

Meehika is a 26-year-old journalist who chose to have penetrative sex for the first time when she was 24.  “I was brought up in a very traditional, conservative house where it was an unspoken rule that you lose your virginity to the person you marry or you’re very much in love with,” she says. “It was not something that was ever supposed to be taken lightly. That was always ingrained in my head, that even if I don’t marry that person it was an unspoken rule that if you do lose your virginity to someone it has to be someone you are in love with and someone you have spent a lot of time dating.”

When asked why she chose to wait until she was in her mid-twenties, Meehika said: “I had heard of so many horror stories of other people where they said the first time they had penetrative sex it hurt a lot and they were bleeding a lot. I developed that fear and I was really scared it was going to hurt a lot.”

There can be a lot of pressure around having sex in your early 20s, which Meehika says she is glad she didn’t give in to. “I feel like I was pressured a lot in my early 20s and I drove myself crazy trying to get into a relationship and have sex like everyone around me was constantly having. The tragic part of it is if I had done that I would have ended up with someone I didn’t really like. I’m glad I didn’t lower my standards and didn’t date men I didn’t like or saw red flags in because I wanted to get laid. I have no interest in having penetrative sex with anyone I’m not really sure about.”

Does being an older virgin mean you are asexual?

Angelika is a Relationship and Break-Up expert at Taimi, as well as a Master Certified Life Coach, a Certified Relationship Coach, and a Certified Meditation Instructor. She identifies as grey demisexual, meaning she experiences sexual attraction very rarely or with very low intensity. “The fact that a person has chosen to wait to have sex until later on in life or chosen a life without it shows how strongly they understand their desires,” she says. “We live in a highly sexual society, and those who have chosen to be true to themselves and not give in to the pressure around them have something to be proud of.”

Asexuality is a spectrum which looks different for each individual person. “Being asexual doesn’t necessarily mean the person won’t want to have sex but it depends on the person and where they fall under the asexual umbrella,” says Angelika. 

“There are many people who are asexual that are repulsed by the idea of having sex. It doesn’t allow them to feel closer to their partner and it is something they want to completely avoid in a relationship. There are other people who don’t mind having sex with their partner but it might take a few years for them to feel comfortable doing that. Sex to them is not about finding someone sexually attractive, but might be to do with reproductive or other reasons. Then there are people who are asexual who have a sex drive and only have sex when their body has natural urges, or they want to connect with their partner in an intimate way involving their body. Sex to them is not about finding someone sexually attractive. It’s more based on hormones and emotional connection.”

What is demisexuality?

“People who are demisexual are not comfortable with having one-night stands or casual connections,” says Angelika. “They can even be sex adverse until they feel a deep emotional and romantic connection to the person they are seeing. Demisexuality means your sexual attraction is based on the depth of the connection to the person you are interested in. It’s important for people who are demisexual to have their emotional needs fulfilled, because if they don’t, they will likely become sex adverse to their partner over time.”

Labels can be very helpful for explaining things to other people, but they won’t necessarily describe everyone’s experience perfectly or even well. Some people may identify with parts of a particular label, but not others. Everyone is an individual and it’s important to check in with yourself about how you feel, rather than trying to find the explanation externally.

How do you tell people you’re a virgin?

While some people are confident and open about their decision to delay their sexual debut, others may find the topic embarrassing. It can be difficult to discuss your lack of experience with a potential partner, for fear of driving them away or giving them an idea of you that you might not endorse.

“Approaching the topic of virginity can be a personal choice,” says Rhiannon. “You might choose to share it openly, knowing that your experiences don’t define your worth. Alternatively, you can keep it private, focusing on connecting with others in ways that go beyond sexual experiences. Remember, being a virgin is just one aspect of your identity, and there’s no rush or pressure to disclose it unless you feel comfortable and empowered to do so.”

It’s up to you what you disclose to other people and we’re not here to tell you what to do. That said, healthy relationships are built on open communication and being honest and transparent with the person, and if you are interested in forming a long term bond with someone it is usually best to be honest with them sooner rather than later – so it doesn’t build up into something which becomes more about why it wasn’t revealed in the first place.

What if you never want to have sex?

“You don’t need to have sex to have a romantic relationship,” says Angelika. “Romantic feelings are not based on sexual urges. It goes far deeper than that and stems from deep, emotionally intimate love. You can have a beautiful romantic and healthy relationship without ever crossing the line of sexual intercourse.”

Advice for people who haven’t engaged in sexual activity later in life

As we’ve seen, there are many reasons for delaying your sexual debut until later in life or choosing not to have one at all. 

“It’s important not to automatically believe that people who haven’t had sex need advice,” says Rhiannon. “Many people have made this decision for themselves. They are happy with their decision to abstain or wait to have sex, and that’s perfectly healthy and normal. However, if someone is experiencing challenges related to this, I would recommend seeking support from a sex therapist. A sex therapist can help navigate individual concerns and offer personalised guidance or treatment based on specific needs.”

“Explore your own likes and dislikes,” adds Jillian Amodio “If you are looking for a sexual partner(s) ask yourself what you are looking for in terms of intimacy. No one should feel pressure or shame at any age. At the end of the day, we’re all just skin and bones.”

Masturbation is a wonderful way to experience sexual gratification on your own terms, as well as helping you learn what you do and don’t like while developing your sexual confidence. 

“I think no one should feel pressured to have sex, regardless of age, and the amount of sexual experience a person has should not affect their confidence,” says Lucy. “Everyone has their own journey – I personally try to encourage myself to be more willing to step out of my comfort zone and work through my insecurities, but I do this for myself and not to fit into any societal expectations of what an appropriate age to have sex is. I also think that masturbation is an amazing way to explore your own body and create experiences of sexual pleasure for yourself!”

Everyone is different and on their own journey. If you do decide to have sex at some point and want to prevent unplanned pregnancy, you should think about your contraceptive options and communicate about safe sex with your partner(s).

*Some names have been changed

No one mentioned in this article endorses any products or brands.

ellaOne® 30mg film-coated tablet contains ulipristal acetate and is indicated for emergency contraception within 120 hours (5 days) of unprotected sexual intercourse or contraceptive failure. Always read the label