Ask Debby Herbenick | The virginity line and getting back in the game

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Q Are you still a virgin if you stuck your dick in a girl and you lost your erection?
A It depends whom you ask and probably on a few more details, like how long you lasted before your erection went from hard to soft. Some people might give you a do-over if you said you lost your erection instantly or within a matter of seconds. Then again, I can imagine someone who places an unusually high value on virginity, or someone who’s running for President and trying to win votes from ultra-conservatives, saying that there is no way you can retrieve your V-card once your penis has made contact with the inner sanctum of a woman’s vagina. Except these folks might call it a flower instead of a vagina (another story for another day).

But frankly, a lot of people consider themselves virgins even if they have had penile-vaginal sex with someone they no longer care for, penile-vaginal sex that was so-so, or if they’ve never had vaginal but have had anal. There’s no one good definition of virgin. I would be far less concerned about a label and more focused on creating a pleasurable sex life that hopefully involves something more nuanced than “sticking your dick in a girl,” which makes it sound as if you were just moseying on by and, whoops, there went your penis accidentally sticking itself in a passerby. Silly penis. Seriously, check out S.E.X. (DaCapo, $17.95) or KinseyConfidential.org and focus more on good sex and less on labels.

Q I am a 32-year-old guy who just got back in the dating world after splitting with my girlfriend of 12 years. I’ve been taking things slowly when I meet new girls, which often results in me not getting called back. Lately, I’ve been bringing my A game in the bedroom, and it’s had the opposite effect. Now, they don’t want to go out on dates with me, I just get texts to “hang out” at 2 or 3am. I am looking for another relationship, but I feel like I’m going about this all wrong. When’s a good time to put out and make a girl see you as datable, and when is too soon that you just become a booty call? And should you bring your A game from the start? Help. A lot has changed in the dating world since 1999.
A Things have and haven’t changed since 1999. People liked booty calls back then, too, only they were actually calls instead of texts. The main difference is that, in 1999 you were only 20. Now you’re a 32-year-old with very different life, love and sex experiences, and likely a different relationship timetable in mind. Every now and then, first date sex can lead to a great relationship. More often, however, women and men both find that waiting to have sex is key to having a relationship progress. Why? For some people, waiting a few dates conveys that they’re serious about looking for someone to date. Others simply want time to weed out the crazies.

It’s okay to say things like “I’d rather wait to have sex until we know each other better,” or “until we’ve had a chance to get tested for STIs together” (to me, that screams sexy—and I mean it). Bringing your A game isn’t only about your sex skills or orgasm techniques, it’s about the bigger picture. Making out can be a wonderful tease and there’s no reason you can’t make out, and make out heavy, the first few times you hang out together. You can also, by the way, turn your phone off at night so as to ignore the 2am booty calls. Best of luck.

Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., M.P.H., is a research scientist at Indiana University, sexual health educator at the Kinsey Institute and author. Send letters to Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., c/o Time Out Chicago, 247 South State Street, 17th floor, Chicago, IL 60604, or send e-mail to inandout@timeoutchicago.com.


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