A new year means a fresh slate of at least 10-12 blog entries here, at least ideally. As a minor update I am still at my new gig, officially three months in. Only another nine before I am past probation, and the pressure is high. But that isn’t what I want to talk about here. Nor do I especially want to take about my own “older male virginity” specifically (although due to the subject, I am sure I will at some points). After all, I’ve already bleated a lot about it in this space already. I have a couple of other topics gestating in my mind that I want to get down, or out, and I’ll come to those soon. One, thematically, fits better for February. The other…who knows. While this is basically a glorified journal chronicling the embarrassing feelings I harbor regarding romance I dare not tell anyone, I do like having some sense of flow, or leaving a few cards off the table.
What I want to address here is something which gets under my skin sometimes, and on my nerves. The reasons are obvious, and very subjective. It all started when I happened to come across a link to a link to a link, you know how Internet rabbit holes go. I wound up at “Mum’s Village,” a page which seems to be about yet another online guru offering perspective and advice on stuff relating to romance, sex, etc. At some point within the last year for her advice column, she got an email where a woman wants advice for her friend, who is a real life “40 Year Old Virgin.” The advice “Mum” gives (mostly via video) was fairly shocking to me, if only from who it was coming from. It was fairly typical advice that one might hear from “bros” in a bar, only it was coming, albeit in a different form, from a woman of color in her 30’s or 40’s. Her advice implied that there was something shameful and wrong, and that this guy had to find a way to resolve it fast. She suggested, to paraphrase,
“he go to a college bar and throw some money around and ‘practice’ on women who were 21, 22, 23…maybe 24 years old, who don’t know any better. Don’t bother with women his own age, they don’t have time for him, they’re raising kids and building businesses.”
Now, I am not a prude or someone ignorant, nor do I even feel Mum was being heartless or anything. Even though going to ANY bar and “throwing money around” sounds like a good way to get mugged to me. But I felt this was an example of the sort of troubling advice that I have seen for older virgins (and especially guy ones) which I encounter online all the time. If you think love advice in general can be contradictory and insane, it gets even worse if you look for advice about older virginity.
I often say a few times I am not looking for advice, and that isn’t because I’ve never sought it. It’s because I have been given every line of advice from every angle that could exist. Naturally, as someone who clearly can be uptight and defensive about his inexperience, I sought advice that was offered for virginity. And boy howdy, is a lot of it messed up. I would say a majority of it (perhaps slight but still a majority) seems to fall into two extremes. The first embraces all or most of society’s norms and expectations that older virginity is terrible and wrong, and a disgusting shame to be hidden and undone at any cost as soon as possible. This line of advice often embraces the crudest and most “blunt” advice in regards to trolling bars, clubs, and/or living at the gym to make yourself a physical god. In the effort to be “blunt” and “real,” it often has the effect, at least on me, of reinforcing all of the negative self loop that many older virgins have in their heads. That they really are freaks, that there really is something wrong with them, and that this is a problem which isn’t easily fixed, and if is, it comes from becoming someone you can’t be easily. Many gurus who utilize this technique of advice also enforce and repeat a lot of regressive stereotypes about masculinity, and often use taunts or insults to trigger a response, drill sarge style, which are aimed to cut to the bone.
The second, however, is just as infuriating. The alternative is to go so far into the other direction that it risks denying the experiences and feelings of those people it seeks to help. In the name of being “progressive” and striving for a world free of masculine stereotypes — a laudable goal — it tilts towards Pollyanna baloney. This alternative line or reasoning is that virginity is all in the mind and can be erased with the right positive attitude. It pretends that the last century of society can be undone just with a click of the heels and some slogan from a DOCTOR WHO or BUFFY episode. That concerns about older sexual inexperience being judged negatively or at the very least seen as a “red flag” by most if not all potential suitors are foolhardy and self destructive. That despite having no evidence to the contrary, you should act like a master of ceremonies. Virginity, to these gurus, doesn’t even exist and should be of no more concern than what kind of aftershave you use. Any concerns about how it will be interpreted or whether to reveal it at all are just distracting noise or “excuses” to these gurus. While they don’t preach the philosophy of “practice chicks” like the first philosophy, they preach that despite the inexperience, you’re on equal footing with any date or lover. I mean, they have their anxieties too. Heaven forbid, some fret about laugh lines. And while not as crude, rude, or macho as the first philosophy, gurus of this one can get plenty self righteous, passive-aggressive, and pretentious when they meet someone who doesn’t swallow the Kool-Aid as quickly as they’d prefer.
I often felt caught in the middle. One line of reasoning would confirm all of my own self doubts and fears, and the other would talk down to me like an idiot for having them. And here and there I could see that I wasn’t alone. Too many men, I think, shift towards the extreme “he-man woman hater’s clubs” of Reddit, MRA, MGTOW, and 4Chan precisely because while a lot of those guys are vile and cater to the ugliest of stereotypes, they at least often sympathy in the short term. Being in a circle jerk with Neo-Nazis is horrible, but I imagine some guys don’t feel being lectured to feels much better. They’re hungry for understanding, for someone or a group of someone’s to not talk down to them or smugly hand-wave their concerns as trivial pursuits, and they seek it out with the extremes of the Internet. I like to think that I, being a loner who rarely trusted anyone who promised they had all the answers, would be immune to those temptations. But I also acknowledge that when I was at my most emotional and depressed as a teenager and young adult in my early 20’s, the Internet was a different place and these dark corners were not as easy to find, or widespread.
And honestly, the fact that there seems to be no line of advice for older virgins beyond these extremes, or varying flavors of them, underscores the dilemma that it is. For examples, GoodLookingLoser, Frank Kermit, the Playboy Adviser, and even Steve Harvey are varying degrees of the first philosophy. GLL is firmly in the “all problems in life are solved by lifting, bro” camp, but the other two are only slightly more sophisticated. Part of it is that both Kermit and Harvey are in their 40’s to 60’s, and therefore bring in a lot of cultural norms from those previous generations. I.E. women are “naturally” the more passive & nurturing of the sexes romantically, that a man should be game for any and every romantic opportunity, even towards someone who disgusts him, so long as she’s willing, and so on. Hell, a large chunk of Kermit’s advice to virgins is saving up their money so they can literally build a “sex pad” to bring women to, using his own example of having a disco ball in one of his old pads. GLL is the cruder of the three, but all of them use belittlement or at least some slight degree of “tough love”.
On the flip side, Doctor Nerdlove is an example of Pollyanna territory. While well meaning and admittedly more understanding than some of the other examples, in the end it preaches mind-over-matter to a ridiculous degree. It denies real life experience or on-the-ground public opinions for attempting to forge a better world somewhere in the future, just over there. It seeks to tell people who have never had romantic success that it’s all a matter of succeeding without even trying. Just live your life and be you, and it will come when it’s meant to. Despite all of the lofty goals, it boils down to what everyone’s mother says about it happening when you’re ready. Platitudes are nicer than negative reinforcement, but they won’t keep you any less lonely at night. I’ve been living my life and being me for roughly 25 years. It’s never just happened, and expecting it to just by psyching myself up enough won’t make it so.
It’s at this point where I wish I could come up with some masterful advice which manages to do what these gurus can’t. That manages to be comforting without delusional, and realistic without being dehumanizing. And if I could…I’d write it into a book, sell it for $9.99 a pop, and be a guru too. All I do know is that both angles never worked for me, and I think leave a lot of people feeling underwhelmed. While I am not saying there aren’t people who haven’t been helped by one or the other philosophy, I do think there’s a gap in the market, or at least people who fall through the gaps. Does that mean we’re unable to be helped, or that the options stink? All I know is that for me, I had to struggle to find my own path which, while I can’t say “worked,” at least has resulted in me being less depressed than I used to be. I call it the, “I’m a loser but who cares” philosophy.
I sometimes wish I could be the guy who could figure out a middle ground, an ideal philosophy about all this craziness. Maybe then all of my own pain over these years would have had a meaning, some grander purpose. All I know is that for me, I just couldn’t embrace the philosophy of the gym rat club goers. It felt wrong to be something I wasn’t, or to build a facade to con people with, or to plunge forward with rare opportunities even if they felt wrong. I faced such an opportunity last year, and I decided it was not worth it for me; the price was too high. Yet at the same time, attitudes about virginity are not mere figments of imagination, nor does everyone who considers it a red flag for their own taste some unworthy, misinformed, or terrible person. My own experiences of emasculation and unworthiness over my virginity cannot be undone or erased just by wishing on a star. They cannot be forgotten; the world will remind me every day if I let it. It is legitimate, and only a fool would pretend others don’t feel otherwise. There truly is no way to catch up on missed opportunities. Yet after many years, shredding myself to emotional ribbons over it got old, got numb. Just because I am an abysmal lover doesn’t mean I have to be an abysmal person. Maybe I will have sex and/or a relationship someday, and maybe I won’t. That doesn’t mean I have to be miserable about it, or not pursue my hobbies and interests. And if I grow old and die without having ever known a woman’s touch or caressed her in kind, well…it could be worse. I could have been a televangelist.
I just wish better forms of advice existed for those who sought it, and I wish I didn’t sometimes get so frustrated when I surf online and see someone being served a heap full of something either unhelpful or self destructive. Maybe in the end we all have to find our own ways through life, and in reaction to it without the aid of gurus selling books. And we all have to learn to carve our own paths in life, or at least become comfortable in the forests we find ourselves in.