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I'm a virgin: how do I keep him from finding out?

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Mia asks:

I am 23 and still a virgin, I am in a relationship with a guy and want to have sex with him but does not want him to know I am a virgin. Is there anyway we can make love without him knowing? Help, please.

Heather Corinna replies:

If you say nothing, it's unlikely he'll know. Women's bodies really don't change when they have any kind of sex, unless they become pregnant or contract an infection. Vaginal sex can wear a hymen or partial hymen away more, but so can and do a lot of other things, and at your age, it's likely you don't have much of your hymen left, anyway, just due to hormones, physical development, vaginal fluids, masturbation and general physical activity.

However, there are an awful lot of reasons why lying about your sexual history is just not the best idea ever, and why I would advise you to be truthful.

For starters, if and when something hurts during sex -- and first intercourse is more likely to hurt for someone who is nervous and can't relax, which is pretty typical for someone who knows they are withholding information during an activity which is supposed to be about getting close -- you need to be able to speak up. If you're worried about giving yourself away by saying something hurts (even though intercourse can be painful for other reasons that someone not doing it before), you aren't likely to do that. Sex is supposed to be, in part, about pleasure and feeling good, so when one or both partners don't communicate -- and don't say something when it doesn't feel good -- you're looking at both a sexual experience that's likely to be unsatisfying AND one that will hurt.

Next up? It's not really all that fair to commit someone to something sexual without their consent. In other words, not everyone wants to be a person's first partner, for any number of reasons, some fair (maybe that person just feels like it could require a sort of commitment they aren't up to yet, for instance, or like they just wouldn't be the best first partner for you), some not so fair.

But I'd hope your partner has also been honest with you about his sexual history, and if he has, then you've gotten to decide if you're okay with what it has been and if you're okay being part of that, by whatever your own standards, merits and needs are. Every partner should be able to make informed choices about sexual partnership like that. And if and when he does find out -- because if you stick together and get close, partners do talk about sexual history, and unless you're willing to invent a whole fiction about sexual experience you didn't have, you'll have to fess up eventually -- imagine how he might feel about this. For instance, he might feel pretty hurt that you didn't trust him enough to be honest, or feel upset knowing that you were going through something alone, effectively, that you didn't have to, and where he'd have been willing to give you some extra comfort. He might feel like if he was open with you about his sexual history, that you weren't willing to take the same risks in being honest, and he may feel betrayed in that way.

But the biggest issue is that one other big part of partnered sex is intimacy.

We can't really get intimate with someone if we're being dishonest with them or lying by omission. It also doesn't tend to feel so good emotionally when we're having sex with someone who, based on our dishonesty, thinks they're having sex with someone who isn't us. In other words, if you can't be authentically who you really are -- including your life experience or lack thereof -- it can feel pretty craptastic, like we're only acceptable to someone because of our persona, not our actual person.

If any sex partner doesn't feel like someone you can trust to be the real you with, including your sexual history, that probably isn't a very good person to do something so intimate with. You say you're in a relationship with this person, but it sounds to me like you're about to withhold something that could really screw up the trust in that relationship: why not be forthright and honest and build something of real quality rather than a sham?

If it's about feeling like you're too old not to have any or a certain level of sexual experience, I'd dump that idea. Not only are there still a goodly amount of people at your age who have not had sexual partners, even if you were the only one in the whole wide world, it'd be totally okay. People are allowed to be new at things, and there's no shame in that. In Zen Buddhism, we often aspire for what we call "beginner's mind," and see that as an ideal way to be, all the time. In other words, we see it as ideal to approach everything we do, if we can, as if it were our first time because that headspace tends to make people more open, eager and limitless: we can come to things with fewer preconceptions. Really, that's the way everyone should come to sex with ANY new partner: as if it were the first time. It tends to make for better sex. For real.

So, I'd suggest that if you do have a good relationship with this person, and if you trust them enough to have sex with them, that you trust them enough to bring your whole self to the table here and just be honest. Chances are good that it'll be no big deal to your partner, and also good that you will both have a much more satisfying sex life together -- physically and emotionally -- that has some real integrity and intimacy in it, if you start that sex life from a place of honesty. And chances are good that you'll have a far better first sexual experience if you're honest than you will if you're not: why not risk having something positive?

If you just don't feel like there is enough trust yet to do that, or that you don't know this guy well enough to let him get to really know you, then it's probably a good idea to wait for any sex until there is, especially if you've interest in healthy, satisfying sex AND relationships of real quality, that leave you feeling good because you know that your partner wants to be with EXACTLY the person he or she is with -- you -- rather than a person you pretend to be. If you feel like you're too old by someone's standards to be allowed to wait until it really feels right for you, rethink that. EVERYONE, of every age, at any time, should only be having any kind of sex when it feels right as rain, in all respects, and if we really want to have good sex, that's usually required, and there is never any harm in waiting until it's all just right.

Here are some extra links that might help you out with this:

written 17 Nov 2007 . updated 14 Jan 2014

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