Style Sex & Relationships

Saturday 19 January 2019

Dear Mary: I'm 36-years-old, I've had plenty of dates with girls, but never had sex

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Mary O’Conor

I'm a 36-year-old male virgin. You are the first person I've actually told this to and it is a huge personal issue for me.

This has come about through a variety of reasons, namely: I had a very sheltered upbringing, I stayed at my parents' house while at college, body image issues - statistically I have a smaller than average penis - and I am an inherently shy and introverted person.

I have no issues around my sexuality (straight) nor is there anything in my past, like abuse, that has in any way tainted what sex should be.

Having not had sex by a point in my life that society would consider normal (though I appreciate this is different for everyone) I built up a stigma in my head and as a result retreated from situations that may have led to it happening.

As I got older my lack of experience became a bigger issue for me as there is an assumed expectation that you get better at sex over time and fear of embarrassment again made me shy away from potential situations.

As a result I have never had a serious long-term relationship nor any of note for that matter.

I have a good job, great friends and family who I love so I don't get too stressed about my constant singledom although I am anxious to address it. However, I can't see how I will do this without having an honest conversation with any potential partner about my lack of sexual experience.

In the world of instant gratification, and choice that Tinder and Bumble offer, how would anyone be open to the idea of dating me long-term, especially as I would look to meet someone in their thirties. Let's face it bad sex is something you should be having in your twenties.

I have been on plenty of dates recently so know I'm at least somewhat attractive to women. But I have not developed a relationship with anybody to a point where I am comfortable having this conversation with them.

I want to go on dates and meet new people but I also feel disingenuous to the women I meet as I feel it will ultimately end in disappointment.

I have often thought about the idea of going to a sex professional who would not be disappointed or judgmental and just getting it out of the way but in all honesty the idea has never appealed to me enough to actually go through with that.

Mary replies

What a refreshingly honest email but I also find it sad as this is something that you alone have built up in your head without anybody else saying anything to you. However it is also good that nobody has given you a complex about your lack of sexual experience. On a very practical level you have probably had sexual experience, but with yourself, if like almost everybody else in the world you have masturbated. You just haven't yet had intercourse.

I'm glad that you decided not to use a professional - there are so many women out there, many of whom have written to me, who would love to meet somebody who is not only interested in a sexual relationship. This is particularly true of women who have tried the various dating apps that you mention.

I often equate sex with food - for instance a sandwich (quickie) versus a three-course meal (nice long sexual encounter). So let me use the analogy again. Would you find somebody lacking if they had never experimented with, say, Asian food even though you loved it? Probably not. So why should somebody judge you for not having had sex? And who says you wouldn't get to enjoy it hugely and learn to give pleasure - which is what it's all about - very quickly?

Penis size varies, but not so much when erect. Also when you look down you see a foreshortened version so try not to get too critical of yourself. It's what you do with it that is important, not the size.

So get out there, have some more dates, and then don't hold back if you find somebody that you really like and find attractive. I guarantee they won't judge you for being inexperienced, rather they will find it refreshing in this somewhat sex-obsessed age.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or email her at or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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