‘I’m thirty five and I still haven’t lost my virginity. Don’t tell me that I haven’t met the right woman or that it’ll happen for me one day, because I’ve given up hope. The problem is that I’m really shy, not much use with women and I never pull. At least I’ve accepted the fact. The thing is I really want to get laid … I’m so depressed about it. It feels like I’m on the wrong side of a huge mountain and all the women in the world are on the other side.’
This letter is typical of those who write to us with what they see as a very difficult and distressing situation. Having little or no sexual experience can create a sense of isolation and a deep rooted lack of personal confidence which prevents many individuals from attempting to form relationships.
It is normal to need the experience that comes from intimacy. Sexual intercourse is a natural and normal stage of emotional, physical and sexual development that all men and women should live through in order to become fully human.
For many, this stage of psychosexual development does not happen naturally. Adolescence passes for some without making any intimate relationships or having any sexual experiences. The years pass and the man feels increasingly isolated. The sense of separation and isolation increases as his friends and peers establish relationships, get married and have children of their own.
The years spent in isolation taunt the single man. He dreads hearing the term ‘virgin’, knowing it to be not only descriptive of his state but one that condemns him to a life sentence in loneliness. He regards himself as fundamentally flawed; there must be something wrong with him. He knows that his knowledge of sex and intimacy is lacking, devoid, negligible. Even if he did meet someone with whom he could begin an intimate relationship, surely she would expect him to know what to do in bed?
He builds a life protected from the opposite sex, just in case he should be invited to be intimate and humiliated. He is imprisoned in solitary confinement. This is the predicament of a silent multitude of men of all ages.
Brian G. Gilmartin, an American psychologist who originally used this term, conducted research studies involving two hundred heterosexual men aged 19 – 24 and an additional one hundred men aged 35 -50. Love-shyness succinctly defines a degree of inhibition and the reticence with potential partners that is sufficiently severe to have prevented the subject from forming intimate relationships or participating in intimate or sexual encounters at any level. For example, a love-shy man will have trouble initiating conversations with women because of high levels of anxiety.
Causes for love-shyness typically include school bullying, child abuse, negative comparisons and continuous discouragement, verbal or emotional abuse from parents.
Because of their perceived lack of interest in women, love-shy men are sometimes assumed to be homosexual. This in turn, increases the anxiety of the love-shy man, assuming himself to be ‘broken’, ‘flawed’ or otherwise ‘abnormal’.
Unfortunately, unwanted mid-life virginity, sexual inexperience and love-shyness is not widely recognised as a diagnostic criteria by the World Health Organisation and therefore by the psychiatric professional associations and guidelines. Fortunately, a more enlightened argument is now increasingly being made in mainstream clinical psychology that intimacy issues are so unique and core to one’s humanity that love-shyness does constitute a legitimate area of clinical attention.
ICASA acknowledges the contribution to this section that has been made by the authors on ‘Love-Shyness’ in Wikipedia.
This term is used by Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous to define the compulsive avoidance of giving or receiving intimate, sexual or emotional nourishment. It is a way of distancing oneself from experiencing love. It is quite possible that some sexual anorexics may be aware that it is possible to give love that no idea that it might be possible to receive love.
Anorexia, or sexual aversion as the condition may also be called, is not simply fear of intimacy; it is a fixed habitual pattern. It is like an addictive pattern of negative beliefs and behaviour, consisting of not doing something, not trusting, not committing, not surrendering, not allowing Sexual anorexia is a form of self-sabotage. It refuses one to become happy.
You will never meet an ‘adult virgin’ for most would rather die than admit their condition to anyone.