Virgins at 35 – We Exist. Why Do We Need This?

Men, a psychologist and a priest talk about a problem that is not usually discussed
Tatiana Tsvetkova | 25 September 2020
Virgins at 35 – We Exist. Why Do We Need This?
Photo: Unsplash

An interesting conversation took place at work: a colleague admitted that he had never had a relationship with a woman. What happened next? There was laughter, advice, and bewilderment. Religious beliefs and “the only one for life” are kind of old-fashioned. Why is the young man still alone and have not found a solution to this embarrassing problem?

In most cases, people are confident: preserving chastity, because of their beliefs is meaningless, harmful to health, and impossible. Moreover, it unambiguously indicates problems. However, there are still men who did not enter into intimacy before marriage, and then got married or are planning to do so. The people, who Pravmir will talk about today, on condition of anonymity, spoke why they live exactly the way they do and what problems arise because of this. In turn, a psychologist and a priest commented on the situations that people almost never discuss seriously.

“I don’t want it just like that, I want it to last for life”

Dmitry, 34 years old (on condition of anonymity)

Like any teenager, Dmitry was interested in the topic of relationships and sex. One day he found out that his older brother began an intimate life at the age of 14, and thought that he “also needed it.”

I remember that I was 15 years old, my brother’s friends hired a prostitute and invited me to come. I thought: “That’s great, now I’ll learn what sex is, I’ll become a real tough guy.” At some point, my brother appeared, saw me and said: “What are you doing here? Get lost!” My friends tried to persuade him, but he did not allow it. In general, he protected me, although he himself led a fairly free lifestyle.”

At the same age, Dmitry met a girl via the Internet, she lived in another country, they could only communicate remotely, either on the phone or the Internet. It was a very passionate relationship, youthful love.

At the same time, I was given a book by Richard Bach called “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”, which I liked very much. Later I read “Nothing Is Accidental” and “The Bridge Across Forever”. The last one is about similar souls who are looking for each other. It is very thick, but I remember I was reading and could not stop. Then I realized I also want it to be like this: to meet a girl and to be with her all my life. I thought it would be so with the one who lived in the other country. But, of course, it didn’t work out that way.

I told my best friend about her, and I told her about him. It was important for me to share with the people closest to me that I have them. After a while I learned that they began to correspond in secret.

After breaking up with her, I became interested in the straight edge (a philosophical offshoot of punk culture, which is based on the correct lifestyle, rejection of promiscuous relationships, and veganism. This is the idea of self-control, which arose as a reaction to the sexual revolution, hedonism and other lack of restraint).

Since I was fond of music, I went to learn to play the drums. My teacher turned out to be a Christian. We had such interesting discussions with him, in the end I decided to read the Gospel. I really liked it, came to faith, and finally came to the Church when I was 19 years old.”

Many people who come to the Church immediately go to extremes. This happened with Dmitry too.

I decided that there was nothing else for me to do, but pray and read the Gospel from morning to evening. It is strange that experienced Christians would encourage this instead of sharing their experiences. My friends invited me to go on trips, and I replied: “What trips, why waste your life on such trifles?” With this approach, it was out of the question for me to devote time to meeting and communicating with girls for a long time.

Then I dated several girls, but I didn’t have an intimate relationship with any of them. Actually, women start the acquaintance more often than I do. I don’t know what prevents me from building a relationship. First, I value my virginity too much and do not want to date a woman in order to get in her bed, I want it to last for life. Secondly, I find it difficult to accept a woman who has already had a relationship (although I have no clear criteria for her to be a virgin). Besides, there were situations in my life when a woman fell in love with me, expected something from me, but I did not want to continue the relationship with her, and this is the worst thing: to hurt another person.

Obviously, I think it’s not normal that I’m still not married. And that I am a virgin. Naturally, I am not talking about this on purpose, but I am not hiding it either. At work, for example, I once told about this in a frank conversation, and it was then used against me. Many people, even non-believers, respect this, and there are those who see this as a reason to troll me. Sometimes I succumb to this trolling, it hurts me a lot.

In general, I know how to end this unwanted conversation, the jokes. One of the reasons being the fact that one of those people who enjoyed trolling me ruined his own marriage. I don’t consider it normal that he cheated on his beautiful young wife, whom he eventually divorced, and now he is promiscuous and is proud of it, shows me photographs of the women he’s been with. He thinks he’s cool. According to his understanding, I have not become cool yet, and will not become such unless I sleep with a woman.

On the one hand, I regret that I spoke about my beliefs with him, but, on the other hand, I shared this in a frank conversation and thought that in this way I would testify about Christianity. I don’t know if it was worth telling someone about it or not. In any case, I don’t like lying. There is an idea that in order to justify one lie, you need to come up with forty others. I would not want to do this.”

How to defend your position

The idea that a man becomes a man only after he “has sexual intercourse with a woman” is actively discussed among adolescents and is associated with hormonal rearrangement, says Denis Novikov, gestalt therapist, certified psychologist-sexologist, bachelor of theology. If an adult strongly depends on the opinion of the environment in which he lives, this is another problem, which is of a psychological nature.

Denis Novikov

A real man, an adult, in my opinion, is more likely the one who relies on his opinion more than on the opinion of others, who can (primarily internally) defend his beliefs. If you rely on some people’s beliefs in order to be “correct” and “right” in their eyes, in the eyes of others you will inevitably turn out to be “wrong”.

According to statistics, people begin their sex life around the age of 16 to 17. It is considered the norm that it begins outside of marriage. But when a person comes to Orthodoxy, he is told that everything is wrong, that this is fornication and he will have to limit himself. Actually, any purposeful activity implies a certain asceticism. For example, while preparing for a sports competition, a person also restricts himself. If a person becomes a Christian and nothing changes in his life (he is not ready to change anything in the sexual sphere), what is it, if not just an interest in a philosophical teaching?

However, all this is not easy to explain, for example, to a person in older adolescence.

A teenager is faced with the fact that everybody says everywhere: Christianity is a religion of freedom, and when you come to the Church, it turns out that there are certain restraints.

He came to find freedom, but found himself in an even more limited framework. This is one of the main problems of the Church, and I do not see a universal recipe. I understand what psychology can do in this case, it can help a person find his own position among contradictory attitudes and defend it. But Christian fellowship, in my opinion, should pursue the same goal.”

As for Dmitry’s case, the question arises: what should you do when your beliefs are not accepted and ridiculed? You can, of course, not talk about them yourself, but sometimes you are asked directly.

In short, one can answer: “It’s none of your business,” the psychologist believes. “Everything related to the sexual sphere is personal. Due to the fact that now in society sex life is subject to “exhibitionism” and declaration, one gets the impression that it is no longer private. But no one has the right to interfere in this area of one’s life, so a person has every right to put an end to such questions.

If this is some kind of serious conversation, and not a mockery, then you can share, discuss, and defend your opinion.”

Father Peter Kolomeitsev, deputy dean of the Department of Psychology of the Russian Orthodox University (ROU), and a cleric of the Church of Sts. Cosmas and Damian in Shubin, agrees with this.

You should testify to your faith, but not always. Do not cast your pearls before swine (Matthew 7: 6). You may be misunderstood because you will talk about things that require effort. The other person, not being able to make these efforts, will simply call you a fool.

Sometimes people perceive physical intimacy as, say, going to a fitness club. A one-time relationship is a one-time visit. And marriage is like buying a club membership, you paid more money, but you can visit more often, and you have more opportunities.

I remember one psychological training in a secular environment. In the circle of women the question arose which of those present was a virgin, and one raised her hand and said: “I am.” A mocking atmosphere immediately arose around her, she was asked the question: “What happened, some psychological problems?” She replied, “No, I’m a nun.” And everybody immediately closed their mouths and stopped laughing. People realized that there is such a way too.

Friends ask me: “When will you marry, Lesha?”, and I answer: “On Saturday”

Alexey, 35 years old

Alexey recently returned from a Christian camp, in the organization of which he participated. Among other activities, there was a seminar on relationships. The question was raised: what to do when you like a guy or a girl? Advice was given to adolescents and young people: “Talk to your parents, do not wait until they speak to you first.”

Parents never discussed the topic of puberty with Alexei. But he learned a lot about the relationship between a man and a woman in the Church of Evangelical Christians.

I grew up in the 90s, and as it is well known, at that time information about everything that had been previously considered forbidden poured into Russia. But I did not develop an attitude towards sex life as something impure, as, I know, it was the case with my peers, who had no other sources of information except the street.

Now I am 35 years old and I am a virgin. I have never had a serious relationship or physical intimacy with a woman. I have always put it off, thinking that I will deal with myself and my inner world for now, and now I’m already 35.

I am sure that it is not good for a person to be alone, and, for example, I have never considered celibacy for myself. Everything seems to be simple, you like a woman, you start dating, you propose, and that’s it. But in reality I am 35 years old, and I am not married. I guess I’ve been avoiding responsibility all this time. Over the past year, I have had some kind of internal breakthrough in this regard. Now I can say that I see a certain perspective in relationships and hope to get married in the coming year.

Naturally, I have all sorts of thoughts when I look at women. Sometimes I pretend I don’t understand what it means to look at someone lustfully. Once I heard a good phrase from a Muslim friend: “The second glance is a sin.” It helped me honestly tell myself when I cross a certain line, when I no longer just look, but also feel something, begin to imagine things, when these thoughts take possession of me, pressure me.

Once my friend and I talked about this topic, and I said that in this sense, it is probably easier when you have your own car, so you don’t have to take the subway. And he replied that sometimes you are in a traffic jam, and someone can knock on your window and give you a thematic magazine, so it is not necessarily easier.

One of the few places in the Bible that talks about sexual relations is the story of Onan (hence the word “onanism” – masturbation). Onan went in to his brother’s wife, that is, slept with her. And he did not want her to conceive a child from him, so he “spilled it on the ground” (Gen. 38: 9). For this, God killed him. Some theologians believe that his crime consisted of this malicious intent against the will of his father and the memory of his brother, others that his sin consisted in onanism, that is, masturbation. I think masturbation is a sin. I do not do it.

But every time when unnecessary thoughts come, I see it as a signal – it’s time to get married. In addition, my relatives and friends are worried about me. But when they ask: “When will you marry, Lesha?”, I answer: “On Saturday.” Weddings mostly take place on Saturdays, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be the next Saturday. But there definitely be a marriage.”

What Should You Do When You Think about Women

It is believed that a young man cannot live without physical intimacy with a woman, and if there is no woman, he cannot avoid self-satisfaction. Doctors say that abstinence is harmful to health, men say that it is painful and unpleasant, and spiritual fathers usually agree that masturbation is a sin.

Father Peter Kolomeitsev

This is a delicate question,” says Father Peter Kolomeitsev. “In general, it is considered spiritual instability. However, the word “malakia” mentioned in the New Testament in connection with this issue (1 Cor. 6: 9-10) is translated in various ways, sometimes as “masturbation” and sometimes as “passive homosexuality.” There are cases when a spiritual father can show leniency. When a person is unable to deal with obsessive behavior, he is afraid that it will fail him at some point.”

However, it is much easier to resolve this issue and discuss this problem with a priest than “discuss it in the press,” the priest is confident.

We are theorizing and therefore we will bring less practical benefit than if a person comes and personally talks with a priest. At the same time, I want to assure that he will always find support and help in solving this problem. In general, arousal must be fought by sublimating it.

There is an atom in arousal, the name of which is testosterone, which must be used for peaceful purposes.”

According to the priest, it is natural when sexuality manifests itself. Its activation can be promoted when a person meets a beautiful woman, admires a work of art, watches a movie, where there are erotic scenes. The normal carnal person responds with excitement.

But there is a very fine line between the excitement by our nature, the carnal reaction, and the moment when a person is already committing adultery in his mind. A bodily reaction can be considered a thought over which we have no control. If you begin to consider yourself in this thought, how you would participate in this, this is a further step. And when there is only one step left from mental resolution to completion, it can already be a fall.”

But when a man interacts with women and chooses a bride, she must be attractive to him in the end. Relationships in marriage should not be cold and detached, the priest believes.

Regardless of which path a person chooses, monasticism or family, he must learn to interact with his sexuality, says psychologist Denis Novikov.

This task is partly solved by sex education, an urgent and burning topic in our country now. Moreover, it can be both secular and ecclesiastical. In the Catholic Church, time is given to this, books are written under the appropriate labels, there is a clear position. You can agree or disagree with it, but at least they pay great attention to this.”

According to the specialist, sexual manifestations are normal. It is an illusion that one can live without sexual arousal in principle, especially when communicating with the opposite sex, especially when building a relationship with a woman. You can minimize the possibility of these manifestations, for example, not to look a woman in the eye. But why? Erotic fantasies are also the norm. According to a modern research, the absence of sexual fantasies is more likely to indicate a person’s psychopathization.

There is another extreme, which is not the norm. Quite respected people say that when they meet a woman, they immediately have sexual fantasies. And if a man looks at any woman as an object of desire, then this is already a state of sexual preoccupation. And when you followed a beautiful woman with your gaze – is it crossing the line? I don’t know, I think this is a topic for discussion.”

As an honest Christian I should have married her

Konstantin, 32 years old (on condition of anonymity)

At the age of 16, Konstantin began to attend a Protestant church. There he was explained that sexual relations between a man and a woman are possible only within marriage. They advised not to tell a girl that you love her, unless you are going to marry her.

When I graduated from university at 22, I wondered about my vocation. I learned that you can serve God through monasticism. To be more efficient or something. Like athletes who sacrifice things in order to succeed. Then I learned that you can live without sex in the world.

When I learned that masturbation is a sin, I, on the one hand, felt a sense of guilt, but, on the other hand, I had a clear understanding that God accepted me anyway.

At the age of 21 I became a Catholic (and now I am a member of the Catholic Church), and then my feeling of guilt about this increased, because confession appeared.

There was a long time in my life when all my confessions were focused on this sin. Until I realized that the relationship with another person is a much more important topic for spiritual comprehension. For example, how to learn not to judge another person.

Unfortunately, the church often develops a neurotic sense of guilt. When we seem to disclaim responsibility and say: the church knows better how I should feel. But God gave us the freedom to decide whether to sin or not to sin. It’s like in upbringing, if I control my child so much that I never let him fall and hit, then I won’t give him the opportunity to develop and learn not to fall himself. Parenting is a risk, like life is in general.

Once I was on vacation in one place, I met a woman there, we liked each other. On the night before my departure we were alone in the room, kissing and hugging… I was scared that if intercourse happened then, I would be responsible, but I was not ready to marry her. At some point, I felt that the excitement had left me, perhaps this was due to a great nervous tension. So I used this pause to make a decision and stopped.

The next day, I left. But this whole situation got out into a strong sense of guilt. I believed that as an honest Christian I should marry her. We kept in touch (there was the distance of two thousand kilometers between us), but it was some kind of painful codependent relationship. We were far from each other, she was 7 years older than me. Yes, we had sympathy for each other, but in fact we had nothing in common, except for that experience, but all these years it occupied my thoughts. It all ended when I found out that she got pregnant from someone else.

But I still do not fully understand: when I got married at 29 (my wife is also a believer), was I a virgin at that time? I know that among psychologists there is a point of view that sex is what a person defines for himself as sex. And even if there was no intercourse, what is the first sexual experience? Can you kiss and hug someone before marriage?

What Is Permissible

Sometimes a relationship between young people really blur the line between what is permissible and what is unacceptable, says Fr. Peter Kolomeitsev.

Intercourse may seem more chaste than these “semi-sexual” relationships, such as petting. In general, this is a problem: many adolescents engage in “surrogate” sex and reassure themselves that there is nothing reprehensible there. It’s still a sexual relationship. We cannot attribute this to either the sphere of communication or the sphere of friendship.

And, of course, nothing separates a man from a woman more than intimacy, not backed up by love.

It’s hard to say where the boundaries are. We kiss each other on Pascha, no one has any questions about that. I think this is the line. Sexual relations can be love, mutual understanding, friendship, strengthening of the family hearth, or it can become an element that destroys everything, instead of strengthening it. The elements need a wise attitude. The elements are opposed by reason, restraint, and sobriety.”

Modern sexology is also unlikely to help draw this line, says sex psychologist Denis Novikov. Rather, we can talk about sexual experiences, which can be different for various people. There is more sexual experience, there is less. You can start with the fact that the word “sexus” in translation from Latin means gender. That is, any gender-polarized interaction (between a man and a woman) carries a manifestation of sexuality.

When a neophyte comes to the Church, he wants to be given a clear framework: this is allowed, but this is not. But over time, he must develop his own framework, the one in accordance with his conscience. It should be remembered that this way, “fighting the spirits”, you can do yourself a lot of harm. That is, if a man builds a relationship and feels that he is in great danger, under some kind of eye that is constantly watching him, ready to condemn him and criticize him, this can lead to neurosis. And this, in turn, can lead to problems in the sexual life in marriage.”

The question of sexual life is the most intense, the most burning one. And our sexuality is definitely connected with spirituality, the expert is confident.

Translated by

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