Late-in-Life Virginity — The Atlantic

Late-in-Life Virginity — Its Causes and Consequences

Late-in-life virginity — people who remain virgins until well into their 20’s, 30’s, or beyond, is a subject that as a sex therapist I’ve been interested in for a long time. So I was pleased to be interviewed by writer John Fortenbury for his article, “On Late-in-Life Virginity Loss,” in The Atlantic — and pleased that so much of the material from our interview found its way into the final piece.

As I told Fortenbury when we discussed the matter, most people I see in my office with late-life virginity suffer from extreme shyness or even social anxiety disorder — a condition that’s extremely frequent among people with sexual dysfunction. As I tell people in my office, people with severe social anxiety experience the same level of stress on a date that most of us would experience being live on National TV.

Social anxiety tends to have a particularly great impact on single men, as I told Fortenbury, since in the conventional script for heterosexual mating it’s typically the man who has to make the first move. Men who are socially anxious tend to have a much harder time taking that risk. Late virginity is often the consequence.

I was also pleased that Fortenbury included a link to an online version of the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale Test –– which is what I use in the office to assess severity of social anxiety.  Two items on the Liebowitz Scale have particular relevance for individuals with social anxiety: being the center of attention — since during lovemaking, with any luck, you have the other person’s full attention; and meeting strangers —  since for some evolutionary reason we humans tend to mate with people we’ve only recently met, rather than people we’ve known since kindergarten.
Another common cause of sexual anxiety and late-in-life virginity is Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Here’s an article I wrote on a common male variant of this: so-called “Penile Body Dysmorphic Disorder,” where a man worries that his (often normal-sized) penis is too small, and avoids sex as a result. Unfortunately, sexual avoidance often makes this condition worse, and can easily lead to late-in-life virginity.Accurate diagnosis and treatment for these common causes of sexual anxiety and late-in-life virginity is essential, and can be life-changing.
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stephen snyder md author photo Stephen Snyder, MD

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