I’d always hoped that I would have sex for the first time with someone I loved, but I’m beginning to realize that if I hold onto that expectation, I’m going to be a virgin forever.
I truly believe that I am emotionally ready to become sexually active, and healthy, consensual physical touch and sex is something I enthusiastically want in my life. At first, I thought I was just holding out on sex until I could do it with a girlfriend I deeply cared about, but now that I’m realizing those circumstances may be unrealistic for the time being (I think I may be undateable), it’s dawning on me that I actually don’t know how to pursue a physical encounter with… anyone.
I guess the simple answer is to transparently express what I’m looking for on dating apps, and I’m willing to download anything, but I won’t know how to use it. I also don’t understand what I would write. “Cons: Clueless virgin, Pros: Can offer you fresh baked soda bread?” Seems inelegant. Even more inscrutable to me is how two strangers meet, face to face, in person, and end up getting hot and heavy all in one evening. I know wlw hookups are real — or at least I’ve heard rumors — but what’s the etiquette for breaking into hookup culture?
I’m going to answer the question you asked. But first, I’m going to answer the question you didn’t.
Feeling undateable is SUCH a thing. I felt undateable in high school, before any boy had asked me out, and at least one had turned me down; then much later, when I was coming out, I felt undateable again. The chances of finding a queer person who actually wanted to ask me out, or kiss me, or maybe even one day have sex with me, felt so remote I might as well have been living on the surface of the moon. After all, no one had asked me out yet! It stood to reason that no one ever would, right?
I was wrong. But the only way that I could see it — the only way that I could know that I was not untouchable, that people would like me and have crushes on me and desire me — was to put myself into a situation in which dating was, undeniably, the goal. So I went online.
I had no idea what I was doing. But I signed up for an app, and I followed the instructions, and I started looking at people’s profiles, and a few people messaged me to say hi, and we started to make conversation, and then suddenly, on a random Thursday night, I found myself… on a date! With a woman! A woman who, it later transpired, wanted to see me naked! I was doing the impossible thing. I was dating.
I say all this because I want to be very clear about something: you are not undateable. While I do think online dating will be a good choice for you, I don’t think that you have to rule out romance, love, and even romantic, loving sex, if that’s still something that you want in your life!
I think that perhaps you’ve set up a bit of a false binary here. If we put hooking up at one end of the spectrum, and sex between established partners at the other, there’s a grey area between them — and that area is where a lot of dating takes place! There are undoubtedly people who go online knowing exactly what level of commitment they want, but there are also many of us who are open to a range of experiences, depending on who we meet and how we feel as we spend time with them. I don’t want to discourage you from pursuing something casual. Hooking up can be so much fun! But I also don’t think that this decision needs to be made in a vacuum, before you’ve started meeting people. Casual sex, committed sex, and sex all across the spectrum is attainable. Yes, even for you. You bake soda bread! You’re a catch!
That soda bread, by the way, brings me to something important: You have many things to offer. I know that there’s a lot of harmful messaging in our society about lack of experience, and specifically about virginity. I was very worried what my dates might think of me when they learned that I hadn’t slept with any women before. But honestly, the first time I did sleep with a woman? It didn’t come up. At least, not until later, when I decided I wanted to tell her, and she laughed a little, and pulled me close, and said that I’d done just fine, and it was, quite frankly, romantic as heck.
When it comes to sex, there are many things more important than your lack of experience. Enthusiasm, willingness to listen as the other person tells you their needs, your knowledge of your own body and what feels good to you, a sense of fun… all of these things are just SO much more vital to good sex than whether or not you’ve done it before. I don’t know a lot about you, but from just a brief letter, I already know that you’re thoughtful, that you can express yourself clearly, that you have a sense of humor. Most importantly, I know that you want your sexual experiences to be healthy, consensual, and enthusiastic. Those are all gifts. Any person you end up dating or having sex with will not be doing you a favor. They will be as lucky to have you in their bed, and in their lives, as you are to have met them.
Now that we’ve gotten all of that out of the way, I do think that dating apps are the right place for you to start. They can feel daunting, but they do guide you through the process during setup. I’ve used Match and Tinder. Which apps are most heavily used can be a bit regional, so if you download one and there aren’t many people on it, try another! And Autostraddle has so much helpful content about dating apps. Rachel gave us a how-to for writing your bio, and Vanessa knows how to choose the right pics. Kayla wrote up a guide for when you want to send the first message, and Ryan’s got the rundown on how to go on a first date that doesn’t suck. For me, the hardest part was just… starting. Putting my profile out there and talking to people felt terrifying. But the only thing more terrifying was the idea of never knowing what good sex or love was all about, so I did it! And I’m very glad I did.
Meeting people in person is a slightly different ballgame, but my time spent online dating was essential for that, too. Through the apps, I started to become more comfortable with the idea of asking people out, and when I was on dates that I’d arranged online, I was able to recognize when people were flirting with me, which was something I’d never been able to detect before. Because, it turns out, people had been flirting! For years! I’d just never known, because I didn’t realize it was a possibility. It blew my mind. Once I started to learn the signs, I became more comfortable identifying when someone was flirting with me in person, deciding whether I wanted to flirt back, and maybe asking them out if that went well.
In these pandemic times, meeting people face-to-face, as you say, is maybe a little bit rarer than it used to be. But it can definitely be done! As we wrap up June, there are still Pride events happening, and those are always fun. If your city has a queer bar that doesn’t only cater to cis men, they may have activity nights that are good ways to meet people — I once had a great time at a drunk spelling bee. Whatever your in-person interests and hobbies are, once you’re comfortable with the idea of flirting and maybe occasionally asking someone out (or asking someone home), I think the world will be your oyster. I’d also love to hear in the comments where our readers have met their partners, their dates, and their casual partners!
Wishing you all the best. And now I’m off to dream of fresh-baked bread. 💙
You can chime in with your advice in the comments and submit your own questions any time.