Reading through Centers for Disease Control reports on Americans and sexual behavior, you might get the impression that this agency is—well, if not inappropriately interested, then at least nosy in that whispering-in-the-back-of-math-class kind of way. A large study posed not only the standard questions about sex (gave? received? how many times in the past twelve months?), but also inquiries like (I’m paraphrasing but not by much) “Has a male/female ever touched your you-know-what?” and “Has anyone ever put their you-know-what you-know-where? (And how about here?)”
Let’s face facts: These are questions everyone wants to know the answers to, and we count on the CDC to get them. Of course, the answers are crucial for public health, and asking if someone has ever been tested for an STD is legitimate inquiry from that perspective. Still, asking when citizens lost their virginity—or probing as to why they haven’t—can seem like Big Brother has hopped into our sack. That said, we sure have learned some juicy information, such as the fact that 1.1 million Americans between the ages of 25 and 40 are still virgins.
The CDC also reports that by age nineteen, 80 percent of men and 75 percent of women have lost their virginity.
High school’s a prime setting for men to lose their virginity: the odds a man who has engaged in sexual activity had his first experience between the ages of sixteen and seventeen are 1 in 3.7. The odds the first time took place between eighteen and nineteen are lower, 1 in 4.35, and drop to 1 in 5.88 for those who waited until age twenty or older. And the odds a man aged twenty-five to forty-four has had no female partners are 1 in 35.71.
More women than men are likely to postpone losing their virginity, but during the teens and early twenties, their odds follow the identical trajectory. However, by the time a woman enters the age range of twenty-five to forty-four, the odds she has had no male sexual partners are 1 in 58.82—so somewhere along the line women start outpacing men in shedding their virginity.
For those who are still members of the virginity club, a number of reasons are given, including religious or moral qualms, fear of pregnancy, and “just haven’t found the right person” (more men than women between the ages of fifteen to twenty-four report still waiting for Ms. or Mr. Right).
But for those not saving themselves for love, marriage, or George Clooney—and not wanting to be an outlier statistic—here are some helpful pointers.
- First, if you’re still in college, stay away from math and the sciences. A survey taken at Wellesley College found that 72 percent of biology majors and 83 percent of biochemistry and math majors were virgins.
- What major maximizes the chance you will finally do the deed? Studio art. Yes, it turns out the same Wellesley survey uncovered the fact that none of the studio art majors who responded were virgins. It could be that all those hours spent studying naked studio models have some effect.
- You could also stop going to church so often. Men and women who went to church at least once a week were respectively 5 and 3.9 times more likely to be virgins than those who attended church less often.
- If that’s not an option, you could join the military or go to prison—two populations that report lower rates of virginity than for the average population.
For well-educated ladies looking to join the ranks of the sexually active, unfortunately you’ve got your work cut out for you. Female college graduates are 5.4 times more likely to be virgins than those who never received that diploma—adding a sad irony to the term “bachelor’s degree.”
But before you smart men start to get too smug, realize that, sadly, a lot of you won’t be losing your virginity anytime soon either. According to researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 39.8 percent of boys with an average IQ score have had sex, while only 29.2 percent of boys with an IQ above 110 have done the deed. Memo to genius boys: Less Nietzsche, more Jersey Shore.
But then again, maybe not. Low IQ’s are also correlated with higher rates of virginity. So perhaps it pays to be of average intelligence (at least in the bedroom).
To add insult to injury, those who lose their virginity at a later age—and we are talking around twenty-one to twenty-three years old—are candidates for experiencing sexual dysfunction problems later in life, according to researchers at Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute’s HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies.
But hey, at least you’re in esteemed company. Lots of cool people waited until their twenties and beyond to lose their virginity. Tina Fey recently confessed she was twenty-four when she finally turned in her membership. Brooke Shields was twenty-two. And the Pope’s a member for life!
To which the CDC might reply: “Who cares? Allie has a date with Paul Saturday night. And we happen to know his parents are going to be out of town!”
Originally published on Book of Odds