I'm a straight male in my early 20s who has so far chosen to remain a virgin. I'm attractive enough and never had a problem getting offers, but I've always held out because I was obsessed with the idea of not fucking until I was in love or until the "perfect" girl came along – a mistake that has cost me a lot of great opportunities, not just for sex but for love. I've made up my mind to take up the next offer of sex from the next imperfect girl, but I'm afraid I'll embarrass myself when I actually lose my virginity. Any advice?

Waited Too Long

I'm 22 and a virgin. Once upon a time I weighed over 320 pounds, but now – two years, 180 pounds and a bit of intestine removal later – I'm considered quite attractive. When I was a Fatty McFatso I had some sort of excuse for being a progressive atheist virgin ("Men are shallow!"), but now I'm just not sure what my issue is. I'm still not happy with myself naked – rapid weight loss due to health problems does not a Britney body make. But my bigger worry is that I don't know anyone else in my situation.

How do you tell a guy you're getting to know that "sure, I'd love to make out but I'm sorry if I suck at it – I've just never done it before!" My sex drive seems normal – my right hand is asking for a pay increase. So what the fuck am I supposed to do?

Pent Up Virgin

First, WTL: Each and every one of us embarrasses himself in some way when he loses his virginity. Mortification can't be avoided. Sorry.

On to you, PUV: Now you know someone else in your situation – PUV, meet WTL; WTL, meet PUV. Plenty of people make it into their 20s without losing their virginities. Adult virgins today, however, have an advantage that adult virgins never had before: the perfect date movie. After watching The 40-Year-Old Virgin I left the theater and immediately started looking for charming, self-effacing virgins to deflower/mortify. This film has that effect on nonvirgins – an effect you can exploit to your advantage! Thanks to Steve Carell, you two could wind up getting deflowered dozens of times in the next six months.

I fully support gay rights and wrote a letter to the prime minister – I'm up in Canada – supporting gay marriage. But whenever I get into debates about the issue with right-wing acquaintances, they bring up "the thin edge of the wedge" and insist that gay marriage will lead to polygamy. This leaves me stymied.

I have no argument with adults who freely choose to enter into open relationships. My problem is with fundamentalist cults that indoctrinate their followers from birth and are building armies through the practice of one man having multiple young wives and many children. My feminist backbone shudders at the thought of these young women being bred and raised for the sole purpose of personal fiefdom building.

The argument goes: "If gays should be 'free' to marry, then why not 'religious freedom' for those who choose a polygamous lifestyle?" I'm curious to hear your opinion on this and am hoping you will supply me with an intelligent retort!

Stymied In Canada

"Her interlocutors are wrong, wrong, wrong," says E.J. Graff, author of What Is Marriage For?, a terrific, informative and entertaining book about gay marriage. "They're assuming that we homos are making a claim to marriage under the libertarian argument that everyone should be free to do as s/he wishes. Wrong. We are arguing that we already belong to the West's contemporary marriage philosophy – for capitalist and for feminist reasons."

Put your feet in the stirrups, lie back and relax, SIC, because Graff is going to jam some steel into your shuddering feminist spine: "Once upon a time, the West had a 'traditional' marriage philosophy." The husband owned his wife, whatever children she bore him – you know the drill. But capitalism eventually came along – thank God! – and freed us from those confining sex roles. "Each of us now has to make a living independently, based on individual talents and efforts rather than traditional roles. Over time this led to gender equality in both the job market and the marriage market. Between 1850 and 1970, every developed country struck down its sex-based rules, both in labor (i.e., women can be plumbers and legislators) and in marriage (i.e., married women can own property, hold jobs without hubby's permission, have custody of children and even – gasp! – say no in bed). The result: Gender equality is today's governing public philosophy, in marriage and in much else. For 150 years, courts and legislatures have changed marriage law to fit this philosophy, under which same-sex couples fit just fine." In other words, heterosexual marriage is not one man taking ownership over one woman, but two individuals, as equals, committing to each other. "The only sex-based restriction left in marriage law," Graff says, "lies in the entrance rules, where it no longer belongs."

Letting same-sex couples make the same gender-neutral commitment that opposite-sex couples make doesn't open the doors to polygamy. "Traditional polygamy grows from exactly the opposite `of gender equality`," says Graff. "One man owns many wombs and grows lots of household labor. That is precisely the opposite of gender equality and of individual-based capitalism. It violates all our contemporary notions of fairness and democracy. Polygamy would mean heading backward into marriage's feudal history; same-sex marriage moves us forward into its equal and democratic future." Now get off the table and go argue with your right-wing acquaintances.

(Graff, currently the Brandeis Women's Studies Research Center resident scholar, has a new book coming out this month: Getting Even: Why Women Don't Get Paid Like Men – and What to Do About It.)

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