Oliver James: Like a virgin

Spare a thought for the sexual angst of young teenage boys. When I turned 16 in 1970 it was an awful lot easier to find sex partners than 20 years before. On average, back then a man of my age lost his virginity aged 17, whereas someone who was 16 in 1950 did so a whole three years older.

Unfortunately, in my case, I was among the quarter of men of my vintage who actually did not do it until 20. Like quite a few teenage boys even today, I found women pretty daunting.

My main way of coping was to complain bitterly that girls were 'superficial' and bore to extinction any desires they might have been harbouring towards me. As a courting strategy in the mid-teens, talking about George Orwell's novels is ineffectual, but it works well if you are scared limp of sex.

On summer holidays with a chum in Malta in 1971 and 1972, opportunities certainly did knock. We went out to lots of parties and it seemed to me as if he was 'at it' all the time.

However, the less I was prepared to admit to myself that what I wanted was sex, the more gruesomely earnest and moralistic I became. Eventually, I set myself the task of beating my own record for the amount of time it took me to ask the unfortunate girls I met the question, 'So, what do you think is the meaning of life?' (I was reading a book with this title by some venerable Indian mystic).

At the time, I was obsessively trying to make up for years of academic neglect by working incredibly hard for my A levels.

I was also a fanatical sportsman (when I became captain of games in my public school house, I forced our teams to go on daily runs to get fit). So, on holiday, jogging in the baking Maltese heat seemed to me so much more important than sex.

But these were not the causes of my asexuality, and nor do I blame the fact that I was at an all-boy public school. I knew other boys like me who were at co-educational schools who found it, if anything, even worse.

Nor do I put my inhibition down to being the only boy in my family, with three sisters. Rather, I am afraid, when all is said and done, I have to attribute my sexual inhibitions squarely at the door of my parents, both of whom were bizarrely reluctant to acknowledge my existence as a sexual entity.

Had I been 16 today with the same psychology, I fear it could have been even more painful.

I certainly know a few young lads around at the moment who remind me of my former self and I am sure that they feel under tremendous pressure to join the sexfest (and to drink and take drugs).

Even without my inhibitions of that age, it's anyway often forgotten that finding sexual partners when you are a 14- or 15-year-old boy is a hell of a lot harder than if you are a girl of that age. Older boys are nabbing your contemporaries and girls younger than you are still practically children.

· Next week: sex among teenage girls

Thanks to guardian.co.uk who have provided this article. View the original here.


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