CN: This might not be for you if you're uncomfortable with the idea of me having sex. Hi, Dad! :)
There's an article circulating the internet right now where the TL:DR is "real" Christian men prefer debt-free virgins without tattoos. Some men (and women) may prefer this in a wife. Nevertheless, the blanket prescription that living your best wife life depends on retaining your virginity, rejecting college, and continuing to live with your parents until marriage is not only false, it's dangerous.
I'm going to digress.
There was a point in my life where I was taught and I believed that retaining my virginity until my wedding night was the highest virtue I could attain. I was certainly expected to go to college. I could change my own tires and learned how to figure out when I was being upsold unnecessarily at the mechanic's shop. I worked in a grocery store, a hotel, as a tutor, a babysitter, and an office assistant. In the two years that I was at a four-year school (graduating when I was 20), I never even drove to the beach for a weekend. I broke up with a guy who pressured me to have sex with him because that was not in the plan. The plan, the big plan, beyond graduation and everything was to be a virgin when I got married. It was the Right Thing To Do.
Then I met a guy. I moved to Nome, Alaska, worked for a radio station, did my first tequila shots, saw the Northern Lights, and met a guy.
I liked this guy. I liked him a lot. He was interesting, smart, generous, and had a great dog. We stayed up very late talking, had intensely competitive Scrabble games, and cooked for each other.
But here was the kicker: he didn't care that I was a virgin.
By this I mean, he neither celebrated it nor denigrated it. To him, it was one part of me, just like the fact that I would never beat him in push-ups, but that I would always kick his butt in Boggle. He told me that it would be wrong to be excited about something that was just a choice I had made since he wouldn't have been offended or put off it if I had made a different choice. Being a virgin was just part of me, not all of me. Accepting all of the parts of me was what made love, love.
It took me a while to see this for the grace that it was and is. The party I wanted for having held on to a specific social construct of purity was an idol that I had built with help from certain denominations and role models in my life. None of them had ever talked about the worth of my friends who had been raped, molested, or simply chosen differently and what they would bring to a relationship. Or, worse, it might have been mentioned that a truly, godly man would see past those things.
SCREW THAT NOISE.
Showing grace and love to a partner means loving who they are. In the Mr. Rogers's way, "I like you just the way you are" isn't that you're perfect, but that you don't have to earn my affection. I care about you as you.
When you love someone, you love who they are- which is a combination of the good and bad things that have happened to them, the choices they have made, and the paths they didn't choose. In love, we don't celebrate the pain in a person's past, but we do love who they are in the wake of healing. In love, we don't idolize isolated skills or choices, but accept them as part of what makes the beloved just so.
So in my life, I've only had sex with one man. It's the same man who likes that he's been the only one, but wouldn't care if there had been 1 or 50 before him, because he loved who he met and how her experiences had shaped her.
Since I'm not a Christian man or any kind of man, I'm going to speculate on what they might like. I think a real man (or woman or person!) will love and appreciate a person for who they are. Part of loving someone is knowing that the person is going to grow and change and accepting a future together is agreeing to be part of that change and trusting that the person in question will love you as you are evolved (sanctified) into the future that's ahead of you.
Putting "virginity" (typically a social construct about the absence of penis in vagina sex) on a pedestal is idolatry as much as any other kind.
Love yourself. Be kind to yourself. Move slowly and make choices, with the Holy Spirit, that minimize your regrets. Forgive yourself and get help to deal with the pains that happen to you.
And remember that a person who is worth sharing a life, a car, vacation time, and a bed with will graciously do all these things to you as well... and to themselves.
I have written about a similar topic here.