I am 27, straight and male. A deeply religious upbringing (since recanted) meant that I was unable really to even try to have sex until I went to university. I hoped that I would be able to somewhat "catch up" with my peers at that point, but it turned out not to be so simple. I never felt at home going to clubs, and I developed a few crushes over the years that led to platonic friendship at most.
By the time I finished university in 2019 I had only been physically intimate with two women and had only had sex once (with a person who I certainly liked but didn't quite yearn for). I knew what it was to feel (impotently) possessive and I also knew the pain of finding myself impaled a few times on the wrong end of monogamy. That taught me that I value intimacy more than possessiveness, and that to overcome my possessiveness I need only gently remind myself that the other person's gain doesn't *inherently* mean my loss - only additional factors make it so.
I still haven't had sex since 2019. I sacrificed two years of whatever youthful opportunities I might have had to keep others safe during the pandemic. I am not successful with dating apps for whatever reason, whether they are specifically geared towards non-monogamy or not. I have recently got out a bit more to meet women in real life at various events, and while I am plainly better at this than at using the apps, it hasn't yet resulted in more than a few close friendships - which are basically just one ingredient away from what I'm looking for.
My reason for wanting to be non-monogamous is that I don't want to allow my hopes and desires to be turned into a moral problem. Even if some of them seem remote possibilities now, I don't want to one day find out that someone I'm really attracted to is more into me than I had thought only to find myself morally barred from making the most of that. I want to help myself to be an honest lover and therefore want to minimise the possibility of tension between honesty and desire.
So my question is as follows: is there a good way to present the fact that I am not very experienced to potential partners, and is there any way to make that revelation less likely to damage my "standing" to negotiate for the kind of relationships that I want?
There are benefits that sexual and romantic experience can bring you, for sure. But having sexual or romantic experience doesn’t automatically make you a better partner. I made this assumption when I first joined the polyamory community. I assumed that the more partners someone had or the more experience they had in the community, the more “safe” they were. And that was the furthest from my experience.
I have both experienced and heard of people who are well “experienced” who make mistakes that would be considered “rookie” or “obvious” to some. The thing is that every relationship is different and it’s very easy to look at a relationship and choices we make with hindsight or when we step outside of that experience, but whenever you’re inside of an experience, it’s not the same.
Within non-monogamy sometimes it is beneficial to have experience because you have a better idea of what works for you and what doesn’t and that means you don’t end up wasting your time in relationships that don’t work for you — but it’s also not the end of the world to end up in a relationship that doesn’t work and to end that relationship. While I understand why people may want someone with more “experience”, at the end of the day there’s only so much we can do to prevent the worst things from happening.
I don’t know if there is a “good way” to present it because anyone who is going to be hung up about you not having “experience” may not be the best person for you to date anyways. You’re actually going to want someone who is going to be understanding and maybe even helpful for you in going through this journey. You’re not going to want someone who is going to take advantage of your inexperience and someone who thinks you somehow have less “standing” to negotiate what you want is definitely someone who is taking advantage of you.
Be honest about your experience and also about the connection to your upbringing. I’ll be honest with you, when I first started out in polyamory, I had actually even less “experience” than you without it having to do with being super religious. I actually, as someone on the asexual spectrum, I just didn’t have an interest in casual sex. I’m not ashamed of that. I don’t have the sexual “experience” others have purely because I haven’t had enough interest in gaining that.
You can work towards trying to learn more about yourself but being aware of what you don’t know is far more important than being a person who thinks that because they’ve had 20 partners they know everything. Keep your honesty and humility. Be willing to learn more about yourself and work on yourself and honestly, you’ll be a lot further along than people with huge amounts of experience.
I hope this helps and good luck!