A comment in yesterday’s co about a gay comic book hero brought a surprising amount of angry email. No, it wasn’t aimed at the column’s conclusion that a gay comic strip character is no big deal.

Instead, a number of readers were shocked that I admitted sleeping with a young lady when I was single.

“Your admission of sexual activity while single was disgraceful,” wrote Grace from Detroit. “It is a bad example to set for others.”

George from Darlington, South Carolina, was even more shocked.

“I don’t know which I find more disgusting,” he said. “The fact that you openly advocate sex outside of marriage or that you were engaging in such activity with a woman who was queer (the young lady in question was bisexual).”

Katherine from Kansas City says I should be preaching abstinence.

“Writers in your position could be promoting chastity,” she said.

Sorry. I gave up on any pretense of chastity four decades ago when an older woman named Sandy took me up to the Rocky Knob Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Southwestern Virginia and taught me a thing or two about the joys of sex.

Back then, I might have expected more shock at the idea of two single people getting it on in the back seat of a ’57 Ford. Back then “good girls” saved themselves for the altar (or at least lied about to their future husbands) and you had just two choices for teenage sex: wait in line for six-to-eight weeks to go out with one of the two “tramps” in your school or go steady with one of the “good girls” and promise undying love and devotion through at least six months of increasingly heavy petting.

That was then, this is now. A recent Gallup Poll shows that fewer than 5 percent of women are virgins when they marry and 27 percent of children in this country are born out of wedlock, often to couples who live together.

In the 1970s, when I was between marriages, sexual activity among singles was no big deal. AIDS had not yet reared its ugly head and “good girls” slept over from time to time. Even single Catholic girls took the Pill (for cramps, of course).

Did I screw around a lot when single? Damn right. Every chance I got.

Do I regret it now? Not in the least. I had a lot of fun with a lot of bright, attractive, energetic and inventive women.

So I’m not going to be a hypocrite now and try to tell other consenting adults they shouldn’t get it on.

I can’t join the hysterics who claim sex outside of marriage is the work of the devil or a threat to the sanctity of society.

So go ahead.

Enjoy yourself.

Have fun.

Just play it safe.

Back when I was playing around, the only thing I had to worry about was an allergy to penicillin.

Not so today.

If you’re going to get it on, put on a condom.