As the semester draws to an end, I looked back on past articles and noticed that—as much as I talked about sex and relationships—I neglected to touch upon one area that, while being relevant for some people on campus, is often ignored. Many people make assumptions about sex, and the most common is arguably that everyone does it. But this assumption discounts students who, for numerous reasons, are either virgins or simply choose to abstain from sex.
Virginity is a double-edged sword for us today: if you’re a guy, being a virgin is seen as a liability, and if you’re a woman, then holding the “V-card” is beneficial only in certain situations. An 18-year-old female first-year student who’s a virgin is sometimes seen as being desirable—the innocence and purity ideology comes to play—but a 21 or 22-year-old senior who’s “still” a virgin is seen as an aberration. We’re at the age where being sexually active is considered the norm, but what about the virgins or people who choose to abstain?
“I just haven’t found anyone that I’m willing to lose it to yet.”
Not all virgins are virgins by choice—some would like to have sex, but simply haven’t found the right person yet. Even with all of the proverbial fish at the 5Cs, some students have a more difficult time than others in finding someone special enough. Building up relationships take time, and the level of comfort required to start having sex is different for everyone; some view their virginity as a burden and a chore, and are fine with joining the ranks of the sexually active population with the first attractive person they lay their eyes and hands on the weekend after sub-free opening is over, while others want to wait until they are in a stable and serious relationship. The right timing and setting for some people might not be at Pomona, so they choose to wait until they can lose their virginity on their own terms.
“I’m waiting until marriage.”
There’s an ongoing debate over teaching abstinence-only sex education in schools, and there’s a fair amount of scorn aimed toward its proponents, but some people feel strongly and passionately that waiting until marriage is the right choice for them. Whether it’s for religious reasons or not, it’s valid for people to choose to wait, and abstaining from sex until that time has its advantages. For one, there’s something special about having your spouse as the only person you’ve been with—knowing that you’re the only ones who have ever shared each other can create a strong sense of intimacy, and the two of you get to explore sex together without having to worry about who has more experience. One of the downsides is that this assumes that marriage is a viable option for everyone, and that the sex will turn out ok in the end. But so long as the decision to abstain remains a private and personal choice, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to preserve your virginity for your future life partner only.
“I’m afraid of pregnancy/catching something.”
People frequently state that fears of contracting a sexually transmitted disease or infection, or the risk of an unplanned pregnancy are their primary reasons for choosing to abstain from sex. Horror stories of broken condoms and awkward calls from physicians are strong enough deterrents for some students to avoid losing their virginity until they’re in trusting relationships. One student I spoke to said she felt that condoms weren’t enough protection, but hormonal methods of birth control affected her health adversely, so she decided that sex wasn’t worth it until she could find a comfortable option. Another student voiced a mistrust of condoms alone, and stated that because he couldn’t be sure of a partner’s birth-control method that the risks of an unplanned pregnancy were too great until he graduated and felt better equipped to handle the emotional and financial stresses of such a situation.
“I choose to abstain from sex as a test of personal strength.”
One student I spoke with wasn’t a virgin, but chose to abstain from sex as their own personal test of will. During their first few months on campus, this student reported that they felt like a kid in a candy store and had engaged in as many sexual relationships as they could manage, but got to the point where it wasn’t really fun anymore. The student decided to abstain from sex for a set period of time to refocus in order to have more meaningful and enjoyable sex. The student stated that it was kind of cool to see how long they could go, and that abstaining made them feel more in control of themselves.
Personally, while I feel that sex is an intimate and recreational act that draws people together, I’ve also experienced a wonderful relationship that didn’t involve sex. There were drawbacks, of course, but I learned that sex doesn’t determine the quality of a relationship, and that given the right circumstances and communication, abstaining from sex while in a relationship can actually strengthen the bond. As I’ve said before, sex is what you make of it, and to each his own.