March 3, 2010

Like a Virgin …

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It seems counter-intuitive that a sex columnist would devote 800 words to virginity. But the virgin population deserves some love from the sex column, just as anyone else. After all, I don’t discriminate.

We talk about virginity as something that is “lost” or “taken,” and if you’re a past a certain age, something to get rid of (a la Steve Carell in The 40 Year Old Virgin). Chaste women used to be the ideal — pure and perfect and committed to their men — but now a virgin college student leads people to wonder: Why? Is there something wrong? Is it a conscious choice?

I believe that on current college campuses, virginity is one of the trickiest topics to handle, whether in bed or in print.

From my point of view, there are two distinct groups of virgins: the ones who purposefully maintain their virginity either for religious or moral reasons, and those who are virgins simply because of circumstance — they just have never had the opportunity to have sex.

I personally lost my v-card when I was 16 to a boyfriend I loved. It was a calculated, no-stress decision. But as we get older, the decision of when to have sex for the first time and with whom seems to become more and more complicated.

One of my closest friends has told me about how difficult it is to be a virgin in college. He is an observant Muslim and thus does not engage in pre-marital sex. He, along with several of my other religious friends, have told me it’s hard to become romantically involved with someone, since you don’t want your partner to have expectations that can never be met. Especially at Cornell, it seems odd when someone wants to be romantic without being sexual (when “come over and watch a movie” actually means watching a movie).

These non-sexual romantic relationships create many questions: When is it appropriate to tell your partner that you are a virgin and plan on staying that way until someone puts a ring on it? Will he or she run for the door? Will he or she still like you but be deeply disappointed that you will never express it in that way? Will he or she try it out for a while but get frustrated when each night ends in blue balls and not much else?

As a proponent of choice in all meanings of the word, I have nothing but the deepest respect for people who are able to choose abstinence, regardless of the seriousness of their relationship or the drunkenness of their Wednesday night.

However, there are people on campus who do not choose to be virgins. For these virgins by circumstance, the story is a little different. These people have no moral obligation to maintain their virginity; they simply have not had the opportunity to have sex yet. Within this group there are two paths. On the one hand, there are people who give up hope of losing their virginity to the right person, and instead decide to lose it to the next available person.

To spend 20 years waiting for Mr. Right and then get drunk and give it up to Mr. Backyard at the Palms just doesn’t seem to make logical sense, but it happens more often than you would think. These people reason that this way they can lose their virginity without anyone even knowing, attributing the bad sex to the alcohol, the lack of a connection, or to pure mathematical probability, instead of to the inexperience of their First Time.

The other type waits. They wait for the right person. They wait for certainty. They wait for love. In this case, the longer they wait, the higher their standards for the ideal partner and the harder it is for anyone to achieve that level of perfection. This can result in an indefinite continuation of their virginity.

One of my closest friends fell into this later category. She held out for the right guy — whom she met this past summer, she had sex with him, and we celebrated in the morning with a symbolic breakfast of cherry PopTarts.

I think if the students at Cornell were more honest and more willing to discuss their relationship expectations with their partners, half of the stress virgins face would be eliminated. What’s so wrong about telling a girl that you are waiting until marriage, but would like to take her on a date because you actually want to get to know her? There’s something mysteriously sexy about whispering, “I’ve never done this before” to your partner in bed. You never know when someone might whisper back, “Me neither.”

Original Author: Jess H.