When I tell people that I don’t smoke, they commend me. When they discover that I don’t drink, they look at me with blank stares and ask: “How can you be 21 and not drink?” I have always been fine telling people about these aspects of my life. It seems to be somewhat out of the norm for college life with the wild parties, the drinking, the smoking; but I have never been curious about those aspects of college life. I’m more into classes, sitting around and being silly with my friends, and finding ways to use my talent and creativity. I’m usually open about most aspects of my life, but it wasn’t until recently that I had to sit down and reevaluate. I still don’t understand myself most of the time. I can admit to that. I have hopes, big and small, and I like to think outside the box. All of this I can admit to anyone. But why is it difficult for me to admit that I am a virgin?
Well, it’s not all that hard. I’m not really embarrassed at all to admit it, but the reactions I receive ( the goofy grins from the boys or the stares of disbelief from the girls) and the comments (“Why?” or “Aww…How old are you again?”) make me hesitant. My virginity is something that I am proud of; yet it is just one of many aspects of me, and it doesn’t overshadow everything else. I don’t want anyone to believe that I think I am better than they are because I’ve never had sex. And I don’t want to push my lifestyle onto others who may not feel the way I do.
It was never a conscious decision on my part to remain abstinent in college. However, I’m remaining abstinent so that I can avoid unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, and the emotional entanglements that come with sexual activity. I have other things to worry about.
People have different definitions of what remaining abstinent means. To me, sexual abstinence is refraining from vaginal, anal, and oral sexual activity until one is truly ready for sexual activity. An obvious reason for me to delay sex is to reduce my risk of getting pregnant. After all, abstinence is the only method that is 100% effective in preventing pregnancy and STIs. Choosing abstinence might be a matter of finding the right person or deciding to abstain until marriage or something else. I personally plan to wait until I find the right person.
My reasons for remaining abstinent are threefold. I believe that I am physically ready, and I know the risks of pregnancy and STIs. However, I am not really psychologically ready to deal with those risks; and I think that I need to be both physically and psychologically ready or it could ruin the experience for me. My main reason for remaining abstinent is mostly emotional – I’ve never been in love. (It is definitely on my to-do list!) However, I choose to remain abstinent until I find the right person and we find the right moment and I am in the right frame of mind to share that part of myself with another. Maybe it won’t be with the love of my life, but I hope to be able to look back on the experience as a positive one.
As a senior in high school, I envisioned myself going off to college, meeting wonderful people with similar interests and goals, and finding the man of my dreams. He would look like this, he would smell like that, and everyone would know him because he would be very popular, smart, and weird, like me. However, as freshman year turned into sophomore year, snowballed into junior year, and now becomes my senior year, I’ve become concerned. I have yet to find the man of my dreams.
But my question still remains: Why is it difficult for me to admit my virginity? A recent event led me to ponder this. I was with a group of other young advocates and we were getting to know each other through some warm-up exercises intended to jump-start the morning’s activities. Then we got to a very personal exercise. We were told to position ourselves in circle. When we were asked a question or given a statement, if the question pertained to one of us, then we would walk into the center of the circle. Once in the circle, we could remain there if the next question or statement pertained to us. If not, then we would rejoin the others outside the circle. We were warned that some of the questions could be personal and we could choose not to participate at any time. I had fun walking to and from the middle of the circle until I heard, “Walk into the circle if you are a virgin and proud of it.” I saw most everyone in the room leaving the center of the circle. Only a handful of people walked into the circle but I wasn’t among them.
As I stood there and listened to the rest of the room applaud, I wondered why I didn’t walk into the circle. I told myself that I didn’t really know that many people in the room and, of course, I wasn’t ready to reveal such personal information to them. Was I embarrassed because I was one of the oldest people in the room? Yes. Did I really care what people that I hardly knew would say about me? A little. I felt horrible that I didn’t publicly claim my virginity because, even if this was something that I would readily acknowledge to some, why couldn’t I do it at that moment?
I think now that, when it comes to sex, sharing information about one’s sexual history with a partner can be a vital way to protect both from STIs and HIV. However, when it comes to virginity, no one has to share his/her sexual history with anyone. Whether I am a virgin or not shouldn’t make any difference to anyone else and why I choose to remain abstinent is entirely up to me as well.
Looking back, I now see that there was nothing wrong with not walking into the circle and that I was not obligated to do so. After all, if the question was too personal, I didn’t have to participate. I felt at the time that I was doing a disservice to myself by not publicly acknowledging my virginity. I believed that, by not walking into the circle, I was showing that I wasn’t as proud of my virginity as I claimed. Now I know that there is no reason for me to have felt bad. The information was personal. I didn’t have to share it. Maybe the wrong thing was to have asked such a personal thing. There is nothing wrong with deciding to wait, and there is nothing wrong with being a virgin, whether I publicly acknowledge it or not. I am a virgin, and whether I shout it out for the world or keep it to myself, I am proud of it.