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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Why does it matter?

< to myself about my virginity. I pretended that “losing it” was a decision I made all on my own, completely separate from social pressures and the opinions of others. I lied that the other person didn’t matter, and that he could be anyone so long as I had made up my mind that I was ready. I lied that it didn’t bother me that I was one of my few friends that was still a virgin, a rogue samurai wandering the Carleton campus my sophomore year wearing this invisible badge of chastity like the Virgin Mary.

So here’s the truth: I was ready but undoubtedly swayed by Carleton’s indirect rhetoric that being a virgin somehow defines you in a negative way. I mean, hell, if I were living in Victorian England I could do nothing more noble than to not have sex. But here, it’s almost as though that by staying a virgin you are excluded from conversations of sex and relationships. Friends, in the exceptionally passive Carleton way, dance around these subjects due to the fear of excluding you, the Virgin Mary. Truth number one about virgins: just because someone is a virgin does not mean they are not sexually experienced. Don’t be afraid to include them in conversations. I’m convinced some of my friends who are virgins are far more sexually experienced than I am, and I think that’s amazing. I’ve probably learned more from them than those who have had sex.

Truth number two: the social pressure is undeniably present and influential. I came to Carleton admittedly inexperienced and rather hesitant to jump into the dating (or let’s be real, at Carleton who knows what dating is) pond. But one thing I knew from stepping foot on campus was that I was petrified of graduating a virgin. I knew that it would happen. I didn’t know when or with whom, but I knew that it would. I knew it would because people expect it to happen on college campuses and often report statistics like “this many freshman are virgins compared to this many graduating seniors.” These numbers should mean nothing, but they do. Carleton convinces us that part of growing up and maturing automatically means becoming sexually active. I took that bait and am still being reeled in by it, like a floundering fish pondering why on earth my adulthood must be linked to sexual activity.

Truth number three: the other person does matter. Sophomore year I decided that come hell or high water I would shed my virginal cloak and “just do it,” as Nike would encourage me to. A handful of potential suitors presented themselves as viable candidates, I suppose. Except for the fact that they all shared an unavoidable characteristic: they wanted sex rather immediately and were not afraid to share that information. In each of these circumstances I came around to the unavoidably awkward conversation that always went in this direction:

“So we’ve been seeing each other for awhile now,” says potential suitor.

“Uh-huh” My mind: two weeks is awhile?

“And so, you know, I was thinking like maybe we should take this to the next level.”

The next level never meant actual commitment. The next level always meant sex, and the moment I was ever pressured to have sex or to go further than what I was comfortable with, I was immediately uninterested. I made up in my mind that these boys were simply not the right candidates, and should be passed over. Luckily enough they decided not to wait and began their campaigns once again. So my only advice would be this: wait for someone who doesn’t ever pressure you. There should be no hesitation on their part when you say “no.” No debate, no Friday flowers to try and convince you, no puppy-dog eyes that are somehow supposed to elicit empathy. So wait for that one who does not try and convince you. You’re the boss of your own life and your decisions.

The final truth is that at least for me, there is absolutely no difference from my virginal self and sexually active self. I am undoubtedly the same person. There is no light bulb-switching, fireworks exploding moment. I had one reaction when my friends asked how it was. I replied: “It was just there. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t good. It was just there.”

I’m happy that it happened when it did with whom it happened with. But I would never pressure my friends using the same language I hear all over campus on a daily basis. I admire those who want to wait for religious or other reasons, and sincerely hope that they stick to their guns. At Carleton when everyone is supposedly so “open” and “experimental” it’s too easy to be pressured and directed down paths you aren’t ready to take. It’s exceptionally easy to take part in the hookup culture. For many people, “losing it” is a big deal. For me it was perhaps the most unremarkable thing to ever happen on the planet, and that’s okay too. Everyone thinks about their first time differently, and the only advice I could ever give would be that sex is your decision and yours alone.

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