The Happy Trail

Re-thinking college virginity

On an episode of the TV show “Community,” the character Shirley says, “Being a virgin in this day and age is something to be proud of. You’re like a unicorn.”

Most virgins at our age would probably resent this.

The word itself is just never complementary whenever I hear it on a college campus. It is almost always used patronizingly, or knowing that someone is a virgin is an extra-juicy gossip morsel. Instead of seeing virginity as exciting because one gets to try something new for the first time, many college-aged virgins resent the event.

Even the phrasing of “losing one’s virginity” has a negative tinge to it because of the association to loss. What is lost? One’s innocence?  That is way harsh. It should be viewed as a positive, natural thing that is celebrated, not a burden.

Another less negatively connoted meaning for the loss of virginity is that it symbolizes the beginning of one’s life as a sexual being. But what about masturbating or giving yourself an orgasm? To say that the first time one has penetrative sex with another person glazes over many other important steps to sexuality that are absolutely an aspect of one’s sex life.

The first time one purposefully gives one’s self an orgasm should be considered the real “virginity,” as it seems a more appropriate landmark for becoming a sexual being.

As it stands, our culture is infiltrated with this romanticized version of losing one’s virginity only during penetrative sex (and where do lesbian couples fit in?). This in turn leads to a high expectation of, like, choirs of angels singing or some shit like that. Oftentimes people expect their life to change drastically or their worldview to be rocked.

But the reality is that usually one’s first time is often not that great. There might be blood, if we are talking penetrative sex with a girl, and most likely pain. Plus, if both parties are virgins, there is bound to be some major fumbling. Essentially building it up as this smooth-sailing, magical experience can only lead to an anti-climactic first time.

This expectation is also coupled with pressure from the media, friends or other sources on finding the right person, the right moment and a vague notion of readiness to pop that cherry (the euphemism always makes me gag a little).

I have seen that pressure to lose it get people to the point where they almost crack. I know several close friends who had sex for the first time with someone they did not care much about just to shake off the “virgin” label that themselves and society had pinned on them, like a harmful, scarlet “V.”

Contrasting the complex sexual messages we are constantly bombarded with is abstinence-only sexual education. As you might imagine, this pisses me the hell off. The worst-case scenario horrors of sex are scared into kids, things like STIs and pregnancy, which are of course important to learn about, but not to fixate upon.

Most problematically, abstinence-only education is too busy using scare-tactics or guilt to emphasize what is most important for sexual beings: respecting one’s self and one’s partner though communication, education and using contraceptives.

This “education” (or lack thereof) stems from the conservative notion that one should save one’s virginity until the wedding night. While that is really cool for those that consider it important to wait, it just is not realistic for the rest of us.

As for parental involvement, a mother of one of my friend’s found out about her partaking in foreplay-level sex acts and through the course of lecturing her about it, asked my friend, “What are you going to have to give to your husband?” Hearing this story was a rare moment for me: I was actually speechless.

It begs the question: why is virginity historically so important? Why are women getting plastic surgery, or worse, because they no longer have a hymen in a society where their status depends on it?

Well, there is the issue of paternity. If a man impregnates a virgin, it is definitely going to be his. This sounds crazy, but from an evolutionary perspective where passing on one’s genes is so important that some animals participate in infanticide of another animal’s offspring to ensure paternity, it makes sense. Yet this makes our accepted idea of virginity extremely outdated in an age of laboratory paternity tests.

It is tough not to only concentrate on the virginity issue pertaining to straight females because of how often hymen-centric we are when it comes to virginity.

But something that had to be pointed out to me was that it is arguably more stressful to be a virgin as a straight guy in college than a girl. From the movies, we know that, male virginity is dealt with differently than female virginity. “American Pie” jumps out at me, since a group of nerdy guys are set on swiping their v-cards before they graduate high school.

Furthermore, in the lesbian community, a friend on the inside told me once about “gold stars.” Gold stars are lesbians who have never had sex with a guy and are apparently highly coveted.

The current idea of virginity adds negativity and unnecessary pressure to having sex for the first time. While it is an important event, and it should occur organically and with two people that respect each other. In other words, do not do it just to do it.