Asking for a Friend is a weekly Sex and Relationships column hosted by Arts and Culture writer Dana Sparks and fueled by your curiosities. Click here to anonymously submit questions regarding sex, relationships and sex education.
“How do I navigate dating in college as a virgin? Seems like once guys find out, they either distance themselves from me or make it known they want to ‘take it.’” – Virgin Mary
Dear Virgin Mary,
If I’m being honest, I’m always quite impressed when I meet someone who is a virgin by choice nowadays. There is a lot of societal pressure that pushes people into having sex before they are really ready. Good for you for waiting it out — whether due to personal belief or simply because you haven’t found the right person yet.
I’m going to start by looking at the dynamics of dating in college before we talk specifically about your v-card.
To understand your dating pool a little better, let’s consider basic demographics. According to the University of Oregon’s Office of Registrar enrollment report, 46.5 percent of our undergraduate population is male and the overall average age of an undergraduate student is around 21 years old. The same enrollment report cites that nearly half of the student population are not permanent residents.
Having pulled away the personal context and looked at the numbers, I’m struck by how young everyone is. Most people are probably still learning how to live on their own and communicate boundaries. This makes dating messy — whether you’re a virgin or not.
Real life “adulting” is hard. For many, college is not just about academics, but about juggling new responsibilities and chasing after certain pleasures with a youthful recklessness. Somehow, we don’t forget our desires while balancing school and work, but we do forget that it’s often other people that fulfill them.
The second part of your question might illustrate the idea of self-interest and sex. When a guy distances himself because you’re a virgin, it’s a failure to communicate on his part. He probably feels that having sex is an important part of a relationship. Instead of telling you that, he’s turning away and chasing after something — or someone — else that aligns with what he wants. While it’s hurtful to be on the receiving end of that, it is valid for him to consider a healthy sex life a “need” in a relationship. The same goes for you if you are abstaining; it is valid to say “no,” no matter what. I’ve found that compromising these values doesn’t end well.
For the guys who say they want to “take” your virginity, that’s just gross. Get out of there, Mary. There is no respect in the notion that a person, or their genitals, is taking something from you. Reject the idea that virginity is some sort of token to be given, and reject the people that think it’s something to claim.
Here are my three fundamentals for dating — whether you’re an aspiring sexpert or happily a virgin:
Put yourself out there
Find what you love about this community and wrap yourself up in it. This will serve more than one purpose — building friendships and cultivating your own passions provides stability and will also expose you to people with shared interests. It will be easier to start something more from there.
When it comes to building any type relationship, honesty moves best with empathy. Honesty with the intelligence to deliver your feelings in a way that encourages a conversation is rare and loveable. It is easier to throw your needs and feelings at another, but it is a skill to recognize that each individual communicates in a different way. Being honest opens the door for asserting your boundaries, compromising and communication.
Just have fun
Like I said, college isn’t just about academics. Chase after what you want and have the bravery to experiment. Just because you’re not sleeping with someone doesn’t mean you can’t fulfill mutual desires with them. Open the door for dream dates and romance. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you aren’t fun because you said no to having sex.
Dating, and waiting, is tricky — but I believe in you. As my friend would say, “You gotta risk it for the biscuit.”