Friday, June 21Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

Stop the Sex Stigma

Sex is not an entry requirement for uni; there is no ‘please achieve ABB in your subjects… plus you must’ve lost your virginity’, so why are people made to feel like they are failing if they have not experienced it? They are made to feel abnormal if they are not prepared to hook up with someone in the first week, or opposing that, made to feel shameful if they’ve slept with too many people. There is no ‘correct’ or ‘appropriate’ “body count” for young people and it is damaging, physically and mentally, to enforce such opinions. 

Sound familiar? Didn’t think so… so why does it feel that way? Contrary to popular belief, there’s nothing abnormal about keeping it in your pants during welcome week, and on the flip side, you should never feel shame about having had multiple sexual partners. 

We live in a culture of instant satisfaction, from Snapchat to Uber Eats, we’re no longer a society that wants to wait. This extends to dating. Our virtual dating and hookup culture mean that monogamous, meaningful relationships are under-valued and becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. When you’re looking for something more meaningful in a sea of people wanting instant physical gratification it’s incredibly overwhelming, and it’s easy to feel like you need to give in. However, we’re not just products of the people around us. 

The stigma that young people should be ‘doing it’ all the time affects absolutely everyone living in today’s society. I’m particularly aware of the pressure young girls feel to be sexually active sooner, out of fear that they might be replaced by someone ‘more experienced’ or ‘less frigid’. People are too-often pressured into sexual situations because they don’t feel confident or comfortable enough to say that they aren’t ready. Whatever your sexuality or gender, you should never feel that you need to live up to anyone else’s ‘standards’. In 2021, a time where we’re seeing an increasing focus on ‘your body, your choice’, we must remember that sleeping with someone just to keep their interest isn’t a great reason to sleep with them. If they really want you, they’ll wait, and if they value and care about you for who you are, then it won’t be a problem.

           Uni appears to be filled with people who have already had their sexual awakening, and who know exactly what they’re doing down there. The reality of the situation is that fewer people are engaging in sex than ever before, and the stigma around our generation being ‘at it like rabbits’ is just incorrect. There’s no universal virginity race, it’s not Mario Kart. In fact, 43% of girls that start uni have never actually had sex before, so, if you’re playing a game like ‘Never Have I Ever’, don’t feel embarrassed if you’re not absolutely smashed.

I’ve had countless conversations with peers in their final year that think they’ve failed at uni because they haven’t lost their virginity yet. They all feel like they’re ‘not normal’ or worthy of judgement. A survey showed that ‘66% […] thought it was more stigmatised to be a virgin as a finalist or postgraduate than a fresher’ (Wilkes, 2020). It’s easy to forget that the expectation for a girl to lose it before she graduates can be really quite dangerous. The instant need for sex means that young women might unknowlingly put themselves at risk of having sex without the right education of exactly what they’re doing it, where they’re doing it and who they’re doing it with.

It’s vital to explore who you are and use university as a time to figure out what or who you like, but it’s just as important to do it on your terms. People lie and people exaggerate sex stories to make themselvces the main character and make their plotline the best. Just be yourself and do what makes you feel comfortable, whether that involves hooking up with your cute coursemate or saving yourself for marriage. Live life on your terms and I promise, the empowerment you’ll feel will be so much greater than any FOMO.