Saturday, June 22Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

The Taboo of Virginity

University through the Eyes of a Virgin

Over the years, a stigma has been attached to virginity. Whilst the 1960s praised the idea of innocence and purity, particularly amongst women, we now feed off sexual empowerment and diversity. Yet, we still live with this irrational thought: ‘I must be the only virgin on campus’. Not true. We are the generation that is having less and less sex; 18.9% of 18 to 24-year-olds were sexually inactive in the early 2000s whilst in 2018 it was reported that 30% of students and young adults were not having sex. So, isn’t virginity amongst students more normal than abnormal? 

Why are we avoiding sex like the plague when we are such a sexually aware generation? The logical answer might be the Covid-19 pandemic that forced students to live at home last year. Who wouldn’t say yes to their parents financially taking care of them for another year? It’s the social expectation, around what university is supposed to look like, that makes first year’s daydream about finally moving out. Partying, getting into a relationship, waking up at two in the afternoon with no prospect of a routine. Well, that is true – at least for the first few weeks – but millennials realised something: sex is overrated. Abstinence was on the rise long before the pandemic. We can find someone we like at the touch of a button. Scrolling through Tinder or Bumble has arguably become second nature to us. If you tell someone you met your boyfriend or girlfriend in person rather than online, they will probably laugh in disbelief. But with living alone and no parental supervision, there is an underlying need to get to know the people you sleep with first. Social media allows strangers to follow us 24/7 too easily, so sex stands on the backburner; you have no way of knowing who is really interested and who is just stalking you. Today, students end up looking for friendships rather than a one-night stand. 

Isn’t it incredible that sex education is still such a taboo topic in school?  With STDS or teenage pregnancy being experienced first-hand or heard about from friends, students end up educating themselves about sex. Despite knowing how to stay safe, there is an inevitable apprehension when it comes to sleeping with someone. Real life is not a movie so, like the othering “virgins at university” stereotype, sex should not be romanticised as this incredible experience. With the rise in spiking cases this year, no doubt students grow to be more anxious about meeting new people. Luckily, whilst once limited to what your parents told you, sex is now an everyday topic discussed openly on social media. Take sex with a pinch of salt: it’s not supposed to be perfect, and it can be dangerous when being unsafe.  

Cliché but it’s better safe than sorry. 

When it comes to our work life, sex is also second best. Once starting university, students become more focused and determined to have a stable professional future. Rather than going for casual sex, everyone is looking for a friendship to be the foundation of a healthier sex life. At university, virgins think sex is the first thing to check off their ‘to do’ list’. Why? Because the media turned virgins into scapegoats. This fear of not fitting in inevitably makes people lie about their sex life. Take a party scenario for example: you either drink or you end up sitting in a corner by yourself. You either had sex and have a ton of stories to share, or you make one up on the spot and hope it’s convincing enough. This is becoming less and less true. Trust me, sex and drinking are not as appealing when sexual assault is such a common occurrence in our everyday life. At the end of the day, we are not our parents or grandparents. Not getting married, not having a baby before the age of 30 is normal. It is our career that we focus on. So, sex – as a milestone in anyone’s life from adolescence to adulthood – may also come later in life. Don’t force it because you will end up regretting it. 

Ultimately, the best university experience should not revolve around how much or how little you’ve had sex before. This whole new environment we are thrown into is for teenagers to become adults. And yes, sex is a big part of this, but it’s not even half of it. Living alone for the first time, making lifelong friendships, maybe learning how to cook – let’s be honest we all probably live off pasta and cereal. That’s what’s important. With 43% of Gen-Z students never having sex before university, it seems we already figured that out. Not making bad choices aren’t encouraged at this stage in life, but don’t make losing your virginity one of them. You are not the imposter in a world where everyone is having sex, because they’re not. 

Written by Elena-Teodora Chiujedea

Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash