Sex can wait, masturbate

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March 9, 2008

2:57 PM

p. I remember thinking in elementary school that I was the only one of my friends without a dog. It didn’t help that every time I would go to one of their houses, I would see their dog, play with their dog, hear them talk about their dog and end up with their dog’s hair all over me. This happened to me so many times that I decided I had to have a pet of my own. Maybe you had a similar experience with Nintendo 64 or baby brothers or even growing armpit hair.

p. Every time the subject of pets came up, I felt left out. No one wants to feel that way, especially when something seems not only awesome, but omnipresent. But not everyone is ready for a dog and sometimes what you’d hoped for isn’t what you get. Baby brothers are really cute, but what about the fact that now Mom spends all of her time with him?

p. I think you can see where I’m going with this. Let’s just acknowledge the elephant in the room so we can all breathe a little easier.

p. Sex is, well, sexy. Our society — especially as seen through the media — places a huge amount of emphasis on the romance of sex. As foot soldiers of American pop culture, teenagers and young adults take up the call of sex and discuss it ad nauseam. Games like “Never Have I Ever” and strip poker reinforce the idea that intercourse is omnipresent.

p. It is therefore extraordinarily easy to fall into the trap of thinking that everyone is having sex. According to the Guttmacher Institute, only 46 percent of all American 15- to 19-year-olds have had sex — defined as vaginal intercourse — at least once. That means that about half of the teenagers coming into college are still virgins. Even though this data does not account for traditional definitions of virginity in the gay community, it is probably still safe to say that a large percentage of homosexual college freshmen are virgins as well. (Cue: Michael Jackson’s “You Are Not Alone.”)

p. And yet, when you’re the virgin, it feels like you’re the odd man out. This can be for many reasons, but usually for just one: In most circles, it’s just not sexy to talk about abstinence. Why talk about flaccid penises and intact hymens when there’s an orgasmic world of excitement out there?

p. Before I break down this idea, let’s get one thing straight: Sex can be awesome. It can bring a couple together, spice up a friendship or just relieve some stress. If someone is ready to have sex, I say go for it. It’s a feeling unlike anything else and I am in full support of good, old-fashioned fornication.

p. But sex is not for everyone. And even if it were, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to lose your virginity right now. I won’t get into reasons not to have sex here; we all know them by now: STIs and tigers and bears, oh my! But even if your decision is to wait, it is still important to get in touch with your sexuality right now.

p. Just like learning to control your anger or exercise your mind, sexuality is an essential element to our humanity. Despite the taboos imposed by culture, sexuality is normal and healthy. Exploring your sexuality is necessary in order to fully understand yourself. The trap that we fall into is in thinking that sex is the only way to explore your sexuality.

p. Most obviously, you can masturbate. Not only does this get you touching your body and discovering what you like physically, it can also exercise your imagination and teach you what fantasies work for you. Although it can be a little messy and you may develop carpal tunnel syndrome, masturbation is a time-tested method of exploring your sexuality.

p. But masturbation is not the only way. You can watch other people have sex (not live, unless you get consent), discuss sexuality with your friends, or just take a moment to look at yourself naked while you’re in the shower. If all of this is too risque for you, there are still more ways to explore. Writing a steamy story or drawing a lusty picture can do wonders. Just find something. Do not shrink away from this task; it is not something that can be avoided forever.

p. People who are already sexually active can also employ these methods. Taking a little time to love yourself and understand what gets your juices flowing (even if this a remedial class), can remind you of just how beautiful your body is. And that’s the entire meaning behind exploring your sexuality: to help you understand and appreciate who you are.

p. But why am I still talking? And why are you still reading? Put down the paper and get to work.

p. Maya Horowitz is the sex columnist. She doesn’t mind a remedial class here and there.

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