“Wait until you’re married.”
“No, wait until you’re in love with the one.”
“Don’t have sex because you will get pregnant. And die.”
We’re constantly being told how and when we should lose our virginity. But does it actually matter?
Growing up, my mother was very determined to keep both of her girls “clean.” She made sure to tell us all the horrific stories she’d heard on the news, stories about girls at parties who got raped or sexually assaulted and had been “tarnished” ever since. She stressed the importance of being ladylike in order to garner respect, and don’t even get me started on how often she accidentally left the television on Teen Mom or 16 and Pregnant. I once told her about a friend who had sex with her boyfriend, and ever since then I was barred from sleeping over — or even driving home — with that friend. Even the thought of her daughter spending the night in the same room as an “unclean” girl made her fear that I’d be corrupted.
Now that you know my mother, I’m sure it’s not a surprising fact to learn that I began college a virgin. I wasn’t necessarily brainwashed by my mother’s views, but they certainly had an impact on how I viewed sex and the importance of retaining my virginity. I understood that I was uncomfortable having sex with any of my guy friends, and I definitely did not want to have sex with a stranger, so it just never happened. But looking back, I don’t know if it was because I didn’t want to have sex or if I didn’t think I could.
To be fair, I was never sexually attracted to my way-too immature guy friends from high school, so that explained the wait until college. Once I got to college, I was surprised with how comfortable I was hooking up. At first, I thought if I could make out with a guy at a party, I could easily continue to the next base. But when the time actually came, I always said no. At this point, I had met some guys and ultimately chose to enter into a relationship with my current boyfriend. Thankfully, he was very understanding, or at least he tried to seem okay with it at the surface. Once, I caught myself saying, “I just can’t do it. My mom would hate me for it.” It was then that I realized just how much my mother’s opinion affected mine. It wasn’t until I said it aloud that I realized I was making my decisions based on someone else’s judgment. That’s not what sex should be about.
A couple weeks after I realized that I hadn’t been acting autonomously, we finally had sex. It wasn’t planned at all. I had gotten dressed that night for a date party. I expected to be back in four to five hours with funny drunk stories to share the next morning, but certainly not the one I ended up with. Fast-forward a couple of hours into the night. My boyfriend and I found ourselves in the basement of McGlothlin-Street Hall. One thing led to another and it happened. The next morning, I woke up and instantly felt ashamed. I remember telling a hall mate about it and asking how long she waited to have sex with her boyfriend of two years. When she responded that she waited about a year, my stomach dropped. I only waited a month. I had always told myself that I’d wait until I was in love, but at that point, I wasn’t sure I was. I knew it would happen eventually, but our relationship just needed more time to grow before I could confidently say it. For me, waiting to be in love was always a good justification. I’d just had sex without even waiting for love, making me panic even more.
The next day I let myself run wild with these feelings of guilt. I had convinced myself that if I didn’t wait a year like my hall mate I’d be considered a slut. If I had sex in a lecture hall, I’d be seen as un-ladylike. If I weren’t madly in love with my boyfriend before giving him my virginity, I might as well have given it to any guy on the street. It wasn’t until I calmed down and confronted my feelings that I realized my fear wasn’t that I’d done something wrong, but what would happen if others found out about it.
Since that revelation, I haven’t looked back at that night and regretted when, where or with whom I lost my virginity. The decision had been mine to make.
So if you’re reading this and have yet to lose your v-card, don’t sweat it. I’m not here to tell you whether you should do it, but when you decide, make sure it’s your own choice and no one else’s. Whether you see the event as a life-changing moment or just the next step to take when casually hooking up with someone, it’s all up to you.
Mariana is a Behind Closed Doors columnist and really hopes her mother never reads this.