Religious school and sexuality

Hi Alice,

I grew up in a religiously conservative family, and now I go to a private Christian college. I will be a junior this year, but I've known since freshman year that the school and the religion just weren't right for me. I love the education, but I'm afraid I'm sexually deprived. When I hear all my friends who go to public school talk about parties and sex, it makes me feel like I'm really missing out. I wanted to transfer, but it just isn't fiscally possible. I'm a very mature person, but I haven't done anything sexual (not even kiss!). The girl to guy ratio at my school is 3:1, and most of the boys are very awkward. I want to experiment, but no one at my school does that. I'm afraid that when I graduate, I still won't have done anything, and no one will want me because I have no experience.

—the virgin who wishes she wasn't a virgin

Dear the virgin who wishes she wasn't a virgin,

So you want to experiment sexually, but you're stuck in an environment where such experimentation seems hard to come by (no puns intended here). To start, it may be helpful to address some of the myths regarding sexuality among college students.

You may be surprised to hear that surveys regularly place actual college student sexual activity far below students' perceptions of what their peers are doing. For example, the American College Health Association National College Health Assessment (conducted annually) showed that the majority of survey participants had either no sexual partners or only one during the previous year. However, the common belief among the same respondents was that their peers had at least three partners during the previous year. Most thought that everyone else was more sexually active than they were. For more information about college sex statistics, check out College student sex stats: Am I the only one not doing it?

Believe it or not, many people graduate from college having no or minimal sexual experience. Plenty of people respect the decision to wait until the right person comes along. Many others find the notion of being someone's "first" to be an exciting prospect. It is, therefore, unlikely that your lack of experience is going to limit your opportunities in the future.

More important than what others are doing or what others think, is what you want to do for yourself. What do you see as your reasons for wanting to explore? Pure and simple horniness is one reason commonly cited. So is curiosity about others bodies, curiosity about the sensations, and a desire to understand what types of activities appeal to you in reality (as opposed to in fantasy). As long as you are doing what is comfortable for you, there is nothing wrong with choosing to explore or choosing not to.

If you decide you do want to explore, but a potential partner isn't around, you can always start solo. How do you feel about masturbation? Though this can be tough if you have a dorm roommate, experimenting with different types of masturbation, different fantasies, and different positions can at least be a way of letting off steam and getting to know your body better (if you can find some alone time). This also makes it likely that you'll have a more pleasurable experience your first time with another person. If you've already been doing this and it's not enough, it may be time to look off campus for a date. If you want to date someone of your same religious background, it may be worth checking to see if local churches have youth groups. Getting involved in the community by volunteering can also be a good way to meet people with similar interests, as is getting involved with local clubs (e.g. book clubs, running groups, team sports) that center around your interests. Many also create or browse online profiles at dating sites and there is likely at least one dating site that caters to your religious orientation and personal preference, if that's important for you.

Whatever you decide, do it for fun or for love, but mainly do it for you. No need to act out of fear of others judgments — you'll be just as desirable whether virgin or seasoned sexual expert.

Good luck,

Last updated Mar 25, 2014
Originally published Jan 21, 2011

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