The college experience is rife with stereotypes: incessant partying, crude roommates and sex. Although keg-stand orgies with your bunkmate are not as common as contemporary film and television would have you believe, there are certain unique experiences that often take place during your college years that you should approach with caution. All too often, these experiences get lumped into “mandatory rites of passage,” while the physical and psychological health risks resulting from these activities often go ignored. Of all these, losing your virginity can prove the most dangerous one if not approached with caution and calculation.
Anxiously giving away your virginity like it’s a VHS tape seems to be waning, according to a new poll by USA Today. The recent findings indicate that 24 percent of college students ages 18-24 identify as virgins, up from about 13 percent in 2008. Even with that being the case, the average college hook-up is on the rise, according to the same poll, which records that 72 percent of college seniors had at least one hook-up during their college years. The reasons for this rise were attributed to the preponderance of women on college campuses (roughly 56 percent of all college students are now female), meaning more competition over men and that relationships advance to sex much more quickly.
Just like any life-altering decision, losing your virginity should be planned. In the hormone-flowing collegiate environment, this takes great self-control. However, with consensual sex, make no mistake – you are giving it away, not losing it. You can’t misplace your virginity only to get it back later. Just like any transaction, you should know the consequences of agreeing to it before following through with it.
Despite the expected awkwardness of the first time, losing one’s virginity is supposed to be an initiation of sorts – your entry into the elusive realm of adulthood. As such, it is imperative that you strongly consider to whom and in what context you choose to lose your virginity.
Do you perceive virginity as a gift or as a nagging title that needs to be discarded? How you answer this question will dictate in which situation you will be most comfortable losing your virginity.
Those who perceive virginity as a gift want to have complete control over its distribution and the recipient. They will also typically expect a gift in return – either the other’s virginity or more commitment to the relationship. Those who think of virginity as more of a gift are more emotionally tied to the idea of losing their virginity and, as such, often experience more regret over its loss if their partner does not reciprocate that gift.
Those who choose the latter typically have less attachment to the virgin title and are less apt to experience any regret over its loss. Furthermore, viewing losing your virginity as just a process in life mitigates emotional attachment and is more likely to result in a smoother, less emotionally-hazardous transition afterwards. Which category you fall into is strongly dictated by your overall personality and values.
Many of the physical consequences associated with losing your virginity can also take place with subsequent sexual experiences. The risks of an unwanted pregnancy and STDs are always present no matter how much experience you have between the sheets. Both of these risks become minimal with the persistent and intelligent use of birth control and condoms. These contraceptives, however, while highly effective, do not ever guarantee safety from pregnancy or STDs, so sex should always be viewed with these risks in mind, no matter how unlikely they are to occur.
Women often report the feeling of an acute pain during virginity loss. This is a common occurrence and does not indicate any future health risks. The pain usually takes place during the initial penetration, but can last much longer for some women, especially if intercourse is not preceded by foreplay or sexual stimulation.
If you are a woman, losing your virginity is also associated with the breaking of the hymen, a membrane located at the opening of the vagina. Upon penetration, the hymen usually breaks, causing some bleeding. This also causes a bit of pain, but is completely natural and normal. Also note that hymen breakage can occur before virginity loss, either through playing sports or other physical activities.
Losing your virginity does not have any long-term health effects that cannot also take place during subsequent sexual encounters, other than the emotional attachment, if any, towards your virginity. Like any other decision you make during college, the choice of holding onto or losing your virginity should be approached with caution, care and with your best interest in mind.