Warning: some things discussed in this personal essay may be triggering to survivors of sexual assault.
Most people are still surprised that I voluntarily stayed a virgin throughout college. Given some of the less forgiving stigmas and stereotypes about abstinence, I can definitely understand why. I'm not religious in any sense of the word, nor do I believe in the slightest that women should abide by a particular standard when it comes to their body-related decisions. I certainly wasn't "conservative" about my own body, either.
Admittedly, I was a late bloomer. I grew up attending a small New Jersey private school that became the narrow, sheltered lens through which I saw and experienced the world. I kept to myself, wasn't big on drinking, didn't have "rebellious" friends, and was very close to my family. I also held very romanticized, heteronormative ideals about relationships. I dreamed of those classic and corny first-time sex scenes with roses and candles because that's what I had seen in movies and on television, and I felt my soul would somehow be tainted if I ever "gave myself away" before finding my Prince Charming.
Sex just felt like the best possible way I could convey to the first man I'd ever love how special he is, to differentiate my experience with him from all the other hookups.
Fast forward to college, and like many others at that age, I definitely wasn't a saint. Drinking and hookups had undoubtedly become a significant part of my college experience, and by that point I had cultivated a much more grounded and realistic expectation of the world. I had been in several committed relationships and welcomed my fair share of one night rendezvous (sans having sex), and I came to enjoy that classic thrill of seeing someone new and riding that fleeting high the morning after a solid and fun night.
I started doubting my whole belief that I should wait for my Prince Charming. I began thinking that I may never meet him, or that I might have to wait until I was 25 to finally have sex. Maybe I would be missing out on years of sexual pleasure and fun. In spite of everything, the young romantic in me still wanted to wait. Call me old fashioned, but sex just felt like the best possible way I could convey to the first man I'd ever love how special he is, to differentiate my experience with him from all the other hookups. Sex is the most intimate you can physically get with someone, and is a unique, personal experience shared between two souls and bodies. It was my own love language in a sense, and it all came from my heart.
This isn't to say the hookups weren't worthwhile in their own way either. I never once regretted those decisions or felt like my virginity inhibited the quality of those experiences. Sure, dropping the virginity bomb mid-hookup wasn't exactly exciting for either party. In retrospect though, it was perhaps the most conveniently reliable process of weeding out a lot of jerks. Some still tried guilt-tripping me into having sex or even straight-up sneaking it in (yeah, seriously), and I definitely learned a lot about those people and about my own boundaries from those encounters. Overall, though, I was overwhelmed with the positive reception. I've heard things like, "that's so cool," "that's actually really hot," or "I really respect that, that's fine with me," and it reminded me that those who really respected me never tried using this decision against me.
At the end of the day, nobody actually dwelled that much on whether or not I was still a virgin or on the overall extent of my sexual endeavors, and I also never dwelled on theirs. People's sexual choices are their own business, and whether they had sex with 10 different people or stayed entirely abstinent didn't matter to me. These choices have never single-handedly altered my views of others, as I hope my own choices haven't single-handedly altered theirs.
Less than a year after college I actually did meet my Prince Charming and I am still madly in love with him today. My boyfriend and I share a special bond that I have never felt with anyone before and I feel like a part of that is due to the fact that I stayed true to my personal promise before meeting him. I feel at peace with myself each day knowing that I stuck to my moral values and never did anything I would have regretted or deeply questioned within myself. I also felt empowered. This was my body, and also my choice.
If you or anyone you know was a victim of sexual assault, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at (800) 656-4673.