Ernest Owens | The 20-Year-Old-Virgin

The Ernest Opinion | Our perception of abstinence on this campus must change

· January 27, 2012, 1:43 am   ·  Updated February 2, 2012, 11:37 pm

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Ernest Owens
The Ernest Opinion

When you think about the typical Friday night college scene, two types of people stand out: the enthusiastic partygoers and the studious all-nighters. We usually stereotype the partygoers as wild, drunk and typically horny, while the group who lounges all night in Van Pelt as nerdy, awkward and sexually inexperienced.

But I am convinced that all of this is just an illusion. According to 34th Street Magazine’s sex survey released last fall, 42.4 percent of non-Greek-affiliated students are virgins. Yet the way sex on our campus is talked about and portrayed, you would think that everybody is doing it.

Although I do not ever intend to be the national spokesperson for Abstinence America, I do not see anything wrong with the campus promoting this ideal as much as they do contraceptives at the Penn Women’s Center or the LGBT Center.

For one, we must end the ignorance behind why people in college are still virgins. Those who choose abstinence are not just religious followers who are preventing themselves from having sex in the name of worship. Only 12.5 percent of Jewish virgins and 51.9 percent of Christian virgins on campus are waiting to have sex until marriage, according to the survey. Many individuals are simply just not ready.

“Sex is not as big of a part of my life as much as people want to believe,” says College sophomore Gwen, who prides on being “a virgin with strong resolve.” A highly social person who works part-time as a commercial model, she admits to being “tempted often” but states that “being in a religion can’t stop you from losing your virginity … it takes self-determination.”

Furthermore, as students, we must reevaluate our notions of who on campus is having sex and who is not. It is not much of a surprise, but there are fewer male virgins at Penn than female ones, with 26.3 percent compared to 46.9 percent.

As for male athletes, the presumption that they are engaging in sexual activity is almost a given. This can be belittling for those who choose not to engage in sex.

“No one would believe I was a virgin, even if I told them,” said a popular varsity basketball player. He chose to remain anonymous due to “the embarrassment and humiliation” he might receive from other members on the team if they found out.

“To be a dude on campus and tell the rest of the world that you are a 20-year-old virgin is just asking for it,” he explained.

It is a shame that even as young adults, we have not gotten to a mature point in our lives where we can accept the sexual decisions of others. I am also guilty for assuming that people only abstain from sex for religious reasons or because they are prudes.

But now, it has become clear to me that our campus does not foster an environment where abstinence can be taken seriously. Last fall, I attended the well-received “Sex Camp” that was sponsored by Student Health Services and the Undergraduate Assembly.

As sex toys and orgasm contests filled this festive event at Houston Hall, there stood an isolated, bland-looking booth where the University Chaplain Chaz Howard stood discussing abstinence. As much as Rev. Howard spoke eloquently on the subject, there was not much that could keep students’ eyes away from all the dildos, vibrators and whips that seduced the room. It felt as if a mockery was being made by our beloved administrator.

Yes, students have sex. Yes, for many, their first time will be at Penn. But let us not forget the decent percentage who will not as well. Our campus should recognize and respect that.

It would not be asking much for Penn to increase its marketing efforts for abstinence alongside the condoms and lubricant offered at buildings around campus. There have been many attempts to foster bipartisanship, multiculturalism and interfaith understanding on this campus, why not expand this effort to accommodate different views of the bedroom?

It is not fair to the non-Greek Quaker who has to feel prudish and awkward just because he or she are not doing what only a little over half of campus is. People should have the right to stand up for what they believe in — and not only for a few minutes of pleasure.

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