To abstain, or not to Abstain? The freedom of sexual expression, not judgement
“Doing the nasty”, “bumping the mommy-daddy buttons”, “getting freaky”, “hooking up”, “making whoopee” – whatever they might call it, students at CU are doing it.
The number of students who are sexually active is high, and often students feel pressure to have sex or to be sexually active.
“According to a survey done in 2003 by the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, 91 percent of CU-Boulder students report having been sexually active,” said Jonna Fleming, sexual-health education coodinator at Wardenburg. This definition of sex includes oral, anal and vaginal sex.
But the decision to have sex is yours and yours alone, said Fleming.
“I think that students should choose what is right for them as an individual. This might be choosing not to have sex. This might be choosing to be sexually active. As long as it is an informed descision,” said Fleming.
However, many factors may influence your choices. What you believe and what someone wants you to believe can become blurred and confusing.
“I encourage students to critically examine all of the mixed messages: friends, parents, communities, faith and media about sex, and from that examination figure out what works for them,” said Fleming.
Some students to use sex as an ice-breaker in social situations.
“I think a lot of it is freshmen trying to fit in and to make friends. Sex is part of it, and most of the influence to have sex is from them,” Kara Ashcraft, a senior integrative physiology major, said.
“I definitely think there is (pressure). I think that younger girls, freshmen and sophomores, have somehow gotten the impression that you need to sleep with a guy in order for him to like you,” said Erica Rasmussen, a senior operational management major. “I include myself in this because I know I felt like that at times when I was a freshman. I have learned the opposite is true: a guy will respect you a lot more if you wait, and if he doesn’t he’s not worth your time anyway.”
Peer criticism and intimidation are just a few elements that feed into the pressure to have sex. Some students said they feel as though they are treated like less of a person because of it.
“I totally feel enormous pressure to have sex, especially within my close friends. Every day I am criticized and judged because I don’t have sex, as if there was something wrong with me,” said Leah Hudson, an integrative physiology and psychology major. “Frequently, I am treated like I am a child as if I don’t interact with males, then that will automatically correlate the conversation into me never kissing a guy, which is untrue.”
Peer pressure is often heightened by the addition of drugs, alcohol or parties.
“I think that drugs and alcohol are a huge reason why people end up having sex, and it definitely plays into why someone might go all the way,” Ashcraft said.
Some students choose to focus on things other than sex. While some students said they viewed sex as an “initiation” into adulthood, others disagreed.
“There are a combination of reasons why I don’t have sex. One, I was raised to wait for marriage, and sex is something between the sacred union of a man and a woman. Two, I am waiting for the right guy. I feel that when I do choose to have sex, I will become somewhat emotionally attached to the guy and I really don’t enjoy wasting my time liking a loser,” Hudson said.
But with sexual activity comes risks of STIs and pregnancy, and not all seemingly harmless sexual activity is safe.
According to Wardenburg’s Web site, STIs can be transmitted through deep kissing – though this is still quite safe, manual stimulation, oral sex and anal sex. Chlamydia can infect the throat and mouth if transmitted through oral sex. Above all, the Web site said to exercise caution when there is any skin-to-skin contact.
The women interviewed said they felt that there were benefits to both becoming sexually active and remaining abstinent.
“There are obvious benefits to not being sexually active: You don’t have to worry about STIs, pregnancy or the politics like being considered promiscuous,” said Rasmussen. “But there are benefits to being sexually active, like when you are in a relationship, you can express yourself freely sexually. You get to have sex whenever you want. It’s an amazing experience to do that with someone you love.”
For Hudson, the risks of sex outweigh the benefits.
“Another reason I am abstinent is because I believe that if the condom breaks, there is a chance I could become pregnant. I really want to become a doctor, and if I am busy with family obligations, I won’t be able to reach my full potential. There are so many aspects of my life that I can’t control, and I believe not having sex is one thing I can control,” Hudson said.
Aside from the risks of STIs and pregnancy, the women said it was difficult to remain abstinent or try celibacy after being sexually active for a few years.
“(Abstinence) is very difficult. This is probably the sole reason why I am not currently in a relationship. I don’t want to feel pressure to have sex. I want to do it on my own time, and on my own terms. I don’t want to deprive the guy from something he enjoys because I choose not to,” said Hudson.