Sexual abstinence hip on college campuses
By Andrew J. Pulskamp
Sometimes the media can give students the impression that being in college is all about drugs, booze and bacchanalian delights. Much of the portrayal of this rowdy collegiate carnival revolves around a loaded, three-letter word - sex. A new awareness about this word is growing on campuses though. Despite what may be the typical image of the hedonistic collegian, a growing number of college students are just saying no to sex.
Studies done by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reflect a trend that today's young people are leveling off when it comes to sexual promiscuity. According to the CDC, teen pregnancy in 1997 was down 15 percent from 1991 and sexual activity among college students was down too.
Mike Long is an abstinence advocate and has spoken at many universities around the country about the merits of staying sex-free. He concurs with much of today's information that says the 2000 crop of students is conservative compared to the steamy tie-dye days of the sexual revolution and the "me" decade of the '80s.
"There is no question about it. The pendulum is swinging. It's still on the other end a bit, but it's moving faster and faster," says Long. Although he sees that pendulum swinging back to a more conservative lifestyle, he's not about to revert to yesterday's finger pointing preaching.
"I don't like the word abstinence and I don't tell students to say no to sex. I offer some thought provoking things you can do in your life to live a more disciplined, mature life that creates great advantages," says Long.
Brian Hoffman, a student at New Mexico State University, was sexually abstinent throughout his teens and most of his early twenties. That all changed when he met the right person, but he also sees a more conservative side of sexuality emerging on the college scene. He says, "I think everything is going more conservative right now. You can see it all over society and definitely sexually."
One prominent example of this new conversion can be seen in the traditionally liberal realm of Hollywood. Teen singing sensation Jessica Simpson is enjoying a meteoric rise up the pop music charts, all the while hanging onto her virginity.
The 19-year-old's beloved beau, 26-year-old Nick Lachey of the boy-band 98 Degrees, has not bailed on the blonde like some of Simpson's former suitors. Instead he has accepted and praised her choice, remaining loyally by her side.
We recently conducted a poll to find out how our readers feel about sexual abstinence and some of the issues surrounding it. When asked if our respondents are sexually active, 66.5 percent said yes. Of that group though, 33.5 percent said they regret not waiting until marriage or until they found the right person before having sex.
For those who said they are not sexually active, 72 percent say the reason is that they're waiting for the right person; 20 percent cited "other" reasons; and eight percent say they practice sexual abstinence for religious reasons.
Adam Roberts, a student at Arizona State University, is in that majority. He says he chooses to remain abstinent because "I'm Mormon so [premarital sex] is out of the question."
Though most of his peers don't share his faith, they do respect his choice. "I would say there is definitely a pressure, but to me personally it doesn't really make a difference. Usually people are pretty cool. They understand that I won't do certain stuff," says Roberts.
One way he stays true to his faith is by avoiding tempting pitfalls. "Well my college life is not about going to big parties and having crazy beer drinking weekends. I go to the movies with my friends or do something else and just try to have fun," he explains.
Aside from religion, Long can identify numerous advantages to saying no to sex.
For one thing, no sex equals no sexually transmitted diseases, which is always a good thing. Long says, "When it comes to the college scene, what I find to be the main concern of students is the problem of sexually transmitted diseases."
It's true that the only 100 percent protection from STDs, which range from disgusting to the deadly, is abstinence. And there is one STD that has a particularly unhealthy following on college campuses and in many cases it spreads despite the use of a condom.
"On college campuses they've heard of AIDS until they're blue in the face. But I'll tell you one that really scares me and that is the human papilloma virus, or genital warts, and that's passed skin to skin. The condom can only cover a portion of the private parts and that leaves other exposed skin," says Long.
Genital warts are the most common venereal disease amongst college students and if the name isn't revolting enough, this disease can lead to some very serious developments. Long explains, "Genital warts can lead to cervical cancer in women and it's something that's reaching epidemic levels for women on college campuses today."
Disease, religion, waiting for the right person -- are all powerful deterrents to heading out for a night of unbridled passion, but some students have reasons that are simply their own when it comes to choosing abstinence.
"I did it because I chose to. I was abstinent 'til I was 24 just because there were all these things built up around sex that lead to a lot of pressure. I found other things that were interesting in other places and chose not to deal with all that other stuff," says Hoffman.
He thinks his approach to sex has paid off for him in the form of a healthy mature relationship today. "I think as far as relationships go, I am a much smarter person as to how I deal with my partner. There's not a lot of game playing as far as being sexually active. I think that everybody could benefit from stepping back and not engaging as quickly. ...It's been good for me so far."