I went back home to Colombia this past winter break to spend Christmas and New Year’s with my family. I had only been home for 12 hours when my mom told me at the breakfast table that her friends were gossiping about the girls in my graduating class who were having casual sex.
Jet-lagged and hungry, it took me a while to process that she was referring to my high school friends who were studying abroad just like me. But to my benefit, her friends made sure to clarify that I wasn’t part of that group.
I wasn’t given a scarlet letter because I was still a “saintly” virgin.
While growing up, I was taught that women were supposed to behave a certain way when it came to managing their sexuality. This meant that I wasn’t supposed to wear clothes that drew attention to my curves or act in a way that was “too flirty” or “loose” (as they call it in Colombia). In other words, I was supposed to repress my sexuality and have sex only if I had a serious boyfriend and was on the road to marriage. The problem with this societal pressure was that it took away my freedom to make what should have been a personal choice.
Of course, things have changed and more and more women are starting to manage their sexuality as they desire. Even in Latin America, social norms are shifting and more women are having sex before getting married. While in the last century it was the opposite, today it’s very rare to meet someone in college who is still a virgin, despite religious and culture norms that value virginity.
Back then, having sex before marriage made you a pariah, an outcast. Now, not having sex before marriage makes you part of a minority. If you don’t believe me, check out the show “Jane the Virgin,” which addresses exactly what I’m talking about.
As a virgin, it can sometimes feel like everything these days is about sex. When my girlfriends are talking, their comments might start off with an “OMG, have you ever had ___ happen to you while having sex?” Everyone else will jump in and tell their own fun story while I just listen.
I mean, it’s not like I don’t know anything about the subject, but it’s kind of awkward to participate when everyone knows I haven’t had sex.
But missing out on conversations isn’t the worst part. It’s the questions.
And no, they don’t come from my mother or any older person back home who thinks being a virgin is admirable, they come from people my own age.
The other day I was hanging out with my friend’s roommate and out of the blue she asks me, “Can I ask you why?”
I’m just there like, “Why what?”
She tells me, “Why haven’t you had sex?”
Then I just repeat what I tell everyone else: The right person hasn’t shown up, blah blah blah. It has to be someone I trust, blah blah blah. I can’t do it with just anyone, blah blah blah. The truth is, repeating myself is driving me nuts, and I wish I could’ve just given her a shorter answer: it’s none of your business.
Fortunately for me, she didn’t say anything after I gave her an answer, but some people don’t stop there. They tell you that it’s not that special, that you should just get it over it, that you’re missing out, and sometimes they even think you’re lying (yes, I’ve had this happen).
Being a virgin in the 21st century has become so rare that one guy even thought that I was making it up as an excuse to not have sex with him. Crazy isn’t it?
If my choice is to only make out with a guy and not have sex, that is my own choice. I shouldn’t have to be giving people explanations about my sexuality. The truth is that no one should be judging anyone for deciding not to have sex.
Whether a woman is a virgin (or not) is their own personal choice and should be respected.