Sex Talk

It is hard being a virgin in college

Question from a male sophomore at student at the University of Tennessee -- Knoxville: It strikes me odd, but for some reason, being a virgin is a huge turn-off for most women that I meet. Why? Do they think that since I am a virgin, no one else wants me, so I'm worthless? Or, are they just thinking with their sexual desires instead of their head? Either way, it is hard being a virgin in college. Thanks.

Dr. Caron's Answer: You're right - it can be difficult being a virgin in college -when it feels like “everyone is doing it” when in fact, they are not. I think it has to do with the messages we receive from the media about sexuality and relationships, as well as peer pressure. For example: If intimacy equals sex, as some believe, then people who don't engage in sexual intercourse are automatically defined as leading very dull lives. With this argument, virginity is then a state we want to leave. This view is too simplistic, only serving to pressure people to have sexual intercourse.

I think this is true especially when we look at how we socialize boys. We give many, many messages to boys as they are growing up to be competent, to be knowledgeable, and to be in charge - in such areas as sports, social performance, etc. As a result, both men and women assume all guys are supposed to know and be competent in everything - even in sexual matters - before they have the experience. If he is not experienced sexually, some people (men and women) may view him as different and ask “what is wrong with him?” when there is nothing wrong at all.

It is important to remember that virginity, like sexual activity, is a matter of choice. It sounds like some of the women you have met have forgotten this point. Some men and women choose to wait until they are in what they consider a long-term relationship before they become sexually involved and some do not. Being a virgin does not mean you are not sexual, or that you do not have an intimate relationship; virginity is an acceptable alternative to sexual intercourse. What is best for you is for you alone to decide. Remember: You are in charge of your own body.

Question from a male senior at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign: I'm in a relationship that has lasted almost a year. I feel I am in love with my girlfriend but I am not sexually attracted to her. We have even talked about getting engaged and I'm wondering if our relationship can last without the physical part being there. Male, Senior

Dr. Caron’s Answer: It sounds like you have a nice friendship going with this woman. However, I don't believe you can have a long-lasting romantic relationship with someone you aren't attracted to. What is interesting is that your question is almost the reverse of what many people worry about who say, "All we have is sex, sex, sex - Is that enough of a basis for a long-term relationship?" I guess I'm wondering what you would like in a relationship. Do you wish it were different? Have you ever experienced sexual attraction to another person you were involved with? I am also concerned about why there is no attraction? How does your partner feel about this? Is she okay with the relationship as it stands? or does she feel rejected? What are her expectations for the future? Again, I am referring to sexual attraction, not sexual activity; you can have one without the other. I think sometimes people avoid the sexual part to avoid intimacy or connection: Since you know you won't be that close, you can protect yourself - keep yourself at a physical and emotional distance. I also wonder if part of your lack of sexual attraction for your partner concerns a fear of sex itself. Have you experienced some type of trauma or hurt feelings around sex? I think you are right to ask yourself now if this lack of sexual attraction is going to be a concern for the future. Ignoring it will not make it go away. These are just some of the issues you may want to look at with a professional. Talking with someone you can trust will give you the perspective you need to make important decisions. Including your partner in these conversations will be essential. Good luck!

© 2009, Sandra L. Caron

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It is not sex that gives the pleasure, but the lover. - Marge Piercy

American teens have the worst of all worlds...Our children are bombarded and confronted with sexual messages, sexual exploitation, and all manner of sexual criticism. But our society is by and large sexually illiterate. Faye Westheimer

Dr. Sandra L. Caron is a professor of human sexuality at the University of Maine. To submit a question to Dr. Caron or chat with your peers visit Got a question for Dr. Caron? Visit and ask away! Get a guaranteed personal and confidential response to your question: or E-Mail

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