I belong to a secret society. In fact, it is such a secret society that I don’t know any of the other members on my college campus. No, I’m not a hooded Klansman (irreconcilable differences). What I’m a part of is much more nefarious. No one, not even my parents, knows about my affiliation.
Yes, Ma, I’m a virgin.
To be clear, I am not a virgin by conscious choice — neither God nor my inner moral compass has told me thou shalt not consummate in vain. Quite the opposite. If I learned anything from the Blockbuster Entertainment Award-winning film “American Pie,” it’s that I’m only going to be young once, so I can’t let this opportunity go to waste.
It seems like many others have heeded this message. “Hooking up” no longer means connecting to an electrical power source. The conventional wisdom is that there’s a highly prevalent hookup culture on college campuses. Apparently everyone is doing the deed while I’m left feeling like a dysfunctional outsider.
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As such, part of me sees virginity as the monkey on my back; a successful trip to (insert fraternity party or dimly lit bar) will relinquish all frustrations of my manhood and lovability. No longer a virgin, I will feel a sense of belonging to the hookup culture with everyone else. I'll walk without the low self-esteem slouch and avoidant eye-contact that afflicts a lesser specimen. I'll finally be a man. Hear me roar!
However, while individual members are not known, the virgins walk among us at Northwestern University, where I’m a senior. In 2009 this secret society encumbered approximately 30 percent of the student body, the student newspaper reported. What’s more, a 2013 survey of seniors at Harvard University indicated that the median number of sexual partners during their college tenure was one. Just one.
Furthermore, our sexual histories are more like sexual fictions. In an Ohio State study surrounding the behaviors of college students, men who thought they were connected to a lie detector reported having fewer sexual partners than other men. According to my OkCupid profile, I apparently prefer to sleep with someone after three to five dates. My life is riddled with these mistruths, which only exacerbate an already warped image of virginity.
So it may be time to challenge the stigma and deficiency that many of us conflate with not having sex. This requires me and others to revoke our secret society membership. Virginity, as a label, is neither good nor bad. It just is. Although uncomfortable, being able to talk about my virginity openly is a huge validation. It’s not like I’m going to introduce myself as the Virgin Ben. I’d be stealing Mary’s trademark, for one thing.
Virginity is just a place holder for many of the insecurities and frustrations of emerging adulthood. This is not a marginalized voice on campus, it is an unheard one. The more we can come to accept this new openness on virginity and all that it encompasses, the less of a stigma it will carry. The need to rid ourselves of such a pesky title will subside. A new voice surrounding hookup culture will be heard. A sense of belonging will be formed.
Again, this is no easy task. However, there is a reason why Copernicus is such an important figure. The world, in fact, does not revolve around either you or me! This is especially easy to forget at Northwestern. Amid a seemingly uniform flock of Canada Goose-wearing, success-toting students, there is a little child inside each of us who yearns to be loved and accepted. Unzipping our jackets to expose our true, complicated selves can only enrich and deepen what is currently an important but very narrow dialogue surrounding hookup culture.
I know I will lose my virginity one day. When that day comes, I will still be the same old me, warts and all. In the meantime, I'll be looking for a new secret society to join.
Ben Koltun is a senior at Northwestern University. He wrote this for the Chicago Tribune.
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