The Waiting Game
Few statements are more insulting to the intelligence than “Abstinence is the only sure way to prevent unwanted pregnancy.”
What do marketers expect the public’s reaction to be? “My, what innovative advice! Allow me to throw away my condoms for you.”
Sure, being abstinent rules out the possibility of ever having to sit on the edge of a bathtub, gripping the ceramic with sweaty palms as you prepare your heart for the potential apparition of a tiny plus sign on the overpriced plastic stick resting on your lap. But leading an abstinent lifestyle usually results from far more thoughtful reasoning than the media makes it seem.
“People tend to think ‘Oh, you’re brainwashed, you were born into this belief,’” says 23-year-old education graduate student Katrina Murata.
“What they don’t realize is that we don’t just blindly follow it. When you’re old enough. you open your eyes, you study what’s out there and you decide things for yourself.”
First-year Joshua Shannon would have to agree.
“Constant pressure from peers and society has absolutely been a difficulty to overcome,” he says. “I’ve had doubts [about my decision to be abstinent], but never changed my mind on the subject. Our society is so disillusioned with the idea that having sex or losing your virginity is the only way to be accepted. I’d rather separate myself in some ways than conform to the activities of everyone around me.”
But how many college students are sexually active? According to a poll conducted by Colleges.com, approximately two-thirds of college students have had sex. 34.5 percent of them, though, report that they regretted not waiting for the right person.
“A lot of people get caught in the moment, and that’s understandable,” said Murata. “When people are in love, that happens, but when we put ourselves in situations that lend to those kinds of occasions, we sometimes do things we regret.”
Murata herself has been in a relationship where she realized the struggle of remaining abstinent.
“You can’t just be like, ‘Yeah, no big deal, we’re just not going to do anything.’ When you feel really strongly for someone, you want to do those things, but at the same time we do have the ability to control ourselves.”
The media often portrays sex drive as a prowling predator lurking unbeknownst to lovers, ready to strike couples in the heat of the moment. A lustful glance is exchanged, and the next moment, the couple is lying side-by-side in bed, their hair disheveled and their panting heavy. Seriously?
“People diet, they study extra hard for an exam, they wake up at 5 a.m. to jog – we can apply that to sexual areas as well,” Katrina says. “It’s not easy, but we can control those urges.”
As with dieting, though, humans need to have enough motivation to truly stick with the plan. Fourth-year Joseph Hennessee, psychology major and president of Internal Affairs for the Buddhist Association at UCI, has found abstinence to be a simple choice due to his desired family-oriented future.
“I don’t see ‘going all the way’ as immoral,” he says, “but I think being abstinent until you meet the person you marry is the most fulfilling decision. The time most of us will spend married and raising a family is much larger than the time we will spend searching for a partner and living ‘the single life.’”
For 21-year-old French and English double major and Students for L.I.F.E. club president Kara Ng, a benefit of abstinence is the liberty and security that accompanies it, as in addition to pregnancy, she need not fret about STDs or birth control pills.
“Schoolwork and extracurricular activities already bring enough stress into my life, so remaining abstinent is a simple and convenient way to stay free from added sources of anxiety,” she says.
And of course, there’s always the romantic side of abstinence (think “A Walk to Remember” — you know you cried).“I think finding the person I’m going to marry, and saving sex just for him, only him, until we die, is a really beautiful thing,” says Murata. “I may sound like an idealist, but I’ve seen young couples who have done that and their marriage is truly a blissful one.”
Instead of viewing abstinence as a sacrifice, Katrina sees it in a positive light.
“I’m gaining the chance to really get to know and love a person for their character, as opposed to what their body can do for me.”
So there’s no pleading to “get thee to a nunnery.” No chastity belts, no homespun prairie dresses and, surprisingly enough, virtually no Bible-thumping. And one day, in the right context, there will be no holding back.
As Murata put it, “Who doesn’t think ‘saving the best for last’ isn’t a bad idea, right?”