Content warning: discussion of sexual assault.
Sex, alcohol and frequent partying are staples of the college experience — if you only watch it on television. While social circles and the excitement surrounding one’s college years can create sexually liberated lifestyles for many students, including those on the Boise State campus, the Online College Social Life Survey reported that, from a study of over 24,000 college students, 20 percent of them graduate as self-identified virgins.
One of the most universally known and commonly cited reasons for maintaining virginity is religion, and junior rhetoric and composition major Celine McMonigal is no stranger to the sentiment. Raised Christian, McMonigal has fulfilled her promise to herself to remain celibate, but not without some internal struggle.
“I’m not gonna lie, it has been relatively easy until about a month and a half ago when I met the love of my life,” McMonigal said. “It has made things a little more difficult, because when you have such strong feelings for someone emotionally, it’s natural to feel the same physically. He and I are on the same page about waiting until marriage, so we’re supporting each other through, and because we feel the same way, there’s no conflict. It’s internal, there’s not an issue in the relationship.”
While she was quick to recognize that celibacy doesn’t always have a deep impact on a relationship between two individuals with the same belief systems, McMonigal also explained that a Christian lifestyle doesn’t mean sexual feelings disappear entirely. While abstaining from sex is part of McMonigal’s religious lifestyle, her belief is based on personal decision, as well.
“Yes, I do get horny. Being Christian doesn’t mean the feeling disappears, and it’s very obvious that the answer is yes, and people know that,” McMonigal said. “Also, a lot of people assume that because I’m waiting until marriage that I think it’s bad when everyone else doesn’t. Yes, it’s a religious belief, but also it’s a personal choice and not everything is centered around my idea of love.”
Although sexuality is of human nature, not every student believes the feelings are wholly physical. Sydney Skidmore, a senior political science major, considers sex to be incredibly emotional, and has treated her own sexuality as such, waiting until she was married in 2017 to lose her virginity, and believes her decision to stay abstinent is one that most relationships should echo.
“I’ve had so many friends who aren’t religious whose hearts are broken when a relationship ends and wish they hadn’t been intimate with that person because they felt used and like that safe place where they could be 100 percent vulnerable was destroyed,” Skidmore said. “I don’t judge anyone who hasn’t made the same decisions as I because we’re all different. Their decisions are up to them and are private matters. But I honestly believe that people would be happier, hearts would be less likely to be broken, and relationships would be less complicated if sex were reserved for marriage.”
Whereas some individuals are against all forms of sexual contact and material before marriage, non-traditional freshman business major Crystal Egbert is more concerned about her daughters having sexual liberation and complete autonomy over their bodies.
“My grandmother and kids are LDS, but I’m not,” Egbert said. “My grandmother was upset with herself about buying a certain dress for my 11-year-old, saying it opens up boys to have dirty thoughts. My girls should not have to dress any certain way to stop boys from having thoughts. My girls should be able to walk around in a bikini and boys should know not to touch them.”
Egbert’s thoughts on consent and safe sex come from her own experience with sexual assault at a young age. Egbert will encourage her daughters to carry around their own condoms to stay protected and prepared and, while she doesn’t mind if her daughters safely lose their virginities before marriage, sexual assault and abuse are concerns for her in regard to her children.
“I was raped at 13,” Egbert said. “I think that women have this fear, because we see men walking around, they have this ‘I can do whatever I want’ mentality. I didn’t speak up or say anything for years because I was so scared I would get in trouble. I was screaming no, or I thought I was screaming no, and I was in a totally different place. Because of that incident, my bipolar was triggered, and I was having a lot of unsafe, unwanted sex because I was in a mania. You’re either going to have too much sex or you’ll be scared to have any, because you won’t know what consent is.”
While Egbert is more open about speaking about her assault at 31, she wants her experience to create discourse surrounding sexual health and education, especially amongst those like her daughters, a generation up-and-coming into the college experience, regardless of whether or not they take a vow of celibacy.
“Just be open and honest with your kids and college students,” Egbert said. “Have the period talk, have the sex talk, even if they plan on keeping their virginity. Open those conversations really young. Whether it’s your children or students, I may not always agree with their decisions, but I will support them.”
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