College Sex Talk

Real people real answers

A student from George Mason wants to know.....

How do you decide to have sex with someone when you're torn between fear of disease and a need for closeness?

Female, First-Year

Dr. Caron's Response:

I would like to point out that a couple can be close or intimate without putting each other at risk for a disease. Affection and playfulness do not necessarily imply sexual involvement. In terms of sexual involvement, certainly it's hard to have a good time or enjoy yourself if you're afraid of catching a disease. Recognize that there is a continuum of behaviors you can engage in - ranging from safe to unsafe sex practices. It's helpful to take time to determine your exact position regarding the level of involvement you are comfortable with and to examine issues around protection. What are your limits? For example, "I will only have sex in a committed relationship." or "I will have intercourse only with condoms." or "I will only have sex with protection (i.e., condoms) and only after I've gotten to know my partner over a period of time." It's a lot easier to choose what to say to your partner if you've already determined what your limits are. And following through on your decisions means being able to talk about them: It's important to talk to your partner about what feels right for you. Other practical suggestions include: talking with your partner about their sex history, examining your partner's genitals for signs of infection, washing before and after sex, using a condom, and making an appointment for both of you to have an STI check-up. You will enjoy your sexual relationship more once you both have a clean bill of health.

A student from UC Santa Cruz wants to know.....

I am a 20 year old college student and the unique part about me from the rest of the college students is that I haven't had sex yet because I feel that it is my choice and I should only do it at a right time with the right person. I have had many females friends that wanted to have sex with me when they drank, but I refused their requests because I think they are being irresponsible in their attitudes. Now I know that especially in today's college and high school atmosphere, being a virgin makes you a loser. But I totally disagree on that and believe that sex isn't a childish game, it is a choice and you should only do it when you think you are ready and responsible for it. What do you think?

Female, Junior

Dr. Caron's Response:

I couldn't agree with you more. Sex is something that should be engaged in when one feels it is right for them. If intimacy equals sex, as some believe, than people who don't engage in sexual intercourse are defined as leading very dull lives. With this argument, virginity is than a state we want to leave. This view is too simplistic, only serving to pressure people like yourself to have sexual intercourse.

It is important to remember that virginity, like sexual activity, is a matter of choice. Some men and women choose to wait until they are in what they consider to be 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.

A student from Ohio State University wants to know.....

I find myself attracted to my roommate's boyfriend and he makes passes at me when she's not around. If I follow my true feelings my friend will be hurt, but should I sacrifice my happiness for hers?

Female, First-Year

Dr. Caron's Response:

In terms of your friend/roommate being hurt, I think she is being hurt already. She's seeing a guy who isn't being honest with her. And you, as her friend, are not being honest. Someone needs to start talking. In this situation, it sounds like your roommate's "boyfriend" needs to have a serious discussion with her about how he's feeling. It isn't doing her any good to be led on. In addition, if you really feel strongly about developing a relationship with this guy, you'll need to talk with her about how you're feeling. It may be true that you will have to choose between your friend/roommate and this guy. I wouldn't be surprised if you loose a roommate over this. You need to decide what's more important in the long run.

A student from TWU wants to know.....

I have been dating my boyfriend for 2 1/2 years. I think that I am ready to have sex, but have always been told to wait till I am married. I do not want to disappoint my mother by going through with it, but I do love my boyfriend, and I am almost positive that I am ready. Any thoughts?

Female, Junior

Dr. Caron's Response:

The right time varies from person to person, depending on your values and beliefs. Some people feel the only appropriate time to become sexually involved is after the couple is in a committed relationship (e.g., married) while others feel no commitment is necessary, in fact knowing their sexual partners name may not even be important.
If you are unsure if this is the right time to become sexually involved, you may want to spend time talking this over with your partner. If you are unsure, it is always better to err on the side of waiting, rather than doing something you may regret later. Certainly, any sexual relationship should be based on mutual consent. Some other guidelines indicating you might be ready for sex include:

*You're ready for sex if you're not trying to prove your love, increase your self-worth, prove you're mature, or rebel against parents or society;

*You're ready for sex if it will be an expression of your current feelings rather than an attempt to improve a poor relationship or one that is growing old;

*You're ready for sex if you can discuss and agree on an effective method of birth control and share the details, responsibilities, and costs;

*Finally, you are ready for sex if you can discuss sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, and provide protection.

Deciding whether or not to become sexually involved is an important decision, a choice we make for ourselves. It should be a responsible one and it's yours alone. Not something your mother makes for you, or your partner. No one should force or push you into it. Don't wait until the last minute to decide; there are lots of things to consider. You decide!

A student from Trinity College wants to know.....

I hear so much talk about abstaining from sex before marriage - but my question is this: If I were to believe in no sex before marriage, how would I know the man I was to marry would be sexually compatible for me?

Female, Senior

Dr. Caron's Response:

Sexually compatibility has little to do with the performance per se. Instead, I would want to know how compatible you are in your relationship. For example, is he sensitive to your needs? Does he respect your feelings? Is he able to listen to what you have to say without becoming defensive? Does he like to do things for you? Can you communicate with him? Are you in touch with what you want and do you feel comfortable expressing your needs and desires. Again, I am referring to things that happen in your relationship generally - not just sexually. I believe compatibility has more to do with how well you relate to one another in general in various circumstances. If you truly are right for each other, the sexual mechanics will be resolved with time and experience.

A student from University of Conneticut wants to know.....

I was watching an old episode of "Sex and the City" recently and they brought up the topic of women regaining virginity after a year of not having sex. I am guessing sex in this case is sexual intercourse. I have asked a few of my friends about this topic and all of them have given me huge grief about it. Is it not true that the vagina regenerates itself and therefore virginity can be almost physically regained?

Female, Senior

Dr. Caron's Response:

I have heard more and more people ask about this - and I believe it is due to the rise in "reclaim your virginity" and "secondary virginity' programs that are springing up in conservative corners of our educational system. No-I'm not aware of any vagina regenerating itself (whatever that means!) or the hymen "growing back." By definition, after experiencing sexual intercourse you would not qualify as a virgin again even if you didn't have sex for 1 or even 10 years -celibate maybe, but not a virgin. A virgin refers to someone who's never had sexual intercourse. The hymen (a thin tissue membrane that covers part of the vaginal opening) has been regarded throughout history as proof of virginity. Yet the absence or presence of a hymen is unreliable as an indicator of a woman's virginity or non-virginity. Some women are born without a hymen, others have a hymen that has been stretched or torn through normal exercise or insertion of tampons/fingers.

A student from Fresno State wants to know.....

I'm not sure what to do. My boyfriend and I have a great time together but in many ways we're not the same. In fact, the longer we go out, the more pronounced our differences become. He feels that it's okay to have sex before marriage, while I believe in waiting. I don't want to break up with him - but it doesn't seem possible to continue dating, if you know what I mean.

Female, Sophomore

Dr. Caron's Response:

What you seem to be dealing with is incompatible sexual values between you and your boyfriend. Have you been able to talk with him about this? What is his opinion? Are you feeling pressured? What are the things that hold your relationship together? Are you compatible in many other areas?

Compatible sexual values are an important consideration in dating. However, you should know that some couples develop and maintain a relationship in spite of differences between their sexual values. For example, a person who values sexual monogamy may become involved with a person who values sexual variety with multiple partners.

A student from Old Dominion wants to know.....

Is it wrong of me to have sex with a good "friend" that I have known since middle school. We have both talked about it and said that we would keep it between us...Is that a bad thing?

Male, Sophomore

Dr. Caron's Response:

A lot depends on your value system. I can't answer this for you. Some things you might want to consider are: What are the reasons the other person is interested in having sex with you? What do you want in terms of a relationship with this person the next morning? Do you want to continue to be just "good" friends? Some people have sex for fun, as a way to forget troubles and relieve tension. Many others cannot separate sex from all other aspects of their relationship. Each begins to affect the other. Keep in mind that resentments, tensions, feelings of being used by the other, and fears about the relationship can arise. Some people who start out wanting just a fun sexual relationship with a "good" friend often become emotionally involved without intending to do so. Emotional involvement can lead to anxiety about what a relationship means, where each stands in the other's eyes, and what plans are in the future. It is hard, and unacceptable for most, to carry on a long-term sexual relationship without emotional involvement. Recreational sex with friends (or even strangers) as such may not be a problem for some unattached, consenting adults on a short-term basis. Many people can and do have sex without love, but many also prefer sex with love.

A student from University of Tennessee -- Knoxville wants to know.....

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.

Male, Sophomore

Dr. Caron's Response:

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.

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