Spotlight

University Through the Eyes of a Virgin

A girl sits on a bed. There is a plant and a book in the background.

Written by: Anonymous

Illustration by: Summer Griffin

Virgin.

What a weird thing to out yourself as, right? ‘Frigid’, ‘undesirable’, ‘unattractive’. I’m 19, one year into University, and I’ve never had sex. Better yet, I’ve never even had so much as a relationship.

Before Uni and living through the past year, I was an odd kid. I was confident and easy-going but I never made the effort to reach out to anyone. I floated through school, keeping myself to myself, never really finding anyone I wanted to hang out with. If I found someone to talk to, I’d always overcompensate and be too loud or too quiet until they eventually found someone else. At some point during college, it occurred to me that I’d never actually had a crush on someone. When asked, I’d shrug and pick from a random selection of names in my head.

Freshers for me was one of the strangest experiences I’ve ever had, and I don’t think COVID helped. Though I didn’t get it from my new friends, the pressure from everyone else was a ticking time bomb. Shag before the week is up, the more times the better.” I’d been building myself up for Freshers for years, and I believed the hype. So, when the week came to an end and instead of laid I got a bad case of Fresher’s Flu, I felt like a complete and utter failure.

A few days later, my flatmates made a ‘pull’ chart. One point for a snog, two for second base and three for sex. They wrote my name on the list. I was lying to keep up. I began to realise just how naive I was when one of my flatmates entered double figures within a month. It was all anybody could talk about: when, how, who with, STDs?  People my flatmates brought back took one look at me and made jokes whilst I made excuses to hide in my bedroom. People I hardly knew would brag about their body count list on their phones. Some of them even colour coded the names they liked the best. Others talked loudly about which STDs they’d got, from who, and how they didn’t want to test themselves because they never wanted to find out.

At the end of first term, I was drained. From lockdown, from work, from being surrounded by people but never really connecting with any. I went home in mid-December and didn’t return for months. Without the constant pressure of University life, I realised how easy it was to get caught up in it. Friends told me the behaviour I was seeing was toxic, that there wasn’t anything ‘wrong’ with me for not wanting the same thing. People I saw on social media reported feeling similarly: adults into their late twenties who had never had sex or never wanted to. Many classified themselves as asexual and gained hundreds of comments from people in similar situations. Suddenly, there were all these people I’d never really noticed before, some with strict upbringings, some who didn’t want to, and some who’d just never found it to be important.

A little later, I began to notice breakup advice posts that kept popping up on my dash. Girls my age were in deeply unhealthy sexual relationships and they couldn’t see how exploitative their partners were being. It seemed like all the posts I looked through detailed horrific breaches of trust and sleazy, entitled behaviour. Students were having traumatic sexual experiences everywhere I looked and were lying to cover it up. In reality, the people that made fun of me may have been covering up their own trauma. Coupled with the need to fit in and the pressure of finding friends quickly, people I met were doing everything they could to keep up their relationships and that included saying ‘Yes’ to everything- especially to uncomfortable sex. In a new environment with unfamiliar people, these experiences were traumatising and despite a new wave of openness around sex, pressure to keep friends and fit in has prevented many from speaking out. In their heads, maybe making fun of someone else proved to them that the bad experiences they’d had were worth the emotional pain.

Whether students acknowledge it or not, we may have the impression that who you do or don’t have sex with and how many times can shape your reputation during Freshers. Even if it’s unintentional, the first year environment  can be pressurising and stigmatising for less experienced students. This ‘invisible’ group is subject to shaming and lazy stereotyping. As your sexuality makes up part of who you are, it can become a characteristic that other people misjudge and bully you for when really, every virgin has a completely valid reason for not wanting to have or not having had sex.


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