As time progresses, it is evident that college students and young adults are becoming more casual about sexual activity and the role that it plays in their personal and social lives.
Individuals who fit into this age demographic are less likely to have committed relationships and are more likely to interact sexually with numerous people on a regular basis. Overall, it seems as if monogamy is an ideal of the past that has been replaced with exploring one’s sexuality. It is extremely common to hear phrases like “hooking-up” or “shacking” throughout college campuses, but what do these phrases truly mean?
One Louisiana State University, or LSU, student states, “Hooking up means something different to every person. The definition could range from making out with someone to having sex with someone and everything in between. Shacking is basically when you hook up with someone and then sleep over at their place.”
While casual sex is a concept predominantly seen throughout college campuses, not every student partakes in the celebration of it. Haley, who has chosen to protect her identity by using her middle name, is a freshman at LSU who was immediately faced with the challenge of being a virgin on a seemingly virgin-less campus upon her arrival. “When I came to LSU, my entire outlook on the subject of sex was completely turned upside down and challenged as I looked around and realized that sex meant basically nothing to the people around me.”
“I grew up in a small town in Louisiana where I was taught that you do not have sex until marriage. While I did not necessarily have the desire to save myself until marriage, I did have the desire to save myself for someone who I loved. I just always thought that the person who I would eventually lose my virginity to would be someone special to me,” says Haley.
Haley’s thoughts and opinions on sex were challenged even more when she joined a sorority. By joining a sorority, Haley thought that the feeling of being an outsider would subside, but that was not the case: “When I joined my sorority, I thought that I was finally going to have a place on this campus where I felt like I fit in and belonged, but I once again was brought to the realization that these girls all slept around without a care in the world.”
Though she eventually did make friends in her sorority despite her differences with many of them, she did still have feelings rooted in embarrassment and insecurity over the fact that she was still a virgin. Haley states, “When my friends from my sorority found out that I was a virgin, they were shocked. They looked at me like I was an alien or something. I couldn’t help but feel ashamed of my virginity.”
One night, after hours of partying with her sorority sisters in Tigerland, a collection of popular bars near LSU’s campus, Haley was encouraged to go home with a guy she had been dancing and flirting with all night. She eventually accompanied him back to his apartment and woke up the next morning no longer a virgin.“He didn’t force himself on me or pressure me or anything like that. If anything, I pressured myself into doing it because I was so caught up with the idea of fitting in with the people around me.”
“I immediately felt nothing but regret as I woke up in the bed of a stranger. Sure, I was finally going to be able to relate to the people around me, but in the process of trying to fit in with my peers, I lost a piece of myself,” says Haley.
Not only did Haley have to deal with the emotional toll her decision took, but she also had to deal with the physical toll. Haley details,”We didn’t use protection, which I feel so stupid about. I know all of the studies and facts about how easy it is to get an STD or to get pregnant, so I don’t know why I didn’t make him wear a condom.” Luckily, Haley was able to dodge the repercussions of having unprotected sex, but there are many college students who are not so fortunate.
Dr. Timothy Honigman, primary care physician at LSU Student Health Center, touched base on how often he sees students over sexually related matters, stating,”I bet I see two or three students each day for STI screening or STI concerns.” He explains that many college students have multiple sexual partners and are not using protection on a consistent basis; therefore, they are often faced with one or more of the many consequences of having unprotected sex.
While Dr. Honigman has students visit him for various sexually related reasons, he says that the most common diagnosis he gives out is HPV. He states,”The most common STD on our campus, in our city, in our state, in our country, in the world is the genital warts virus HPV.”
HPV, or human papillomavirus, is a sexually transmitted infection that causes not only genital warts but also different types of cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention details, “HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives.”
When it comes to HPV, prevention is key. There is an HPV vaccination that protects individuals from HPV related diseases. The vaccine is comprised of three shots given over a period of six months. Doctors recommend that children of the ages 11 or 12 be vaccinated to protect themselves for the future. Besides the HPV vaccination, there are other forms of protection that shield individuals from HPV and other sexually related infections and diseases.
When asked his opinion on what the most effective form of sexual protection is, Dr. Honigman replied,“Other than abstinence, the use of condoms from start to finish throughout sexual contact is highly protective, though not perfect. Sometimes condoms can break or come off, but when used carefully, condoms can be a tremendous barrier to STDs,” he continues, “My standard line for my patients who come in for STD testing is ‘If I were in your shoes, knowing what I know, I’d wear a condom every time I had sex until I got married and I wouldn’t let alcohol or pot interfere with my judgment in making that decision.’”
While it may be unrealistic to expect college students to remain abstinent, it is important that they be provided with resources to help them become proactive in protecting themselves from the various consequences of having unprotected sex. It is also important that students understand that the emotional repercussions of having casual sex can be as severe as physical consequences. While many individuals may view sex with a recreational or casual eye, there are many individuals, like Haley, who see it as much more and feel the weight of a decision made too quickly.