Gender and Sexuality Column

SU alumna rightfully sheds light on virginity, personal choice

/ The Daily Orange

Despite what Snapchat might make us think, not everyone needs to know your story — particularly one that is told from between the sheets.

Syracuse University alumna Lianne Stokes embodies this philosophy. In her recently published memoir “Below Average: A Life Way Under The Bar,” Stokes recounts her life in New York City in a less Carrie Bradshaw-ish way and discusses her decision to lose her virginity, which happened to be around her 30th birthday.

SU has a prevalent hookup culture which can make college a confusing time. On the fine line between adolescence and the real world, college students have all kinds of opinions thrown at them about what to do with their life. Once you add sex into the mix, it becomes even more difficult to know how to make the right decisions.

Of course, we won’t accomplish anything in our own sex lives by criticizing the sexual decisions of our peers. But it’s important to remember that making fun of virgins is just as bad as slut-shaming. Not everyone waits for the love of their life to swoop in and steal their v-card, but the waiting game is OK, too.

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One’s decision to abstain from sex might stem from personal insecurities, religious beliefs or perhaps they just haven’t been in the right setting. Whatever the reason is for refraining from sexual activity, every reason is valid.

Joseph Fanelli, an instructor in SU’s David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics who teaches courses on human sexuality and relationships, said that the sexual empowerment that came about in the 1960s should have been about the freedom to choose.

“I always felt that if this was really a sexual revolution and we were fully liberated sexually, then we would have as much right to say ‘yes’ as to say ‘no thank you,’” Fanelli said. “But that never happened. The sexual revolution focused on one’s choices to have sex, but it never affirmed and empowered those who said they would wait.”

Sometimes there’s nothing more satisfying than going home with your best friends after a night out and ordering Calios. And most of the time, we don’t even really know what happens behind closed doors. Forty-one percent of women and 49 percent of men in college said they were not sexually active, according to a survey conducted by New York Magazine and SurveyMonkey. Thirty-nine percent of those surveyed confessed that they were virgins.

These numbers are real, and who’s to say they don’t apply to students right here on the Hill.

“Still in 2017, a lot of young people feel a lot of peer pressure to engage in sexual activity whether it’s hooking up, f*ck buddies or friends with benefits — that pressure is real. A lot of the pressure comes from within,” Fanelli said.

It is possible to resist giving in and Stokes is a prime example of that. It’s important for young people to remember that sex should never be a means of proving your worth to your partner. It should be a matter your own comfort level.

Some people believe that “losing your virginity” should be in the perfect place, at the perfect time, with the perfect person because once it’s gone — it’s gone. But I like to think that losing your virginity is more of a rite of passage. It is not the end of an era, it is the beginning of self-discovery as a sexual being.

Sex is meant to be enjoyed by those who want to partake, not to pose an uncomfortable obstacle for those who haven’t had that experience yet. Stokes shows us that it is possible to avoid the pressure of SU’s hookup culture and that sexual empowerment is about a whole lot more than not being “slut-shamed.” It is crucial that as a school, we respect everyone’s decisions when it comes to what we do with our bodies.

Ivana Pino is a sophomore political science major. Her column appears weekly. She can be reached at ivpino@syr.edu.

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