[couple]Every weekday morning Rachel wakes up to her alarm, gets out of bed and starts her day with a workout. She showers and proceeds to log onto the computer at home where she begins a day of online classes. She usually grabs a quick lunch sometime throughout the course of the day and then baby-sits in the later afternoon and evenings. Most nights, after work, Rachel spends time with her boyfriend Richard. The two of them do homework and watch TV together. You might say they are a normal couple. And they are, except they don’t have sex.
Abstinence is not exactly what you would call common practice, especially here at MSU. For those that choose to be abstinent it is just that: a choice. Some hold off on sex until marriage or until a certain time in life but what is it that makes people choose abstinence?
To abstain or not to abstain. Some choose to abstain from any behavior that their beliefs may prohibit – smoking, drinking, etc. – and some choose to solely abstain from sex. Father Mark Inglot, pastor at St. John student parish in East Lansing, describes abstinence as something a lot of people do not see it as. “You abstain not from sex but you abstain for another person in the right context,” Father Inglot says, meaning that one doesn’t necessarily hold out from sex but for the person they are meant to “give” their virginity to.
English junior Rachel Prouty and her boyfriend, Richard Vanklyve have been dating since high school. They are still going strong after seven years and are engaged to be married this August. The two of them have known each other since they were kids and have been going to church together for years. Rachel and Richard are devout Baptists and have vowed to each other, their families and God to save themselves for their wedding night.
Oftentimes individuals choose not to engage in sexual activity because they believe that based on the bible they shouldn’t, or at least until they get married. Vincent Walkup is a United Methodist pastor who says, “there are always going to be temptations and depending on how strong of a walk with the Lord the individual has will usually determine the standards they set and are able to meet.” According to LCC freshman Stephanie Saylor, who is Mormon, standards she has set for not having sex before marriage have not negatively affected any of her relationships. “My friends do not look down on me for not having sex, if anything they respect me more because I have stuck to my beliefs,” Saylor says.
[2]However, just because someone goes to church and claims to be religious, this does not necessarily mean they are not having sex. One student admitted to going to church his whole life and being taught that sex before marriage was not right, but he is not a virgin. “I’m 21-years-old and as long as I’m not sleeping with a different girl every night, I don’t think what I’m doing is wrong,” he says.
Not every religion or set of beliefs is the same. Sitting through a contemporary Baptist service is going to be a little bit different than sitting through a Muslim service at a mosque. Just like church services, their rules and practices differ too. For example, the Ten Commandments are the set of rules which Christian churches base rights and wrongs. Muslims believe that as far as abstinence goes there are different categories.
These categories are like commandments but according to Raghda, a teacher at the Islamic Center on Harrison Road in East Lansing – some rules are more important than others. She believes that because an individual submits his or herself to God, he or she will gain intellect and free will from him. “It is the free will that someone possesses that will allow them to make choices; choices to obey or disobey the rules God has given them,” says Raghda. It is because of the deep relationship with God that practicing Muslims do not have sex before marriage. Raghda explains this as being comparable to the way the traffic system works. “I know if I get pulled over for going five over the speed limit the consequences are not that great but I know if I get pulled over for doing twenty over the speed limit, I could suffer much more extreme consequences.” She says, “This is like disobeying God’s orders because the rules are set in advance and I know if I do something God tells me not to do, I will be punished to a great extent.”
Sexually active people might want to keep having sex, so for virgins the choice might be simpler since they have not experienced it. For Kathie Church a youth educator at Holt United Methodist, her path is clear. “I’m 43-years-old and I’ve never had sex because I believe according to God’s word, I’m not supposed to have sex if I’m not married. I’ve been single my whole life and I’m doing just fine,” says Church. Because Kathie hasn’t had sex and does not plan to until she gets married, she doesn’t feel like she’s missing out on anything. “It saves you so much emotional, physical and spiritual pain or stress.”
Physics sophomore Daniel Bruder feels differently. Bruder does not come from any kind of religious background and feels there is nothing wrong with having sex – outside of marriage or in general. He feels like people who commit to abstinence are missing out on sex. “Even though people don’t know what it is, they are still missing it. They might be sparing themselves any pain but at the same time they aren’t experiencing any pleasure,” Bruder says.
Apparel design sophomore Angela Manes who is an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Ladder-day Saints and has been exposed to God and different religions her whole life says she has never considered having sex with a single boyfriend even though she has dated many guys. “I set a standard for myself based on what I believe and I’m not going to let myself down.” Angela has lost boyfriends over this commitment and she has hooked the gentleman she is currently dating and who she plans to be engaged to soon. And to think, it’s all because she made a commitment to herself and God. “As part of my religion, I believe that sex is for married people, I’m not married, so I’m not having sex.”
While graduate student, Tamir Mujab hasn’t necessarily taken a vow of abstinence, his personal conclusion about college students he sees walking around campus (especially Thursday through Saturday nights) are that many come off as hardcore partiers and sex-feigns. “Students just don’t think about how ridiculous they are being. They are so loose with everything – how they speak, how they act – it’s ridiculous,” says the 27-year-old.
[pray] Religion seems to be predominant theme when it comes to holding off on premarital sex. Tiffany Nelson is a Mormon who believes that sex is something that should be saved for a husband and wife to experience together. “Sex is a sacred thing. It brings the two people so much closer together in so many ways. There is the physical, the emotional and the spiritual bond, which becomes so much stronger. It’s such a big deal,” Nelson says. The similar values Saylor has have stuck with her whole life. “I was brought up being taught that nothing else was acceptable. You do not have sex with someone until you marry them and know you are going to be with them for the rest of your life,” Saylor says.
What about becoming a born-again virgin? Born-again is a term often used when one realizes they want to become part of the church. As a result they give themselves to God. He becomes the one they look to and obey and being born-again usually means the person is born-again into faith. Becoming a born-again virgin is a similar concept. “Sometimes an individual who claims to know God will make a mistake and have to ask for forgiveness,” Raghda says. “When the person realizes they have sinned and they confess it to God they become a born-again virgin meaning because they repented and God forgave them and they have another chance to obey his commands.”
This concept can seem foreign and unbelievable to the non-religious. “I personally would say that was bull if a girl told me she was a ‘born-again’ virgin. I guess if she honestly believed that she could be and she did everything possible she could to get to that point, I would respect it,” Bruder says.
How about being accepted into the church or into a new faith if you’ve “sinned” in the past? Saylor doesn’t think judging someone on their past is worth it, and would accept a ‘born-again virgin.’ “If they realize what they did was wrong and they want to change, I am going to do everything I can to help; even if that means they have done wrong in the past,” says Saylor.
Religion, however, is not the only reason people withstand from having sex. Some fear the possibility and likelihood of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. Social work sophomore Henry James thinks people are “reckless” when it comes to STDs. “People just assume that because they are in college they can have a good time – with everyone. Sometimes I just want to scream in people’s faces: ‘News flash: STD ALERT’!”
Surprising as it may be, more students than anyone might actually give credit to, are virgins. For example, Father Mark says he talks to students everyday who think they are the only virgins out there. “A lot of students come to me saying things like ‘I feel like I’m the only virgin out there.’ I just reassure them that they aren’t. I know for a fact that if I got all the students from MSU who are virgins in one place at the same time I’d be able to fill up the Breslin Center.”

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