There is hardly a more intimate experience than losing one’s virginity. Some teens pledge to save themselves for marriage, dreaming of wedding night nookie with the person they will spend the rest of their lives with.
But people that practice abstinence before marriage are in the minority. According to a USA TODAY study in 2002, only five percent of Americans hadn’t had premarital sex. So what about the rest of us? Maybe teens and young adults aren’t imagining their wedding night, but they’re still thinking about that first night with that first love.
Weinberg sophomore Jennifer* says she always pictured it with someone she “really loved.” Even if most college students aren’t imagining “The One,” they’re probably hoping for “The One For Now.” Or maybe they’re hoping to just get it over with and avoid the social stigma that comes with being branded as a virgin.
First time fantasies may involve a bed covered in rose petals, being swept off your feet or making an emotional connection that feels like forever. Sometimes, that picture just isn’t what really happens. Medill sophomore Nadia*, for example, describes her experience as more awkward than anything.
For some, the first time takes place on one of those lofted dorm beds, rushed by the possibility of a roommate’s untimely return. So many things can and do go wrong. Roommates come home and make him finish early. Or maybe he can’t help it. It could be the result of too many drinks at a frat party and whoops, that cherry is popped.
For many college students, sex for the first time is just a few of notches above ordinary.
Without planning it, Jennifer gave it up to a guy she’d been dating for about a month. It didn’t go quite like she expected. “It was really simple, anti-climactic.” she says. ‘You imagine it being so romantic, but it just was.” It may not have been with her true love, but the event was still an extremely emotional experience. Jennifer was satisfied with her decision, but contrary to her expectations, she “didn’t walk around dreaming about marrying him or anything.” After it seeming like a “big deal,” the aftermath just wasn’t.
Nadia and her boyfriend of four months didn’t want to rush anything when it came to getting intimate. Both virgins, they wanted to wait until they were comfortable.
“Comfortable” eventually meant doing it in a dorm room after an ordinary dinner out. They decided “in the moment,” but logistics can be a problem for first-timers. After a few moments of fumbling, everything worked out.
Nadia says she “knew what it would feel like because [her] friends said it would hurt.”
For most students, “the moment” isn’t meticulously planned. It “just happened” to Weinberg junior Ariel*. She said it was with someone she trusted but the entire experience was “obviously awkward.” The moment was a natural progression in their relationship.
Ariel and her boyfriend hadn’t really talked about sex seriously before it happened. After fooling around for a while in bed, “we just didn’t stop,” she says.
Along with a girl’s first kiss, saying “I love you” and marriage, planning for sex can be as nerve-wracking as it is exciting. For these Northwestern women, though, it seems like the first time getting it on was as much about true love as it was just getting off.
*Names changed for students who would only speak on the condition of anonymity.