Not many who’ve never been naughty

Russell Rogers went cold turkey last fall, and it wasn’t on cigarettes.

Although he had been sexually active in the past, he has now decided he is not having sex again until marriage.

He is what is sometimes referred to as a “born again virgin.” Rogers, who is a member of the Navigators, a Christian student group, chose abstinence because of religious reasons.

Rogers, 21, said he gave up everything in August 2001, and he has been happy ever since.

Religion is just one reason students choose abstinence. Other reasons include fear of pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and some say they have not found the right person yet.

Students who choose virginity at the University are a shrinking group, according to Boynton Health Service’s 2001 Student Health Assessment Survey. The assessment showed 35 percent of women had more than one sexual partner in the past 12 months, and 31.2 percent of males had multiple sexual partners during the past 12 months.

Rachel Gramith, a biology senior who was a community adviser her sophomore year, said nine out of the 12 staff members at her residence hall were still virgins. She said as a community adviser, she decided not to distribute condoms in the residence hall.

“I told my girls that I would not distribute condoms, but that they could come talk to me about sex if they wanted to,” she said.

For one recent University graduate, his decision to remain abstinent until marriage was not about religion.

Mike Aamendson, an engineering graduate, said he is choosing to wait until he is married to have sex because he only wants to share that level of intimacy with one person.

“I owe it to myself and the other person to at least attempt to wait until marriage,” Aamendson said. “Abstinence is not about rules and milestones for me; it’s about finding the right person to share it with.”

Practicing abstinence means different things to different people. It can be defined as no sexual behavior, no touching of the genitals or no sexual intercourse.

Doug Olson, a 30-year-old University graduate who is practicing abstinence, said he has chosen not even to kiss his current girlfriend until marriage.

For another student, Lars Nelson, abstinence means not doing anything beyond kissing and said it is difficult to stay abstinent in his current relationship.

A correlation exists between self-esteem and abstinence, said Jennifer Zenz-Olson, an adolescent therapist at Family Centered Youth Services, an alternative learning center in Shoreview, Minn. Waiting to have sex until marriage or a committed relationship tends to signify a higher self-esteem, Zenz-Olson said.

“Over the past couple of years I have seen kids being sexually active and much more sexualized,” she said. “I believe that one of the major contributors to this is the media and society.”

To educate students on abstinence programs, sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy, Boynton will spend between $10,000 to $15,000 this year, Boynton community program specialist Dave Golden said.

Many students feel Boynton and the University promote sex on campus by distributing condoms, while others believe people are going to have sex regardless if the University is doing its job of educating students on safety.

It’s a misconception that the distribution of condoms will promote a higher level of sexual behavior, Golden said. The general population has a misconception about how sexually active students are, he said. People are less sexually active than people really think, he said.

Golden said the University might try social norms campaigns focusing on abstinence in the future, if other schools begin them.