By Claire Yang
*Students whose names start with “A” are anonymous to protect their identity.
High school is a time of budding love. Students step into a new chapter of their life, developing affection for others that transcend the old middle-school crush.
But high school is also a time for sex.
During these four years, many teenage relationships lead to students having sex for the first time. However, there are also those who choose not to have relationships, practicing abstinence for reasons such as academic overload. School psychologist intern Ellen Lain, whose job is to help students succeed academically, socially, behaviorally and emotionally, has spoken to many students not only from MVHS about relationships and sex. Although abstinence rarely is the student’s main focus when approaching her, it has come up in discussions.
“I think [abstinence is] such a personal and big decision,” Lain said. “And I say big because it's a biological predisposition for us to be intimate through sex. Like that's just natural.”
Lain explains that while she believes that going celibate is personal choice for high school students, one should beware that it is a significant one. Nonetheless, she stands by her philosophy of not judging people based on their sexual decisions. Lain recalls her high school friends, one of whom gave birth in high school, continued to nursing school and became “super successful.”
Senior Avery feels similarly, but states that students who choose to have sex should be ready to take on the responsibilities that may come with their decision — especially with the possibility of getting pregnant.
“If you do want to have sex, you should understand that even if you use condoms, even if you use birth control together, there always a chance that a pregnancy is going to happen,” Avery said. “If you don't think you're ready to take up that responsibility, whether you're a guy or you're the person being pregnant, then you shouldn't be doing it in the first place because you're not mature enough to understand that responsibility of your consequences.”
Senior Alfred also believes that having sex during teenage years can be risky, especially for high school students whose lives are just beginning to take off.
“What if your condom tears or what if you catch an STI or STD?” Alfred says. “What if you get someone pregnant? That's a huge issue, because you have to pay for child's support when you're [so young], or for girls you have to take care of your child … It changes your future a lot.”
Both Avery and Alfred are currently not sexually active, although they are not deliberately trying to abstain from having sex. But beyond the scope of possibly contracting STDs or becoming pregnant, Avery and Alfred have different reasons for not participating in sexual activities.
As a senior taking four AP classes and dealing with college applications, Avery thinks that her plate is too full for her to focus on anything other than academics at the moment.
“I'm pretty busy … [I have] a lot of stuff going on, and I have to take care of my family,” Avery said. “So that's a lot of responsibility right there. And also I really do not want to get pregnant before I go to college.”
Alfred simply thinks that he hasn’t found the right person to share such an intimate experience with. Watching some of his friends initiate relationships just to test the water, Alfred wishes to save his first time with someone who he truly understands.
“I don't really think it has to be [the person] you're going to live the rest of your life with, because you never know what's going to happen,” Alfred said. “But it's someone you have to have a strong emotional connection with, not just some person you meet. I'm not going to judge anybody, but [casual dating is] not what I would do.”
Alfred sees his parents’ relationship as what he strives for, since they had their first time together and ended up getting married. Although he doesn’t think he is mature enough to maintain such a relationship yet, he hopes to find someone he feels like he can establish a lifelong partnership with in the future.
However, aside from the long-term sexual inactivity that Alfred and Avery speak about, Lain feels that choosing abstinence can be a less weighty decision when one is only considering practicing it for a short time period.
“Abstinence could be a period of time,” Lain said. “It could just be, ‘Yeah for this period of time I want to practice it,’ or ‘I want to try it out’ or ‘I give up.’ I think it's such a fluid thing that [for] high school students, if they choose to practice abstinence, it's like [them] choosing not to have sugar in their diet anymore.”
In fact, Alfred is currently actively trying to abstain for fun. He is participating in the “No Nut November” challenge, where men try not to orgasm during November to test their willpower. The challenge originated to promote testicular cancer awareness, but eventually became an internet meme. Still, Alfred notes that it has become a fairly widespread challenge now that as many as half of his friends are participating.
“During No Nut November you just think of alternatives, like stuff that you can do to get your mind out of the usual things you do to satisfy yourself,” Alfred said. “I feel like No Nut November is a nice break and also it's fun because you can test how long you can go. As long as I don't actively look for [stimulation], I don't really have that much of an urge.”
Alfred and his friends often joke around, poking fun at each other for not being able to complete the challenge. He and most of his friends don’t see sex or abstinence as something to be ashamed of talking about, much less practice.
“I feel like students should be able to do what they want to do,” Alfred said. “If they want to be sexually active, go ahead. As long as it's protected and they're aware of what they're doing, because I feel like … it's part of a normal high school life.”