rearview of female looking at arrows points in opposite directions

—Riley*, Boise, Idaho

I often hear this question from students. It’s important to be aware that most people are not sexually active in high school. Oftentimes, students’ perceptions of people being sexually active is overly exaggerated.

Less than 40 percent of high school students have had sexual intercourse, according to a 2017 nationwide survey. This data can help you know that you aren’t alone.

When students share with me that they don’t have sex, their reasons vary greatly. There seems to be a common assumption that most people don’t have sex because of religious reasons or that some students aren’t ready. What I hear most frequently, though, is that they simply don’t want to.

Why? For a bunch of reasons:

  • They’re not interested in having a sexual relationship at this time.
  • They don’t want to be worried or concerned about STIs and/or unintended pregnancy.
  • They want to focus on themselves rather than another person.

No matter the reason, other students should respect that decision. It’s your body and your choice to be sexually active or not. No one should feel pressured.

To assist students who are “virgins” (a word I hesitate to use, as people define it differently) or who don’t have sex (another concept that everyone defines differently), I’d recommend finding a supportive network. Seek out groups and activities that aren’t about sexual relationships.

When sex comes up in conversation, stand firm and proud in your choice. You can say something like, “Not for me right now, I have other priorities.” Or lightly point to the discrepancy between perception and reality: “The funny thing is that we like to talk about sex, but in anonymous surveys, we acknowledge that we’re not having that much sex after all.”

*Name changed