Abstinence another option for students

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Greg and Amanda standing face-to-face with an erect Middlesex College tower in back

Jonas Hrebeniuk

NOT LETTING "SEX" GET IN THE "MIDDLE." Greg Heywood and Amanda Kurtz have chosen to abstain from sex until marriage. The decision, they say, has strengthened their bond.

From the moment we enter Western’s gates, we’re bombarded with sex.

Condoms are handed out like candy, and the issue you’re holding right now annually documents the sexual exploits of Western students.

It’s easy to draw the conclusion that everyone on campus is having sex " and lots of it.

Second-year economics student Paul Jenkins realized this expectation within his first few days at Western.

“In O-Week, I was talking to a girl at a concert and she invited me back to her room after talking to me for 10 minutes,” he recalls.

He didn’t go, however. Jenkins, and many other Western students, have chosen to practice abstinence at a time when their hormones are raging and peer pressure is high.

So why do they do it?

For Jenkins, waiting until marriage " a key element of his Christian upbringing " has always been the game plan.

“It’s something to look forward to [and] I think sex was designed to be experienced in marriage,” he explains. “It’ll be a gift I can give my wife, to say ‘I’ve waited my whole life for you.’”

Having been in a relationship with his girlfriend, Susannah Gordon, for just over three months, Jenkins has been forced to put his principles into action.

“I didn’t even kiss her until we were dating for almost three months,” he says. “I wanted to get to know her really well and love her as a person ... rather than just her body.”

But Jenkins admits abstaining isn’t easy " especially for guys.

“Although I’m a Christian, I’m still a guy ... all the guys reading this article can relate. One of the biggest struggles for me and every guy is lust,” Jenkins says.

In his first year of university, fourth-year Ivey student Shaun Schwarz dealt with male desire in a more typical way " by dating various women and being an avid bar-hopper.

“The last girl I was dating actually told me she wanted to bring other girls from the bar back with us,” Schwarz recalls.

He soon found his party lifestyle unfulfilling.

“Standing in a packed bar at Jack’s with beautiful women, dancing and lights " the whole thing looking like a beer commercial " I thought, ‘I refuse to accept that this was the highlight of my life.’”

During second year, Schwarz embraced Judaism and felt obligated to live in accordance with the Torah law shomer nagia, which instructs men and women to refrain from touching each other.

“The idea is that when a person is trying to have relationships with people, physical contact can get in the way and make people think there’s a level of closeness that isn’t there,” he explains.

“By withholding that element of the relationship, you can come to a much, much deeper relationship with people.”

While Shomer nagia might seem extreme, it worked for Schwarz and he landed his dream girl.

Now an orthodox Jew, Schwarz met his future wife through a matchmaker last year in Israel. The pair spent their first arranged date talking for four hours and soon realized their potential.

“By the third date, we were discussing whether or not we wanted a fan or air conditioning in our house!” he says.

Without having any physical contact with his future bride, Schwarz married her last December and has since reaped the benefits of his decision to adhere to shomer nagia.

“When I look at my wife, she’s the only woman in the world,” he says. “I have no comparison since I don’t look at other women.”

And since he doesn’t allow himself to touch other women, Schwarz says he is hypersensitive to touch when it comes to his wife.

“When I brush my wife’s hand, it’s an ecstatic moment,” he says.

Unfortunately for Megan McKinnon, a fourth-year English student, touching someone is tainted by her past sexual abuse.

“When I see a guy, I pull away,” she says.

Now practicing abstinence in a healthy relationship, McKinnon is still haunted by sexual abuse from previous boyfriends and casual sexual encounters.

“I see the faces of my abusers whenever [my boyfriend and I] kiss,” McKinnon says.

“I don’t want to have sex unless it’s for love and it’s the right way to have sex ... because I’ve had it the wrong way and it’s been used against me.”

McKinnon says many women are too willing to give their sexuality to men and end up hurting themselves.

“It’s this whole idea that women are independent and it’s filtered into sex " that to be independent, you have to be able to use men,” McKinnon says.

“To be really independent you should be able to just wait for the right guy.”

While McKinnon can’t change the past, she hopes others can learn from her experiences.

“When you find that partner you end up spending the rest of your life with, all those faces of people you’ve slept with will be in the back of your mind.”

Greg Heywood, a second-year management and organizational studies student, and Amanda Kurtz, second-year psychology student, don’t want any regrets from past sexual experiences.

Dating for almost a year, the pair is on the same page about saving themselves for marriage and feel the decision has strengthened their bond.

“It gave us a chance to get to know each other as people,” Kurtz says.

“Most people just skip to sex instead of going through the whole process of getting to know someone,” Heywood adds.

Kurtz and Heywood feel abstaining sets the foundation for a good relationship.

“Then when you get married, you can finish it off,” Heywood says with a laugh.

While their decision goes against the norm of what Heywood calls a sexually-saturated culture here at Western, the pair is confident in their decision.

“You don’t need to have sex to have a good relationship and have someone love you,” Heywood says.

“People who go out in that environment might feel everyone has to have sex,” Kurtz adds, “but we’re an example of the many people who’ve made the decision not to.”

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