Transitioning from high school to college is difficult. However, transitioning from a strict, religious high school to a public college is even more difficult. I was taught many beliefs and morals in high school, but one of the most important rules I learned was actually quite simple: no sex.

This is not to insult those with religious beliefs regarding sex. Instead, this is a glimpse into the world of someone who was taught to hold on to purity culture and then suddenly switched to an environment with a much more positive outlook on sex. 

Going from a high school where sex was taught to be only between a married man and woman, if it was taught at all, to a college where safe, consensual sex is wholeheartedly encouraged was jarring, to say the least. Suddenly, I did not have to avoid sex, and I was free to do whatever I wanted, within the bounds of consent. 

Another Missouri State University student, who wished to remain anonymous, went through a similar experience as my own.,

“Since transferring from a private, Baptist high school to a secular state college, I have noticed a very different environment in regards to sexual encouragement,” the student said. “In high school, not even sex education was allowed. In the university, however, one may find organizations handing out free condoms along with booklets about consent.”

This transition from complete abstinence to an open mindedness about sex has caused some turmoil within myself. My newfound sexual freedom caused me a lot of anxiety since I wanted to explore sexually, but I had been taught differently my entire life. Every time I attempted to do more for myself sexually, I was riddled with guilt.

Coming into college as a virgin feels, to me, extremely uncommon, even though purity was strongly encouraged, and almost enforced in the past.

“My religious, specifically Christian, high school peers would definitely not abide by that aspect of their own faith,” another anonymous MSU student said. “I guess you could say they were more casual in their faith when it concerned purity.”

Even among those raised in purity culture, actually abiding by the rules and staying sexually pure is uncommon. So, I have even fewer people to connect with about this similar past and new life. Recently, I have been able to make peace with myself.

Even though I now have much more sexual freedom, there is no need to rush my experimentation. Gaining the experience of sex is never worth any amount of guilt or anxiety it might cause. The results of being raised in purity culture might last forever in my mind, always bringing me down. However, self-love and patience can go a long way in reversing these negative thoughts about sex.

My most important piece of advice, and what I recommend to others who went through a similar situation as I did, is to know your own value. You are worth the time it might take to open up about sex. You are worth everything, whether you are sexually active or not. If you are struggling breaking free from purity culture, just remember to keep it safe and consensual. Most importantly, have patience with yourself and always remember that you are not alone.

Follow Olivia Davis on Twitter, @0liviadiane

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