A new, anything goes sex column from a Penn State University college newspaper has led modesty specialist Dannah Gresh, a state collage resident and mother of a PSU senior, to calculate a community of college students rarely heard about: virgins. The Christian purity expert estimates that there are 8,360 virgins at Penn State University.
Gresh’s estimated number of virgins comes from a study published in Sex & The Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance and Religion on America’s College Campuses, a nonfiction novel by Donna Freitas that reports that 81 percent of the Penn State student body is sexually active, which leaves approximately 19 percent who remain virgins.
Speaking for her surrounding Pennsylvania state college community, Gresh said, "We are really sad that the reputation is promiscuity and alcohol."
Gresh told CP that she predicts many PSU students would find the estimated number of virgins at Penn State difficult to believe. "There's culture there that everybody is using alcohol and having sex. It is not very reflective of the majority but there is a minority there that has strong, moral values," she said.
In an interview for her book, Freitas, a former religion professor at Boston University, told Christianity Today magazine, "Take the sexuality and spirituality class I taught at BU. Almost all the students were as liberal as liberal can get. One of the big hits that semester was Wendy Shalit's A Return to Modesty. The students were floored by her critique of hookup culture, and they spent so much time talking about modesty as a virtue. It allowed them to say, 'Wow, we're witness to all this vulgarity on campus. We pretend that we're okay with it, but we're not.' I actually had students who for their final project proposed a modesty club. I'm sitting here thinking, this is Boston University."
Gresh told CP that in order to reserve purity as a college student, there are three significant factors worth cultivating. They are accountability, ministry network and positive peer pressure.
“You have to have strong moral values to be a virgin at a state school,” she said.
In a post for her website Pure Freedom.org, Gresh calls upon PSU president Graham Spanier to change the culture and perception of culture as it relates to modesty, sex and dating.
"He needs to introduce tolerance that virginity is a good choice medically and emotionally. If you take anything spiritual out of the problem, and all of you think of medical and emotional components, it is a wise, healthy choice to live a life of self-control," Gresh said.
In researching her book What Are You Waiting For: The One Thing No One Ever Tells You About Sex, Gresh spoke with a PSU student who had been temporarily caught up in the party and sex scene, but felt the shallowness of it. When she pulled out, she experienced ridicule from her friends. This prompted the student to ask Gresh, "Why is there tolerance for everything but sobriety and abstinence here? Aren't those healthy choices worthy of respect?"
The college sex column that sparked the discussions of virgins at Penn State is called Mounting Nittany. It runs weekly in student-run paper, The Daily Collegian.