Abstinence means different things to different people. Most consider abstinence to mean not having vaginal intercourse, particularly to preserve virginity. Others say abstinence means no vaginal, oral, or anal intercourse. For some, abstinence means avoiding all sexual behavior, including kissing.

Does abstinence mean you’re giving up your sexuality?

Not at all. Choosing not to have sex is a healthy, responsible way of dealing with your sexuality. Everyone is capable of abstinence. Even if you’ve already had sex, you can still choose abstinence by waiting to have sex again.

Many young people are choosing to abstain from sex these days, for many different reasons.

Let’s look at the health, social and emotional benefits of abstinence

  • Abstinence from vaginal intercourse is the only 100 percent effective means of preventing pregnancy
  • It is viewed by some as the best way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases. However, if you still participate in oral sex or anal sex, you do stand a chance of getting a STD. Only abstinence from all forms of sex can protect you from STDs 100 percent of the time.
  • Avoid some of the emotional consequences of teen sex, especially if the relationship does not work out, including feeling hurt, used, lonely, angry, or depressed.
  • Better relationships – couples who wait to have sex have healthier, more trusting relationships, and, if they marry, are less likely to divorce, and generally have better sex lives than those who did not wait.
  • Women who abstain from sex until past their teen years are less likely to get STDs that can lead to cervical cancer and infertility.
  • Unlike other forms of birth control, abstinence costs nothing and has no side effects

Why Might Adults Decide to Say No to Sex?

Adults who are no longer virgins often choose to practice sexual abstinence for reasons other than birth control or avoiding STDs. They may be:

  • Waiting for the right person to be sexually active with
  • Mourning the loss of a significant other
  • Focusing on work or education
  • Recovering from an illness
  • Maintaining a moral or religious principle

How to maintain abstinence:

  • Be clear with yourself about why you are making your decision, and remind yourself of this; some teens find it useful to wear a ring, bracelet, or other reminder of their decision to remain abstinent.
  • Make decisions about abstinence and your limits before you get into a sexual situation.
  • Avoid situations that may make abstinence difficult, such as physical affection more serious than light kissing, which increases the urge to have sex, or situations where you are alone with someone you are attracted to. Try group dating.
  • Do not drink or use alcohol.
  • Find other outlets for your energy, such as sport, music, art, or educational pursuits.
  • Tell your friends, and especially anyone you are dating, what your standards and limits are.
  • Focus on the non-sexual sides of romance, such as talking, sharing common interests, and going out on dates.
  • Spend time with people who support your standards, and avoid media such as music and movies that encourage sex.
  • Decide ahead of time how you will act if you are in a compromising situation, including how you will say no. Remember that no one who cares about you will ever pressure you to have sex.

One drawback to abstinence is that many men and women decide to end it without fully preparing themselves. If you do decide to become sexually active, be certain to guard against unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases by consistently using condoms and employing other safe sex practices. Take the time to learn about the various types of birth control and make sure you have access to them if you so choose.