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What is abstinence?

Abstinence means choosing not to have sex. Abstinence can be a great choice for young people as it is 100% effective in preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Abstinence can also be important to your faith and a person does not have to be a ‘virgin’ to practice abstinence.

Abstinence can be defined differently to different individuals. For some, it may mean abstaining from all and any sexual activity while to others it may mean avoiding vaginal and anal penetration but engaging in outercourse.

How a person defines abstinence is personal and unique to themselves.

Why practice abstinence?

There are many reasons and motivations why someone decides to choose abstinence.

  • Religious, legal, or moral reasons as some religions and societies forbid, or at least, look down upon sex outside of marriage.
  • Personal reasons such as by choosing to wait until they are mentally ready and/or have met the right person for them.
  • Health reasons like avoiding pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases.

Not having sex is an important decision that you, and only you can decide. You shouldn’t feel like you have to have sex. You shouldn’t be forced, coerced or pressured.

It is YOUR choice if you choose abstinence, know that it is ok to abstain.

Benefits of abstaining

  • 100% effective in preventing pregnancy
    Abstinence is the most effective form of birth control. In order for pregnancy to happen, the sperm has to meet the egg.
  • Natural and non-invasive
    It also does not cause hormonal changes and other health side effects. It is also a non-invasive alternative to vasectomies and tubal ligations.
  • Free
    Unlike other birth control methods like condoms and pills, abstinence is free and does not involve making visits to the clinic and the pharmacy.
  • Spiritual or religious
    May feel a deeper connection to their faith. Many religion believes that when we abstain from sex we might feel a deeper connection to our faith.

Does it protect us from STIs?

Only complete abstinence ― abstinence from all forms of sexual activity, including oral sex that can be completely effective from preventing STI infections. Though low risk, some STIs such as herpes or syphilis can be transmitted through kissing and skin-to-skin contact.

Other STIs such as HIV or hepatitis B and C can spread through intravenous drug use or tattoos.

Challenges in abstinence

Abstinence can be challenging as negotiating relationships and sexual frustration are difficult. There are multiple challenges that you may face when choosing to abstain.

  • Sexual frustration
    The lack of sexual intimacy and pleasure may lead to you and/or your partner to be sexually frustrated and unhappy.
  • Feeling guilty
    You might also feel guilty that you are not able to physically pleasure your partner or not following their desire to be sexually active.
  • Refraining yourself
    You may also find yourself in a “heated moment” with your partner, at which point, you may suddenly and unpreparedly engage in sexual behaviour.
  • Peer pressure
    Pressure from your significant other's or teasing from friends may push you to feel like you are missing out.

Abstinence is challenging, frustrating and it may be tempting to give in however, it is important to keep reminding yourself that it is your choice. You shouldn’t feel pressured to do something that you know isn’t what you want to do.

How to overcome those challenges?

Remind yourself why you choose to abstain

When you are faced with temptation or when your significant other might be forcing you into sex, remind yourself and them why you choose to abstain. Teasing by friends or pressure from your significant other can push you to do something that you might regret doing. Take time to pause and recall why you made the decision to abstain.

If your partner does not respect your decision, respect yourself enough to know that it is YOUR right and choice.

Have a conversation with your partner

Try to have a conversation with your partner as early as you can. Bring up the topic of sex and your choice to be abstinent. This way, you and your partner can discuss your own definitions of abstinence and your boundaries. It can be an awkward topic at first, but practicing your talking points beforehand will make you sound more confident and make the conversation flow smoother. Express your feelings and remember that it is your choice.

Choosing to have sex

When you do decide to have sex, make sure that it is really YOU that decide to do so. If you do choose to engage in sexual activity, always practice safe sex.

Read more about sex here.

Read more about safe sex, here.

For women who decides to have sex, regardless of in marriage or outside, remain updated on pap-smear testing. Read more about HPV here.