Abstinence: not having sex
In general, abstinence means not having sexual intercourse (when a man inserts his penis into a woman’s vagina).
You can enjoy being sexual and intimate without having sexual intercourse. For instance, you can enjoy sex play with a partner that involves kissing, masturbating, fondling, petting, rubbing, acting out fantasies, using sex toys, having oral sex, or having anal sex.
- You can stop at any time, it is easily reversible
- No health care provider is needed, and no prescriptions
- It’s free and 100 percent effective against pregnancy
- You must stick to it 100 percent of the time to prevent pregnancy and STDs
- Both you and your partner must agree on it for it to be effective
- Higher rate of unplanned pregnancy because of the difficulties in remaining abstinent
People talk about abstinence in different ways
Some people say abstinence means not having sexual intercourse or any kind of sex play with a partner. This is what we mean when we say abstinence.
Other people say abstinence means not having sexual intercourse, but having other types of sex play that don’t lead to pregnancy, such as oral sex and anal sex – while these options will not result in pregnancy, they still carry STI risk. This may also include other forms of sex play, such as kissing, masturbating, or using sex toys. On our website, we call this outercourse.
And other people may say abstinence means not having sexual intercourse when a woman might get pregnant (around the time she is ovulating). On our website, we call these natural family planning methods, which is sometimes known as fertility awareness-based methods of birth control.
How does abstinence prevent pregnancy?
It prevents pregnancy by keeping sperm out of the vagina.
How often do I have to abstain to prevent pregnancy?
In order for abstinence to prevent pregnancy, you must abstain from having sexual intercourse every day.
How effective is abstinence at preventing pregnancy?
If you’re continuously abstinent, meaning 100 percent of the time you’re not having sexual intercourse or any form of sex play, you’ll never get pregnant.
Being continuously abstinent is very difficult, and so it is common for people to fail at least once or twice. Research shows that young people who practiced abstinence were more likely to get pregnant and get STDs than young people who used other birth control methods. The reason was that those who abstained from sexual intercourse were less likely to be prepared for having sex and for using protection against pregnancy and STDs.
How safe is abstinence?
There are no side effects of abstinence, making it one of the safest ways to prevent pregnancy.
Do I need a prescription?
Nothing. It’s free!
Is it easily available?
The only factor involved with being abstinent is that both you and your partner must agree on practicing abstinence within your relationship.
There are many reasons to choose abstinence:
- Prevents pregnancy
- Prevents STDs
- Waiting for the right partner
- Focus on school or career
- In sync with personal, moral, or religious beliefs
- When getting over a breakup
- Healing from an illness or an infection
Being sexually active can be fun but it involves responsibilities. You may consider yourself not ready to be sexually active and ready to be responsible for the risks involved. So abstinence may be a good way to postpone those risks until you’re ready to handle them.
Research shows that young women who abstain until their 20s and who have fewer sexual partners in their lifetimes have certain health advantages over women who don’t. These young women are less likely to get STDs, which in turn make them less likely to be infertile or develop cervical cancer.
Protection against STDs and STIs?
If you’re continuously abstinent, meaning 100 percent of the time you’re not having sexual intercourse or any form of sex play that can expose one to infection, you’re unlikely to get an STD.
Being abstinent for long periods of time is difficult. So research shows that many people may end their period of abstinence without being prepared to prevent pregnancy and STDs. This makes people who are abstinent more vulnerable to having unplanned, sometimes unwanted pregnancies, as well as STDs.
How can I talk to my partner about abstinence?
Communication is key to making abstinence work. Both you and your partner must agree on this birth control method. You and your partner need to be honest with each other and make sexual decisions together. It’s best to talk about being abstinent together before things get sexual.
Sex play is not the only thing couples can do to be intimate. Couples can also build trust by talking, listening, sharing, being honest and respecting each other, and finding other ways to enjoy each other’s company.
Some tips to get a good conversation rolling:
- Think about how you can say no to sex play. How can you communicate this clearly? What words or behaviors will make this clear? You may need to practice these words and actions and think about how someone might respond to you.
- Think about the reasons why you want to be abstinent. And what abstinence means for you. Share your thoughts and feelings about why you want to be abstinent with your partner and ask your partner to do the same.
- Be clear on what your limits are. Is it kissing, petting, fondling, or rubbing? Or are you ok with masturbating, using sex toys, etc…
Remember abstinence only works if both partners agree on it. Your relationship may change. And it’s ok if your decision to be abstinent changes too. Either way, it is important to know about other birth control methods, so that when the time comes, you’re ready!
How can I stay abstinent?
Being abstinent is a choice you make every day. This can be difficult. So it is important that you know why you chose to be abstinent.
Answering these questions may help you with your choice of being abstinent:
- Why do I want to be abstinent?
- What are the benefits of being abstinent for me?
- What are the situations that make it difficult for me to stay abstinent? Are there ways I could avoid these difficult situations?
- Since I know alcohol and drugs can affect my ability to stay abstinent, how do I feel about not using them? Is this realistic?
- Do I have a support system of people I can talk to about my decision to stay abstinent?
How do I stop being abstinent?
It is easy. You can stop being abstinent at any time. However, it is important that you know about other types of birth control methods.
Make sure you know about different types of birth control, whether you’ve got access to them, and how to protect yourself against STDs. Condoms are a good backup plan just in case.