Sexual Abstinence

What is sexual abstinence?

Sexual abstinence is a choice to limit your sexual activity. This can mean different things for different people:

  • Not having sex at all
  • Holding hands, dancing, and kissing, but not touching in a sexual way
  • Having other kinds of sex, but not vaginal intercourse
  • Avoiding contact between you and your partner’s mouth, genital, and anal areas
  • Not having vaginal intercourse on certain days of each menstrual cycle to prevent pregnancy

Sexual abstinence is not the same as being a virgin. Even if you have been having sex, you can choose not to continue having sex.

Why choose abstinence?

You may choose sexual abstinence to:

  • Prevent pregnancy
  • Prevent sexually transmitted diseases or infections (also called STDs or STIs)
  • Wait until you’re ready for a sexual relationship
  • Wait to find the right partner or wait until marriage
  • Focus on school, work, or other activities
  • Live by your personal, moral, or religious beliefs and values

What else do I need to know?

It’s best to think about how you will stay abstinent before you get physically involved. Here are some things that might help:

  • Talk with your partner about what is OK for you and what isn’t. You and your partner need to discuss and agree on what you mean by abstinence.
  • Be clear about your decision. Make sure that your words and your actions are clear to others. Make your feelings known if you feel pressured.
  • Stay in control. Drugs and alcohol can make you lose control. Using these substances may cause you to have sex and be sorry later.
  • Plan ahead. Being alone with a partner, or being at a party may make it easier to lose control. If you worry that you cannot stay abstinent, you might want to avoid those situations, or have condoms with you to help prevent pregnancy and infection.

The choice of abstinence is a very important and very personal decision. Base your decision on what you believe is right for you. If you are unsure or decide against abstinence, make sure you talk with your healthcare provider about ways to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-04-29
Last reviewed: 2014-04-29
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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