Sexual Abstinence

Failure Rate: 0%

Abstinence, refraining from sexual intercourse, is a common practice all over the world. Historically, abstinence has probably been the single most important factor in preventing pregnancy. Women and men of all ages deliberately choose to abstain. Abstinence is a normal, common, and acceptable alternative to sexual intercourse.

Although some use only sexual behavior to express their affection, sexual expression does not have to include intercourse. Most have a more expansive view of romance and find that pursuits other than intercourse give them pleasure and meaning. A walk with someone on the beach or watching a movie together are activities many find just as meaningful as sex. A "no" to sexual activity can also be a "yes" to deeper communication and mutual appreciation.

Human nature is such that sexual activity is intimately linked to one's emotional and psychological state. The ability to control one's sexual urges is part of human nature and also an important distinction between humans and animals. The practice of abstinence enables couples to exercise fidelity within a relationship. Many find that sexual activity is best when accompanied by the deep commitment of marriage and openness to the possibility of children. Not everyone is ready for this kind of commitment and total self-giving. For this reason, many women and men choose to abstain.

What is Abstinence?

Many people have their own definitions of sexual abstinence. In this guide abstinence means to refrain from sexual contact of any sort, including: genital intercourse, oral sex, anal sex, dry sex (a.k.a. grinding or outercourse), mutual masturbation, or any other physically intimate activity done for the purpose of sexual gratification. Although there are some types of sexual activity which do not result in pregnancy, these are still a form of sex (most of which can also transmit disease). One good rule of thumb for those who are unsure, is to ask yourself if the behavior in question can only be done in private. [more]


The percentage of high school students who have remained virgins has risen from 45.9% in 1991 to 52.2% in 2007.

Source: CDC "Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance," US, 2008.

Abstinence is superb contraception, not to mention everyone's first method. Yet many unmarried couples find it easier said than done. For young people especially, it might be easier if high pressure situations, like automobile back seats or empty dorm rooms, are avoided. Abstinence is the only way to assure that pregnancy will not occur. It is also the only sure way to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS.

There has been considerable debate over whether abstinence is a true form of birth control and if it is worth teaching to young people. Research shows that teens whose sex education is at least half abstinence-based are less likely to experience an unplanned pregnancy than those who receive contraceptive education alone; and women who report no sex education at all have the greatest number of unplanned pregnancies.1 It seems that abstinence education is important, and many young people do select abstinence as their method of choice.

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