Teen abstinence consists of not engaging in sexual intercourse or sex play beyond hugging or light kissing. This means not touching the other person's genitals with any part of your body. All teens are capable of abstaining from sex. Abstinence does not make a teen give up his or her sexuality, but is a healthy and responsible way of dealing with it. Even if a teen has already had sex, he or she can still chose abstinence by waiting to have sex again.
Abstinence is the only guaranteed way for a teen to avoid pregnancy, and many teens find that abstinence has other social, emotional, and health benefits.
Over 50 percent of teens chose to be abstinent, and abstinence is becoming more popular. 73 percent of teens say they do not think it is embarrassing for a teen to be a virgin, and 58 percent say teens should not have sex, regardless of what precautions they take. 67 percent of teens who have sex say they wish they had abstained until they were older. Some reasons that teens choose abstinence include:
- Waiting until they feel ready for the emotional and physical aspects of sex
- Waiting until they find the right person
- Avoiding STDs
- Not feeling ready for the possibility of being a parent
- Losing their sexual partner through a break-up or death and wanting to wait to have sex again
- Wanting to have fun without the pressures and concerns of sexual involvement
- Pursuing other interests, such as sports or academics
- Moral or religious beliefs that teen abstinence is the best choice
- Good communication from parents who encourage teen abstinence
Teens find that some of the benefits of abstinence include:
- Avoiding sexually transmitted diseases
- Avoiding unplanned pregnancy
- Not getting a bed reputation
- Avoiding 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
- Teen girls who abstain from sex until they are older, and limit sexual partners later in life, are less likely to develop cervical cancer or become infertile
- Unlike other forms of birth control, abstinence costs nothing and has no side effects
For some teens, remaining abstinent can be challenging. Teens who choose abstinence must be careful to stick to their resolve, because many who fail to remain abstinent are unprepared to have safe teen sex. Some things teens can do to help their resolve to be abstinent are:
- 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.
Benefits of Teen Abstinence Sources:
- Planned Parenthood, "Is Abstinence Right for You Now?" [online]
- The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, "Facts on Abstinence" [online]
- SHARE: Sexuality, Health, and Relationship Education, Teen Central [online]
- 4Parents.gov, "Abstinence" [online]