Abstinence: Is It Right For Me?

Abstinence is a choice that people make at different points in their lives. Even if you’ve already had sexual intercourse, you can still choose to be abstinent at this point in your life. Being abstinent doesn’t mean you will never have sex. It just means not now.


  • Abstinence can mean different things to different people at different times.
  • It can mean:
    • No sexual touching at all.
    • Some sexual touching but no oral, vaginal or anal sex.
    • Any kind of physical contact except vaginal sex.


  • Make sure you and partner have the same definition of abstinence.
  • Be clear and know your limits. This will help reduce the chance of misunderstanding.
  • It will also make it easier to avoid situations that could make it difficult to stick to your decision.
  • Being abstinent works better if you decide on it together.
  • Talk about your reasons for waiting before you get into sexual situations with your partner.
  • Discuss which sexual behaviors, if any, you are comfortable with.
  • Identify any obstacles to abstinence, and plan ways together to overcome them.

Why Wait?

  • Sexual behavior isn’t an all or nothing thing.
  • Abstinence could include some intimate caresses.
  • Or it might allow for everything except vaginal, oral or anal sex.
  • Being abstinent doesn’t mean you stop being a sensual, sexual person.
  • Penetration or oral sex are only two ways to express affection and sexuality.
  • You might find that not having sex will make you appreciate your sexuality more fully.
  • Choosing to be abstinent can give you the opportunity to explore other creative ways to express your sexuality and affection.
  • Some reasons for waiting to have sex might include:
    • You want to wait until you’re married or in a serious, committed relationship.
    • You want a strong relationship based on friendship and trust—without the confusion sex can add.
    • Refraining from oral, anal and vaginal sex is the only 100% sure way to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDS.
    • You want to experience other areas of your life before you have a sexual relationship.
    • You’re too busy with your job, school, or sports to handle a sexual relationship.
    • You can earn respect from others and from yourself for sticking with the decision that’s right for you.


  • Pressure from others can sometimes make it hard to stick to a decision to be abstinent.
  • All of us to some degree receive pressure from others.
  • But having sex because of what others want or think won’t strengthen a relationship, and it will only make you feel worse about yourself, not better.
  • If you experience these types of pressures, it is important to know where the pressure is coming from and know what to do about it.

Self Esteem

  • Self-esteem is the way you feel about yourself.
  • If you have high self-esteem, you are more confident in yourself to make good decisions, and you expect others to respect your decisions.
  • Having high self-esteem—trusting yourself and the way you feel—can help you:
    • Make a decision based on what’s right for you, not on what others think or do.
    • Stick with your decision even under pressure from others.

Staying Strong

  • If you’ve decided abstinence is the right choice for you, having a plan to deal with pressures can help you succeed.
  • Make a commitment to yourself.
  • Think about your reasons for deciding to be abstinent, and take time to feel good about the benefits.
  • Know where pressures can come from.
  • Plan how to deal with pressure.
  • Celebrate your ability to make a choice and stick with it!
Sexual Health Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) Contraception