Abstinence – a calculated decision and deliberate action to refrain from sexual activity until marriage.
We’ll be the first to say that abstinence from sexual activity until marriage is not an easy choice, especially today when our culture is saturated with sexual imagery. However, it is possible and many teens are choosing abstinence. Below are a few letters from students with very common questions about abstinence and our answers. Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any other questions not addressed here.
Pressure from boyfriend/girlfriend to go further than I want
Q: I’m 16 and I have this guy I’ve been dating for the last three months. We have gotten so close over the last few weeks. He keeps asking me how far I want him to go. I keep telling him I don’t know. I’m really torn. What if I don’t go far enough? I might lose him. I really want to make the right decision. I’ve been wondering if abstinence is right for me, but I’m not sure. I don’t know if abstinence is worth losing him.
A: It’s awesome to see you are thinking about the pros and cons of being sexually active. It is definitely a big decision each person has to make in their life. It can be extra difficult when love is involved.
Ultimately, you want to make a decision that is best for your health and that supports your personal values and goals. Anyone who truly loves you will respect your beliefs and values. If your boyfriend leaves you just because you won’t have sex with him, that says a lot about him.
Abstaining from sex until marriage is definitely an option. It can be a tough decision to make, but has some obvious benefits. Many choose to abstain because of health issues and their individual goals. More than 50% of high school students are abstinent. (1) Some say abstinence allows them to focus on the character and true strength of their relationships without sex becoming a distraction. If things don’t work out, the break-up is easier because they never physically and emotionally bonded through sexual activity.
If you choose to remain abstinent, it is important that you tell your boyfriend. It’s possible he may respect both you and your choice. If he does not, you may reconsider having a relationship with someone who does not respect you. Your uniqueness and value should always be respected.
How can I stick to my decision to be abstinent?
Q: I’ve been abstinent up until now. I intend to stay abstinent, but I’m now 17 and I’ve already had some close calls. I currently have a girlfriend. How can I increase my chances of staying abstinent until I’m married? I’m a little worried.
A: You already off to a great start of increasing your chances, because you’re asking questions and coming up with a strategy. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Know your limits and know the human body. Most people don’t look at each other, fall on the ground and have sex (although some have come close to that). There are usually several steps that take place before people the ultimate level of intimacy. The earlier steps of intimacy (eye contact, holding hands, hugs, and simple kisses) can be non-sexual, but the later steps (french kissing, touching above and blow the waist) can and often do lead to sexual activity. Generally speaking most male bodies are aroused during an international (french kissing) make out session and we all know he’s not making out with his hands behind his back. Normally, his hands are on a “mission”. As he is touching the girl, generally speaking, the girl will become aroused at this stage. Keep in mind when two people are aroused their desire for pleasure goes up and their ability to make a judgment call goes “out the window”. So physically speaking the idea is, if you are not intending on having sex with someone, you should stay away from the stage of arousal.
2. The other person should know your limits. Does your girlfriend know about your commitment to abstinence and your desire to not go beyond a hug and a simple romantic kiss (avoiding the arousal stage)? It is important that you have the conversation with her if you haven’t already. This way, if you disagree, you can communicate with one another. If you agree, you can hold each other accountable through both trust and respect of your boundaries.
3. Keep it Healthy. Allow your relationship time to grow into a strong friendship. You should both make sure that each is comfortable with the other’s friends. Also, participate in many different types of activities together. It gives you the opportunity to learn more about each other and your relationship. Know that if your relationship is meant to be, it will become stronger over time as you learn more about yourselves and each other. Also, make agape love, a love that is committed and unselfish, the foundation of your relationship. Be aware of lust which can be very selfish. Lust uses love as a tool of manipulation. Lust says “if you love me you will…” Love says “you and I are becoming better people because we are with each other…” Love strengthens a friendship and is based on character traits such as unselfishness, humility, patience, and kindness. If you find character, you find love, and if you find love you have found a healthy relationship.
I have already had sex, but want to choose abstinence now. Is it too late?
Q: I decided to be abstinent when I was in middle school. I am 15 and when I got to high school I got drunk and ended up having sex. I decided if I already had it why stop. Now I’m pregnant and my boyfriend is talking about leaving. I’m thinking about making some different decisions for my life. One decision I’m thinking about is being abstinent, but isn’t it too late for me?
A: It’s never too late to make a decision you feel is best for you. Abstinence is the healthiest choice for your overall health, even if you’ve had sex before. Also, keep in mind your value has not changed. You are still both awesome and amazing!
Many teens feel the way you do. In a survey, 60% of teens said they wish they would have waited longer to have sex for the first time (2). It is wise for you to reassess your life and your choices. Due to your age, you still have an opportunity to reach your goals. This includes your renewed desire to be abstinent. Achieving your goals now may seem difficult, but be encouraged to know they are still possible. Take your time and find caring adults you can trust to help you navigate your new path. Don’t allow this moment in life to define your value. Your value has not changed. You are just as valuable as you were the day you were born and that should always be acknowledged.
- Center for Disease Control, US Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2007
- Albert, B. (2007). With One Voice: America’s Adults and Teens Sound Off About Teen Pregnancy. Washington, DC: National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.