Sexual Abstinence

Abstinence Education Works

A recent study at the University of Pennsylvania found that an abstinence-only intervention for pre-teens was more successful in delaying the onset of sexual activity than a health-promotion control intervention. After two years, one-third of the abstinence-only group reported having sex, compared to one-half of the control group. The study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania appears in the February 1, 2010 edition of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. Source: UPenn Almanac, Research Roundup, 2/2/10, 56(24).

Choosing to Wait

What is sexual abstinence?

Although there are many different definitions of sexual abstinence, abstinence is defined here as refraining from any physical sexual contact with another person. People choose to be sexually abstinent for many important reasons, including pregnancy prevention, sexually transmitted disease prevention, and religious reasons. Abstinence is the best method of birth control. Sexual abstinence is a normal behavior for teens and adults. About half of all teens have never had sex, and many who are no longer virgins choose secondary abstinence.

How does sexual abstinence work?

Pregnancy is prevented because there is no sexual contact, therefore fertilization cannot occur. This method works best when two people in a relationship discuss the choice to be abstinent in advance, and then deliberately avoid situations where sexual activity may occur. Avoiding alcohol and drugs is another important means to help maintain abstinence.


Annual Failure Rate

How effective is sexual abstinence?

Abstinence is the only one-hundred percent effective method of birth control. Abstinence works for people of all ages. For this method to be effective, there can be no genital-to-genital contact at all. If any semen comes near the vagina pregnancy is possible, even if there is no penile penetration.

Side-effects and health risks of sexual abstinence

Abstinence method has no physical side-effects or health risks. However, refraining from sex for long periods of time can result in feelings of sexual frustration.

Considerations for Christians

Abstinence before marriage is recommended by Protestant and Catholic churches alike. If everyone followed this teaching, there would be almost no sexually transmitted disease, vast reductions in fertility problems, fewer reproductive cancers, and very few abortions.

Abstinence within marriage is sometimes necessary for medical reasons or for short periods for couples practicing natural family planning. However, long periods of abstinence within marriage is not recommended, as it can make marital fidelity difficult.

Related Links

A Couple's Guide to Better Birth Control, Conscientious Contraception, and Sensible Sexuality

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