What is abstinence?

Abstinence means avoiding sex. Sex can have different definitions for different people. Some people define sex as penis-in-vagina intercourse. Others may include oral sex, anal sex, or even kissing and touching. The way you define "sex" determines what activities to avoid if you want to abstain. For the purpose of this page, we will focus on abstaining from penis-in-vagina intercourse because the goal of these materials is to help you prevent pregnancy.

Please remember that it's OK to go through periods of your life, or periods of time within a single relationship, in which you want to abstain and periods in which you want to have sex. The decision to have sex is YOUR decision, each and every time.


Abstinence is free and available to everyone.
It's extremely effective at preventing both pregnancy and infection.
It can be started at any time in your life.
Abstinence may encourage people to build relationships in other ways.
It may be the course of action which you feel is right for you and makes you feel good about yourself.

If you're counting on abstinence, and you change your mind in the heat of the moment, you might not have birth control handy. Some people would like to be prepared and have a condom or spermicide available in case they change their mind. Others feel that having a contraceptive available might tempt them.
Some people find not having sex frustrating.
Where can I learn more?

What you do sexually is an important decision. Start by thinking it through carefully by yourself. You may want to discuss your decision with another person whom you respect. You may want to pray, meditate, or talk it over with your partner. Some churches and sex education programs have organized support groups or curricula for young people wanting to wait until marriage before having intercourse.


Mississippi County Health Department
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