Info Center

What is abstinence?

While people might have different definitions of what abstinence is, most people would define it as not having sexual intercourse, including oral, anal or vaginal intercourse, for a particular period of time. Some people decide to remain abstinent until they’re a certain age or are in a certain kind of committed relationship, like being in love, being with a person for a certain amount of time or married.

Abstinence can mean different things to different people. Does it mean you’ll have no intimate physical contact—including holding hands or kissing—with another person? Or is it OK to kiss, but no touching under the clothing? These are questions you have to ask yourself and your partner if you decide to remain abstinent. You can decide where you draw the line on what you want to do sexually.

Once you’ve decided how you define abstinence, make it clear to your romantic partners that you’re not interested in getting physical in these specific ways. You have to set specific limits if a relationship is getting romantic. You also have to be prepared for the possibility that your partner will have a different definition of abstinence than you, and that is the point when you either come to a compromise or decide that your boundaries are not a good fit for the other person. This is part of establishing and being in a healthy relationship.

To succeed in sticking to your definition of abstinence, it’s helpful to have supportive friends and family members. No matter what you decide, it’s always best to keep your life goals clearly in focus, so you can stay committed to your own desires and values no matter what anyone else says or does. Choose what’s right for you.

As a final note, studies show that when teens that choose abstinence but don’t practice it (meaning they wind up having sex), they often don’t use protection. We don’t want that to happen to you. So if you decide to be abstinent, also make a promise to yourself to be informed about how to keep yourself healthy if you decide to have sex. Specifically, know how to use a condom, where to find a health center and how to get emergency contraception (EC) if you need it.

Get more information on birth control or call 1-800-230-PLAN (7526) to be connected to the Planned Parenthood nearest you.

Chat software by BoldChat