So often sex educators (myself included) get caught up in teaching about birth control methods, STD prevention and generally being sex positive (the idea that sex is a totally normal part of life) that we forget about abstinence. Sometimes we get so caught up in fighting back against “abstinence only education” (education in schools that only teach students about NOT having sex) in favor of comprehensive sex education (education in schools that teaches about all kinds of things related to sex and sexual health) that we let the idea of abstinence slip right by us (or only briefly acknowledge it). Comprehensive sex education is supposed to be comprehensive, meaning it should include a real discussion about all things related to sex and sexuality, including abstinence.
So what is abstinence? Abstinence is the practice of refraining from some or all aspects of sexual activity for various reasons. Meaning, it is a fairly flexible term. Some people engage in all kinds of sexual behaviors other than penetrative sex (penis in vagina or butt) and consider themselves abstinent. Others don’t engage in any kind of sexual activity (touching, rubbing, oral sex, etc.). And the reasons behind why people chose what they do, also vary. Some people want to avoid pregnancy or STDs (considering it is the ONLY way to prevent pregnancy 100% & depending on the behavior, may protect against STDs 100% too). Others are abstinent for religious or cultural reasons. Some want to wait until they feel ready (which is different for everyone). Really, there are many reasons and they vary from person to person.
Also, anyone can be abstinent. Just because someone has had sex or engaged in any kind of sexual behavior in the past doesn’t mean they have to continue doing so – even if they are still with the partner they had previously engaged in those behaviors with.
Whatever reasons someone has for being abstinent; here at New Gen we completely support you. That means we can help you figure out what you are and are not okay with or how to talk to partners about your decision. You don’t have to be engaging in any kind of sex or sexual activity to come to New Gen to talk to a health educator or clinician about sex related stuff. Not only do we do the medical stuff like STD testing and birth control but we also do a lot of education about sex related subjects. Including Abstinence. So come talk to us!
And I have to thank a very awesome young person for reminding me that abstinence is equally important in the conversation about sex. Precious Listana is a sophomore in high school and has written this wonderful poem about abstinence.
It’s been 2 years, 6 months and 10 days.
I am just a teen, I’m not ready.
“It’s just another phase baby come and lie with me already”
He tells me, and I wonder
“Is this my relationship?
What choice do I prefer?”
He stares; starts to unzip his clothes.
He stops and listens
Everything stirs around me.
“Please don’t do this!”
He puts his clothes on and yawns.
In happiness & health,
P.S. If you are interested in submitting a poem, article, story, artwork or whatever else about reproductive health for this blog I most definitely encourage you to do so. If featured, you could win a $25 gift card to Old Navy! As always, if you have any questions about this or anything else, email firstname.lastname@example.org.