Menstuff® has information on Abstinence..
Abstinence at a glance
Talk with your kids about Abstinence
Do More Than Lecture About Abstinence
Recent Findings from The 'Add Health' Survey: Teens and Sexual Activity
Abstinence Failure - It's not 100% safe
What is Abstinence-Only Education?
Virginity Pledge & issues
KURY radio with Gordon Clay
Abstinence at a
A behavior that prevents pregnancy Prevents sexually transmitted infection Safe, easy, and convenient Is Abstinence Right for Me? People are abstinent for many reasons, including to prevent pregnancy. Here are some of the most common questions we hear people ask about abstinence. We hope the answers help you decide if it is right for you. -
What Is Abstinence?
You may have heard people talk about abstinence in different ways. Some people think of abstinence as not having vaginal intercourse. They may enjoy other kinds of sexual activities that don't lead to pregnancy. This is better described as outercourse.
Some people define abstinence as not having vaginal intercourse when a woman might get pregnant. This is better described as periodic abstinence, which is one of the fertility awareness-based methods of birth control.
And some people define abstinence as not having any kind of sex play with a partner. This is the definition we use on these pages.
Being continuously abstinent is the only way to be absolutely sure that you won't have an unintended pregnancy or get an STD.
How Effective Is Abstinence? Used continuously, abstinence is 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy and most STDs.
What Are the Disadvantages of Abstinence? There are few disadvantages to abstinence. People may find it difficult to abstain for long periods of time and may end their period of abstinence without being prepared to protect themselves against pregnancy or infection.
Talking with your partner about your
decision to abstain from sex play is important whether or not
you've had sex play before. Partners need to be honest with each
other and make sexual decisions together. These are some of the best
ways to keep a relationship happy. Even so, it may not be easy to do.
You may feel awkward or embarrassed. It's best to talk about your
feelings before things get sexual. For many people it's hard to be
clear about what they want if they get aroused. It is helpful to
think ahead of time about how you can say "no" to sex
play. What behavior will be clear? What words will be best? You can
practice saying the words out loud. Then think about how someone
might respond to you. Take the time to consider fully what being
abstinent will mean for you. It is important to know what you are
thinking and feeling and what you need. Then you can tell your
partner about it. Be straightforward about the limits you want to
set. Keep in mind that having sex is not the only way two people can
get to know each other. Sex play is also not the only way couples can
be close. People get closer as they build trust by talking listening
sharing being honest respecting each other's thoughts and feelings
enjoying one another's company Abstinence can only work when both
partners agree to it. So it is also helpful to keep talking with each
other about why you've agreed to abstain from sex play. Your
relationship may change. And your decision to be abstinent may
Talk with your kids about Abstinence
It should come as no surprise that there is little consensus among cultures about young people and sex. Take, for instance, a recent study that compared American teens with their Dutch counterparts: In the Netherlands, where parents routinely allow their children to become sexually active when they feel ready and host their children's partners for sleepovers, the rate of teen pregnancy is an eighth of that in the US. "That's all well and good," a more conservative American parent might retort, "but abstinence is still the only foolproof method of birth control, and I'd prefer if my child waited until marriage to have sex."
What is Abstinence-only
Abstinence-only is a form of sex education that focuses on teaching individuals that abstinence remains the only safe way to prevent disease and unwanted pregnancy. This type of program provides little, if any, discussion on safe sex, birth control or contraception.
It has as its exclusive purpose teaching the social, psychological, and health gains to be realized by abstaining from sexual activity
Abstinence works, but only if you never have sexual intercourse, or anal or oral sex. There are STI's that you can contract, like herpes, however, without having sex.
What Are the Disadvantages of Abstinence?
There are few disadvantages to abstinence. People may find it difficult to abstain for long periods of time and may end their period of abstinence without being prepared to protect themselves against pregnancy or infection.
No abstinence-only program has yet been proven through rigorous evaluation to help youth delay sex for a significant period of time, help youth decrease their number of sex partners, or reduce STI or pregnancy rates among teens.
Among youth participating in virginity pledge programs, researchers found that 88% broke the pledge and had sex before marriage. Among these participants, many had more partners in a shorter period of time and were even less likely to use contraception, than those who did not take the pledge.
What are the advantages of comprehensive sex education?
There is an immense body of research to show that comprehensive sexuality education is effective in training youth safe sex techniques and contraception use.
Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle found that teenagers who received some type of comprehensive sex education were 60 percent less likely to get pregnant or get someone else pregnant.
For many people it's hard to be clear about what they want if they get aroused. It is helpful to think ahead of time about how you can say "no" to sex play. What behavior will be clear? What words will be best?
As parents, it's important to take responsibility to teach your
teen children that physically, they are adults and need to understand
that their bodies are capable of creating children. Be a responsible
Do More Than Lecture About Abstinence
Simply Expressing Not to Have Sex Doesn't Work
When it comes talking about sex, contraception and teenage dating, it seems that parents tend to get trapped making some predictable mistakes. One of these errors has to do with only discussing abstinence. When asked about this issue, teens have overwhelmingly responded that they need to hear more from their parents than just "don't have sex." In fact, this is one area where teens feel that their parents must give them the benefit of the doubt.
Parents should not allow themselves to fall into the pitfall of believing that their teen will receive mixed messages or become confused if both contraception and abstinence are discussed at the same time. Show your teen that you respect his/her intelligence enough to engage in these responsible discussions. As per the requests expressed by many teens:
Parents You Must Do More than Just Lecture about Abstinence
I realize this can be a slippery slope. It is important that you (as a parent) unmistakably clarify, for your teen, your hopes and values with respect to their behavior. It is perfectly OK for you to share your opinion, morals and expectations about sex with your teen. It may be helpful, though, for you to first be clear about your own sexual attitudes and values before having this conversation. When having this discussion, make sure you are explaining why you feel the way you do (this is not the time for because I said so), actively seek your teens input and listen to what they have to say.
I wish, though, it could be just that easy. Unfortunately, in todays world, parents need to do much more than tell your teen not to have sex. This is also the time that you must talk about sex and contraception:
And be honest if you are not sure about something
It may also be helpful to discuss how you felt when you were a teenager... keeping in mind the change of the times. Do your best to make this a conversation rather than a lecture.
Ask your teen for his/her opinions
In addition to talking about safety and pregnancy, talk about the emotions that can come along with a sexual relationship
Consider your teens point of view
Encourage questions and respond to what they have to say
It may be helpful to know that 53% of teens say that their parents or their own religious beliefs, morals and values influence their sexual decisions the most. Teens whose parents provide clear messages about the value of abstinence are more likely to delay their first sexual experience, and parents who discuss contraception are more likely to have teens who use birth control when they finally choose to engage in sexual activity.
Researchers Michelle M. Isley et al. discovered that abstinence-only education is simply not enough. Their study revealed that teens who believed that they received sex education that ONLY contained information about birth control methods were much more likely to use a reliable contraceptive method the first time they engaged in sex. It seems that teens who experienced sex education discussions that mainly included strong lectures on abstinence were less likely to use a reliable contraceptive during their first sexual act. This data suggests that abstinence-only messaging tends to cancel out, or dilutes, the potential beneficial effects conveyed by information about birth control methods. It seems then, that stressing more to your teen not to have sex, especially when no information about contraception is presented, can lead to undependable birth control use.
Comprehensive Sex Education vs. Abstinence-Only Education
This study also showed that when parents discuss sex topics in detail (and not just abstinence), there is a higher likelihood that their teens will use a more dependable birth control method. These comprehensive sex conversations between parents and teens (that go beyond parents telling teens not to have sex) help to promote healthier teen sexual behaviors. Parents should discuss hormonal birth control methods because teens who use these methods tend to do so more consistently. This conversation should not be reserved for just female teens.
Many male teens have shown very limited knowledge about hormonal contraceptives (believing many myths about the pill, for example) or may not even know what hormonal options are available. When parents provide their teen sons with this information, it will help them to feel more secure in their knowledge this, in turn, will help serve as an essential step in helping these young men facilitate responsible discussions about contraceptives with their girlfriends.
Finally, it appears that teens who have participated in discussions with family members about condoms are more likely to use condoms themselves. So, my final tip... when parents talk about how to use condoms or buy condoms (rather than focus on abstinence), teen condom use increases.
And to back me up on all this, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Adolescents, actively supports and encourages doctors to counsel teens about the correct and consistent use of reliable contraception and condoms among those who are sexually active or considering sexual activity. Given that research clearly supports that parents can positively influence whether their female teens engage in safer sexual practices when they have sexual intercourse, parents and teens should both be encouraged to talk about the discussions that the teen had with her doctor during her appointment.
The bottom line here, parents: It's time to go beyond abstinence lectures:
Your teen doesnt want to hear not to have sex.
Your teen needs comprehensive birth control information and should be encouraged to use effective contraception.
Teens should understand how pregnancy happens.
Help strengthen your teen's negotiation skills, so he/she can confidently discuss contraceptive use with their partners and/or can effectively "say no".
Teens taught information about safer sexual practices by their parents are more likely to engage in these behaviors themselves.
Do more than lecture about abstinence -- protect your teen and help him/her begin to make healthy and responsible sexual choices.
Abstinence Failure - It's not 100% safe
I want to state that I never claimed to be a medical doctor, as Pastor Green's Forum article titled "Dobson is Right..." claims. I agree with Pastor Green's statement "...what kind of doctor gives us this kind of advice?" I would ask him to ask Dr. Dobson that question. I pulled all of my information from the government web sites I noted in my Forum article. I can't tell you where Dr. Dobson pulled his information from.
Pastor Green goes on to say "Shouldn't he be giving us the best possible scenario for stopping the spread of this disease?" or any Sexually Transmitted Infection? Dr. Dobson suggested that an Abstinence-only approach is 100% effective. This is misleading and potentially dangerous. There can't be one slip. To be 100% effective it requires one to abstain from petting, as well as oral and anal sex, not just coitus, 100% of the time.
That's why I had proposed an abstinence-plus approach which promotes abstinence as the best choice but provides information on contraception in case a teen becomes sexually active. This, I believe, is the most successful approach to truly reduce STD and teen pregnancy.
Half of all new human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections in the United States and two thirds of all sexually transmitted diseases (STD) occur among young people under the age of 25. It is estimated that by the end of high school, nearly two thirds of American youth have been sexually active, and one in five has had four or more sexual partners. Despite these alarming statistics, less than half of all public schools in the United States offer information on how to obtain contraceptives and most schools increasingly teach abstinence-only-until-marriage education. There is little evidence that abstinence-only programs are successful in encouraging teenagers to delay all sexual activity until marriage, and for those who don't make it, nothing is taught how to avoid pregnancy, or STD or HIV infection. Comprehensive sex education, which emphasizes the benefits of abstinence while also teaching about contraception and disease-prevention methods, has been proven to reduce rates of teen pregnancy and STD infection.
The Kaiser Family Foundation and Seventeen magazine found that half of all 15-17 year-olds believe that a person who has oral sex is still a virgin. Even more striking, the study found that 55% of college students pledging virginity until marriage, who said they had kept their vow, reported having had oral sex. While pledgers generally were somewhat less likely to have had vaginal sex than nonpledgers, they were equally likely to have had oral or anal sex. The Alan Guttmacher Institute indicated that 25% of the decrease in the U.S. teen pregnancy rate was due to a decline in the proportion of teenagers who had never had sex while 75% was due to improved contraceptive use among sexually active teens. And, Clara S. Haignere, Ph.D, associate processor of public health at Temple University found that abstinence has a user-failure rate between 26 and 86 percent. This rate is considerably higher than the condom user-failure rate.
"Abstinence is complicated to use. It requires negotiation skills. Teens have to talk to their partners about it, and use it all the time - every time they're intimate," says Haignere. The "Just say no to sex" approach isn't realistic, given that nearly half of all 9th-12th graders have already had sexual intercourse, according to the 2001 Youth Risk Behavior survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Pastor Green also tried to put words in my mouth when he suggested that I recommended that "...you and your sexual 'partners' should not worry about a person's sexual history." I am adamant that all people have a Responsible Sex Conversation even before petting. My recommendation requires partners to probably have a deeper conversation than the majority of readers have ever had. (See www.menstuff.org/issues/byissue/responsiblesexconversation.html)
So, Pastor Green, if you want to believe Dr. Dobson's information versus what the Centers for Disease Control and the National Health Institute believe, as you said, that's your right. However, this attitude only adds to the mistrust of religious teachers and in the end will result in an increase of STDs and unplanned pregnancies. When one realizes that vows of abstinence break far more often than condoms, responsible people will want our youth to know more about safer sex options. Tuesday, February 14th, is National Condom Day. It might be a good day for parents to check out www.letstalkaboutsex.org to find out positive ways to approach this difficult subject with their children.
Let's teach teens abstinence plus providing information regarding safer sex. Using condoms and birth control will help a majority of young people. If teens are taught that no sex is safe sex, they'll have sex anyway without knowing the safer things to do.
Gordon Clay, Brookings
Recent Findings from The 'Add Health'
Survey: Teens and Sexual Activity
At least half a dozen published reports and peer-reviewed journal articles based on Add Health data are beginning to shed light on the range of "risk" and "protective" factors associated with the politically sensitive area of teenage sexual activity, including the roles of virginity pledges and parent-child communication (see box). While some of these early findings have been seized upon by the popular press and by conservative interest groups looking to promote their ideology, they may ultimately provide more guidance to parents than to policymakers on how to help teens postpone sexual activity.
What Puts Teens at Risk?
One of the key purposes of the Add Health survey is not only to determine the prevalence of sexual intercourseas well as a host of other potentially health-compromising behaviorsamong teenagers but also to assess the various factors that place adolescents at risk for such activity. And as one would expect, results from the Add Health survey show that teens' reports of ever having had sexual intercourse increase dramatically with grade level, from 16% among seventh and eighth graders to 60% among eleventh and twelfth graders. Additionally, the Add Health survey reaffirms the findings of a large body of existing research that teenagers who are black or from low-income or single-parent families are more likely to have had sexual intercourse than their peers.
Early Add Health findings may provide more guidance to parents than to policymakers on how to help teens postpone sexual activity.
But one of the Add Health survey's greatest strengths is that it is designed to help researchers go beyond these demographic descriptions to identify the underlying social mechanisms that influence teen behavior. In other words, the survey aims to help researchers identify the forces within a community, family, school or peer groupas well as innate characteristicsthat, alone or in combination, predispose a teen to high-risk activities and to analyze how these influences are expressed in different ways within various subgroups of teens. And, indeed, studies using Add Health data show that demographic factors play only a minor role in explaining teenage sexual activity and that there is tremendous varianceor heterogenityeven within individual racial, ethnic and income groups.
In fact, the research emerging from the Add Health survey strongly indicates that whether or not a teenager has ever had sexual intercourse is largely explained by that individual's own sexual history and his or her own perceptions about the costs and benefits of having sex. This stands in stark contrast to other major risk behaviorssuch as cigarette smoking, drug and alcohol use, weapons-related violence, and suicidal thoughts and attemptswhich the data indicate are shaped by more generic or external factors, such as frequent problems with school or work, frequency of "just hanging out with friends" and the number of friends who regularly smoke or drink. According to a major report published last year on teen risk behavior, Protecting Teens: Beyond Race, Income and Family Structure, when it comes to sexual intercourse, the most important risk factor across all racial and ethnic groups was having been in a romantic relationship within the previous 18 months, followed by (for most subgroups) "ever [having] kissed or necked." The most powerful "protective" factors for most subgroups were the perceived personal and social costs of having sex or getting pregnant or causing a pregnancy.
Robert W. Blum of the Center for Adolescent Health and Development at the University of Minnesota, and the author of Protecting Teens, explains that "sex doesn't really fit in with the other risky behaviors" that he and his colleagues examined using Add Health data. "While we tend as a society to lump sexual activity together with other risk factors, it is fundamentally different than drug use or weapon carryingbehaviors we hope to prevent altogether. In contrast, sexual activity is a normative behavior which we merely seek to delay rather than prevent. As a result, we need to remove it from this collective framework."
Messages for Parents and Policy
Researchers analyzing Add Health data are only beginning to understand the various factors that place teens at risk for and protect against teenage sexual activity and how these factors interact. And it may be that aside from the findings on virginity pledges, which are basically cautionary, the research thus far has less direct relevance for policymakers than it does for parents, because it speaks to the quality of parenting and parent-child communication. Resnick sums up the various Add Health findings this way: "You can look at all sorts of variables related to sex, but the most powerful predictor is whether teens have been in a romantic relationship for more than 18 months. This suggests several things. Parents can discourage heavy one-on-one dating and emphasize going out in groups. They should attend to issues like the age at which kids start dating and the age difference between partners." This is particularly important from the perspective of teenage pregnancy and STD prevention, given the findings of a study published this year in Family Planning Perspectives based on Add Health data that shows that younger adolescents who are sexually active, as well as adolescents involved with partners who are more than two years older or attend a different school, are less likely to use contraception than their peers.
McNeely concurs: "What Add Health does tell uswhether we are
politically on the left or the rightis that parents should
focus on the appropriate supervision and monitoring of their teens.
They should meet boyfriends and girlfriends, get to know their teens'
friends, and always know where their children are. They should
establish a warm and caring relationship with their children and
foster age-appropriate autonomy and independence. Ultimately, good
parenting is more important than the specific content of the
communication about sex. For me, that's the bottom line."
KURY radio with Gordon
Abstinence-only education doesn't work. Teens taught comprehensive sex education had a significantly lower risk of pregnancy than students who received abstinence-only or no sex education and that teaching about contraception did not increae the risk of sexual activity . They also have confirmed that abstinence-only education did not reduce teen pregnancy or sexually transmitted infection and did not delay first sex.
The US remains a sex-negative culture and healthy sex education by parents is seldom taught. As a culture, we try to keep our "girls" "little girls" as long as possible, and long after their bodies have become that of a woman.
And yet, in many cultures around the world, Africa and India and especially Roman Catholic countries - Equador and Peru, young girls are acknowledged as full women upon their first menses and start developing the skills to start creating and raising a family. In these countries it is not unusual for a marriage between a 13 year old woman and a 21 year-old man. The point is, once she goes through mensus, she is a woman.
As parents, it's time to take responsibility
to teach your teen children that physically, they are adults and need
to understand that their bodies are capable of creating children.
Think about it.