All About Abstinence!

Article Media

Did you know that over half of teens in the United States are not having sex? In California, that number is even lower. Less than one third (32%) 0f California teens reported that they are having sex, and less than a quarter said they are currently sexually active. Abstinence is also a great choice during these times of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since close contact can easily spread the virus, choosing abstinence and keeping a safe physical distance from people outside of your household is an important way to slow the spread of COVID-19.

What is abstinence?

Abstinence is choosing to not have sex. Different people define abstinence in different ways, but because any type of sex can spread sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), we define abstinence as not having any type of sex – oral, vaginal, and/or anal sex. People can choose abstinence at any time in their lives. Even if someone has had sex in the past, they can still choose to be abstinent now or in the future.

How effective is abstinence?

If someone chooses to not have any type of sex or sexual contact, abstinence is 100% effective at preventing pregnancy and STDs! Pregnancy is caused by sperm meeting with an egg in a uterus, so by choosing to not have vaginal sex, sperm can’t get to an egg and cause a pregnancy. Some STDs can be spread through skin-to-skin contact so in order to be 100% effective at preventing STDs, abstinence means excluding ALL types of sexual contact, even “outercourse.”  Choosing to not have sex, but to have “outercourse” may be a great way to protect against pregnancy and STDs, but remember, it may not be 100% effective!

Why choose abstinence?

People choose abstinence for many reasons. Abstinence is the best way to protect against STDs and pregnancy, and can help a couple or individual focus on their relationship and goals. Abstinence is also free and easy. Someone may not feel ready to have sex or may be waiting for the right time in their life to start having sex. During this current COVID-19 pandemic, some people may choose abstinence because close contact with someone else can spread COVID-19. Staying home and keeping a distance from other people is the best way to protect yourself from STDs, pregnancy, AND COVID-19!

How does abstinence fit with social distancing?

Abstinence is a great fit with our current social distancing requirements. Keeping your distance from people not in your household shows your friends and partners that you care about them and their health and will also naturally lead to abstaining from all sexual contact. But don’t worry, there are many ways to stay in touch with loved ones, including partners, friends, and family, from the comfort of your own home. You can check in via text, phone call, or video. Play a digital game together, watch a movie at the same time or do an activity together over the phone. You can also use “older” methods like writing each other letters!

What if I have had sex before, can I still choose abstinence?

You can choose abstinence at any time, even if you have had sex before. People may choose abstinence at different times in their life and for different reasons.

What if I want to have sex?

Many people choose to have sex at some point in their life. If you are choosing to have sex, you should use a condom or another method of birth control and also get tested to protect against STDs. For more information or to get condoms, STD testing, and birth control, find a clinic near you!


Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide when and whether to have sex or to choose abstinence.