Abstinence

Abstinence can mean many things including not having sexual intercourse, not doing certain sexual activities, or not engaging in any sexual touching. This web page contains information about how to talk to your partner about abstinence and activities you can do that do not involve sexual intercourse.

Why do people choose abstinence?

For medical reasons - you can reduce the risk of:

For relationship reasons:

  • Showing love in ways other than sexual intercourse is important in a relationship
  • You can have a close and loving relationship without sexual intercourse
  • Abstinence can help you develop a deeper friendship - spend time talking and discovering mutual interests, and establish non-sexual intimacy (trust, honesty, sharing, and commitment)
  • Couples may not feel they are ready for sex
  • Abstinence may be chosen because of the risks of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection (STI) associated with sexual activities

Personal Reasons:

  • Abstinence can protect you from getting emotionally hurt and having negative feelings such as possessiveness
  • It is a sign of emotional maturity - many young women and men report feeling pressured into sexual intercourse
  • Some people choose abstinence because they want to wait until they meet the right person
  • Individuals may choose to be abstinent after they have had sex. Slowing down and choosing only to kiss and cuddle is okay and it allows time for the relationship to develop
  • Religious beliefs and personal values may also be reasons why individuals chose abstinence

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How can I be close to my partner without sexual intercourse?

There are many fun things you can do other than have sexual intercourse. Everyone needs to decide what kinds of activities that they are comfortable with and if they are ready to try new things. Remember that physical affection can be very sexually arousing, and you should discuss both your limits and the limits of your partner before becoming involved in different activities.

Here are some things you can do with your partner that do not involve sexual intercourse:

  • Holding hands
  • Hugging
  • Kissing
  • Dancing
  • Caressing
  • Romantic evenings
  • Talking 
  • Rubbing
  • Touching
  • French kissing
  • Massaging
  • Petting
  • Mutual masturbation
  • Snuggling  

For more information on how to talk to your partner about sexual activity, visit our web page on Sexual Activity.

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How to say No and take charge

  • Saying NO is not always easy especially if you are saying it to someone you care about
  • Do not feel like you need to give reasons, explanations, or excuses for the way you feel. Saying no is enough. However, it is important to talk about your feelings regarding sex, especially with your partner. It may help him/her to understand your decision if you share your reasons for choosing abstinence. Discuss what you want from the relationship - be honest and clear that sex is not an option, discuss expectations, decisions, and values
  • When saying NO you need to stay strong and realize when your partner is not respecting your decision
  • Remember you are in control of your life and the decisions you make, you make for yourself

Take Charge!

If you choose to be abstinent there are some situations that may put you at risk. They include:

  • Parties with no supervision
  • Going over to your partner's house when his or her parents are away
  • Drinking or doing drugs

In challenging situations remember to...

  • Always think ahead and have a way out
  • Leave the situation if you feel uncomfortable
  • Ask a friend if they would accompany you
  • Carry enough money for a cab/bus/subway ride home when you go out either in a group or on a date

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How can I deal with the pressure to have sex?

Pressure comments and pressure questions are those that are asked to try and convince you to have sex. It helps to figure out how you might respond to certain questions before they are even asked.

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