Young women's version of this guide


Abstinence is the only way to be 100% protected against STIs (sexually transmitted infections) and pregnancy. You can still practice abstinence, even if you have already had sex and you don’t have to commit to abstinence for forever. You can also simply wait until you feel you’ve found the right person.

What exactly is abstinence?

Abstinence means that you’re not having any type of sexual intercourse – vaginal, oral, or anal sex.

According to a 2019 national study of high school students in the United States 56.7% of 12th graders reported ever having sexual intercourse regardless of gender. Among all high school students in the U.S. 38.4% reported ever having sexual intercourse; 39.2% of those who identified as male reported ever having sexual intercourse. (Note: the study only reported binary genders – male and female).

What are the benefits of choosing abstinence?

Many teens and young adults choose abstinence because they want to be 100% sure to avoid STIs (sexually transmitted infections) and pregnancy (if having vaginal sex). Some people choose abstinence because of religious beliefs or because of their own values.

What if I feel pressured to have sex?

A good relationship is about good communication. Talk to your partner(s) and be clear about your values and what you really want. Don’t be shy about what you don’t feel comfortable doing. The fact is you don’t really need to tell anyone why you don’t want to have sex. It’s good to be honest with your partner(s) early on that you plan to be abstinent. This way there will be no expectations and you can avoid situations that could make abstinence difficult, such as going to a party where there’s alcohol or being alone in an empty house.

You can also ask your health care provider for advice. Here’s a tip on how to bring it up with your health care provider: How do I tell my partner I’m not ready to have sex?

Some guys think having sex is part of being manly or masculine. This isn’t the case. In fact, having sex before you’re ready can lead to negative consequences such as feeling guilty, scared, or regretful. If you decide not to have sex, you don’t need to explain or justify your decision. Deciding whether or not to have sex doesn’t make you more or less of a man.

Who can I talk to about sex?

It can be helpful to talk about your thoughts and feelings with a trusted adult with whom you feel comfortable. Some suggestions are parents/guardians, other family members, counselors, or health care providers. It’s also important to be honest with your health care provider about whether you are thinking about or having sex because they can help you have safer sex and can help if any health issues arise.

How can I tell if I’m ready to have sex?

Knowing when you are ready to have sex can be tricky because your body may feel like you are ready. You may feel very romantic with your partner(s) and have the urge to have sex. This is perfectly normal, but you should also listen to your thoughts and values to help you decide when the time is right. If you’re nervous or not sure, wait until you can make a choice that you are sure about. Remind yourself that abstinence is the only 100% way to avoid pregnancy and STIs. One thing for sure to remember is: “you should never feel pressured or pushed into having sex”.

Most teens will agree that saying “no” to sex can be hard, but having sex is a serious decision that has consequences. You can make a choice to say “no” to sex and still be close with your partner(s). When you choose to be abstinent, it means you want to wait to have sex until the time is right for you, and that you’re ready for the commitment of using condoms and birth control. Talking with someone you trust will help you follow your feelings and values and stick to your decision.