Choosing to have sex is a big decision, not just the first time, but every time. Keeping safe and healthy
includes having safer sex
, and it also includes choosing not to have sex
It's OK to Not Have Sex
Being abstinent (choosing not to have sex) is actually what most teens in the U.S. (54%) decide.
- For some, it is based on their religious beliefs or personal values.
- For others, it is because abstinence is the best protection against gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV and other STDs...and the only way to be 100% sure you won't get pregnant or get someone pregnant.
- Still others decide not to have sex because pregnancy, HIV and STDs could interfere with achieving their goals.
- And many just don't feel ready to have sex.
Abstinence After Sex
Abstinence is not just for people who have never had sex. Even after being sexually active, you can decide not to have sex again. Here's Cristina's story from Sex, Etc. about the reality of sex and choosing abstinence after having sex
Is it Still Sex if I...
Different people have different definitions of abstinence, and even of sex. For some people, being abstinent means staying away from any contact at all with a partner's genitals (penis, vagina). For others, it means not having sexual intercourse. Think about where you draw the line, and get the facts about how to protect yourself if you're going to have any other kind of sex. It's important for you to understand that even if you are avoiding vaginal intercourse, you can still get an STD
if you are having oral sex, and anal sex puts you at high risk for STDs and HIV
. If you are having anal or oral sex
, using condoms
will reduce your risk.
Make a Plan
If you decide not to have sex (yet), consider planning ahead about how you will make it work. It isn't always an easy choice.
- Don't put yourself in situations where you'll be tempted to have sex.
- Telling someone you trust about your decision can make it easier to stick to it.
- Think about how to talk to a partner about what you're comfortable with, and what you've decided not to do sexually.
- Consider the 3-6-9 rule!
- And be aware that drinking alcohol and/or using drugs can affect your judgment and lead to unplanned and unprotected sex.
Talk About It
Talking with your partner about your decision is important. Don't wind up having sex with someone just because it's easier than talking about it. Truth is, if the two of you are not close enough to talk about sex, you are definitely not close enough to have sex, right? Sharing your feelings can make a relationship
stronger. Having sex when you don't really want to can be very hard on you -- and it's hard on your relationship, too.
Get to know each other and do fun things. How about dancing, the zoo, a movie, concert, sports game, walk in the park, skateboarding, bike riding, making dinner together? Kissing and cuddling while holding onto boundaries is romantic. People rarely regret a slower pace. In fact, most sexually-experienced teens report they wish they had waited (see the survey report With One Voice 2012 [PDF: 1.1M]).
If you have more specific questions about sex, abstinence, or relationships try the Sex, Etc. Forums: sex ed by teens, for teens!