So you don’t want to have sex at the moment. While some people may think you’re crazy, The Mix totally gets it. But what is abstinence anyway? And is there anything more you should know before you strap on that chastity belt?

Couple walks through wooded area holding hands.

Abstaining from sex means different things to different people.

What is abstinence?

Sexual abstinence is simply not having sex. It’s not the same as celibacy, which is never having sex. You can be abstinent for a short period of time.

Sexual abstinence means different things to different people. Some people go the whole hog and abstain from masturbating, oral sex and giving or receiving hand jobs, as well as sex. But others just don’t have vaginal or anal sex when they’re abstinent. It’s up to you how you define it. However, if you decide you only want to abstain from penetrative sex, remember you could still catch STIs through oral sex.

Why might I abstain from sex?

Not having sex for any amount of time, let alone a long period, may seem like pure hell to some of you. But there are many reasons why you might decide to abstain for a bit:

  • You’re single and waiting for someone you want to have sex with
  • You and your partner are taking a breather so it’s more exciting next time you have sex
  • You want to have more time and energy for other things, like work or friends
  • You’re waiting until you’re married for religious or personal reasons
  • You just don’t feel like having sex at the moment
  • Abstinence is the only 100% effective form of contraception/way to avoid getting STIs

The positive side of abstaining from sex

We know it’s hard to believe, but life’s not all about sex. And although you may miss the occasional orgasm, the rest of your life could benefit from you keeping it in your pants:

  • Less sex equals more sleep.
  • Time you’d usually spend preoccupied with sex can be used to write a novel, start a small business or go to the cinema.
  • It takes the pressure off. You can stop worrying about finding someone to sleep with, or performing well when you do.
  • Not having sex can give you time to know your partner in other ways; you know, like talking to them.
  • It saves money on condoms and sex toys – or whatever else floats your boat.

The negative side of abstaining from sex

The obvious downside to not having sex is that you don’t get to have sex. And there are some other things to consider too:

  • If the urge is just too great and you end up getting it on, you might not have contraception ready. To fully protect yourself from STIs and pregnancy, carry some condoms anyway.
  • Sex connects us with people; if you’ve got used to that connection, not having it can feel a bit lonely.
  • Sex can be good exercise and a way to de-stress. You’ll have to up the cardio to replace that.
  • If you’re in a relationship, one of you wanting to have sex and the other wanting to be abstinent could cause arguments.
  • Not having sex could make you think about it even more.

Challenges of abstaining

Abstaining from sex isn’t always an easy choice, especially if your partner or friends are pressuring you. So think carefully about why you want to do it and what the pros and cons are. If you know why you don’t want to have sex right now, then it’ll be easier to explain it to other people and stand by your decision.

But if you do change your mind, that’s OK. Abstinence can be as short- or long-term as you want.

Next Steps

  • Brook provides free sexual health and wellbeing services for young people in the UK. Brook's services include local clinics and online digital sex and relationships tool.
  • Relate is an affordable relationship and sex counselling service. 0300 100 1234
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.


Updated on 29-Sep-2015