Abstinence means avoiding sexual activity. You need to abstain from different sexual activities depending on why you use abstinence.
- For abstinence to prevent pregnancy, you need to avoid any activity that could allow semen to contact the vagina.
- For abstinence to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs), you need to avoid all sexual contact.
- For abstinence to satisfy your moral or emotional needs, you need to decide what kinds of activities you will avoid based on your personal, family, religious and social situation.
You can use continuous abstinence as your only method of birth control and infection prevention. You can also use abstinence any time that other reliable birth control and infection protection is not available (or any time at all!), even if you’ve had sex before. Abstinence is available to everyone at any time, for any reason. Abstinence is normal, common, acceptable, reversible and free.
Abstinence to prevent pregnancy
If you choose to practice abstinence to protect yourself from an unplanned pregnancy, you must avoid sexual intercourse and any activity that could allow sperm to come into contact with the vagina. This means avoiding:
- Vaginal intercourse (“sex”)
- Anal intercourse (“anal sex”)
- Withdrawal (intercourse without ejaculating)
- Masturbating and ejaculating near the vagina
- Any other activity that allows sperm to contact the vagina
- Intercourse without ejaculating (withdrawal) will not protect you against pregnancy because there is sperm in the pre-ejaculate fluid on the penis.
Abstinence to prevent infections
If you choose to practise abstinence to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections (STIs), you must avoid all sexual activity that allows contact. This means avoiding:
- Vaginal sex
- Anal sex
- Oral sex (mouth and genital contact)
- Digital sex (contact between one person’s hands and another’s genitals)
- Dry sex (Skin to skin genital contact)
- Sharing sex toys
STIs can be spread in many different ways; remember there are many serious infections that can be passed during oral sex alone, and there are some, such as herpes and HPV that can be passed by skin to skin contact.
Abstinence means different things
Remember, abstinence means different things to different people. You and your partner may have a different definition of what abstinence means so make sure you talk about your personal meaning and feelings.