Dropping the A-Bomb: Abstinence

I was reading a blog the other day that referenced a news article from The Boston Globe. On one hand, I think it’s fantastic that the city’s turning to online teen haunts such as Facebook, YouTube, and cable channels such as MTV, FX, and BET to reach to teens about safer sex. Not only that, the campaign is also handing over the stage to the teens themselves.

While I disagree with some of the blog’s views on other subjects, the blog does bring up a valid point: Why is a comprehensive campaign that’s advocating safe sex in a smart way leave out the safest method there is to avoid STI’s (Sexual Transmitted Infections) and pregnancy – abstinence?

There. I said it. The A-word: Abstinence.

I bet all of you are cringing right now. If you haven’t closed this window, or clicked away to a more “open-minded” website, you might be entertaining that thought. And maybe that’s exactly why the campaign doesn’t mention the word abstinence, why they completely dismiss the idea, altogether.

But what makes the word “abstinence” so bad? When I cautiously mentioned the idea that I was writing an abstinence blog to my friends, I was gawked at, laughed at, sneered at, or sympathized with.

Seriously, abstinence? They say. That is so Victorian of you.

Some people criticize abstinence because of the educational campaigns that advocate abstinence. People mention how it’s impractical nowadays, that too many teens are having sex in spite of all these efforts telling them to slow their blood down and wait.

Hear me out – I’m not here to preach to you about the religious arguments for abstinence. I’m not an 85-year-old woman who lived during a time where to show a woman’s shins is the modern equivalent of the Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake scandal in the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show.

I’m just a 21-year-old college girl trying to finish up her English degree. And I’m here to give you facts: Even with protection, even with birth control pills, even if you’ve practiced every safe sex method there is in the book – you still run the risk of getting an STI or getting pregnant.

Everyone’s body is different. Some people are more fertile than others. Some people aren’t. Sometimes STIs show symptoms, and you should be, in a sense, grateful to see genital warts on you in the event that you did get something. Sometimes you see nothing – that you’ve contracted a sleeper STI that will eventually become a STD (sexual transmitted disease). You might become infertile by chlamydia. You might die at too young an age from HIV.

Those are facts.

There’s no guarantee that you’ll be fully protected from STIs and HIVs; there’s no guarantee that you won’t get pregnant if you use a condom or take a birth control pill.

The best, bullet-proof solution to not contact STIs or accidents is to just not have sex. It’s abstinence, and it’s a fact.

And when it all boils down to it, abstinence is also a choice. No one’s forcing you to not have sex. And yes, there are some situations that no longer made you a “virgin” – stupid situations, careless situations, painful situations and situations that simply got out of hand. And you can’t do anything about it.

But here’s the thing about abstinence – it’s not a one-time deal. It’s never too late to choose abstinence, even if you’re no longer technically a “virgin” (which is just a social construct anyway, according to a philosophy-major friend of mine).

So don’t hesitate – appreciate! Abstinence isn’t something you should be allergic to; it’s simply a choice. And to me, it’s the best choice to avoid STIs, pregnancy and just messy situations altogether.

3 Responses to “Dropping the A-Bomb: Abstinence”

  1. Lucy Cotton

    A couple different thoughts.

    Firstly, you said that ‘you can get pregnant,’ and that is true. The neglected factor, I feel, is the male perspective – you can get someone pregnant. You can end up paying child support, or watching your girlfriend have an abortion, or trying to adapt and do the responsible thing when you aren’t ready to be a father at all. Once you get a girl pregnant, that’s it, that’s all, you have no control over whether or not she keeps your child. If I were a boy, I’d think really carefully about whether or not I wanted to take that risk, espeically depending on my own morals regarding child rearing. If I were a boy, I’d find it really intimidating that I could only have a child if I could get a lady to agree to help me. My future parenthood is important to me – single, with someone or living in a commune, I want to be a parent. To be a boy, I think, would be a scary thing.

    Secondly, I went to a hippy training camp college in my distant youth (hah!) and wanted to share the attitude there – abstinence was, yes, the height of silliness. I held to it, despite their attitudes, because it wasn’t their business. Their attitudes, however, went something like this – you /will/ have sex before you’re twenty, or you’re weird. When (not if) you do, here’s how to do it safely.

    I’m no fan of abstinence only – I am a fan of abstinence /until/. Abstinence until I would be willing to have a baby if it came down to it. Abstinence until I had someone I cared about to be with. Et cetera.

    Abstinence is a form of waiting, while I’m rambling on, and some people are not good at delayed gratification. I stumbled onto this, however, the other day: http://www.mymoneyblog.com/archives/2009/08/personal-finance-education-delayed-gratification-and-marshmallows.html The summary – being able to wait for things is a talent that will get you far in life. Whether you practice it by saving the last cookie or waiting for sex. No advice fits everyone (except perhaps ‘don’t murder anyone’) but to know that you /can/ abstain if you want to… it seems a powerful thing to know about yourself, to me.

    • Vanessa

      Lucy — you brought up an excellent point that I’d missed. Thank you so much for that.

      And I agree; abstinence *is* about waiting — waiting for the right time and (in my opinion) a committed relationship. I’m morbidly curious about your hippie camp training (what are those things about, anyway?), but I’m not surprised that the concept of abstinence is laughable, hippie or not.

      I’ve never heard of the Marshmallow Experiment! Thank you so much for posting this link! It was very insightful. ^_^

      • Lucy Cotton

        In short, the worst sort of liberal attitudes occured at the college I went to.
        -We’re the most tolerant people out there, except towards Christianity and intolerance (which are the same thing).
        -You’re mostly under the age of eighteen, but we are going to trust you to supervise yourselves alone in college dormitories with barely any adults around because you’re such /smart/ kids.
        -Rampant drug use is just kids being kids, not a /problem/. (Mostly uppers and study drugs and ADD meds kids got from the student health center.)

        The attitudes of some liberal students I’ve met is more pernicious. The idea that sex has no consequences is flatout wrong. You can limit consequences, you can make them unlikely, but you’ll never get /rid/ of them. And the idea, espoused by a roommate of mine, that anyone who was a virgin at 20 had something wrong with them? I run into that again and again in the circles I run in.