Postponing Sex: Is it Right for You?

Celine Ohanians


According to the Centers for Disease Control, two-thirds of all high school students are sexually active (non-virgins) by senior year. If you're part of the remaining third, you might use that figure as an excuse to jump into bed with any warm body (like the gang in American Pie who vowed to "lose it" by prom night).

It's human nature to want to be in a loving relationship, but having sex will not satisfy our hunger for deep intimacy. True intimacy arises from verbal and emotional communion. It's built on a commitment to honesty, love, and communication. That's a tall order, and it helps explain why it can make sense for some people to put off becoming sexually active.

Why Wait?
If you practice abstinence (abstaining from sex) until marriage or until you attain other emotional, financial, or educational goals, the risks associated with premarital sex that can be minimized include:

  • Pregnancy: this is a biggie. According to the CDC, about one million teenagers become pregnant each year (the vast majority of them by accident). One-third of these pregnancies end in abortion.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV.
  • Emotional trauma, such as depression, anxiety, fear of commitment, and insecurity.

What Is Abstinence?
According to Paul Okami, PhD, adjunct professor of psychology at the University of California in Los Angeles, there is no hard and fast definition of abstinence.

"In general, people take abstinence to mean not engaging in orgasmic or preorgasmic types of sexual activities," says Okami. "It depends on whether you're looking at abstinence from a religious or a family-planning point of view. In certain religions, for example, if you masturbate, you're not practicing abstinence."

Abstinence is an individual choice made for individual reasons. According to Tina Antilla, marketing director at the A.C. Green Youth Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Phoenix, AZ, choosing abstinence is a lifestyle choice. Every day brings challenges that test one's commitment to "staying pure" until marriage.

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