Where can I find information about abstinence?

Originally Published: June 21, 2002 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: December 7, 2007
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Dear Alice,

I would like to find some websites or agencies about abstinence.

Dear Reader,

Abstinence is always a topic that generates interesting debate. The American Heritage Dictionary defines "abstinence" as refraining from something by one's own choice, and as denial of the appetites, such as of certain foods or alcoholic beverages. As it's currently used, abstinence generally refers to refraining from sex. But this definition of abstinence is far from cut and dry. To some, abstinence means not having any type of sexual activity or contact. To others, it means not having oral, anal, and/or vaginal sex. To some, it means not having orgasms. Sometimes people decide to be abstinent until a certain time, such as when they graduate from high school or college, or when they marry. Others choose to be abstinent from sex as a way of "fasting" — a temporary choice, perhaps between partners. People choose to be abstinent for many reasons, including religious or cultural views, personal or family values, not being ready to have sex, or wanting to wait with a particular partner.

Abstinence is a complicated, often political concept. A signifier of freedom for people is to have choices, and abstinence (before you have intercourse, after previous sexual experience, or just for a while) is an important option to have.

Many organizations have web sites that provide information about abstinence, including Go Ask Alice! (see the Related Q&A links at the end of this answer). Some web sites provide comprehensive info about sexuality, including abstinence as an option. Others, many of which are religiously affiliated, provide information from an abstinence-until-marriage perspective. Often, abstinence-until-marriage organizations claim to provide factual and medically accurate information, however some of their information and/or links use scare tactics and reflect biases, especially when referring to sexual behavior. Some of these sites provide incorrect or misleading statistics about contraceptive effectiveness, or claim that condoms are worthless. Others argue that negative consequences of premarital sex are inevitable — including sexually transmitted infections (STIs), pregnancy, and emotional harm. The "until marriage" emphasis discriminates against people who choose not to marry, or who are in same-sex relationships, for which marriage is generally not legal. Stereotypes about gender are also prevalent within the material from these organizations.

All of this initial information is designed to help readers, like yourself, interpret and analyze the information you find. Some of the following links will lead you directly to informative discussions about sexuality, including abstinence:

I wanna know, sponsored by the American Social Health Association

Sex, Etc.: A Web site for Teens by Teens, sponsored by Answer (Rutgers University)

Teenwire, sponsored by Planned Parenthood Federation of America

Scarleteen

For more sites, entering "abstinence" in a search engine will provide you with additional links. In keeping with the theme of choice, The Abstinence Clearinghouse provides links to many abstinence-until-marriage organizations.

Each of these sites can provide you with more information, and perhaps more insight related to the issues surrounding abstinence, and may help you, or someone you know, make some important choices.

Alice

June 28, 2002

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Dear Alice, In your otherwise excellent response to WHERE CAN I FIND INFORMATION ABOUT ABSTINENCE? (June 21, 2002), you say, "Some sites... emphasize the worthlessness of...
Dear Alice, In your otherwise excellent response to WHERE CAN I FIND INFORMATION ABOUT ABSTINENCE? (June 21, 2002), you say, "Some sites... emphasize the worthlessness of condoms." I'm a professional copyeditor, and I was taken aback by the phrasing, which grammatically means that condoms *are* in fact worthless, but that "some sites" put a lot of stress on this, when it isn't necessary to. Surely you meant to say, "Some sites... claim that condoms are worthless," which connotes that they are not, in fact, worthless, even though these sites say they are. I hope you can correct this! All the best.