Abstinence - To do or not to do?

  • By Sahana Rajan

Abstinence involves the act of waiting till one's marriage to be involved in sexual intercourse. Sex education focuses on spreading awareness about sexual intercourse, contraceptives, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and other sex-related information. There are pros and cons to both the options. Here are pros and cons to abstinence:

Merits of Abstinence: Since every contraceptive has a risk scale, there is always a chance of the teenage becoming pregnant. Thus, abstinence is the only 100% certain way to prevent pregnancy. By practicing abstinence, teenagers also avoid the chance of coming in contact with any sexually transmitted infection/diseases. It has been known that those teenagers who have sex at an early age (12-16), tend to be at a greater risk of dropping out of school, being in abusive relationships, involvement in substance abuse and peer pressure to have sex consistently after their first sexual experience.

A person in a romantic relationship and practicing abstinence is confident that their partner does not want to be in the relationship simply for bodily pleasure. Moreover, it has been found that couples have a better relationship if they wait to involve in sexual intercourse till the time they are certain of their relationship, are engaged, or married.

Since teenage life is marked with raging hormones and emotional changes, having sexual relationship could deteriorate the social and emotional development of the individual by making them more vulnerable. Those teenagers who wait to get married to have sex have been found to be more confident and independent than those who couple sex as an extremely important part of their emotional relationships from teenage years.

Emotional compatibility is primarily used to forge a relationship than becoming intimate through physical relationship. Those who abstain from sex until marriage also do not face the side effects that accompany consumption of contraceptives.

A study done by Save The Children revealed that every year, 13 million children are born to women who are under the age of 20 years old. The need of the hour has been to prevent teenage pregnancies through spreading awareness. Abstinence is one of the ways in which this can be done.

Demerits of Abstinence: In the present world, it has been argued that abstinence is unrealistic and the need of the hour is to ensure that no mishaps occur as a result of sexual intercourse than to unrealistically impose that it should not be done. Abstinence has different meanings for varying people. Some might engage in anal sex, mutual masturbation, or oral sex leading to chances of transference of STDs.

Generally, abstinence involves taking a pledge. However, studies have found that taking the pledge does not make any difference in the sexual conduct of the person. Those who break the pledge and are involved in sexual activities are not acquainted with ways to protect themselves and often carry STDs for a longer period of time than those who are well-informed about STDs through sex education.

The idea of abstinence is also hurtful to the self-esteem of women as it makes them believe in the premium of virginity. Girls and women are instructed that their moral purity lies in ensuring that they are virgins until their marriage, when indeed no association has been proved between having sex before marriage and immoral activity in social sphere. The medical aspect of abstinence often takes a backseat in abstinence programs, thus not giving enough water to the claim of abstinence.

Teenagers who believe that they might get involved in any sexual activity have the confidence to approach their teachers and parents to know the ways to deal with any health effects of sex. However, those who take the pledge and predict that it might be broken are embarrassed and avoid asking questions, thus ending up with partial knowledge about sex through sources like internet or peers. Thus, the lines of communication get closed at a level in case of emergency with abstinence pledges.