Practicing Abstinence

PA State Standards/Objectives/Essential Question

10.1.12.B: Evaluate factors that impact the body systems and apply protective/ preventive strategies. fitness level environment (e.g., pollutants, available health care) health status (e.g., physical, mental, social) nutrition.

10.2.12.D: Evaluate issues relating to the use/non-use of drugs. Psychology of addiction social impact (e.g., cost, relationships) chemical use and fetal development laws relating to alcohol, tobacco and chemical substances impact on the individual impact on the community.

1. Students will be able to describe ways to promote health and reduce risks.
2. Students will be able to describe the consequences of taking risks.
3. Students will be able to evaluate the importance of abstinence from risk behaviors, including sexual activity before marriage.

Explain how the choices you make during adolescence can affect your health for the rest of your life?

Dating Decisions

During the teen years, you may start thinking about dating. Dating can be a great way to get to know another person. It also provides opportunities to develop social skills, discover new interests, and reaffirm personal values. Some teens, however, may decide not to date for personal reasons. They might not feel ready or they may have other priorities. Priorities are the goals, tasks, values, and activities that you judge to be more important than others. Priorities can include focusing on school or spending time with family. Talking to a parent or other trusted adult can help you decide if you’re ready to date. If you decide to date, try to establish healthful dating expectations. Keep the following in mind:

  • You and your date deserve to be treated with consideration and respect.
  • Be yourself and communicate your thoughts and feelings honestly.
  • Never feel pressured to do anything that goes against your values or your family’s values.

Setting Limits

Your parents or guardians may set limits regarding your dating relationships. Such limits are intended to protect your health and safety. For example, many parents insist on a curfew, a set time at which teens must be home at night. As you mature, you’ll need to set your own limits. Your parents or guardians can guide you through this process. It’s a good idea to set a limit on the age of the people you date. You’ll also need to set limits with your date regarding where you will go, how you will get there, and what you will do when you get there. Setting limits and making them clear before a date will help ensure safe and positive dating experiences. The most important limit you can set is to practice abstinence. As you learned in lesson 2, abstinence is a deliberate decision to avoid high-risk behaviors, including sexual activity and the use of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs. Choosing abstinence will safeguard your health and future.


By choosing abstinence from sexual activity, you are taking responsibility for your well-being. Abstinence does not mean doing without intimacy or physical contact in a close, special friendship. Intimacy is a closeness between two people that develops over time. You can still express affection and develop intimacy while practicing abstinence.

For example, you can hold hands, hug, kiss, and share your thoughts, feelings, and dreams. Keep in mind that it’s important not to confuse  genuine affection and intimacy with infatuation, or exaggerated feelings of passion. Practicing abstinence requires planning and self-control. Self-control is a person’s ability to use responsibility to override emotions. It’s normal and healthy to have sexual feelings. You cannot prevent those feelings from occurring, but you can control how you react to those feelings. The following tips can help you maintain self-control and stay firm in your decision to practice abstinence:

  • Set limits for expressing affection. Think about your priorities and set limits for your behavior before you are in a situation where sexual feelings may build.
  • Communicate with your partner. Discuss your limits for expressing affection with your dating partner. Clear and honest communication will help your dating partner understand and respect your limits.Talk with a trusted adult.
  • Ask a trusted adult, such as a parent or guardian, for suggestions on ways to manage your feelings.
  • Seek low-pressure dating situations. Choose safe dating locations and activities. For example, attend parties only where an adult is present. Try group dating, which can eliminate the pressure to engage in sexual activity.
  • Date someone who respects and shares your values. A dating partner who respects you and has similar values will understand your commitment to abstinence.

Avoiding Risky Situations

Some dating situations may increase your chances of being pressured to participate in sexual activity or other high-risk behaviors. Before you go on a date, know where you’re going and what you will be doing. Find out who else will be there, and discuss with your parents or guardians what time they expect you home. Here are additional precautions:

  • Avoid places where alcohol and other drugs are present. The use of alcohol or other drugs impairs judgment. People under the influence of these substances are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors. Prevent much situations by not using alcohol or other drugs and by avoiding people who use these substances.
  • Avoid being alone with a date at home or in an isolated place. You may find it more difficult to maintain self control when you are home alone or in an isolated place with a date. These situations also increase the risk of being forced into a sexual act against your will.

Considering the Consequences

Sexual activity carries serious consequences. It is illegal for an adult to have sexual contact with someone under the age of consent. Consent laws, which vary from state to state, make it illegal for an unmarried minor to engage in sexual activity. For example, if a state’s age of consent is 18, two 17-year-olds who engage in sexual activity would be breaking the law. Sexual activity can also harm a teen’s physical, mental/emotional, and social health.

Effects on Physical Health

  • Many teens make the decision to practice abstinence because it is the only 100 percent effective method to eliminate health risks associated with sexual activity. These risks include unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Also known as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infectious diseases spread from person to person through sexual contact.
  • Unplanned Pregnancy:Every year in the United States, about one million teenage girls become pregnant. Female teens who have begun to ovulate are physically able to have babies. A pregnancy can result even if teens are engaging in sexual activity for the first time. A teen who becomes pregnant may not obtain the prenatal care that protects her life and that of the growing baby. Her partner may lack the maturity needed to support her during the pregnancy .
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases: Each year, about half of the diagnosed cases of STDs occur among teens and young adults between the ages of 15 and 24. Although many STDs can be treated and cured if diagnosed early, some STDs have no cure. If left untreated, some STDs can cause sterility in males and infertility in females. This means that a person may never be able to have a child. Other STDs, such as the herpes virus and HIV/AIDS, have no cure. In the case of AIDS, the disease can be fatal.

Effects on Mental/Emotional Health

  • In general, teens are not prepared for the emotional demands of a sexual relationship. Teens who engage in sexual activity before reaching emotional maturity may experience
    • hurt because partners are not committed as in a marital relationship.
    • guilt because teens are usually not truthful to their parents about being sexually active.
    • loss of self-respect because sexual activity goes against personal and family values.
    • regret and anxiety, if sexual activity results in an unplanned pregnancy or an STD.

Effects on Social Health

  • Engaging in sexual activity can negatively affect a teen’s relationships with other people. Sexually active teens may deprive themselves of the opportunity to pursue new interests or friendships. The decision to engage in sexual activity can also harm a teen’s relationships with family members. Parents who discover that their teen is sexually active may express disappointment and worry. These feelings can cause tension in the family. In addition, teens who are sexually active risk an unplanned pregnancy. Teen parents face many challenges, such as providing financial and emotional support for their child. Teens who become parents may have to put their own education on hold.

Committing to Abstinence

To stay firmly committed to abstinence, continue to remind yourself of the reasons that you chose abstinence. Make sure that you communicate your values and decisions to your dating partner. It can be difficult to talk about abstinence, but the following tips can help make the conversation go more smoothly:

  • Choose a relaxed and comfortable time and place.
  • Begin on a positive note, perhaps by talking about your affection for the other person.
  • Be clear in your reasons for choosing abstinence.
  • Be firm in setting limits in your physical relationship.

Using Refusal Skills

  • Committing to abstinence means not letting a partner, peers, or the media pressure you to do something you don’t want to do. Practice the refusal skills that you learned in Lesson 2 to help you stand firm in your decision. Resist pressure to engage in sexual activity by using refusal statements similar to those shown in the figure below.

Recommitting to Abstinence

  • Teens who have been sexually active in the past may feel that they cannot choose to abstain from sexual activity in the future. They may feel pressured to remain sexually active. It is important to understand that choosing abstinence is always an option regardless of past experiences. Returning to abstinence is a positive alternative to previous sexual behavior. Teens who recommit to abstinence will feel good about their decision to protect their health and well-being.

**Remember, abstinence involves avoiding the use of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs.