6 Ways Abstinence Can Actually Be Incredibly Dangerous

You’re probably looking at this headline about how abstaining from sex is dangerous and thinking, “Uh, WTF are you talking about? Abstinence is the safest form of safe sex!” Hold up, let me explain. First, let’s go through some facts: Teen pregnancy is at a new low, thanks to teens having better access to the morning after pill and birth control. But it’s also thanks to the fact that teens aren’t having as much sex now as they used to. In 1988, 51 precent of teen girls said they’ve had sex, now the number is more like 44 percent.

You know what’s not responsible for declining teen pregnancy rates? Abstinence!

If you equate abstinence to “not having sex,” you might be a little confused right now. I’m going to undo that: Yes, not having sex is definitely a part of abstinence, but abstinence as a belief is strongly rooted in actively trying not to have sex, usually for religious or otherwise moral decisions. So of course not having sex just isn’t dangerous–you’re not worrying about getting pregnant, or STDs, etc. But actively deciding not to have sex? Studies have shown that that can lead to some seriously negative consequences. Here are six ways abstinence can be dangerous; it might be time to ditch that purity ring for good.


You Can Get A Sexual Miseducation

Abstinence is often promoted with the help of abstinence only sex education in schools. Along with promoting “not having sex” as safe sex, the same educators will downplay the effectiveness about protection and make up lies about birth control. So, when a bunch of horny teenagers want to have sex, are persuaded not to have sex, and don’t know anything about sex leads to a pretty toxic combination, which ultimately leads to...

Freaks And Geeks

You Can End Up Using BS Sexual Loopholes To Remain 'Pure'

Those same horny teenagers who make abstinence pledges don’t suddenly stop having sexy feelings. They’ll still act on them, but they’ll come up with loopholes to keep their purity in tact and get off a the same time. This is the kind of mindset that leads to teenagers having anal sex to preserve their virginity, because apparently Jesus doesn’t care about the butt I guess.

But I'm A Teenager

It Can Increase Your Chances Of Having An STD And Becoming Pregnant

Studies have shown that people who break their abstinence only pledge and have multiple partners have a higher chance of obtaining an STD like HPV as opposed to teens who never had an abstinence pledge in the first place. Uh, yikes. But that pales in comparison to this stat: National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health surveyed teens over a course of six years. Eighteen percent of those teens who didn't take a purity pledge ended up pregnant within six years after having sex. The ones who did take purity pledges? Well, they broke it and were pregnant while unmarried.

The To-Do List

You Aren't Likely To Remain Abstinent Unless You're Hardcore Religious

So, it’s nice to say that you’re abstaining for religious reasons, but are you really that religious? Apparently, devoutly religious people are the only ones who have a higher chance of remaining abstinent. The occasional church going teen who owns a bible? Not so much. Remember when all those Disney Channel stars like Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus, and The Jonas Brothers had purity rings? Well, they don't anymore, none of them are married yet, and all have probably had sex. Nick even admitted that he wore one without really understanding what it represented, and Selena doesn't regret taking off her promise ring either.

You Could Internalize Some Seriously Slut Shaming Nonsense

You might not see this as dangerous, but it is. Abstinence has a tendency to smother sexuality, especially women's sexuality, with purity BS. Break that purity? You're a slut. You're dirty. You're a pariah. That kind of mindset can lead to depression, anxiety, isolation, and an unhealthy attitude toward sex. Not great for teens who are already pretty emotionally volatile.

"Judgements" by Rosea Lake

You're Not Going To Suddenly Stop Wanting To Act On Sexual Feelings

TEENS ARE GOING TO WANT TO PUT THEIR THINGS INTO, ONTO, AROUND OTHER TEENAGERS BITS AND PIECES. Obviously not all of them do, and that's fine--I never once had sex in my teens--but acting as if wearing a piece of jewelry or making a pledge when you're 13-years-old is supposed to have a serious impact on the average person's sexual history is kind of a joke. Avoid sex before marriage for religious reasons if you want to, but it's important to know that only three percent of Americans manage to do that. It's not the end of the world to have sex, just be smart and safe about it.

Sarah Wintner

Do you know anyone who was abstinent and ultimately ended up having sex anyway? What’s your take on abstinence in general? What about abstinence sex ed? Tell us in the comments!

You can follow the author, Ashley Reese, on Twitter or Instagram. Don’t worry, she doesn’t bite!

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  • asluz95

    I have a few issues with this. The title is very misleading. “Abstinence” in practice is not dangerous at all. Abstinence-only education programs certainly are, but not abstinence in itself. Slides 1-3 are effects of an abstinence-only education which denies information about safe sex and puts sexual purity (mostly female purity) on a high pedestal. If a person is truly completely abstinent, as I was throughout all my teenage years, then their chances of contracting STDs and getting pregnant is reduced to 0, not raised. That’s pretty healthy for teenagers as far as I’m aware.
    Numbers 4 and 6 are a personal choices. And again, they’re hardly “dangers” of abstinence. Some people make the choice not to have sex and then change their minds down the road, that’s fine. Sometimes people do decide at 13 not to have sex until marriage and that’s what keeps them abstinent through their teens (which was the case with me).
    As for number 5… come on. Some girls who choose abstinence early on certainly do internalize slut shaming, I’ll give you that, but plenty also don’t. I chose to be abstinent in my teens for both personal health and religious purposes, but another friend of mine was completely secular about it (she didn’t want to have sex until she turned 18, not for legal reasons, but for personal reasons, and as far as I know, she did it). A great way to stop slut shaming isn’t by trying to convince girls abstinence isn’t good, but by presenting sex as a very personal and private choice.

  • Ash Rose

    I have a friend who isn’t abstinent, but has basically had the world’s worst sex education. She doesn’t know the proper names for her “lady parts” and recently, when one of her family members went into labor, she went to visit them and said, “Are you scared of being cut open?” They said “WHAT?!” and she said, “Well, where else is the baby going to come out, your mouth, hahaha?!” She seriously needed the location of the place where the baby comes out explained to her. Also, when she first got her period, she went to the doctor’s because she thought she was dying. I don’t think she’s stupid, I blame her school and parents. If you were like this, or know anyone who was/is, tell me below!