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Abstinence as a form of Birth Control
You may hear a lot “Abstinence is the only 100% effective form of birth control/STI prevention.” Which is kind of true. Let me explain.
Abstinence as pregnancy prevention
Abstinence means “I’m refraining from having sex” but then we encounter a problem. What is sex? Some people who say they are abstinent still have oral sex, manual sex, frottage, or anal sex. Some of these forms you can get pregnant with. Any time semen is introduced to a vulva there is a chance of pregnancy
- If ejaculate gets near and drips on the vulva or gets directly on the vulva there is a chance of pregnancy. This can happen during anal sex, manual sex and frottage/humping most commonly. If you’re careful to not get semen near the vulva you shouldn’t have a risk, but this is a common thing even if you’re sexually active.
Abstinence as STI prevention
- As with abstinence as pregnancy prevention, it matters how you define abstinence. STIs can be passed through intercourse, anal sex, oral sex, sharing toys, grinding without clothes, or using your hands on one set of genitals and then another set.
- Some STIs are passed in the womb. This can happen with a lot of STIs, most commonly HIV, but also with HPV, some forms of hepatitis and herpes.
- Some STIs are got through non sexual means. Most commonly herpes. Cold sores are herpes. They can be passed through just touching a sore and touching another person or through kissing and they can be passed to the genitals. Hepatitis and HIV can also be passed through non sexual means. If you travel a lot you may come across contaminated foods or water, which can pass hepatitis. If you’re around blood or needles you may contract HIV.
- If you’re abstinent until marriage you may marry someone with an STI. I know, people with STIs are regular people who are allowed to get married. They may have gotten it in child birth, or through non sexual means or maybe they had sex. They may not even know they have it! It’s important to get tested before any sexual conduct, and even then herpes and HPV are difficult to test for. Unless they have ever had an outbreak of herpes or genital warts or have tested positive during a pap smear (which you can go years without one) they may not know.
Abstinence involves consensual sex
Rape exists. You may be abstinent and have that choice taken away from you. And if in your abstinent education you were taught that pregnancy and STIs are such a horrible thing or if it’s difficult to get pregnancy tests, abortions, pro choice counselling, or STI tests because people thing saying “just say no” is enough that just adds more trauma to the experience.
In conclusion, yes abstinence is a great choice for birth control, as is the pill, condoms, or any other form. Also just like them, it has flaws. So no, it’s not always 100% effective.
So how do you use abstinence effectively?
- Talk with your partner about what constitutes sexual activity and what sexual activity you are both comfortable with.
- If you do want to engage in sexual activity that passes STIs be sure that both of you get tested first, even if neither of you have done the activity before. Look into using condoms, dental dams, and gloves during sexual activity and never share toys without changing condoms.
- Don’t pressure each other into any sexual activity. Remember, if you’re not ready for any form of sexual activity or intimacy for whatever reason, whether it involves pregnancy or STIs or not, that’s okay! Your partner should respect that, and if they don’t, they don’t deserve you.
- In the end what matters is what you want and what you’re comfortable with. Don’t feel pressured into abstinence and don’t feel pressured into sexual activity. Your body and your sexuality belong to you.
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