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Essay Paper on Sexual Abstinence

by Mary Dobson

The term ‘abstinence’ means the ability to do without something. In this context the paper is going to consider on the question of sexual abstinence. A lot of people all over the world have sexual relationships with their partner or partners. But on the other hand there is also a great deal of people that have decided to abstain from sex and wait until marriage. To begin with, the question of virginity as the way of sexual abstinence is going to be discussed. Abstaining from sex before marriage has been the topic for great debate in many societies. And the largest and the most authoritative group that speaks in favor of the sexual abstinence is the Catholic Church. “Making the decision to abstain from sex or to have sex is a very important decision.  It is a decision that will affect the rest of your life and is a decision that should be taken very seriously.  It is also very important to make sure that whatever you decide, your significant other will support you in your decision and will not pressure you into something that they want.” (7) The reasons for abstaining can issue from personal and religious beliefs. What is the most important while making such an over-strict decision is for one to be sure that one makes the right thing and it is the best one can do. What can prevent one from sexual abstinence is the great variety of pressures that try to impose having sex. But again, only the person oneself can decide what is the best for one. “If you feel you need to have sex and that is the right decision for you then that is ok.  If you decide that you want to wait until later on in your life or until marriage then that is fine too.” (7) So what are the reasons for which people decide to wait until marriage or getting older to have sex? There is a number of them. First, they are religious beliefs of the person. Second, person can be afraid to get pregnant or contract sexually transmitted diseases, and thus, abstinence is the only way to protect oneself from these undesired problems. Third, person can feel that one is not emotionally prepared for the sex with someone or waits for being confident that the relationship with the partner is supposed to become the life-long commitment. Fourth, if the person is a virgin it demonstrates that the person cares for one’s body and mind and is responsible while making crucial decisions.

As for the abstinence education in schools, the opinions differ. Some people consider that schools must not provide any kind of sexual education. Others believe that some kind of sexual education should exist for the teenagers at schools. And there is also one more group of people that consider that the best way to assure sexual education at schools is to teach abstinence. But such constrains in means of sexual education do not embrace the questions of birth control, contraception, abortion ratings and sexual orientation. Doctors in the USA, for instance, after having conducted some research prove that it is necessary to deliver “an abstinence message along with information on pregnancy, contraception and prevention of sexually transmitted disease… [R]esearch has repeatedly shown that comprehensive family life education programs reduce teen pregnancy rates and delay the age at which teens first engage in sexual intercourse.” (4) And on the other hand, simply teaching abstinence does not prevent the teenagers from having intercourse in their mid- or late teens that is about eight years before they get married. Parents are as well interested in proper sexual education for their children and they agree that right sexual education helps teenagers find out more information about sex within schools and to make the right choice of staying abstinent until they are ready emotionally and physically for their sexual life.

Consequently, abstinence education consists of the following concepts.

  1. Abstinence education helps teenagers realize social, psychological as well as health gains for abstaining from sex.
  2. Abstaining from sex before marriage is supposed to be accepted as a behavior standard by all the teenagers.
  3. Abstinence from sex helps teenagers avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy, and contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
  4. The accepted and expected standard of sexual behavior is mutually faithful and monogamous relationship in the context of marriage.
  5. On the contrary, sexual activity outside the marriage is harmful both psychologically and physically.
  6. Children born out-of-wedlock as well as their families are subjects to risk of being harmed by the society.
  7. Teenagers have to know the ways to reject sexual advances and be aware that alcohol and drugs make the teenagers vulnerable to sexual advances.
  8. It is important for the teenager to be self-sufficient before one gets engaged into sexual activity of any kind. (8)

Beside virginity there exists such concept as celibacy that as well is quite wide-spread nowadays. What are the reasons for the grown-up people who have already had sexual relationships of different kinds to obtain celibacy and to evade sex? One reason is the fear of contracting such sexually transmitted disease (STD) as AIDS, in addition to other STDs. “AIDS has been called a disease of behavior… If more people avoided risky sexual behavior—by using condoms or abstaining from sex except within a monogamous relationship—they could avoid contracting sexually transmitted infections.” (2) And another reason is the compound of psychological reasons. “Celibacy is a good choice for people that have been in any number of bad relationships.” (6) On the other hand, some people just reject sex because they are interested in their work, communication with people and other enriching and inspirational activities more than in having sex with someone. They perceive people as humans and personalities but not as feasible sexual partners.

Why is this all happening? After years of sexual revolution why do people prefer abstaining from sex through celibate and preserving chastity? There is believed to exist a tendency and it is going to be considered hereinafter.

Sexual relationships in the societies get through repeated stages that circulate spirally. British scientists envisage the question of sexual relations in British history in the following way. There are believed to have passed “three hundred years and the three swings of the pendulum from relaxation to restraint and then to relaxation – but now swinging back again.” (3) In the 21st century the ear of new didacticism has come. The first stage was in the eighteenth century when sex was well tolerated, and at the same time out-of-wedlock birth rates grew. Consequently, the 1753 Marriage Act was passed. After that the Victorian era came, and thus a “new emphasis on sexual purity, restraint, virginity and personal duty had an effect which lasted several generations.” (3) There existed very strict modesty, and even watching someone swimming was considered a perverted act. Though, Victorian people had sexual life, too. Just the example of eight illegitimate births out of every ten speaks for itself. Beside that, there is evidence that Victorian doctors were familiar with female sexuality. Then, with the end of the century, as soon as the Victorian era ended, the next swing started and the next revolution came to act. After the First World War there started radical movements connected wit the relationships, women rights. In the 40s sexual relationships were still ‘prim and proper’. Respectable ladies could not have sexual relations until they got married or at least got engaged. Later, with the end of the Second World War a sexual liberalization took place in many of the countries. And in 60s sex started to become rather a recreational act than a sacrament in which two people who were married and loved each other were engaged. “The 1970s and 1980s were two decades increasingly obsessed with new sexual freedom. It could be said of the early 1990s that never has there been a time when so many have been so publicly preoccupied for so long about their next orgasm, or someone else’s.” (3) But what is sex believed to be like today? In spite of being advertised and publicized all over the mass media, sex and relations based on it remain media images and not more. The evidence for it is the desire of most of the people to be faithful in their relationships and to have one stable partner. For instance, the American National AIDS Behavior Survey proved that out of 11,000 people questioned 90 per cent of them are monogamous. And 10 per cent have two or more partners in a year. And as a result, sexual education for teenagers at schools has been introduced. There appeared such slogans chanted by the 13 to 16 year old teenagers as “”Be Confident, Be a Virgin”, or “Do the Right Thing, Wait for a Ring”, or “Don’t be a Louse, Wait for a Spouse.”” (3) And beside that, the teenagers, at least many of them, believe that ‘true love waits’. There are definite results that follow the sexual education at schools. For instance, three young people of every four at universities have never had sex before. Even fewer young people have got a regular partner or have had sex with somebody in the last year.

As for the Americans, they are believed to be quite a sexually active nation. Alan C. Carlson describes the images of sexual activity during the history of the USA. And the first image is the puritan family. And Carlson believes that puritans were much earthier that they are believed to be. The hillbillies from the backcountry being of Irish-Scottish origin “Irish joined in the practice of “bundling,” as well, where the young, unmarried couple spent a night alone, “bundled up” to prevent too great an intimacy.” (1) According to Benjamin Franklin, due to the vast lands available in the USA, the farmers had the possibility to provide their families and have a lot of children (from 8 to 10). Thus, “the emerging American nation was sexually vigorous, a quality focused on the creation of new and fruitful homes.” (1) In the 19th century the Victorian age started, and it was the time of growing religious participation, and women became more sexually restrained. The number of pregnant brides moved downwards. In the beginning of the 20th century the American ideal of the family collapsed. And again religion did not have any influence on the life of the American people. After the Second World War marriage and fertility rates started rising, and the number of people visiting church grew – partly because of the influence of the church as it taught that family was holy, and partly due to the new opportunities to work, live and create families that became available for young Catholics. On the other hand, after the 60s, everything was devalued – marriage, love, virginity, and motherhood. As a result, in the beginning of the new millennium, more and more people come to the idea of sexual abstinence to protect their values and to keep them safe. And many of the polls prove the same: people all over the world advocate safe sex, abstaining from sex until people get married, encourage young people to have annual health check-ups. (5) Consequently, sexual abstinence is not something new but a historically conditioned process aimed at protecting people and their future families from troubles and illnesses.

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  1. Carlson, Allan C. “Sexuality: A Litmus Test for Culture.” The Howard Center. 16 April, 2003. 20 May, 2007.
  2. Closing the Condom Gap.  Sexual Behavior and Condoms.” The Info Project. April, 1999. 20 May, 2007.
  3. Dr Dixon, Patrick. “The Sex Pendulum Swings Again.” Future. n.d. 20 May, 2007.
  4. “Poll: Sex Advice for Young People”. Swivel Preview. 2007. 20 May, 2007.
  5. Pardini, Priscilla. “Federal Law Mandates ‘Abstinence-Only’ Sex Ed”. Rethinking Schools Online. n.d. 20 May, 2007
  6. “Sexual abstinence: First-Person accounts of Celibacy, part four.” Glandscape Hardening. n.d. 20 May, 2007.
  7. Shimko, Sheila. “Abstinence.” Oberlin Online. n.d. 20 May, 2007.
  8. Ward, Avis. “Talk Isn’t Cheap – Study – Abstinence Classes Don’t Stop Sex.” EzineArticles 22 April 2007. 20 May 2007

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