Making the Transition from Sexual Abstinence


Participants will:

1. Recognize that a person’s decision to abstain is likely to change at some point in time.

2. Examine ways a person could make the transition from abstaining to not abstaining.

3. Identify ways to protect themselves from unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections if they decide to abstain no longer.


Given the fact that almost everyone will engage in some form of sexual behavior, including intercourse, at some time during their lives, young people currently abstaining from sexual behaviors need the information and skills to make that transition safely.

Of particular concern are “virginity pledge” programs in which young people make a one-time public or written pledge to remain virgins until marriage. These programs leave young people without the necessary knowledge and skills to protect themselves from unplanned pregnancy and disease if they change their decisions. The reality is that most do change their decisions. Nearly 90% of pledgers have intercourse before they are married, and when they do, pledge breakers are much less likely to use condoms than non-pledgers. Further, with an average of eight to 10 years between first intercourse and marriage, there is a real need for young people to know protective information if they do decide to stop practicing sexual abstinence.

This lesson addresses the reality that most young people who practice sexual abstinence will stop doing so at some time in their lives, and helps prepare them for a healthy transition to intercourse whenever that might occur.

Bearman, P.S. and Bruckner, H. (2001). “Promising the Future: Virginity Pledges and First Intercourse,” The American Journal of Sociology.

Daillard, C. (2003). “Understanding ‘Abstinence’: Implications for Individuals, Programs and Policies,” The Guttmacher Report on Public Policy.

Note: Educator may wish to follow-up this lesson with their favorite contraceptive or STI/HIV prevention lesson.

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