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Unpopular Opinion: Abstinence is Good For You 

But in a world that glamorizes self-pleasure and getting as much of it as we can before we die, I want to offer a unique stance.

couple's feet cuddling in bed
Shutterstock/ Krakenimages.com

If you haven’t noticed or by any chance have been living under a rock for the last decade, you know this to be true. In our society, sex has taken precedence over everything. And no, it’s not only the very act. It’s the idea glamorized all over the shows we watch, the music we listen to, and the conversations we have. I get it, I sound like your mom. But in a world that glamorizes self-pleasure and getting as much of it as we can before we die, I want to offer a unique stance. An idea you may not even be considering.

And that idea is *drumroll* ABSTINENCE!

The Elephant in the Room…

Elephant in the corner of the room
Shutterstock/ r.classen

But first, let’s address the elephant in the room. It’s true that for reasons that vary from the pandemic to busy academic schedules, Gen-Z is having less sex than their parents and millennial brothers and sisters. 

 “In 2021, the survey found, the number of young Californians ages 18 to 30 who reported having no sexual partners in the prior year reached a decade high of 38%.” This can be attributed to the “slow life lifestyle”. You know, the lifestyle where Gen-Z is getting married later, moving out later, and getting their driver’s licenses later. However, abstinence is much more than just refraining from this one act.

What Even is Abstinence?

couple cuddling in bed
Unsplash/ Toa Heftiba

Abstinence is the practice of self-enforced restraint from indulging in bodily activities widely experienced as giving self-pleasure. 

While it can range from alcohol, drugs, or food, the most popular form of abstinence is sexual abstinence. Again, I get it. You’re in the prime of your youth and want to experience all the world has to offer. However, the quality health benefits that abstinence offers may just outweigh a few moments of pleasure. Let’s talk about it. 

Here are some stats for you…

Let’s review some statistics about some areas of our lives where sex is prevalent and influential.

statistics on screen
Unsplash/ Markus Winkler

“According to a recent study, Gen Z is highly likely to watch porn at bedtime (86%) and the vast majority (nearly 73%) reported masturbating prior to sleeping.” 

“As much as 80% of all movies shown on network or cable television stations have sexual content.”

As High Existence recently observed, there’s an ironic negative side effect to this sex-obsessed culture that is often neglected. The more sex we consume as consumers rather than connected human beings, the more desensitized we become to it, inexorably losing our true connection with genuine sexuality.”

“Around 60% to 80% of college students have had some sort of hook-up experience as they gain more freedom and access to contraceptives at a younger age. As this influence spreads to the vast majority of teens, hook-up culture only becomes increasingly prevalent.”

So from nighttime routines to media and even college life, there are more opportunities to practice abstinence than we think.

The Benefits of Abstinence

1. Less Physical & Emotional Risks

guy on couch nervous
Unsplash/ Christian Erfurt

With great power, comes great responsibility, we’ve heard a wise Marvel man once say. Apply that to sex, and this great responsibility could quite literally mean a pregnancy, STD, or a tragic breakup. “According to the CDC, the increase in casual hookups directly correlates to the rapidly increasing numbers in STI infections over the past 10 years,” an article by Saratoga Falcon said. The U.S. saw 2.5 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis in 2021, largely attributed to 15-24 year olds.  

With situationships and hook-up culture at an all-time high, the value of committed relationships is becoming a stranger to us. It brings anxiety, uncertainty, and heartbreak. Practicing abstinence allows us to have more certainty. The certainty that our relationships are not fully dependent on sex. And even more certainty that our partners don’t just value us for sexual attraction. Yep, it sounds like a lot of work and self-discipline. But anything great and valuable will always require patience and hard work. Additionally, studies claim those with fewer sexual partners are less likely to divorce in the future should they get married.  

You don’t have to worry about birth control, the health risks of Plan B, or using money to purchase condoms. Not to mention that 3 am call to your bestie crying in agony over the situationship she warned you wasn’t going anywhere. Trust me, spare yourself all unnecessary worries and troubles and swap them out for some quality investment.

2. Pornography Stunts Brain Activity

guy looking at phone
Unsplash/ Adrian Swancer

In our world of unspeakable and taboo topics, the topic known as “corn” on Tiktok makes the list of unspeakables. Sure, it might be a cheap topic of discussion on Family Guy or something your friend casually mentions, but nobody actually talks about it. I’ll spare you all the stats of how many Gen-Zer’s engage with “corn” and talk about its health risks instead. “Porn scenes, like addictive substances, are hyper-stimulating triggers that lead to unnaturally high levels of dopamine secretion. This can damage the dopamine reward system and leave it unresponsive to natural sources of pleasure. This is why users begin to experience difficulty in achieving arousal with a physical partner,” an article by Neuroscience.com said.

 In a study done by WIRED, those who watch porn have less grey matter and activity in the striatum and prefrontal cortex. These are essential brain areas responsible for decision-making and emotional regulation, and attention. 

With the median age of porn exposure being just 14 years old and top-searched categories being “barely legal”, “Japanese”, and “consensual non-consent,” this raises further concerns about misogyny and unrealistic depictions of intimacy.  Porn may be popular, cool, or “an expression of self” in our society. Yet studies clearly show that it’s even more damaging to our health. 

3. More Time to Engage in Life

girls in a group laughing
Unsplash/ Priscilla Du Preez

Whether it’s a situationship or a casual hookup buddy, the truth is that having an active sex life takes time.  On the contrary, abstinence offers an open window of time that will allow you to engage in various experiences and activities. Whether indulging in your newfound hobby of playing boardgames, working out, training to run a marathon, or investing in friendships, more time is always a good thing. 

“I was abstinent for the last almost two years while I did some really hard work on myself. It was the healthiest I’ve ever been. Did I miss sex? Sure, sometimes, but the clarity of mind and ability to put all my energy into healing and reorienting myself to my own wants and needs was worth it,” Reddit user reassonable_likeurmom shared. 

Using your time practicing abstinence can be incredibly rewarding to your self-growth, allowing you to know yourself and put time into activities you are passionate about. 

4. We Make Better Decisions Sober-Minded

girl meditating in front of window
Shutterstock/ Caterina Trimarchi

Comforts like alcohol, drugs, sex, and food sound great on paper but genuinely keep us blinded by how good they feel in the moment. I blame dopamine! “During sexual intercourse, in the female brain there are more receptors for oxytocin, and in the male brain there are more receptors for vasopressin. Both hormones cause the person to feel emotionally attached to the other, even with just one act of intercourse,” an article by the National Library of Medicine said. Both known as the “love hormone”, oxytocin increases feelings of trust, maternal instincts, and relationship building and vasopressin increases a man’s protective instincts over a woman. As much as we’d like to see sex as just a physical act, studies suggest that it is physically and chemically binding. 

“All of this results in actual physical changes in the brain. When these hormones flow and send their impulses, they dramatically affect connections or synapses between the neurons in the brain. Those synapses actually are strengthened when we repeat a behavior or they are weakened when we stop. So, when you repeatedly attach and unattach with multiple sexual partners you actually weaken the ability to stay connected,” an article by Family Life said.

While sex is binding, leaving us attached, this might affect our ability to make quality decisions regarding our partners. For example, we may choose to stay or commit to a partner who is abusive or incompatible due to our attachment we develop while having sex with them. Allowing ourselves to know another and maintain a relationship with them before getting intimate may sound elementary. But in the end, there’s much more wisdom to it than we perceive.  

5. Healing from Trauma & Grief

two hands gripping eachother
Shutterstock/ PeopleImages.com – Yuri A

Last but certainly not least, abstinence allows us to embrace healing from trauma or grief. Whether it’s the remnants of a toxic relationship or a family crisis, most of society tells us to “live it up” and throw caution to the wind during these hard times. However, in our fast-moving world, it’s worth investing in our mental and emotional health. While there is no real link found between depression and multiple sex partners, “Increasing numbers of sex partners were associated with increasing risk of substance dependence disorder at all three ages especially in women,” an article by the National Library of Medicine said. Moreover, pornography usage directly links to “distress, anxiety, isolation, loneliness, irritability, anger, and decreased sexual satisfaction.” 

At the end of it all, refraining from engaging in the highly bonding and addicting act of sex can do us good.

Reddit Personal Stories…

woman's hands typing on keyboard
Shutterstock/ maruco

“I recently reentered the dating world and have since had sex with a handful of people, and it has reopened a lot of issues I thought had healed, namely my father wound and my pattern of chasing broken men. I’m 99% convinced it’s because I slept with them before I’d established real intimacy and safety. It feels great in the moment, but I hate how much it impedes my healing in the long run and pushes me back into bad thought patterns,” Reddit user reasonable_likeurmom said.

“I was in a long term relationship (~9 years) and after about a year starting hooking up with people. After having casual sex I decided I needed to focus on myself…If causal sex works for you, great. But I encourage everyone to make sure you’re taking the time to reflect on YOU and what you like. I realized during my abstinence I was focusing on pleasing others, when my own sexual needs weren’t being met,” Reddit user Mimmi_37 shared. 

So jumping from partner to partner may not be the hottest move. Take a moment to heal, reflect, and know yourself above all.

In the End, It’s Your Choice

Sex…It’s a great thing that brings new life, closer bonds, and pleasure. However, in efforts to call attention to an idea most of Gen-Z is a stranger to, abstinence is the dark horse we may actually need.

With no intentions to condemn, but to inform, I hope to call attention to an alternative that benefits us in the long run. So in the end, know that it’s your choice and no one else.

Perhaps the popular phrases “You do you” or “You’re young, try everything” invite us to a deeper and more meaningful calling. The calling that tells us that we can choose for ourselves and make a life that is meaningful and truly pleasurable.

Written By

UCLA graduate with a background in English and Animation. When I'm not catching up on sleep, I'm trying to analyze everyone in the room, catching up on the latest YA Fantasy Novel, or watching the Office.

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