Matthew Maniscalco
Abstinence

Merriam-webster.com defines abstinence as abstention from sexual intercourse. Cultures, countries, and religions worldwide all have ideologies and viewpoints on how abstinence should be approached, and if it should be an adopted practice. In recent years, the scare of STD’s, HIV and AIDS has shed new light on abstinence.
Abstinence in the Classroom
In recent decades abstinence has been integrated into the sexual education curriculum taught in classrooms throughout the United States. As Santelli (2006) states, abstinence promotion programs were initially supported by the United States federal government in 1981, under the Adolescent Family Life Act. Despite this, federal support for abstinence programs expanded drastically in 1996, when federally funded programs changed their basic ideology to one that solely discussed abstinence, while integrating nothing about contraception. In 2000, the Community-Based Abstinence Education program was established. This project focused its audience directly on community-based organizations, and did not need approval from state governments. The Community-Based Abstinence Education program forbids the teaching of certain aspects regarding human sexuality, including sexual orientation (Santelli, 2006). As the federal government continued to emphasize abstinence-only sexual education in the 1990’s and 2000’s, an increasing amount of federal resources were poured into the campaign. Santelli (2006) gives insight into this by explaining that federal funding for such programs went from $60 million in 1998 to a whopping $168 million in 2005.
According to Santelli (2006), abstinence-only sexual education is misleading and it exaggerates certain ideas. In particular, abstinence-only often portrays the mental effects of premarital and adolescent sexual intercourse in an incorrect way. Certain federally funded programs mandate the teaching that sex outside of marriage often has adverse psychological effects. However, while assisting in writing the paper “Society for Adolescent Medicine,” Santelli (2006) discovered no scientific data that would suggest that consensual premarital adolescent sex is psychologically harmful. In addition to misrepresenting information to adolescents, the United States’ abstinence-only ideology has had a negative effect on worldwide HIV-prevention efforts. In particular, it is very possible that by emphasizing abstinence, the United States has assisted in the reduction of condom availability and information of HIV and AIDS in certain countries (Santelli, 2006).
Abstinence and the Internet
With more people being computer savvy in today’s day and age, there has been extensive research done on the Internet’s impact on matters related to sexual health, including abstinence. Through conducting 58 interviews with high school upper-classmen, Jones and Biddlecom (2011) found that most of their sample used the Internet on a daily basis, while everyone was familiar with and had exposure to the Internet. 14 of the young interviewees recollected Internet exposure to information concerning abstinence. Abstinence related exposure included advertisements designed to delay teenagers’ sexual debut and articles centered on the topic “how to decide when to have sex” to name a few. The interviewees who could not recall online exposure to abstinence information believed they could find such information on the Internet if need be (Jones & Biddlecom, 2011).
Abstinence Among Adolescents
Most are aware that many African countries have been hit hard by the HIV and AIDS epidemic. The article “Sexual abstinence behavior among never-married youths in a generalized HIV epidemic country: evidence from the 2005 Côte d'Ivoire AIDS indicator survey,” examines the factors associated with sexual abstinence in the West African country’s youth. As Koffi and Kawahara (2008) assert, Côte d'Ivoire has the highest HIV prevalence in West Africa. Through the survey of 4,196 of the country’s youth, the authors determined that 80.1 percent of females and 78.2 percent of males were aware that abstaining from sex reduced the risk of being infected with HIV. The survey determined that among the non-married youth, practicing sexual abstinence decreased as age increased. Moreover, in comparison to those with no formal education, educated females were 11.14 times as likely to practice some form of abstinence. The study revealed that religious belief factors into one’s likelihood of practicing abstinence. In fact, males who had no religious affiliation, or practiced a religion other than Christianity or Islam were less likely to practice sexual abstinence. Surprisingly, male youths who knew someone with AIDS or who died from AIDS had an increased chance of engaging in sexual behavior (Koffi & Kawahara, 2008).
In discussing the demographics of Côte d'Ivoire in relation to abstinence, Koffi and Kawahara (2008) explain that abstinence behavior is not consistently distributed throughout the country. In fact, the youth who live in the northwest portion of the country are not as likely to uphold and practice sexual abstinence. Similarly, females living in the country’s rural areas are less likely to view sexual abstinence in a bad light. Thus, the decision of the Côte d'Ivoire youth to abstain from sex is dependent on a variety of interconnected factors. With this in mind, a more thorough comprehension of how these factors work and influence each other together would be beneficial. (Koffi & Kawahara, 2008).
In another survey, Abbot and Dalla (2008) spoke with 103 adolescents, 60 of which identified themselves as being sexually abstinent. Abbot and Dalla (2008) explain that religious values, fear of STD’s and pregnancy, personal values, and parental values were the main reasons abstinent adolescents said they chose not to engage in sexual relations. About half of the respondents associated their religious beliefs with their abstinence, while only 27 percent said their parents’ views influenced their decision not to have sex. In examining adolescents who were having premarital sex, Abbot and Dalla (2008) reveal that 58 percent believed sex expressed their love, devotion and commitment, while 28 percent agreed that premarital sex was a personal choice. Surprisingly, only 12 percent said they participated in sexual intercourse because it is a fun activity. Abbot and Dalla (2008) affirm that both the abstinent and sexually active groups emphasized that sex is an expression of love and interconnectedness within a relationship. Similarly, both groups were firm in their beliefs that their decision to engage in or avoid sexual relations would be beneficial to their relationships.

Abstinence and Religion
Polished_Script_Sterling_Silver_Purity_Ring_jumbo.jpg
The abstinence ring, otherwise known as the purity ring, symbolizes one's commitment to remain sexually abstinent until marriage. This particular ring says "True Love Waits."

Abstinence until marriage is uncommon in modern day. As Uecker (2008) explains, only 11 percent of adults abstain from sex until marriage, while 67 percent of young adults have premarital sexual relations with someone other than their future husband or wife. For those who have no religious affiliation, only 3 percent abstain from sex until marriage. On the contrary, Mormons are the most likely to not have sex prior to marriage, with 43 percent abstaining from premarital sex. Aside from those who have no religious affiliation, Black Protestants (80 percent) display the highest rates of engaging in premarital sex with someone other than a future spouse (Uecker, 2008).
In addition to religious affiliation, the degree of religiousness that one embodies also plays a substantial role in whether or not one remains abstinent until marriage. The insight given by Uecker (2008) reveals that in comparison to young adults who never attended church during their adolescent days, married young adults who attended church weekly were eight times more likely to abstain from sex until marriage. While a mere 8 percent of semi-regular church attendees wait until marriage to have sex, 21 percent of regular church attendees say no to sex until marriage (Uecker, 2008).

References
Abbott, D. A., & Dalla, R. L. (2008). ‘It's a choice, simple as that': youth
reasoning for sexual abstinence or activity. Journal of Youth Studies, 11(6), 629-
649.

Jones, R. K., & Biddlecom, A. E. (2011). Is the Internet Filling the Sexual Health
Information Gap for Teens? An Exploratory Study. Journal of Health
Communication, 16(2), 112-123.

Koffi, A. K., & Kawahara, K. (2008). Sexual abstinence behavior among never
married youths in a generalized HIV epidemic country: evidence from the 2005
Côte d'Ivoire AIDS indicator survey. BMC Public Health, 8(1), 408-422.

Santelli, J. S. (2006). Abstinence-Only Education: Politics, Science, and Ethics. Social
Research, 73(3), 835-858.

Uecker, J. E. (2008). Religion, Pledging, and the Premarital Sexual Behavior of.
Married Young Adults. Journal of Marriage & Family, 70(3), 728-744.

Author Unknown. (2011. April 10). My Personalized Ring [Online Image] Retrieved
from,http://www.mypersonalizedring.com/images/products/Polished_Script_Sterlin
g_silver_Purity_Ring_jumbo.jpg

Author Unknown. (2011. April 10). Merriam-Webster Online [Definition] Retrieved
from, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abstinence