Making The Natural Unnatural – How Abstinence Can Hurt People

Sex. Sex sex sex. Just the word makes a lot of people uncomfortable. There are a lot of possible reasons behind this, one of which I think is a lack of education on the topic in this country. Something at the very core of our being as animals has become taboo to speak about, even in an informative way that would prevent a lot of complications for people.


The topic of abstinence is even more interesting. While I know it is nearly impossible to broach this subject without some sort of religious debate, the fact of the matter is that most people who choose to wait until marriage to have sex, do it because they believe it is what their god wants. But, that is not what I am going to discuss here. Please keep the conversation civil.

Studies and more recent articles about personal experiences from those who have taken the pledge, are showing some very real dangers to depriving ourselves of our most innate, natural, biological desire. I would encourage you all to take the time to read this moving article from a woman who was abstinent until marriage, and the very negative emotional effects it had on her after she finally took the plunge.

It is noted throughout the article that her image of sex was always negative because it was so forbidden. Not to mention the fact that she made this pledge at the impossibly young age of 10, when she could not have possibly made a mature enough decision on the topic without being influenced by the adults who surrounded her. Her article illustrates how this was hurtful to both her as a woman, and to her marriage.

Recently, The University Of Washington published a study which followed the effects of men who had pledged to be abstinent until marriage. Not surprisingly, these men have a difficult time communicating about sex to their partner as well as adjusting to the idea that something they have been told is corrupt for their whole lives, has suddenly become beautiful and meaningful.


The article speaks of support groups for men struggling with the sexual desires we naturally all have:

“While the whole point of these support groups is to honor sex in marriage, these men have gotten so used to thinking about sex as something negative that they bring those concerns with them to the marriage bed. Once they’re married, these men struggle to manage those concerns in the absence of the supportive community they once benefited from.”

Now, let me say this – I do not think the entire problem is abstinence. I know that some people will be offended by my stance and/or this article, but studies and very real problems that develop in people because of being mislead down this path do not lie. But if abstinence itself is not the problem, what is?

Abstinence for the wrong reasons is a problem. Lack of sexual education leading to poor choices is a problem. The vilification of something natural and beautiful is a problem, because it makes people who have sexual desires (aka EVERYONE) feel dirty and guilty about something they cannot control. This. Is. A. Problem.

We need to be open and mature enough as a society to discuss these issues in a healthy, informative way so our youth can make the right decisions for themselves as individuals when they become adults. So that they are smart and safe, regardless of what they choose to do or not to do.

Another important note: What of people who do not get married? Because they choose to not enter into a legally binding lifelong contract and sign the piece of paper, does this mean they should never be able to have sex with a partner whom they love and care about? Where is the logic or reasoning in that? Food for thought as another aspect of this conversation.


Should you be abstinent? Sure! If that’s what you want! Should you have sex? Sure! If that’s what you want! But please, for the sake of your own happiness and emotional well-being, take the time to learn about yourself and develop into a mature enough person to make this decision based on what you want, not on what someone else tells you to do. It is your body, it is your mind, and it is your choice. Your body does not belong to your parents or your church or your temple or your mosque or your husband/wife.

Your body is yours, and so is the decision about what to do with it.


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48 thoughts on “Making The Natural Unnatural – How Abstinence Can Hurt People

  1. I have to respectfully disagree but that is because I am a Christian and I come at it from that standpoint. Sex is a great, wonderful, and natural thing and I totally agree that people, anf hy people I definitely mean the church as well, make it taboo when it shouldn’t be at all…but from a Christian way of believing it is a beautiful thing in the context of marriage! I don’t judge you if you do or do not have sex but I think it’s just as wrong to tell all these girls that they should rethink their choices because one girl wrote and article about how sex freaks her out.

    1. Hi Michelle, thanks for your comment!

      Please keep in mind this article is not directed towards men or women, in fact I mention both and link detailed sources about how abstinence has negatively affected both genders.

      Should people not deeply consider their choice before making a decision on this topic? If someone has been told what to do with their body from a young age by an adult but their instincts are telling them otherwise as they become old enough to make their own decisions, shouldn’t rethinking their choices be EXACTLY what they do?

      New information is presented and the ability to change our opinions based on it is what makes us human and allows us the chance to learn and grow along our journey.

      Thanks again for your great comment. 🙂

      – JMS

      1. I find that extremely sexist. There have been plenty of women in my life that didn’t want to develop a bond after sex. And there have been a couple I did want a bond with but they just wanted sex.

      2. Nope, many women don’t bond to a man after sex. Many men do bond to a woman after sex. Also, saving yourself till marriage can lead to divorce as your partner could end up gay, you could be very, very sexually incompatible. There is no becoming one and that idea can actually lead to abuse.

      3. thank you for your comments below… it is a proven and science fact… sorry ladies. 🙂 It dilutes you for marriage. ..If you really think you are up for an argument and find what I say sexist… try on this site. …Of course with Mr. Sama’s permission… it is all about choices we make and consequences we live with. Do forgive and move on or are you a victim? Women are good at that. (myself included so no attacks please…. note: there is no anger here only a discussion) Thanks for this riveting article!
        btw…married to an atheist for 25 years… God is good. 🙂

    2. Well, I did it the Christian way and saved myself for marriage. I ended up with a gay husband. I really regret waiting and I think a lot of Christians blame their poor marriages on not waiting because they didn’t do the “righteous” thing. There are a lot of us who saved ourselves and ended up divorced for various reasons. There are so many of us who could give our stories of feeling like we were lied to and deceived into waiting until marriage or sex. It’s really not this huge thing we were told it was. I don’t recommend it at all.

      1. There are a lot of studies showing it to be harmful to marriage to not abstain from sex until marriage.

    3. I absolutely agree with you, Michelle. And I also want to point out that marriage is so much more than a signed piece of paper. Marriage is work and commitment and is the right way to have a lasting relationship with someone.

      I do like the points about how sex shouldn’t be viewed as something negative or evil. We need to educate kids, teenagers, and young adults the right way so that they can make good decisions.

  2. For my family… having an honest discussion of this topic IS healthy and open. However, please do not allow one woman’s article be the bases of (why you should have sex) because my story is completely different, as it will be for most people. Please understand we do live in a world of choices… and consequences. For myself, I am glad I waited and 25 years of marriage ( Aug 19th) I still am. I have no one in which to compare him to and I think he is wonderful. 🙂 I ask permission on sharing this link on your site. Just my two cents on the subject matter. Thank you for having this article. For those wanting to attack… please re read what I wrote slowly… and carefully… I am not telling you what to do. These are choices for MY family. My own mother talked about how sex was healthy for a husband and wife within a family unit.

    What Woman Never Hear

    1. Thank you for sharing. 🙂 We are on the same page in that making your own choices that are best for you is exactly what I said to do in this article. The woman in the article I linked did not do that, and that’s why she had a negative experience. You did, and that’s why you had a positive experience – even though you both did the same thing.

      My intention here is not to say be, or don’t be, abstinent. It’s to say to learn enough about yourself that you can consciously decide what to do instead of being influenced by others who think they know what is best.

      Thanks again for your comment!

      – JMS

  3. I my wife and I were abstinent until we married over 16 years ago. We didn’t experience any of the negative things you mentioned in this article. I think it was because sex was never communicated by our parents or our churches to be a dirty or taboo subject, just something precious to be saved for the one we commit to be with for life. As always, I think you did a good and balanced job of talking about the issue in the article. Whenever we use fear to motivate behavior, even good behavior, there are some pretty negative consequences. Positive motivators are usually the best.

    Thanks for opening the conversation.

    1. Great to hear this is what worked for you, Paul! I think that’s a great example of two people who made a conscious decision to do what worked best for them as individuals, and the positive results that can come from it. That’s exactly what I’m trying to promote here, with the awareness that everyone will choose something different!

      I did my best to be balanced as well so thanks for appreciating that too, and for your great comment. All the best to you and your wife!

      – JMS

  4. I have to admit that with my older two children, now 23 and 24, I did PREACH abstinence!! I was brought up that sex was shameful and wrong. It’s a control issue, at least it was for me and I’m sure my parents too, because of the fear I had around sex and I know my parents had fear around sex too. It took years of therapy and being in a loving relationship to heal those wounds. I now love my sensuality, sexuality and femininity! I have a 13 and 15 year old and I am raising them completely different and my CONVERSATIONS WITH my kids are approached from a standpoint of “when you’re in a loving, healthy relationship”. Who’s to say that they will ever even get married?? What if they find someone they love and decide to be life partners without the legalities of marriage?? It is personal choice, each person knows when they are ready, what they can handle, what feels right for them and our body IS just that, our own individual bodies. Who is anyone to tell us what to do with them?
    Great article James, as always!

    1. Amazing! Thanks so much for this input and I have a lot of respect for the way you have learned from your past and have applied it in constructive ways to your present and future. We should all be so wise!

      I also commend your understanding that not everyone gets married – I should have mentioned that in this article!! Very important point to this conversation! I will actually add it in now.

      Thanks again,

      – James

      1. You are very welcomed and thank you for the wonderful work you do. My teenage son and daughter don’t know it yet, but your blog is going to be required reading starting next week..the 3 of us are going to sit down and read an article a few nights a week together and discuss 🙂 Thank you for your heart!

      2. Please let me know how that goes! I would love to hear how they respond and what they think of the topics. If there is anything I can do to help please let me know. 🙂

    2. Although sex is not bad it is important to note that a lot of studies have shown it to be harmful to a marriage if they do not abstain from sex until marriage.

      1. Scroll down a little on the page and you will see them. The page has to go through an approval process when posting links so I will not be reposting them. You can also do edit, find and enter in shon and find them on the first or second attempt.

  5. What a good topic James and I commend you for handling it with a lot of respect and open-mindedness.

    I believe the problem is not abstinence itself, as you say, but a lack of education. And maybe not even a lack of education, but simply mis-education. The way society looks at sex and understands it usually tends to miss the core of what drives it: connection. And the founding religious belief behind the notion of not having sex before marriage is designed around the idea of connection: with self, with God, and with others on an emotional level. A great read on the topic of sex and connection is SexGod by Rob Bell.

    Coming from a Catholic background, I can say confidently that the Catholic church doesn’t teach you not to have sex before marriage because God says so, or because your body belongs to him or to your future spouse. This commandment, like all the others, is intended to actually help liberate us, not chain us down, but unfortunately it’s easier to feel the latter, as to achieve the first requires pro-activeness, strength and deep sense of self and love for all. I say this from experience feeling both, and am by no means an avid church-goer.

    Basically, a great topic for endless conversation.

    🙂 Keep up the great work James.

    1. Thanks for the great feedback Belén. 🙂 I totally agree about miseducation, I think some of the things that are a little more dangerous when it comes to christians who remain abstinent for religious reasons is those who may read deuteronomy 22:13-21 and find the command to stone to death any woman who is not a virgin on her wedding night, haha. Even though I don’t follow any religions I have studied them and found them…interesting.

      But in all seriousness, regardless of religion I agree with you that there is a connection with yourself that is required before being able to emotionally and physically give yourself to another person. I do think this is an important conversation to have as well and would really help people determine whether or not they want to be abstinent or if they are comfortable being physical with others and not being negatively affected by it.

      I guess my wider point here is that it really depends on the individual, and the best thing to do is make decisions based on our own personal desires, and not to be coerced by others.

      We can talk about this more over drinks tonight. 🙂

      – JMS

      1. It is important to note that Christians believe that God has made his new Covenant prophesied to Abraham through Jesus Christ. Although much of the law of the Old Testament remains a sin how the sin is treated is no longer the same, so although it would be a sin for the woman to not be a virgin it is not punishable by death. Christians for that reason should not find that verse confusing.

        On another note although sex should not be viewed as bad, abstaining from it until marriage has been showing by many studies to be very beneficial to that marriage.

      2. It is important to note that Christians believe that God has made his new Covenant prophesied to Abraham through Jesus Christ. Although much of the law of the Old Testament remains a sin how the sin is treated is no longer the same, so although it would be a sin for the woman to not be a virgin it is not punishable by death. Christians for that reason should not find that verse confusing.

        On another note although sex should not be viewed as bad, abstaining from it until marriage has been showing by many studies to be very beneficial to that marriage.

  6. My fiancee and I are practicing abstinence in our relationship because we’re both Jewish and were taught that sex is something healthy but should be reserved for your spouse. So I think if you’re taught that its sinful or wrong then you can have those experiences the girl had in her article you quoted, but if you’re taught that its healthy and normal but should be reserved for marriage then you can save yourself but still enjoy it in a healthy way once married.

    1. Although sex is not bad it is important to note that a lot of studies have shown it to be harmful to a marriage if they do not abstain from sex until marriage.

      1. It is also a way you can get trapped into an unhappy marriage. Personally, I don’t think marriage is the ultimate goal. I don’t think it is necessarily bad or good to be married. I think having a healthy relationship is much, much better.

      2. A healthy marriage means a healthy relationship. The fact that those that choose to marry that chose not to abstain from sex till marriage are much more likely to divorce shows that you are more likely to get trapped in an unhappy marriage with an unhealthy relationship by choosing not to abstain.

      3. Shon, there is no way to have accurate statistics on this because I am sure that the majority of people do NOT abstain before marriage, so of course the majority of divorces will be between people who did not abstain…

        That’s like saying, I’m putting 75% red crayons in this box, so if you choose a random one, you will most likely get a red one.

      4. The studies indicated that non-abstainers are more likely to divorce not that they have more divorces.

        I have a comment that is awaiting approval from you on this page, do to links on it. Could you please approve it?

      5. Let me look for the comment – apologies for not approving it yet, I took the requirement to approve comments off so I’m not sure why that one got filtered, I’ll go approve it.

      6. Thank you, wordpress has a different system for comments that include too many links, so that was not your fault.

  7. Yes, yes, yes, a million times yes!! I am so glad I broke free from that whole abstinence culture. And, no, I didn’t “go crazy” & sleep with a million people either. But I definitely intend to raise my future children very differently in this regard so that they won’t grow up thinking that sex is somehow dirty & sinful. I can also say that the percentage of people I grew up with in the whole abstinence culture who ended up being teen parents is absurdly high. Ironic, huh? I suppose it really isn’t so strange when you really think about it, considering most of us had no real sexual knowledge or legitimate scientific information on the subject. The whole thing makes me really quite angry b/c it’s so illogical & sad.

    1. It depends on what you mean by abstinence culture, it is wrong to make sex look bad, yet abstinence from sex before marriage has been shown by numerous studies I highlighted above to be very healthy for a marriage. It is important to save yourself for that special someone.

      1. I think it’s all in the attitude toward sex. Just to be clear I married the first man I ever slept with. And we’re still very happy together! But I don’t think it harmed our marriage at all that we had sex long before actually getting married. However, we did wait until we had a very serious, stable relationship & knew that eventually we probably would get married, just when we were older & had the money/means to do so. Again, I think it’s all in the attitude toward sex. It should be viewed with the seriousness it deserves but also seen as the wonderful, life-affirming thing that it is.

  8. I am not a prude, nor have I taken a vow of abstinence. Sex is not dirty, it’s wonderful. With all that said … In my world, I can’t just fall into a physical relationship with a man unless there is a loving relationship. It doesn’t feel right. So that’s what I’m waiting for. Some women seem to be able to separate sex and emotion, but I’m not one of them and I found that out the hard way. We have to be true to ourselves.

  9. There are some points of this article that seem very insightful. The decision of an ADULT on what to do with their body is their own and not parents/friends/siblings. Information is key in making those decisions. Here is where we differ. The actual tenant of marriage is the giving of yourself to your spouse. To say that your spouse has no say in your body and to say depriving your body(abstinence) “hurts you emotionally” are horribly selfish statements and persons with that shallow of a view of sexuality aren’t nearly mature enough to engage in sex in the first place. Once they realize it takes two to tango and are aware of the consequences of sex(physical & emotional) then they will be ready to make an informed choice.

  10. Hi! I really love your articles and usually don’t respond to them because I am too lazy 😀
    Overall I love this article as well, but I don’t like the article about the woman who waited till her marriage because it stereotypes Christianity, the Baptist Church, religion… I don’t know which church she used to go to, but not all are the same. I was fortunate enough to be a part of the church where they don’t treat sex as something terrible, but healthy and amaying within marriage and my parents talk about it openly all the time. But at the same time, I see your point and also I see why people can get judgmental towards religion when they hear or read stories like this one. I myself am angry about this purity pledge at the age of 10! The abstinence should be a matter of free will and choice, because God never makes you do anything, He has given us free will.
    Anyway, thanks for all the articles, they are great and thought-provoking.

  11. I read your blog from time to time after being introduced to it with an amazing article. However, I read this article a few days ago and couldn’t stop thinking about it. I usually don’t comment on blogs but I feel that this one needs my thoughts

    I respectfully disagree with what you have said in this article. I don’t judge people who decide to have sex before marriage, but I’m choosing to wait. Yes I am a very strong Christian, but my church has never made me feel like sex was something bad. They have simply said that sex is the most powerful way to show love for another person. I’ve been taught that is a beautiful and loving thing once you are married, it shows a deep trust and deep love for another person. I believe that a relationship that is based on communication, and a relationship that is growing, trusting and ultimately where you get to know the person is better than a relationship that is built on sex. Yes having sex for the first time once you are married may be a little hard at first, but I’ve seen people ruined and hurt because they decided to have sex before they were married. You have given us articles on people who had their life ruined by waiting to have sex, but you failed to research articles on people who had their life ruined by having sex before they were married. I’ve seen people who have been hurt, and have extreme guilt by not waiting. I’ve known people who have gotten pregnant before they were ready and I’ve seen children suffer because of those actions. I believe in waiting to have sex because I think children are the most precious thing we can be given in this life. It doesn’t matter how safe you think you are, the safest way to make sure not to get pregnant before you are ready is to not have sex. Yes, I want children, but I will not have a child until I’m married so that child can be raised up with a mother and father that loves him or her. I wouldn’t want my child to suffer because I choose to be selfish with sex. I have one last thing to add, I completely disagree with what you said about our bodies not belonging to anyone but ourselves. If you are a religious person like me, we are taught that God made our bodies, and therefore our bodies belong to him. That our bodies are a temple and are sacred and should be kept that way. I strongly believe that is body isn’t mine, I’m just temporally borrowing it from God, and therefore, I should wait to use my body in that way, but I have also been given my own choices to use my body however I want to. So while the church teaches that I should wait, I wait because I want to, not because someone is telling me I have to.

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