Today’s Western media fosters a sex-positive culture and in some cases, it has resulted in promoting sex while hushing abstinence. For instance, it is easy to name several shows about high schoolers, such as Euphoria or Gossip Girl, where having sex is a common theme. In contrast, we don’t often hear about abstinence and as a result, it is harder to quickly name media that revolve around it. When a character who practices abstinence is introduced in a show (e.g., The Secret Life of the American Teenager), they are often written to give in to their temptations. In others, abstinence is seen as a joke where virginity is seen as something embarrassing or appalling. Specifically for cisgendered and heterosexual men, the decision to stay abstinent often challenges their manhood and masculinity.
Whether you choose abstinence because of religious, cultural, or personal reasons, your choice is just as much valid as someone who decides to have sex. As sex-positivity does not often highlight abstinence, many who choose to remain abstinent may not know how to approach this topic in a relationship. Below are 3 tips on how one can discuss or bring up abstinence with their partner(s).
Set Your Boundaries
Before having the conversation, define what abstinence means to you. Think about what you feel most comfortable doing. Abstinence does not necessarily mean being devoid of any and all sexual activity, so, understand your limits. Setting these boundaries before entering the conversation can give you more confidence because you are aware of what your non-negotiable factors are. Furthermore, boundaries can bring you awareness of what you are looking for in a partner. In a healthy relationship, your partner should be willing to respect your boundaries.
Talking about abstinence may be uncomfortable, so you might unintentionally rush through the conversation. However, remember that honesty is crucial when discussing this with your partner so that they can have a deeper understanding of your decision and can gauge whether they are on the same page as you. It can be an issue later on if you rush past the conversation, only to find out that both of your expectations don’t align.
Discuss Your Love Languages
Having sex, however you define it, isn’t the only way you can be intimate with your partner. We all have different love languages, which are ways in which people express and receive love. For some, they show their love by giving gifts; for others, they feel loved through spending quality time with their partner. By communicating love languages, you and your partner can develop a deeper understanding of one another.
If you are struggling with trauma or personal experiences around sex and sexuality, connect with SFU Health & Counselling Services or the Sexual Violence Support & Prevention Office.