Choosing not to have sex is the only 100%-effective way to avoid pregnancy and STDs. But for this whole “foolproof” thing to work, you have to use it 100% of the time. That involves a lot of self-control, but it also comes complete with zero worries.

What you need

  • Stellar communication: You’ll need to be able to tell your partner what’s okay and what’s not, which means you need to be comfortable with speaking your mind.
  • Support from your partner: If you are in a relationship, he’s got to be down with the plan. But remember, saying “not right now” doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to have fun. It’s actually a great excuse to get creative with your sex life. But don’t take our word for it. Check out these abstinence videos that feature women and men talking about their not-right-now experiences.
  • $0: Waiting requires patience, but it doesn’t cost a thing. With all the money you save not buying birth control, you can save your money for something else you really want or need.

How to do it

Choosing abstinence is a conscious, deliberate decision to not have vaginal sex. It’s a choice you’ll need to affirm each and every day. To stick with it, keep reminding yourself why you choose to not have sex, and think about the potential consequences of changing your decision. If you do decide to start having sex, that’s cool, too. Just make sure you’re protected with another form of birth control.

Other Helpful Hints

  • Avoid putting yourself in situations where it’ll be hard to stick to your decision.
  • Think about avoiding alcohol and drugs as well—they can mess with your judgment.
  • Find people you can talk to about your decision and lean on their support.
  • Talk about your decision with your partner well before you’re in the heat of the moment.
  • Be totally straightforward and clear about your limits.
  • Explore other sexual options you might enjoy just as much.

Potential Problems

We’re here to get this method working better for you. And if it still doesn’t feel right, we’ve got ideas for other methods. Just remember: If you’re thinking about having sex after a period of abstinence, make sure you find another method before you start having sex.

…I’m nervous about telling the guy I’m dating that I’m not having sex right now.

First and foremost, make sure you talk to him before you two start getting hot and heavy. Second, you might want to think beforehand about exactly how you want to explain your choice. Be honest about your reasons, and be clear about what you are and aren’t comfortable doing. If he’s a good match for you, he’ll respect your choice.

…I’m seeing someone new and I’m really tempted to have sex with him.

It’s perfectly natural to be attracted to someone, but if you’re seriously considering having sex after a period of abstinence, it’s important to remember your reasons for waiting. If you realize it’s still important to you not to have sex right now, talk to your new guy about your reasons and set firm limits on what you’re comfortable doing with him. On the other hand, if you were just waiting for the right guy and you think you’ve found him, you should start looking into a reliable birth control method. Either way, you might want to have some condoms and emergency contraception (EC) on hand just in case.

Still not working?

If “not right now” is no longer working for you, you should have a reliable method in mind (and in hand) before you start having sex. You might want to look into a long-acting reversible method like the intrauterine device (IUD) or the implant, or if you don’t want to commit to that quite yet, you could start with condoms and a hormonal method. And don’t forget, condoms are the only method that protects from STIs.