|Part of the series on|
|A baker's dozen on sex|
Abstinence is the practice of refraining (voluntarily or involuntarily) from having sexual relations with other people. In stricter cases, abstinence also refers to not even masturbating. It should not be confused with celibacy which is abstinence that is intentionally pursued for spiritual, philosophical or moral growth.
 Birth control
As a form of birth control it is highly effective when used properly, but notoriously difficult to get the hang of. When people attempting abstinence as birth control find their sex drive is too strong this can result in unprotected sex or masturbation. Despite its possible effectiveness, abstinence is highly unpopular in the United States and has been so since at least the 1940s. 
 Abstinence programs
These programs are so-called "sexual education" courses for public schools which either emphasize abstinence in preference to proven sex education techniques, or in "abstinence only" programs, teach nothing else. It goes without saying that all studies show abstinence only programs are less effective than actual information on birth control and sexual health.
 Abstinence and western religions
Western religions, thriving on control and demonetization of sexuality in general, often "require" abstinence of their unmarried followers - especially those followers with a womb. Women were traditionally expected to go into the marriage bed a virgin. Even today, when sex out of wedlock is "ok", the amount of sex a woman has had prior to her wedding day is often considered in defining her character. "Good girls don't", don'cha know.
As part of the "Culture War", this obsession with abstinence has not only resulted in abstinence based sex-ed programs, but in such unique events as "father-daughter Abstinence balls", abstinence clubs in schools, and virginity pledges.
 Sexual repression
There is some suggestion in scientific literature that prolonged abstinence might lead to sexual repression which in turn risks causing aggression and violence as well as preoccupation with sex. The argument is that people who struggle to suppress their own sex drives become preoccupied with sex. This is ironic, considering that such people within religious organizations like the Catholic Church often seek to impose abstinence onto other people.