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Talking About Abstinence: Topics to Explore Category
Defining Abstinence

Youth often have a variety of definitions for the word "abstinence." Lessons and activities are provided for clarifying this issue with a class or group.


What is Abstinence?
Participants engage in activities and discussion to explore the moral implications and functional meaning of the term “abstinence.” Skills to provide clear messages about willingness to engage in personal behaviors are also stressed.

The Dangers of Ambiguity
After brainstorming definitions of abstinence that include or exclude specific sexual behaviors, participants discuss the risks of sexual behaviors other than vaginal intercourse. Youth anonymously ask their own questions about risks of sexual behaviors, and conduct research to address one another’s concerns.

Abstinence is Always a Choice
Participants discuss abstinence as a choice that can be made at any time, including after having engaged in sex, and throughout adulthood. After viewing and discussing clips by health educator Dennis Torres, students interview an adult they know about sex, choices, and struggles.


Message Brainstorm Session
Participants create a variety of abstinence messages and critique them for various target audiences.

Class Debate
By debating the complex issues surrounding abstinence, participants become aware of the views of their peer group. Information and opinions are useful for determining the target audience for an abstinence message.

Abstinence Map
Participants define abstinence for themselves by drawing a map of sexual behaviors ranging from “no touching of any kind” to “sexual intercourse.”

Starting an Abstinence Support Group
Participants examine the possibilities of starting a peer support group, detailing how they would proceed through the problem solving process.

Dear Abby on Abstinence
After reading a sample column in which Dear Abby gives advice about abstinence, participants write their own responses to the concerned reader.

“Be Sexy…It Doesn’t Mean You Have to Have Sex”
After examining ads from the Candie’s Foundation, participants discuss how abstinence messages can be created using images and language meant to empower youth, then brainstorm their own messages that define abstinent behavior with positive attributes.

Abstinence Defined on the Web
Participants explore different definitions of abstinence on a variety of websites on teen health and relationships, then rate a selected site on how "teen-friendly" it is, from understandable information to eye-catching graphics.

Your Own “Urban Dictionary” Definition of Abstinence
Youth explore various definitions of abstinence, and gage peer response to each by constructing a survey on which peers can vote for their favorite definition. Whether popular definitions agree with the assertion that abstinence is 100% safe is also discussed.

From NPR: Youth Radio: Defining Abstinence
Participants examine and discuss issues regarding differing definitions of abstinence, beginning with a high school student’s NPR report on the subject.


Media Literacy 101 Using Sex to Sell Talking About Abstinence Reducing Risks Reading Media Be the Judge Producing Media
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