The meaning and consequences of sexual abstinence are interwoven with gender, development, and sexual orientation. When abstinence is normatively appropriate, it is associated with markers of good social functioning, but when abstinence occurs out of step with social norms, it is associated with poorer functioning.

This entry explains that different people have different ideas about what abstinence is because they have different definitions of what sex is. It further explains that people who are not having sex are considered to be abstinent only if sexual behavior is seen as normative for their stage of life. It points out that in many cultures abstinence is more valued for girls and women than it is for boys and men. The entry describes the prevalence of abstinence across ...

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