Forgotten Prevention Tools: Foreplay and Abstinence

How do we reframe the conversation around HIV prevention? Right now, a lot of the prevention methods prioritize sexual intercourse as the place where interventions like condoms and PrEP can be the most effective. It oftentimes leaves other prevention methods off to the side and discarded as an option.

Abstinence puts you in the driver's seat

Mention of the word abstinence automatically associates with negative feels of giving something up or sacrifice. However, if we disassociate our negative feelings from the word abstinence, we can come to a more meaningful conclusion.

Periods of high and low sexual activity

Just like we have seasons of high sexual activity, we also have periods of low sexual activity. Most of us have gone through periods in our life where we have abstained from sex. When we think about these periods, they are sometimes associated with life choices. But, more often, it’s just out of circumstance. It doesn’t necessarily have any attached meaning at all, but it can be a tool in our sexual health tool kit.

Decide what abstinence looks like for you

The decision to start or stop sexual activity is a powerful one and puts you in the driver's seat of your life. You are the one that gets to decide what abstinence looks like for yourself and in conversations with partners. It provides a space to distill intimacy and sex and the actions associated with them.

It’s a chance to respond to an emotional need or vulnerability that could have been hidden because sex sometimes gets in the way of intimacy. Through these methods, the responsibility is surrounding the ‘why’ of the actions that we take in relationships and in our sex lives.

The intimacy of foreplay

Another sexual health tool that gets very little mention is foreplay and other methods of non-intercourse sexual play. I have a feeling that if you surveyed many young adults, you would find that non-insertive sexual play is popular in the bedroom.

There is a sharing of intimacy, human touch, and other sensory experiences that come awfully close to the experiences of sexual intercourse. The lead-up to sexual arousal and inching toward climax without actually engaging in the sexual act can be a turn-on for your sexual partner. Non-insertive sex can also be a form of delayed gratification that could leave your partner with fantasies for the next encounter.

These exercises in playing with the nuance of the senses heighten the sexual act even more. With all of these methods, it involves decidedly less risk than insertive intercourse with most of the pleasure and intimacy.

Talking more about foreplay and abstinence

These methods of our sexual tool kit are oftentimes just listed as bullet points in sex health pamphlets. People exercise these sexual practices in their lives with much success and more stories of their example should be elaborated on. It opens up the possibilities of sexual expressions for individuals to explore while reducing risk.

More than just bullet points

It’s amazing that in discussing these topics, there is a sense of excitement and curiosity that occurs without the anxiety of fear that insertive sex can evoke. If we package the messaging differently and show how these sexual health prevention tools are beautiful and appealing within themselves, then I believe more people would be interested in giving them a try.

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