It’s Okay to Say “NO”

Even though it might appear that all young people are having sexual intercourse, this is not exactly true. The truth is that there are a good number of young people who are deciding for various reasons to delay the initiation of intercourse until later on in life.

As a young person, you need to know that even if available data shows that by the age of 18, over 60% of boys and girls in Nigeria have initiated sexual intercourse, it also means that there are 30% of young people who have not initiated sexual activity. These young people form a significant percentage of the youth population and there are several reasons why they choose to abstain.


Personal Reasons

  • Many young people believe in and practice abstinence because of religious reasons and personal moral beliefs
  • Abstinence can be a sin of real emotion maturity and integrity. Many young women and men report feeling pressured into having sexual intercourse before they are ready. It requires maturity and honesty to be able to resist the pressure from someone you love in order to make a decision that is consistent with personal values, morals and needs.

Medical Reasons

  • Abstinence is the only method of birth control that is 100% free of side effects.
  • Abstinence reduces the risk of unwanted pregnancy. (Pregnancy can occur without sexual intercourse if sperm is ejaculated near the entrance of the vagina during heavy petting.)
  • Abstinence reduces the risk of contracting syphilis, herpes, gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted diseases. (STDs can be passed by sexual contact with an infected person through contact of any mucous membranes or saliva.)
  • Abstinence reduces the risk of cervical cancer. Cancer researchers are now suggesting a connection between early sexual activity, multiple sexual partners and incidence of cervical cancer in young women under 25 years old.
  • Abstinence is one of the effective way to decrease the risk of getting HIV/AIDS.

Relationship Reasons

  • A couple may find that delaying sexual intercourse contributes in a positive way to their relationship.
  • Abstaining may allow a couple time to develop a deeper relationship. They may spend more time talking, building mutual interest, sharing their good time with other friends and establishing an intimacy that is other than sexual.
  • Abstaining can be a test of love. Counter to the old line “you would, if you loved me ,” abstinence can allow time to test the endurance of love beyond the first attraction and before having sexual intercourse.
  • Abstaining may contribute to teaching a couple to be more loving people and to explore a wide range of ways to express love and sexual feelings.


  • Being able to refuse pressure to engage in sexual intercourse can be difficult, especially when everyone around seems to be having sex.
  • You need to remember that when you have decided to say “NO” to sex, you don’t have to explain why or make any excuses to anyone-you can just say “NO”. It is also important to say “NO” in a convincing way so that the other person knows you really mean it, but does not necessarily have to hurt your relationship. The ability to say “NO” gives you a lot of power and control over your life. Saying “NO” effectively when confronted with a difficult social or sexual situation takes a lot of practice.
  • Clearly say the word “NO” and use a firm voice to convey your decision.
  • Use body language that says “NO”. Body language gives the other person the hint quite quickly. Straighten up and move back, keeping some distance between you so that you can get you can get your thoughts clear.
  • Practice saying “NO” in situations where it is justified so that you are comfortable with expressing your feelings. An opportunity to practice may be when your little brother or sister is being unreasonably demanding, or if someone wants to borrow the pen that you need too.
  • Don’t give in to bullying by being made to feel different. Recognize that coercion can be subtle. For example, someone might say: “if you don’t have sex, you will be the only virgin in the group”.

Whenever your friends tease you about your decision to stay abstinent, it will pay to you to remember that there are no prizes for starting sexual intercourse early. Even more important is the fact that no one ever died from not having sex. Abstinence is the best protection against unwanted pregnancy, STDs and HIV/AIDS. In the long run, people who wait usually feel better about themselves than people who rush into sex before they are ready for it.


Fenwick, E. & Walker, R. How Sex Works, Dorling Kindersley Publishing, New York, 1994;

Zevin, D. Choosing Abstinence, ETR Associates, Santa Cruz, 1989.

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