Abstinence is a voluntary forbearance from indulging a desire or appetite for certain bodily activities that are widely experienced as giving pleasure. Most frequently, the term refers to abstention from sexual intercourse, alcohol, or food.


  • The great advantage of abstinence education is that it introduces teenagers to hypocrisy at an early age.
    • Jacob M. Appel, American playwright, Arborophilia (2005)

  • Let the fundamentalist Christians raise losers. I want my teenagers to have as much sex as they can possibly get.
    • Jacob M. Appel, American playwright, Arborophilia (2005)

  • If God wanted teenagers to be abstinent, puberty would begin at twenty.
    • Jacob M. Appel, American playwright, The Replacement (2006)

  • Abstainer, n. A weak person who yields to the temptation of denying himself a pleasure.
    • Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

  • All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.
    • Jesus, Gospel of Matthew 19:11-12

  • Self denial is not a virtue: it is only the effect of prudence on rascality.
    • George Bernard Shaw, "Maxims for Revolutionists", Man and Superman (1903)

  • Usez, n'abusez point […] L'abstinence ou l'excès ne fit jamais d'heureux.
    • Translation: Use, do not abuse […] Neither abstinence nor excess ever renders man happy.
    • Voltaire, "Cinquième discours: sur la nature de plaisir", Sept Discours en Vers sur l'Homme (1738)


  • Condoms will break, but I can assure you that vows of abstinence will break more easily than condoms.
    • Former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders

  • Complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.
    • Augustine of Hippo
    • Variant: To many, total abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.

  • My experience through life has convinced me that, while moderation and temperance in all things are commendable, abstinence from spiritous liquors is the best safeguard of morals and health.
    • Robert E. Lee

  • The few bad poems which occasionally are created during abstinence are of no great interest.
    • Wilhelm Reich

  • Abstinence education gives young people the support they need in making the decision to postpone sexual activity until they are mature enough to handle the emotional, moral and financial responsibilities of parenthood. This is more than teaching kids to say no – it will help them preserve self-esteem and build character.
    • Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney
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