Sure, there are some obvious advantages and disadvantages to being sexually active. However, what exactly happens to your body when you decide to abstain from sex?
Well, ATTN: spoke with two sexual health doctors - sex counselor and psychologist Dr. Candice Nicole and Dr. Anne Mauro, who specializes in sex therapy and human sexuality - about the mental and physical effects of abstaining from sexual intercourse.
While the effects are not all bad, they will definitely catch your attention.
A 2014 study reported that 45 percent of millennials are having non-partner sex, also know as casual sex. However, for those abstaining from sex after participating in the physical activity as a teen, in college, or as an adult, there are a few things to look out for when it comes to this decision or circumstance.
1. Penal dysfunction and vaginal atrophy.
The penis is an organ that requires a workout to maintain. The penis should have regular erections and ejaculations in order to lower chances of prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction issues. Vaginal atrophy, the thinning of the vulva and vaginal lining, is typical with women not having sex before or after menopause and following childbirth.
“The changes in hormones can cause vaginal atrophy and decreased lubrication. When someone starts a new relationship, with penetrative sex, she can experience painful intercourse,” Mauro explained to ATTN:.
Masturbation can help prevent or mediate these potential problems in the event you choose to abstain or are unable to participate in sexual activity.
2. Inability to manage stress.
Sex-related stress, or lack there of, is actually quite common. Nicole told ATTN: that the frustration and emotional tension that comes from not being sexually active can take a toll on a person.
“Experiencing frustration and irritability is normal and the tension some people experience when they are not sexually active is usually related to feeling like they 'should' be. The tension is less about the absence of sex and more about the internal disappointment they feel with not having it, for whatever reason. This stress can look like frustration, irritability, disappointment, and even a sense of loss,“ she explained.
3. Lack of health maintenance.
Sexual activity can be a discovery period for health issues when it comes to breast lumps, penetration, or other body parts. Mauro explained that many people fail to check on their health when they stop having sex and recommend staying on top of everything during this non-sexual period.
“Many times, it is sex with a partner that helps a woman discover something is wrong (i.e. breast lumps or painful penetration). Just because you’re abstaining from sex, does not mean you should stop paying attention to your body and genitalia," she said. "Men with penises have it easier while women with vulvas have a harder time checking out their internal anatomy. I recommend staying consistent with gynecological appointments.”
But real talk, it isn't all gloom and doom if you're not having sex anymore.
Nicole tells us there are alternatives to manage any heightened anxiety or stress that sets in from no physical sexual activity.
“A person can experience psychological distress specifically due to their lack of sexual encounters but ultimately there are benefits to having a healthy pleasurable and protected sex life, which are measurable in reduced stress levels and improved heart health," she said. "When abstaining, a consistent cardio workout and diet can substitute for an endorphin release and balanced heart rate.”