Modern love

Is ‘secondary abstinence’ a thing?

There might be a new term for not having sex. Meet the phrase “secondary abstaining” — more born-again virgin than virgin, virgin — it is the process of abstaining from sex for a period of time after losing your virginity, according to one Emory University study.

It’s also the term a doctor used to describe one woman’s sexual activity, or lack thereof, during a routine call to refill her birth control. Ali Rachel Pearl elaborated in a New York Times column titled “On Tinder, Off Sex,” writing, “I quit eating meat because I developed a deeper concern for the environment. I quit smoking because it’s bad for you. I quit drinking because I have a problem with alcohol. But I never actually quit having sex. Sex just stopped being a thing that happened in my life.”  The Los Angeles-based writer and Ph.D. student cites a devastating break-up as the primary culprit in her sexless life, referring to it as an “allegiance to her broken heart.”

But as one doctor notes, whether secondary, primary, or “accidental” — as Pearl claims — abstinence is simply abstinence. “There are several reasons why someone may choose to practice abstinence, and it’s important to be careful of qualifiers that may make patients feel judged about their sexuality,” cautioned Jennifer Conti, an OBGYN for Stanford University, in an interview with Fusion. She added that “secondary abstinence” is “not a medically recognized term,” so in that sense, it’s not a thing.

Read the full stories at The New York Times and Fusion.


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