Research carried out in several Anglo-Saxon countries shows that many undergraduates identify oral sex and anal sex as examples of abstinent behaviour, while many others consider kissing and masturbation as examples of having sex. The objective of this research was to investigate whether a sample of Spanish students gave similar replies. Seven hundred and fifty undergraduates (92% aged under 26, 67.6% women) produced examples or definitions of the term ‘abstinence’. Spanish students made similar errors to those observed in the Anglo-Saxon samples, in that behaviours that were abstinent from a preventive point of view (masturbating and sex without penetration) were not considered as such, while a number of students reported oral sex as abstinent behaviour. The results suggest that the information on risky and preventive sexual behaviour should cease to use ambiguous or euphemistic expressions and use vocabulary that is clear and comprehensible to everyone.