does anyone know how much merit one would make for refraining from all sexual activity including thinking about sex?
Many benefits for sure.
Love and hate create sorrow, anxiety, sadness, by stop love and hate, one is free from sorrow, anxiety caused by love and hate.
Then there are more benefit, when the mind stop to create pleasure by sexual activity, it very easy to create another types of inner pleasure, joy and bliss. The joy and happiness this way is comparable in quality to sexual activity but is more stable, more consistent, and more continuous and doesn't lead to suffering in the future.
I think in the unconscious state, the mind has only one purpose, seeking joy and happiness. When it sees something as happiness, it creates desires, and desires destroy joy and happiness of the moment. I.e, if you feel bored, you want to hang out, but if you observe the moment when it first happens you will see something like this: Oh, so boring, I want something better, if I go out I may feel this and this, also experience this. This attitude is actually running away from reality, every time it is like that, seeking joy and happiness and hiding away from sadness, anxiety, boring moment. Why you need to run away? Why you need to hide from the reality? People can build bunker to protect them from massive bombs, but no bunker can hide you from reality.
Why can't you make friend with it? Why can't you accept it, the reality?