What is Sex?

Technically speaking, the word “sex” refers to biological characteristics that are used to identify someone as male or female, or perhaps a combination of these two sexes.  However, the most common use of the word “sex” is when people are referring to sexual intercourse or some other type of partnered sexual activity.

Because there is no single definition of sex that everyone will agree to, it is up to you to spend some time thinking about your personal desires and boundaries so that you can make choices that feel right for you.

Here are some activities that people may be referring to when they talk about “sex” or “having sex”:

VAGINAL SEX/INTERCOURSE – when the vagina is penetrated – typically by a male partner’s penis – and often involves an in-and-out motion. Couples can also engage in vaginal intercourse by using dildos (often with a harness), sex toys, or fingers.

ANAL SEX/INTERCOURSE – when the anus is penetrated by a penis, sex toy, or finger(s)

ORAL SEX – stimulating a partner’s genital region with lips, tongue, and/or teeth. There are different words to describe different types of oral sex. Cunnilingus refers to oral stimulation of a woman’s vulva and/or vagina. Fellatio refers to oral stimulation of a man’s penis and/or testicles. Analingus (rimming) refers to oral stimulation of a partner’s anus.

There are lots of other pleasurable activities that someone can enjoy alone or with their partner. Some ideas include:

  • Masturbation – touching one’s own genitals for pleasure
  • Mutual masturbation – touching one’s own genitals in the presence of a partner and/or touching/stroking a partner’s genitals
  • Sensual massage
  • Writing/sharing erotic stories/poetry
  • Cybersex, “sex-ting”, phone sex– writing erotic text/sharing fantasies with one’s partner on-line or through cell phones or other mobile device; talking sexually over the phone
  • Sensation play – experimenting with different sensations (e.g. feathers, hot/cold items, candle wax, liquids; etc.)
  • Role-playing – pretending to be different people and/or in different places in a sexual context
  • Making-out – kissing, hugging, rubbing bodies together, etc.
  • Showering/Having a bath together