There are many different kinds of sex! Very often, when people say sex, they mean an erect penis (a penis that has gotten harder and bigger) moving back and forth inside a vagina. Some people believe that is the only form of real sex, and anything else doesn’t count.
However, there can be a lot of different definitions of sex. Any activity involving the genitals, like the clitoris, penis, anus, vagina, or vulva (the parts outside the vagina), could be sex. Any touching with hands, mouth, genitals, or sex toys in ways that feel good could be sex. Activities that don’t involve touching, like sexy talking over the phone, could also be sex. How you define sex is up to you.
Sex can also lead to an orgasm, which many people say is a “peak” of intense pleasure. An orgasm might lead to ejaculation, which is when fluid comes out of a vagina or penis.
What kinds of sex are there?
People can consider many different acts to be sex. Some common types of sex can be:
- Oral sex: using lips, tongue, teeth, or mouth on someone’s genitals
- Vaginal sex: moving a penis or dildo back and forth inside a vagina
- Fingering: putting fingers in someone’s vagina or anus
- Anal sex: moving a penis or dildo back and forth inside an anus
- Rubbing or stroking someone’s clitoris (a spot that looks like a little button, above the urethra and vagina)
- Masturbating: giving yourself pleasure by touching different parts of your body or using sex toys on yourself
You might consider some, none, or all of these to be sex, depending on how you feel about each of them. There are also other activities that some people might consider to be sex, like phone sex, dry humping, deep kissing, etc. None of these definitions are “wrong”; they’re just different feelings people have toward sex.
Why do people have sex?
There are a lot of reasons why someone might decide to have sex. One person might have sex for different reasons at different times, or for the same reasons every time. They might feel good, bad, or neutral about certain reasons.
For example, some possible reasons why someone might have sex are:
- They’re aroused (feeling sexual excitement)
- They’re attracted to someone
- They like being touched, seen, heard, held, etc.
- To make their partners feel good
- To have children
- For a religious or spiritual experience
- To make money or receive gifts
- To feel love for their partner
- Because they feel like they have to
- To feel good about themselves
- To improve their social status
- For relaxation or stress-relief
- To feel more adult or mature
- Because they’re curious
- Because it’s fun
- And many more reasons
As you can see, there are all sorts of reasons that relate to different areas of someone’s life: physical, emotional, social, spiritual, etc. You might find that all, some, or none of these apply to you.
Does sex always involve genitals?
Genitals like the penis, vagina, or anus can be part of sex. However, some people can believe things like kissing, touching other body parts like breasts, or other activities can be sex, without using genitals at all. Some people might also prefer to have sex that doesn’t involve their genitals.
Can you do sexy acts that aren’t sex?
It all depends on the person. Some people believe they need to feel very close to someone to be having sex. So if they have penetration, fingering, etc. with someone they don’t feel close to, they wouldn’t consider that sex. Some people might also believe that sex needs to involve an orgasm. So if they don’t orgasm, that’s not sex. Others might not feel this way, and consider all consensual sexual experiences to be sex.
So, you can decide for yourself if you consider any of these acts to be sex, and in what circumstances.
How do I figure out what sex means to me?
It can be complicated to figure out what sex means to you. Friends, family, and the media can all tell you different things on what sex is and what it should mean. But in the end, no one else can decide how you feel about sex.
Our culture can also tell us often that sex is a big deal. For some people, sex really is a big deal, and that’s okay. But for some people, sex isn’t significant at all, whether they want or don’t want sex. And that’s okay too! Your life belongs to you, so you get to decide what’s important and what’s not.
If you want to figure out how to feel about sex, it can help to think about these questions:
- Is sex important in my life?
- Do I want to have sex? What kinds of sex do I want to have?
- Which body parts need to be involved for something to be sex?
- What circumstances need to happen for something to be sex?
You don’t have to figure out exactly how you feel about sex right away. Some people can find that their feelings toward sex can change over their time. Their definitions of sex can change too. If you decide on one opinion now and change your mind later, that’s completely okay.
For more information, check out the resources below.