Sexual health is a broad term that encompasses many aspects including sexual activities. “Sex” relates to the sexual activities that people engage in. What people do sexually is as diverse as the many activities that are out there. Sex will mean different things to different people based on things such as their values, beliefs, preferences, desires, comfort level, partners, clients, etc. For instance, sex for one person might be oral sex. For another person ‘oral sex’ might not mean sex but might mean ‘fooling around’. One person may include ‘phone sex or sexting’ in their definition of sex, while another person might say, even if we sent sexy pictures to each other it does not mean ‘sex’ to me unless we are physically touching. There is no right or wrong in this…it all depends on how you define sex for you.

Usually, when people hear the word ‘sex’ they think of penetration, insertive sex, or genital sex but sex can again mean many other activities outside of insertive/penetrative sex. For some people, sex is not defined or dependent upon penetration (whether with fingers, toys, genitals) and/or orgasm but for some people, it can be.

There are also different contexts in which people explore sexual activities. People may engage in sexual activities on their own with masturbating, or with other people whether that is casual, anonymous, group sex, dating, friends with benefits, partner(s), spouse, significant other, non-monogamous relationships, with clients, or any other types of encounters. Our values and comfort level will influence what types of sexual activities we are open to or desire, how often, whether we want sexual activities with one partner or multiple partners and what type of relationship we are comfortable with (casual, anonymous, dating, serious relationship, spouse, monogamous, polyamorous, etc.)

Our definitions of “sex” can also change and expand through time as we go through different life events.

So…..what defines “sex” for you?


Check out this useful article from Go Ask Alice, a sexual health advice column.

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