Good ‘Sexual health’ is when you have consenting, pleasurable, and safe sexual experiences with a partner. The act of having sex or indulging in sex does not always require a vagina and/or a penis. Sex can mean different things to different people and everyone may have their own ways of deriving gratification from it in their own way. All genders can have sex with each other in all kinds of ways.
However, it is important to have healthy sex that reduces the chances of getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or having an unplanned pregnancy. This also means that at any given point you are in charge of your body, health, and decisions about sex.
For many people, intercourse may not be accessible or an option. Many individuals may have physical or psychological conditions and barriers like vaginismus or a physical disability. For them, indulging in conventional methods of sex may not be an option. But guess what? there are many ways of deriving sexual pleasure. For people with a vagina or front holes, there is this myth that sex is supposed to be painful. Sex is supposed to be pleasurable and if there is pain, then it is an indicator that something is not right or not working for you.
How would you define sex?
The term sex is often used to mean “sexual activity”. Sex can vary largely between individuals. So there is no one definition of sex. Also, sex need not always be between a man and woman, or a penis-in-vagina (PIV) sex.
A person’s sexuality is influenced by their biological, psychological, social, economic, political, cultural, legal, historical, religious, and spiritual experiences. A person can still be ‘sexual’ without actually having sex. Things like kissing, touching, rubbing, and stroking are all things that can make you feel good, and hence knowing the options can help make informed choices and decisions that work best for you.
What activities count as sex?
Sex means different things to different people. However, when most people talk about ‘having sex’ they are usually referring to sexual intercourse or penetrative sex that involves a penis and a vagina. But all genders can have sex with each other in all kinds of ways, including fingering, oral sex, and sex toys or by involving in outercourse. However, sex can be largely classified into two broad types- penetrative sex and non-penetrative sex.
What is penetrative sex?
Sexual activity when something (like a penis, finger, or a sex toy) goes inside someone else’s mouth, vagina, or anus is known as penetrative sex. Vaginal, anal, and oral sex are all types of penetrative sex. Many believe that if a sexual activity cannot cause pregnancy then it is not sex. Well, it is! Sexual health and planning of contraception methods as well as using condoms should all be discussed before engaging in any form of penetrative sex.
Using the mouth and tongue to stimulate a partner’s genitalia is called oral sex. Some believe that oral sex isn’t really sex but it is a type of sex. Even though one can’t get pregnant by having oral sex, the chances of sexually transmitted infections are the same.
Penetration of the anus by a sex toy or penis is called anal sex. The anus is the opening at the end of the digestive system where solid waste comes out of the body.
Sexual intercourse where a penis is inserted into a vagina. No matter how long the penetration lasts, even if it is for seconds, it is called sex. Even if the penis is inserted halfway, it is still sex or an attempt at sex.
The act of lovemaking or deriving sexual gratification without penetration into a vagina or an anus constitutes non-penetrative sex. This is sex without involvement or penetration of the mouth, vagina, anus, fingers, or any sexual aid like sex toys. This type of sex allows partners to be sexual, increases intimacy, and even achieves orgasm without having sexual intercourse. There are different types of sex that can be had without penetration.
When people use their lips for pleasure by touching each other’s lips, or other body parts with their lips is called kissing. Kissing can be with or without tongues. Read about the different types of kisses here.
Physical intimacy that involves romantic or sexual arousal of each other like kissing, massage, or touching that happens before intercourse is called foreplay. This helps in getting each other in the mood, helps in lubricating the vagina as well as helps the penis achieve an erection. Foreplay can make sex more enjoyable.
When two or more people touch the sensitive parts of each other’s bodies to get aroused and achieve sexual gratification at the same time is called mutual masturbation. Different people find different things erotic. Body parts could include the clitoris, breasts, nipples, vagina, penis, or anus. This helps to explore your own body and is a good way to know what gets you on and off.
Cybersex is any type of sexual activity that uses the internet. This could include chat rooms, video chats, or using any platform which uses internet communication and involves a trusted partner.
Indulging in sexual activity through texts by sending sexual thoughts and photos via text, email, chat, or social media to a trusted partner is called sexting. Sexting is a type of cybersex.
People in long-distance relationships or anxiously attached people may indulge in cybersex or sexting to feel closer to their partners. Some people may also use sexting to receive gratification while keeping a sexual partner at a distance or in the early phases of their relationships to check for sexual compatibility.
Though sex means different things to different people, what is important is how it makes you feel about the encounter. Getting consent is important in all sexual encounters, whether they are online or physical. Also discussing likes and dislikes and what type of sexual activities you enjoy with a partner helps in healthy sexual relationships and positive experiences. Any attempt at the forced sexual activity through penetration or non- non-penetrative sexual acts without consent is rape as ruled by law. Even if an act simulates sexual gratification to the accused, will be termed as rape.
For more on sexual health from Infano, click here.