The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Definition of Sex Not Necessarily Clear Cut

4 min read

Guest Columnist

What is sex? Quick, before you go running to Webster, what is sex to you? Okay, before you go running to Wikipedia, it isn’t that kind of question. Sex isn’t simply a penis entering a vagina, although that may be the dictionary definition.

I realized that sex had to be much more flexible than that dictionary definition last year. I was talking with a good friend of mine who is a lesbian. As you might guess, the topic of sex came up. I was curious what she meant when she said that she’d “had sex” with someone. I had a sneaking suspicion that lesbians outside of pornography used strap-ons very infrequently. There had to be a different definition, a different meaning, for her. She explained that she felt sex was any time she penetrated her partner.

It seems that we’d both left the dictionary definition behind, and stayed surprisingly close to it.

What I would like to determine is not a definition of sex that takes into account homosexual as well as heterosexual actions, but rather a convincing explanation of what we should attempt to achieve with our sexual behavior.

I was not satisfied by my friend’s description. I am clearly not a lesbian, but I would think that if I were, I would consider my partner and I as having sex if I were performing cunnilingus on her, regardless of whether or not there were any penetration.

Would stimulation of the genitals count, then? Rubbing your boyfriend’s hard on through his jeans would count by that definition, and thus I find it lacking as well. Skin on skin contact between you and your partner’s genitals? While this definition is unambiguous, it is again too vague.

I don’t think we can define sex in those terms. I would argue that sex doesn’t have to do with who is putting what where, how quickly, and with what sort of repetitive motion.

To me, what is important is how what you do makes you feel. Don’t misconstrue my definition to require orgasms either. One can have sex with their partner without orgasm. I think our definition should be based on the emotional response we have to our sexual acts. When you have sex, it should be clear because of how close, connected, and emotionally attached you feel to your partner.

There are, I will admit, both strengths and weaknesses in this definition. The weakness is obvious: sex becomes ultimately subjective. If you and your partner perform exactly the same act as your best friend and his or her partner, one pair may not have had sex. There are strengths to this definition however. It (with a few exceptions) describes only healthy sexual behavior. Rape, by the dictionary definition of sex, is still sex, forcible as it might have been. Sex with an acquaintance, whom you don’t know too well, would likely also not fit under this definition. As a counter point, this definition would also include very meaningful intercourse with someone other than your partner, which I would not necessarily describe as healthy.

Perhaps at this point I should make a further distinction. I believe what I am getting at is not sex, per se. Sexual intercourse isn’t what you talk about with your friends, its not what you giggle or gossip about. It is clinical. If I started talking about “sexual intercourse” at the dinner table, folks would wonder when I became so stuffy.

I think the better term to use in this case is “making love”. This term is the one I prefer to use because I think it most accurately captures what I am referring to, and captures what I think should be the goal in sexual behavior.

If one refers to two men having sex, I would generally assume that they are having anal sex, but I would argue that two men making love would not have to indicate that type of intercourse. Two women making love, therefore, could include penetration, cunnilingus, or any manner of battery-powered fun. Making love in a heterosexual relationship could be any of the above as well.

I am not arguing that one must be monogamous, or that one must know a person for a set amount of time before making love. I am simply arguing that making love is the most emotionally and physically fulfilling of all sexual behaviors.

Sex is awkward. There are a million things you’ve got to get right: She has to be wet enough, he has to be hard enough, you both have to be comfortable and relaxed, you’ve got to get the lube in the condom, the condom on the dong, and then more lube on the outside; you’ve got to bite hard enough, soft enough, not at all; you’ve got to go fast enough, go slow enough, last long enough, be long enough; you’ve got to be a gentleman and make sure that she has an orgasm; you’ve gotta shift your weight, no, not like that…

I’m not saying sex is always going to be awkward, or even that your first time will be awkward. (It will be.) What I am saying is this: if you love and trust your partner, and your goal is physical pleasure for both of you and emotional fulfillment for both of you, that awkwardness really won’t detract from the experience. Trying to have sex with someone who might laugh at you if you mess up is incredibly nerve-wracking. Trying to have sex with someone who will laugh with you when you mess up is incredibly stimulating.

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