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What counts as 'having sex' anyway?

August 14, 2013|Anna Pulley, @annapulley | RedEye's sex columnist

What actually counts as "having sex"? I feel like Bill Clinton didn't adequately explain this in my preteen years.--Wondering Wordsmith

That may be because Bill Clinton was not, contrary to popular legend, writing a dictionary, but trying to dodge a sexy impeachment scandal and avoid being the butt of all cigar jokes. If you’d like to read the long version of how Clinton sneakily redefined “sexual relations,” you can do so here. But we’d all do better to listen not to Clinton, but to Salt ‘N’ Pepa, who define sex as any activity that makes us want to “shoop.” This may include “three piece suits,” “big jeans” and “giving a girl nice dreams.”

The consensus on the definition of sex, which has been backed up by many internet sources, including Planned Parenthood and numerous Reddit forums, is this: No one can agree on what “having sex” means. According to a study by the Kinsey Institute, more than 90 percent of nearly 500 participants thought that penis-in-the-vagina sex was sex. But that also means around 10 percent thought p-in-the-v wasn’t sex. Eleven percent of people said it wasn’t sex if no ejaculation occurred. Conspicuously absent from this “definition” is any mention of the female orgasm. Maybe they fell asleep before getting around to it.

Thirty percent of people thought oral sex didn’t count, and 20 percent thought that anal sex didn’t count, despite both of those terms having “sex” in their names, and the implication that lesbians and gays would be considered virgins under that rubric. This also begs the question, what is oral sex if not sex? Tongue yoga? Gag reflex testing?

Also, what of the fetishists? Does a well-placed foot count as sex, or a helpful balloon? What of the ubiquitous “scissoring” always getting thrown at lesbians? It’s really all semantics when it comes down to it. So let’s say this, if you engaged in attempted orgasm-inducing activities with consenting adult(s) and you feel like you had sex, then you had sex. This can include dry humping, hand jobs, toys, mutual masturbation, penetration or any “sexually motivated behavior,” as Merriam-Webster puts it. It’s up to you to decide.

Seriously though, I don’t care if it makes you feel sluttier--oral sex counts as sex. The end.

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