Sex and Masturbation
What is Sex?
When it comes to sex, you’ve probably got a lot of questions. Here are some
answers to some of the most common questions we’re asked. .
What is sex?
People define “sex” in different ways. The Merriam-Webster
dictionary defines it as “sexually motivated behavior.” This sounds right to us. But not everyone agrees with the dictionary or with us. People all have their own definitions of what “sex” and “having sex” means.
For many people, "having sex" means engaging in a range of intimate, physical behaviors by yourself or with another person or persons that can often (but not always) involve the genitals. For some people it’s only penis-in-vagina intercourse. For some
people it’s only penis-in-anus intercourse. For some people it’s
genital rubbing without intercourse. For some people it includes oral / genital contact. For some it includes masturbation. The possibilities are many. For most experts (like Merriam-Webster and us) it includes all the above.
However you define it, being sexual with another person —
whether that means kissing, touching, or intercourse — involves a
lot of responsibility. It’s very important to protect yourself against
pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. And you need to
make decisions about protection before you engage in vaginal, anal, or oral sex
Is it possible for a penis to go too far into a vagina? No. Most women's vaginas are between three and seven inches long. This usually depends on a woman's general body stature. However, the vagina can stretch much longer and wider during sexual intercourse or childbirth. It is true, however, that some
penises are too big to fit comfortably in some vaginas. This is one of the disadvantages of having a very big penis.
What is oral sex?
Oral sex is using one's mouth to stimulate a partner's genitals.
Just as with any kind of sex, everybody is different — with various
likes and dislikes, so communication is the key. In order to make sex more satisfying, it's important to be clear with yourself and your partner about what kinds of sex you want to do and don't want to do.
Learning how to give oral sex is usually done by letting each other know what feels good and what doesn't — so both partners can
learn what’s pleasurable.
Although there is no chance for pregnancy to happen from oral sex, unprotected oral sex puts both partners at risk for a number of sexually transmitted infections, whether they are giving or receiving genital stimulation. Although the risks of infection are generally quite a bit lower with unprotected oral sex than they are with unprotected vaginal or anal intercourse, using a barrier during oral sex can further decrease those risks. For safer oral sex, use a condom to cover the penis, or a Sheer Glyde dam, cut-open condom, or plastic wrap to cover the vulva or anus. Can I get pregnant from oral sex?
No, it's not possible to become pregnant from oral sex whether ejaculate is swallowed or not. But pregnancy can occur if sperm are spilled into the vagina or on the vulva during any kind of sex.
However, unprotected oral sex — on a woman or on a man —
puts both partners at risk for a number of sexually transmitted infections, whether they are giving or receiving genital stimulation. These infections include chancroid, cytomegalovirus, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, herpes, human papilloma virus (HPV), herpes, syphilis, and, rarely, HIV and chlamydia. For safer oral sex, use a condom to cover the penis, or a Sheer Glyde dam or plastic wrap to cover the vulva or anus.
How safe is anal sex? Can I get pregnant from anal sex? It’s not possible to become pregnant from anal sex (inserting the penis into the anus). But pregnancy can occur if semen if spilled into the vagina or on the vulva during any kind of sex.
Like unprotected vaginal intercourse, unprotected anal intercourse is high-risk for many sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, hepatitis, intestinal parasites, HIV, HPV, and syphilis. Use condoms during anal sex to decrease the risk of sexually transmitted infections. Some men and women enjoy anal sex, and others do not. Does anal sex hurt?
Anal sex can hurt if partners do not take certain steps. The anus does not usually produce enough lubrication for comfortable anal sex, so it is important to use an artificial water-based lubricant —
like K-Y jelly or Astroglide — for anal sex. (Using an oil-based
lubricant, like Vaseline, can damage latex condoms.)
It’s also important to stop doing it if anything hurts and communicate with your partner about how you feel — sex that’s
painful or uncomfortable should not continue.
Not all people enjoy anal intercourse. Those who don't enjoy it should not be embarrassed into it and should not force themselves to accept it.
What’s an orgasm?
An orgasm is the release of built-up muscle tension resulting from sexual activity. It produces rapid muscle contractions usually in the genital and anal area, but these contractions can also be throughout the whole body. Most people find these muscular contractions very pleasant. At the same time, painkilling chemicals called endorphins are released into the bloodstream, causing intense pleasure and relaxation.
In both men and some women, an orgasm is often accompanied with the release of ejaculatory fluid. Ejaculation is much more
usual in men than it is in women. Only about 10 percent of women report ejaculating during orgasm.
Orgasms can be reached through many different types of sexual activity. Most women are more likely to reach orgasm through clitoral stimulation rather than stimulation of only the vagina. Men tend to reach orgasm more quickly than women, just as men tend to become sexually aroused more quickly than women. On the other hand, women are more likely to have more than one or multiple orgasms during sexual activity than men are.
Women’s experience with orgasm is more varied than men’s, and not all women experience orgasm in the same way. There are also many women and men who get great pleasure from sex, whether or not they have orgasms.
How can I tell if I’ve had an orgasm?
You may feel flushed or warm, your heartbeat will race, you will breathe harder, and you’ll experience rapid muscle spasms
mainly concentrated in the genital and anal areas. And then you’ll feel totally relaxed and totally O.K. as all those body tensions fade away.
What if I don’t want to have sex with anyone, ever?
Many people feel this way at various times in their lives. It’s perfectly normal. People have different levels of sexual desire —
some have more and some have less. Some people would be happy to have sex every day, and some people would be happy to have sex once a month, or less often, or not at all.
Many things can affect our desire for sex. They include stress, hormones, how comfortable we are with our partners, past sexual experiences, if we feel safe, how much we’re attracted to someone, illness, medication, and many other factors in our lives.
What is Virginity?
Virginity means never having had sex. People may define "sex" differently. Most people agree that women and men lose their virginity the first time they have penile-vaginal intercourse. Many people also believe that people can lose their virginity through oral sex, anal intercourse, or other kinds of sex.
You might have lots of questions about virginity, and that’s normal. Here are answers to questions that are commonly asked about virginity.
Who's a virgin, and who’s not?
Most people would say that a virgin is someone who's never had
sex — and by "sex," they often mean penetration of the vagina by
the penis. This dictionary definition sounds simple enough, but it
leaves a whole bunch of people out of the picture. There are a lot
of straight people who don’t think of themselves as virgins
because they’ve had lots of other kinds of sex. And then there are
all the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people who
may never have penile vaginal sex, but who hardly think of
themselves as virgins. For all these folks, sex and virginity aren’t
so rigidly defined.
Many people define sex in broader terms. For some, "sex" means
vaginal, oral, or anal sex, while for others, it could mean mutual
masturbation, manual stimulation (“hand job”), dry humping, or
using sex toys to penetrate the vagina or anus. Lots of people feel
that they "lose it" the first time they share an intimate sexual
experience with someone else — not simply the first time
Some also believe that people have to give consent to lose their
virginity — that virgins who are raped, for example, do not lose
What’s a hymen?
The hymen is a thin, fleshy tissue that stretches across part of the
opening of a girl’s vagina. Hymens have at least one opening that
will allow menstrual flow out of the body.
The hymen can be stretched open the first time a girl has vaginal intercourse.
Some people, and some cultures, believe that a woman whose hymen has been stretched open is no longer a virgin. But having a hymen and being a virgin are not the same thing. There are other ways that a woman can stretch her hymen, including using tampons, insertive masturbation, riding a bicycle, or doing gymnastics. And some girls are born with so little hymenal tissue that it appears they have none. Girls who have an intact hymen may experience some pain or bleeding the first time they have vaginal intercourse, as the hymen is stretched
Can my hymen grow back if I don’t have sex for awhile?
No, the hymen cannot grow back once it has been stretched open. The hymen is a thin, fleshy tissue that stretches across part of the opening of the vagina. The hymen can be stretched open the first time a girl has vaginal intercourse.
Some people believe that a woman whose hymen has been stretched open is no longer a virgin. But having a hymen and being a virgin are not the same thing. There are other ways that a woman can stretch her hymen, including using tampons, insertive masturbation, riding a bicycle, or doing gymnastics. Will it hurt the first time I have sex?
Some girls experience pain the first time they have vaginal intercourse. They may have so much hymenal tissue that stretching it open during first intercourse may cause pain and bleeding. Girls with a lot of hymenal tissue can prepare for first intercourse by slowly stretching the tissue with their fingers.
Guys do not have hymens, so this is not an issue. Sex should not be painful for them unless something is wrong. For guys, pain during sex can be caused by an infection, an allergic reaction to spermicide or latex, by a physical condition such as having a foreskin that is too tight, or by an irritation from previous sexual or non-sexual activities. If a guy is experiencing pain during sex, it's a good idea to make an appointment with a clinician to check it out.
Does wearing a tampon mean I’ve lost my virginity?
No. Most people agree that using tampons does not cause a woman to lose her virginity. For most people, today, losing virginity is about sex, not about personal hygiene. Tampons may stretch the hymen a little bit, but they don't usually stretch it open all the way. Nevertheless, in some cultures, where the hymen defines virginity, virgins are not allowed to use tampons. Is there a normal age for me to lose my virginity?
There's no such thing as a "normal" age for becoming sexually active. Deciding whether to have sex is a highly personal decision. It can be influenced by a variety of factors, which may include religious, spiritual, and moral beliefs; family and personal values; personal desire; peer influence; and/or your relationship with a potential sex partner.It's important to think about where you stand on the issue. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you decide:
o Do we both believe or not believe that sex should only be
shared in a marriage or other committed relationship?
o Do we both believe or not believe that two people should
be in love before having sex?
o Do we both believe or not believe that a person should be a
certain age before having sex?
o Are we both prepared to prevent unintended pregnancy
and sexually transmitted infection?
o Are we both prepared to deal with the consequences if
pregnancy or infection occurs?
o Are we both prepared for our relationship to change? There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. Sexual decisions are a matter of personal beliefs and values, but it's important to think them through before you take the plunge. And things might go better if both partners agree about what it is they are doing and what it means to them.
Talking about your views on sex with your partner is always a good idea. And sometimes it's helpful to talk things through with a
parent, a friend, a professional counselor, or someone else who
cares about you and what will be good for you.
Am I Ready for Sex?
Choosing to be in a sexual relationship is a big decision. There’s a lot to think
How can I know when I’m ready?
There are many important things to consider when deciding whether you’re ready for sex, including
o your personal values and goals
o your feelings about the kinds of emotional and physical
risks you are willing to take
o whether this is something you really want to do or if it's
something your boyfriend or girlfriend is pushing you into
o what sort of relationship you want to have with the person
you have sex with
How do my personal values and goals fit in?
Your personal values and goals are your guide to figuring what all this means to you.
When it comes to making decisions about sex, answer these questions about what you value:
o What messages have you gotten from your family?
o What are your religious, spiritual, or moral views?
o Do you want a committed relationship first?
If having sex supports your personal values and goals — rather
than conflicts with them — you may be ready.
What physical risks am I ready to take?
Having sex with a partner can be a meaningful way to express yourself. But there are two important physical risks — sexually
transmitted infection and unintended pregnancy.
Ask yourself these questions about the risks:
o Do I know how to reduce the risk of infection with safer
o Do I have condoms — and know how to use them?
o Do I know how to prevent pregnancy?
o Do I have reliable birth control and know how to use it?
o Do I know how I would handle an infection or unintended
o Do I know how my partner would feel about an unintended
o Will I go for checkups for sexually transmitted infections
every year and whenever I take risks?
o Have I discussed these issues with my partner? If you’re willing and able to protect yourself and your partner from physical risks, you may be ready.
Are most people my age having sex?
It may seem as though everyone your age is having sex. This can make you feel that you should, too. But the truth is that only about half of high school students have ever had intercourse and the average age when people start having sex is about age 17. Even once they start having sex, most teens don't have sex frequently. How do you feel about these reasons for having sex?
o I feel like the only “virgin” in my group of friends.
o I want to just “get it over with.”
o My partner will break up with me if I don’t have sex.
o Having sex will make me popular.
o I’ll feel more mature if I have sex.
o I want to get back at my parents.
If you think these are good reasons to have sex, you're not ready. Am I ready to be clear about what I want?
It’s important to let your partner know what you want — and what
you don’t want — before things get sexual. This may not be easy. Maybe it seems like having sex is something that should “just