What's Your Definition of Sex?

Have you had sex recently? Are you sure? Merriam-Webster's definition of sexual intercourse includes penetration of the vagina by the penis as well as oral and anal intercourse. But many people have their own definitions of sex, according to a new study.

by Dena Afrasiabi

Have you had sex recently? Are you sure? Merriam-Webster\'s definition of sexual intercourse includes penetration of the vagina by the penis as well as oral and anal intercourse. But many people have their own definitions of sex, according to a new study.

Not so long ago, “had sex” meant something different to Bill Clinton than it did to Ken Starr and much of the nation\'s population. Clinton\'s not alone, however, many people don\'t consider oral sex to be sex, others don\'t think anal sex is sex and some even believe that penile-vaginal intercourse doesn\'t count unless the man ejaculates. The results of the survey varied according to age and gender. The study was conducted at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University in conjunction with the Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention (RCAP).

Researchers used telephone interviews to gather data from 486 people, mostly heterosexuals, 204 men and 282 women. The ages of participants ranged from 18-96. The survey asked “Would you say you \'had sex\' with someone if the most intimate behavior you engaged in was...” followed by 14 different answer options. About 20% of participants said anal sex isn\'t sex, while 30% said oral sex doesn\'t count. While 95% of people, overall, believe penile-vaginal intercourse is sex, 23% of men 65 and older don\'t agree.

The results of the study made it clear to researchers that when doctors ask their patients if they have had sex, they need to first clearly define “had sex.” Providing a clear definition of “had sex” could go a long ways toward helping prevent the transmission of STDs. Not believing certain types of sex count as sex may prevent some people from using necessary precautions that would prevent STD infection because they may not believe the risk pertains to them.

The findings prove that “what is sex?” isn\'t just a question for young kids to ask their uncomfortable parents, it\'s a question for everyone to consider.