What Counts As Sex For People With Same-Sex Partners, According To A New Study


Despite the black and white definitions provided in your sex ed textbook back in fifth grade, what the word "sex" means to someone can vary greatly depending on whom you're talking to. Sex for a straight woman who engages in intercourse with straight males looks different from sex for another woman who identifies as lesbian and only has sex with other women. Similarly, sex for that woman can vary greatly from another woman who identifies as bisexual and engages in sex with both men and women. A new study looked into what counts as sex for everybody by bringing bisexual, gay, and lesbian people into the sex conversation they're so often excluded from.

The study, published in The Journal of Sex Research, consisted of two parts. First, they asked gay, lesbian, and bisexual participants which sexual acts (i.e 69ing, penetrative sex, anal sex, rimming, blow jobs, rubbing of genitals, etc.) they actually count as "sex." In other words, when they go to brunch with their friends the next morning, what would they have to do to call it "sex" when they're filling them in on the deets? Read below and see what exactly "sex" means to people who sleep with men and to those who sleep with women.

For men who sleep with men...

For men who sleep with men, there was a pretty definitive consensus on what counted as sex. Almost all of them (90 percent) agreed that penile-anal intercourse (aka penis in butthole sex) counted as sex.

While no other sexual act met the same overwhelming level of agreement by men who slept with men that it definitely counted as "sex," there were definitely others that people agreed were sex.

Women's Health reports over half of the participants considered "69", oral-genital stimulation, and "rimming" to be sex. What's probably not considered sex by most of these men? An overwhelming 77 percent of the men agreed that they would not call self-stimulation while on the phone or computer (i.e phone and cyber sex) "sex."

For women who sleep with women...

While things were pretty clear cut for men who slept with men, things were a lot more up in the air for women who slept with women. In other words, rather than having one act that people overwhelmingly agreed was sex like the men who slept with men, women who slept with women weren't able to reach the same kind of clear consensus.

To paint you a picture of what I mean by that, these women were presented with 11 different sexual behaviors that they were asked about. Of these 11 behaviors, at least half of the women said a whopping nine of them counted as "having sex."

Three sexual acts were tied when it came to the highest level of agreement that they actually constituted as "sex." Women's Health reports that over 70 percent of the participants agreed 69ing, oral-genital stimulation (going down on each other), dildo in vagina and using a double-ended dildo all counted as sex.

After those three heavy hitters, the study found that a slightly smaller percentage (over 50 percent) of respondents agreed that manual-genital stimulation (69.5 percent), scissoring (69.5 percent), dildo in anus (64 percent), mutual manual-genital stimulation (62.8 percent), and rimming (52.4 percent) also counted as sex.

So what were the two acts that the majority of women who sleep with women didn't count as sex? A little over half of them (51.8 percent) agreed that manual stimulation of the anus didn't count. Similarly, an even larger majority of them (77 percent) agreed that phone and cyber sex didn't actually count as "sex."

Of course, what counts as sex varies from person to person depending on their own sexual experience. Just because what the majority of people agree is "sex" doesn't align with what you define as sex doesn't make your definition any less valid! Keep doing you.

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