Let’s talk about sex, baby, let’s talk about you and me…
Sex and sexuality are an important part of many people’s lives, and sexual politics often play an even more prominent role in queer encounters . So of course we are going to write about it! Bring on the sexy times!
… But what exactly are we talking about?
The majority of people when asked about sex will tell you something along the lines of putting a penis into a vagina in order to have fun and potentially make babies. Some particularly enlightened folk might even mention foreplay. Hooray! In my experience that largely reflects the general (rather heteronormative) public’s opinion. The Oxford Dictionary has an only slightly broader definition of sex:
“sexual activity, including specifically sexual intercourse”
Well if that doesn’t sound… fun. But as we all know, dictionary definitions are often a bit too short for complex concepts.
Many of you will have realised at this point that the traditional penis-in-vagina definition is a bit lacking, not very inclusive, and often not applicable to queer relationships. Though to be fair, many people seem to have at least some understanding when it comes to men getting it on. If you are not one of these people, please be inspired by this iconic video. (Skip to 0:42 if you’re impatient.)
But when it comes to queer women? Dear lady-loving ladies, raise your hand if you have ever heard the question “But, so… how do you guys, you know… do it?” Sex involving penises seems practically self-explanatory (“insert dick here”), to the point where people are totally lost when it comes to understanding how we could possibly do it without one!
(I realise this bit is rather cisnormative. Gender politics is a topic for a later post.)
So for the intents and purposes of this blog:
How could we possibly define sex as something more than “put the p in the v”?
For starters, you have things like cunnilingus, fellatio/blowjobs, etc, or to summarise: Oral *sex*. It seems to be a popular way of getting off, both among queers and non-queers. But of course you can stimulate someone using not just your mouth, but also your fingers, or vibrators, or strap ons… So is sex “stimulating genitals to achieve orgasm?”
Potentially, but then again, is orgasm a necessary criterion for an act to count as sex? Personally I have had sex (even “traditional” p.i.v. sex) several times where I did not orgasm, but still really enjoyed myself. Different people require different techniques/stimulation/time frames to orgasm, it’s personal. Some people can only orgasm by themselves, some absolutely need a partner, some only cum from being fisted a certain way… So is it “stimulating someone’s genitals to potentially achieve orgasm”? (Did I say “orgasm” often enough yet?)
Working with this definition, whose genitals are we talking about anyway? Sex is usually seen as involving two people (or more if it’s group sex) where you do stuff to each other. But what about sex with just one person involved? What about just having sex with yourself? Or are masturbation and sex two distinct categories?
When you remove all the question about who, how many, and which specific techniques are involved, sex and sexual acts always seem to come down to one thing: Genitals. Apparently their involvement is of paramount importance when it comes to achieving orgasm or simply considering an act to be “sexual”.
But of course it can be more complicated than that. Let us throw BDSM into the mix. BDSM is the abbreviation for Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & Submission, Sadism & Masochism, and is sometimes also simply referred to as “kink”. The kink spectrum includes a whole other variety of acts, like tying someone up or spanking them or verbal humiliation (after enthusiastic consent has been given, of course!). And guess what? For some people, this is all they need to get off.. Without any genital stimulation they can still orgasm if the right stimulation or circumstances for them are provided. So if an orgasm was had, does that mean you had sex?
My conclusion? Sex is not just this one specific thing, it’s not universal, it’s not general, and it’s not necessarily something that translates between sexual partners. Techniques and toys and levels of nudity and number of orgasms and level of intimacy and types of stimulation involved… Everyone has their own sexy criteria, and that’s just great! So we are not even going to attempt to nail it down. Instead, we’re going to talk what we tried, what was fun and what was not-so-fun. The main message is if you did something with someone or yourself consensually and you feel that you have had sex… Then you had sex! Congratulations! Whether it’s with yourself, a total stranger or your long-term partner, in whichever combination of people, body parts and implements imaginable, it’s up to you.