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So What Exactly Is Sex? In fiction and in real life - So What Exactly Is Sex? In fiction and in real life - Mo's Journal Page 3
January 12th, 2008
02:43 pm

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So What Exactly Is Sex? In fiction and in real life
This was kestrelsparhawk's idea. I hope she doesn't mind that I ran with it. It's another terminology post. I'm looking to see what people's views are of what "counts" as having sex. In all cases, assume that the behavior is occurring within a sexual context. So, the kissing should be assumed to be of a sexual nature (whether or not you consider it "having sex") and not just friendly/platonic. Similarly, penetration with fingers or objects in the course of a medical examination would not be what we're talking about with those scenarios.

It's check boxes, not radio buttons, so check off as many as you think count, as long as each one would be sufficient for you to label the activity as "having sex."

I'd like to get as many respondents as I can, so please send people here. The icon is a virtual truffle to thank you for participating.

What is Sex?Collapse )

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From:sivullinen
Date:January 15th, 2008 09:03 am (UTC)
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Like so many others, I couldn't really make up my mind with the masturbating together question. Watching porn or watching each other, that's the question... ;)

And my answer for the married person was different, because of that. I was on two minds whether to call some things sex or not (phone sex, masturbating) and because when you are married it's better to err on the side of caution, I'd count those acts as sex for those. Especially if I imagine myself to the position of the spouse :)

Very interesting poll!
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From:mofic
Date:January 15th, 2008 08:40 pm (UTC)
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was on two minds whether to call some things sex or not (phone sex, masturbating) and because when you are married it's better to err on the side of caution, I'd count those acts as sex for those. Especially if I imagine myself to the position of the spouse :)

LOL! and your icon is very appropriate. Elsewhere in comments some people suggested that it's not necessarily "sex" in some cases, but it's still cheating if you're in a monogamous relationship.
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From:black_samvara
Date:January 15th, 2008 09:17 am (UTC)
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For the sake of clarity, I am assuming that A and B masturbate together, but don't touch each other's genitals. means they are in contact, just non-genital contact, rather than on the opposite sides of the room.
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From:mofic
Date:January 15th, 2008 11:30 am (UTC)
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That is the one that clearly :-) was unclear to a lot of people. If I were going to do this over I would revise how it's written, although I'm not sure how. I think they could be on opposite sides of the room, if that's what turns them on, or more likely on opposite sides of the bed, looking at each other. Or they could be kissing while they do it, or taking turns: A watches while B masturbates, and then they switch. I meant it to cover a variety of practices, but I meant it - meant all of them - to be two people interacting sexually, and asking does what they are doing rise to the level of "having sex." So I wasn't talking about two people sort of engaged in "parallel play" of some sort, where they are watching porn and masturbating and ignoring each other, and I'm afraid that wasn't clear. Although I think the discussion that engendered was pretty interesting, too (e.g. the idea that some people think that even in that case they are having sex with each other).
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From:nakeisha
Date:January 15th, 2008 11:29 am (UTC)
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Here via metafandom

I answered all sections exactly the same, as to my mind sex is sex is sex. It doesn't matter if we're talking about fanfic or people in real life or male/male, female/female or male/female, to my mind it is all the same and should be treated equally.

The only question I hesitated over was the phone sex one. In the end I didn't opt for it being sex, but if the couple involved be it in a story or in reality want to think of it as having sex, then that's all that matters.

Sex is in the eye of the beholder in many ways; what each person, each couple thinks of as 'sex' is sex to them.

I hope the results also get pimped to Metafandom as I'll be interested to see your take on the results.
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From:aingeal8c
Date:January 15th, 2008 11:39 am (UTC)
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Here via metafandom.

I guess I differentiate slightly between sex and sexual activity.

A and B masturbated together, but didn't touch each other's genitals to me would be sexual activity. Whereas mouth to gential contact would be a form of sex but sex is also a sexual activity.

So a lot of it was sexual activity but not all of it was sex.

So I didn't answer the poll because of that weird mix I have about it.

And I do think a couple's individual's preferences come into it. To some couples masturbation together may be just as fufilling sexually as mouth to gential contact or penetration.

I don't think orgasms are needed for it to count as sex.

But then I'm asexual so my answers might be slightly skewed anyway ;-)
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From:snow_blossoms
Date:January 15th, 2008 12:55 pm (UTC)
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This is a really interesting poll/post and something I've been thinking a lot about (wow, that makes me sound sicker than I really am...) I feel like the term "having sex," while still pretty subjective, is not nearly so much so as terms like "hooking up" or even, really "fucked." I used to think fucked was the most straightforward of them all, but I've recently found myself thrown headlong into a fandom (an RPS pairing) in which fucking means a variety of things. It seems like these days if someone has an orgasm some sort of sex must have been had....
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From:mofic
Date:January 16th, 2008 07:50 pm (UTC)
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So what does "fuck" mean in that fandom? In a sexual context (as opposed to in the swearing context of "Oh fuck!") I take it to mean penetration - by penis, finger or dildo - of vagina or anus.
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From:lilka
Date:January 15th, 2008 01:35 pm (UTC)
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I tend to count sex as either sexual contact with somebody's genitals, or anything you do with another person for the purposes of (one or both of you) having an orgasm. So I'm kind of stuck on
>A kissed B on other parts of his/her body, but not genitals.

Under normal circumstances I'd probably count that as foreplay rather than sex, but if they go on to do other things I'd say they started having sex at this point. Also, if A (for example) stimulates B's nipples and B has an orgasm, I'd count that as sex too. So for me it's less 'one of them has to come or it isn't sex' and more 'if one of them comes it might be sex when it wasn't before' - if that makes sense.

I think the question of whether A's married doesn't affect whether A's having sex - it affects whether A is cheating. For me, A is cheating if they're doing something they've agreed with their spouse not to do, so the level of sexual contact involved for it to 'count' varies from couple to couple.
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From:originalpuck
Date:January 15th, 2008 03:18 pm (UTC)
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I think it's important to consider the intent, at least for me. If they're mutually masturbating in an erotically charged situation between the two (not just two friends watching porn, etc), and they are intending it to be sex, then there you have it -- if they want it to be sex, I'll agree it's sex.

But I think there needs to be some sort of genital contact (even if it's by the individual that owns said genitals) for it to be sex -- so no, IMHO "heavy petting" or kissing are just that, and different from actual sex.
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From:mofic
Date:January 15th, 2008 10:33 pm (UTC)
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A lot of people feel intent matters. It's not something I would have thought of.
From:ellen_fremedon
Date:January 15th, 2008 04:13 pm (UTC)
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A and B masturbated together, but didn't touch each other's genitals.

This is the only situation for which 'in a sexual context' is not enough clarification. I'd say it counts as sex if there's kissing or groping or maybe even extended eye contact; if it's, say, two guys watching porn together and masturbating individually, it's definitely sexual, but I wouldn't count it as actually having sex.
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From:mofic
Date:January 15th, 2008 06:53 pm (UTC)
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You're absolutely right. This one was the most unclear. And it's because "in a sexual context" rules out the medical examination but it doesn't rule out watching porn together because porn is (duh!) sexual. What I was getting at wasn't that - it was two people alone and interacting sexually with each other, but asking the respondent to rate whether this kind of interaction counted as "sex." If I were doing it all over again, I would have rewritten it to make that much clearer. OTOH, I really enjoyed reading the discussion the lack of clarity engendered.
(Deleted comment)
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From:mofic
Date:January 15th, 2008 06:55 pm (UTC)
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Interesting view. I do see phone sex as interpersonal sex, with the contact being their voices. In fact I compare and contrast "phone sex" with "physical interpersonal sex" when I'm discussing the similarities and differences. And it gives me pause to think that I do discuss this enough to need a convention for how to talk about it. What kind of life am I living? :-)
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From:wisdomeagle
Date:January 15th, 2008 05:14 pm (UTC)
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I'm a little sad that the only 100% agreement is on vagina-around-penis sex.

I ticked everything from non-genital kissing down as sex, for men, women, and politicians.

It seems to me that I might backwards engineer -- if you start with deep kissing then move to breasts and eventually to vulva, when did you start having sex? When you started kissing, I guess -- when you moved from nonsexual to sexual interaction. But it's a slippery thing (pun entirely intended), and people have raised lots of interesting points about how the relational context affects interpretation. What the couple has done before, what they plan to do again...

I ticked "yes" on masturbating in front of each other and was definitely imagining a different scenario than a lot of commenters -- more, someone not being able to get off from other kinds of sexual touch (either regularly or maybe just that day) and his/her partner watching while s/he got hirself off -- definitely sex.

I ticked "no" on kissing on the mouth, but I'm kind of thinking now that deep Frenching would count as sex if it were part of a relationship that's sexual in other ways. (Then, I think if a relationship is sexual in other ways, the whole interaction becomes more erotically charged. Which is awesome.)
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From:mofic
Date:January 15th, 2008 10:32 pm (UTC)
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It seems to me that I might backwards engineer -- if you start with deep kissing then move to breasts and eventually to vulva, when did you start having sex? When you started kissing, I guess -- when you moved from nonsexual to sexual interaction. But it's a slippery thing (pun entirely intended), and people have raised lots of interesting points about how the relational context affects interpretation. What the couple has done before, what they plan to do again...


Words are tricky things. I agree to you that if a couple starts by making out and ends by... whatever: PVI, oral sex, anal sex - then they were having sex the whole time. But I don't think that means that making out by itself is necessarily sex.

Anyway, it's all opinions and I've found it interesting to see how they vary.
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From:greyandgrey
Date:January 15th, 2008 05:29 pm (UTC)
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To the question of coming or not coming: it's sex for whoever comes, in other cases it's attempted sex. The sex act is not complete without an orgasm. IE, if partner A gives partner B oral sex without reciprocation, partner B "had sex" and partner A "gave their partner sex" or "engaged in a sex act"

However: in cases of adultery, attempted sex is just as incriminating as completed sex.

Obviously this is just my opinion &c. &c.
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From:mofic
Date:January 16th, 2008 07:53 pm (UTC)
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Obviously this is just my opinion


It seems very much a minority one in the survey. I don't know how common it is out in the world. I do think lots of women would disagree about their own sexual experience, would refer to themselves as having had sex even without orgasm.
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From:boogieshoes
Date:January 15th, 2008 05:52 pm (UTC)
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i answered as a prude. :-p

generally speaking, no matter what the gender of the participants, if the sexual contact includes genital contact of the other participant, it's 'sex' (but only then - it's all making out up *till* then). it's 'more strongly sex' if that's actual penetration, but i figure my view is kinda screwed up in general.

wrt the politicians, i answered as if 'sex' were the word being used by the media, but in that context, it also has connotations of 'infidelity' to it. and if sex=infidelity, then any sexual contact counts as 'sex'. but if the politicians were single, i'd go back to 'it's only sex if genital touching of the other person were involved.'

likewise, if this were jane and joe average who were married to each other, all infidelity type actions could be considered 'sex' for practical betrayal-of-oath purposes. and note that 'infidelity' labelling on my part assumes that this is behind the back of the married person on the sex partners' part. i'm practically a temple virgin over here, but i totally believe it's entirely possible to have a RL polyamorous relationship.

that's the theory, anyways...

-bs
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From:mofic
Date:January 15th, 2008 10:29 pm (UTC)
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So if they are a poly couple, does that affect what's considered sex? Or is it the same definition of sex, only it's of course not infidelity?
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From:nike_victory
Date:January 16th, 2008 05:18 am (UTC)
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Here from meta_fandom.

I consider sex to be any interaction with the genitals that involves another person. You could argue the "masturbating but not each other" one, but in my mind, if they're willing to masturbate in front of the other person, chances are they want the other person to watch (and maybe get off on it). Just kissing, with not genitals involved, I tend to consider part of foreplay. In other words, edging towards sex but not there yet.
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From:mofic
Date:January 16th, 2008 07:51 pm (UTC)
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I think your definition was a pretty popular one!
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From:dharma_slut
Date:January 16th, 2008 09:30 pm (UTC)
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I answered yes to every activity, and checking off all of those boxes made my clicky-finger sore!

I answered yes to the first two activities, because you said it was in a sexual context. But now that I think of it, i can remember reading slash where the two kissed on the mouth, kissed on the neck or something, and pulled away-- E.G. no sex. That would never happen in my own fic, 'cause I'm just not subtle. X-D

The characters might rationalise mutual masturbation as not having sex, but I'd be saying OMG U lie as I read their excuses...
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From:mofic
Date:January 21st, 2008 04:32 am (UTC)
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Thanks for weighing in, and I'm sorry about your clicky-finger. I LOL at

The characters might rationalise mutual masturbation as not having sex, but I'd be saying OMG U lie as I read their excuses...


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From:hollywood_r_bin
Date:February 24th, 2008 04:32 pm (UTC)
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Wow, a lot of people considers it sex even without an orgasm.
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From:mofic
Date:February 24th, 2008 11:59 pm (UTC)
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So I guess you don't? Do you feel both partners have to come for it to be sex, or just one?
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