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

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So What Exactly Is Sex? In fiction and in real life

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From:arclevel
Date:January 12th, 2008 11:34 pm (UTC)
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As someone who marked yes to the last questions, I'll point out that the ethics were really what altered my answers there. While I consider everything but the kissing to be 'sexual', I didn't count masturbating together (but not each other) or phone sex as actually being 'sex' in general circumstances, but it's a fairly wavy line. With marriage involved, though, I definitely consider those activities *adultery*, thus pushing them into the realm of 'sex' in my opinion (not that it's something I've stopped to define that clearly, but that's kind of how it plays out in my mind).

To some extent the public stance of the people in the original examples also played a role, because the two changed positions both seem like the sort of thing that a person would use to justify that 'we didn't *really* have sex because...' and I'm less inclined to cut them slack for that.
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From:mofic
Date:January 12th, 2008 11:45 pm (UTC)
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That's really interesting. I thought of adding another one where I asked not only is it sex, but is it adultery? But I was a little worried about people getting bogged down in legal definitions (which vary by country/state0.

With the phone sex, I definitely consider it sex, but my rationale goes thus:

Phone sex is either two people pretending to have sex with each other while masturbating, because they can't have physical interpersonal sex due to distance

or

It's two people pretending to have one kind of sex with each other while having another kind because they can't have physical interpersonal sex due to distance.

Now, this presumes that they're not just choosing to have phone sex because that's what they want to do at the time, as blue_braces points out, but I'm okay with that presumption because I think it's the most common circumstance. And it seems more like the second one to me.

Of course I could do a whole poll on phone sex. One interesting wrinkle is: have they had physical sex before? As an example, in my fiction Scott and Logan have phone sex while Logan is off on a mission, having an established sexual connection already and referencing specific times they had sex and specific sex acts during the phone sex. Jean-Paul and Adam, OTOH, have phone sex before they meet in person. Is one circumstance more likely to be deemed sex than the other? I think for some people yes. I think someone who would count phone sex with a lover traveling on business as sex might still say "we haven't had sex yet" of someone s/he had only had phone sex with. Although in the J-P/Adam case I think he'd be more likely to say "We haven't met yet" and not even mention the phone sex :-).
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From:kestrelsparhawk
Date:January 13th, 2008 12:10 am (UTC)
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Oh, interesting! that never occurred to me, because I was thinking of sex as a biological cultural concept and it sounds to me that you went directly to what sex means. I can see that your situational definition neatly undercuts the argument that it "wasn't really adultery, because all we did was..." I'm not sure I agree that you need that definition of sex to define adultery, but I need to think about it awhile.
From:arclevel
Date:January 13th, 2008 07:23 am (UTC)
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I don't know that *I* agree with my own idea that it *needs* to be sex in order to be adultery, actually! I think it's just that when I think about it, the fact that I instinctively consider those things adultery is what makes me consider them to be sex in these circumstances, as sort of a retroactive definition (and I'm sure that's not the right word, but I can't come up with a better one). I know that if I were married, and I came home to find my husband necking with his coworker, I'd be pissed and absolutely consider it cheating -- but I still wouldn't consider it sex. I suppose that's what I mean by the 'wavy' lines that define this things: they're not only very thin, but they shift constantly where, if anywhere, that cutoff exists.

Of course, if you were to throw polyamorous or threesome relationships into the mix, that would complicate things all the more, even as it brought the adultery issue back out of it. ;-)
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