What IS sex?
Most definitions, and certainly the most widely accepted, define intercourse as “sexual contact between individuals involving penetration, especially the insertion of a man’s erect penis into a woman’s vagina, typically culminating in orgasm and the ejaculation of semen.”
This definition comes from Google’s Dictionary. Some variations of this definition can be found in the Oxford Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Dictionary, and in many definitions in the Urban Dictionary. They are all similar in tone.
In addition to these exclusive definitions, there is a specific theory that aims to limit sexual expression called the Natural Law theory. The Natural Law theory holds that the God-given purpose of sex is procreation. It therefore rejects the notion of sex for the purpose of recreation or pleasure; and condemns sexual activity involving contraceptives, or between two people who are not Male and Female.
“Sex acts that involve either homosexuality, heterosexual sodomy, or which use contraception, frustrate the purpose of the sex organs, which is reproductive.” (Pickett)
But those definitions exclude female orgasm, multiple orgasms, foreplay, manual penetration, external stimulation of the clitoris, oral and anal sex, group sex, queer sex, penetration with toys, mutual- and solo-masturbation, sex for the purpose of pleasure, recreation or bonding, and sex that does not result in orgasm for one or more parties.
Sexual intercourse is a diverse collection of activities, and may be defined differently from one person to another. It’s important to recognize that people might experience pleasure in different ways, and if it works for you, so long as you are not harming anyone else, no one gets to tell you you’re doing it wrong.
When does a person lose their virginity?
First, let’s stop calling it “losing” your virginity. When you have sex, you don’t lose your purity. You remain the same person, with the same beliefs and traits, but now you’re equipped with a new life experience. Your sexual onset, or as I prefer to call it, your sexual debut, is your first performance in the role of sexuality.
So how do you know when you’re not a virgin anymore? It depends. Some people count masturbating to porn as the moment they “lose” their virginity. Some people count penis-in-vagina sex as the moment they “lose” their virginity, but they don’t count anal. It doesn’t matter which activities you count as sex, or which ones you don’t, that definition is entirely up to you. Just remember that you are no less pure after having sex than you were before. Regardless of how you choose to define your first sexual experience, you don’t lose anything.
If your first sexual experience was non-consensual, it doesn’t count. Your sexual debut — your first performance in the role of sexuality — only counts when you are giving your fully informed, enthusiastic consent. No matter what has been done to you, you are precious and whole and worth all of the love and attention in the world.
How do I know when I’m ready?
Before you have sex with anyone, for the first time or in a new relationship, you must answer yes to the following questions:
- Does it align with my personal values?
- Do I know how to give and obtain “freely-given, reversible, informed, enthusiastic and specific” consent?
- Do I really want to do it?
- Have I obtained sufficient information about potential risks, such as STIs and unplanned pregnancy?
- Am I taking appropriate steps to protect myself from these potential risks? And can I communicate with my partner about these risks?
- If you’re not sure how to start testing for STIs, download the SAFE app on Google Play or the AppStore. SAFE allows you to privately show your verified STD status on your phone, check your partner’s verified status, and get tested for $99 or use your insurance to pay for it.
- If you have not yet protected yourself from unplanned pregnancy, then at the very least, you must obtain barriers (i.e. condoms or dental dams). This applies to everyone, regardless of sex, gender or orientation. Dental dams are hard to find, so you can make them out of condoms by following the CDC’s instructions here. If you are a person with a uterus having sex with a person with a penis, for now, the burden falls on you to use birth control.
If you can’t answer yes to all of the above questions, please consider waiting to have sex until you can. Guilt- and worry-free sex is worth the wait!