What People Of Different Sexualities Say Really Counts As Sex

Photographed by Lula Hyers.
Whether or not you're having sex seems like a pretty simple yes or no question. But, surprisingly, the answer is a little more complicated. Sexual activities like oral sex or fingering may or may not actually count as sex, depending on who you ask.
Earlier research shows that a majority of straight people count only penetrative sex (vaginal or anal) as sex, but do not count oral sex or genital touching. But straight people are only a portion of the population, and certainly don't get to define sex for all of us. So a new study published in The Journal of Sex Research, set out to learn what gay, lesbian, and bisexual people count as "doing the deed."
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Surprisingly, about 30% of women who have sex with other women also don't count oral sex as actual sex, though the 70% who do is a much larger percentage than among straight people (less than 25%). Use of sex toys like double-ended dildos also counted as sex for 70% of queer women, while acts such as fingering, scissoring, and mutual masturbation counted for at least 50%, Women's Health reports.
Among queer men, penetration once again became the "gold standard," according to the study — 90% said that penetrative anal sex definitely counted as sex. A majority (more than 50%) also counted oral sex and rimming (oral-anal stimulation) as sex.
Unlike their straight peers, the queer people in this study more often than not counted sexual activities performed while another person was present to be sex. Yet, 40% or less also believed that more solo activities, like phone sex and masturbation, could be considered as sex.
While someone's sex life, and what counts as sex for them, is obviously very personal, there was a good reason the researchers wanted a clearer look at how people of differing sexualities defined sex. Mostly, it's about your health — a.k.a., that moment in the doctor's office when they ask you if you're "sexually active" or not. According to research like this, the doc might want to get a little more specific about that question.
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