Defining Sex

On a recent survey, someone’s comment asked me how I define sex.

Definition of Sex © Paul H. Byerly

Years ago when we were meeting with a young adult church group one of the girls asked Lori if oral sex is sex. Her reply was something to the effect of “It is when I do with my husband.” When someone your mother’s age says that it makes you think!

I think we fudge this line for a variety of reasons. We fudge it to avoid admitting to sin. We fudge it to pressure our spouse to go all the way rather than just doing something to take care of the sexual pressures we’re feeling. We fudge it so we don’t have to confront a friend about inappropriate behaviour. Beyond this, we swim in a culture with badly fudged definitions of sex, and many of us really don’t know where to draw the line.

I think this is an extension of the way we torture the idea of virginity. I had a fellow tell me he and his wife were virgins when they got married. He explained he’d put the tip between her labia, but because he’d not entered her they were both still virgins. Does anyone really think God is impressed by such “restraint”? Is a young lady whose done “everything but” with five guys somehow better than the girl whose experience is limited to intercourse once?

Perhaps the way to fix this is to stop talking about sex and talk about being sexual. If you make out a bit with your spouse, you’re being sexual. There’s no need for climax, nudity, or hands below the waist for it be sexual.

Perhaps this change of wording might be useful in your marriage. If you say “Let’s have sex” to your husband, he thinks of a very short list of activities, all of which include climax for him. If you say “Let’s be sexual” you’re presenting a much large list of activities, and the possibility of just playing now and “finishing” later. You could also tell him (if it’s the case) you like being sexual with him, but having sex is sometimes difficult. That’s going to require some explaining, but it might be worth it. 

My Definition

As for me, in my mind, it’s sex if it involved some contact with sex organs. No penetration or orgasm is required for it to be sex. Of course this means there are plenty of things I consider sexual with don’t fall into the category of sex. I guess I’d call those sex play.

~ Paul – I’m XY and my “sexual” list if full of fun ways to enjoy time with my wife!

Got a minute?: Our current survey is along these lines – Is it sex if… 

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3 Comments on “Defining Sex

  1. This is another little ‘in’ joke between me and my husband; on one of our so-called ‘moratorium’ days, I’ll sometimes say, “I’m just going to touch you in a non-sexual way.” As he likes to say, there is no ‘non-sexual’ way of touching when we are both naked and in bed together. I like to end and begin my day with a full body embrace.

  2. Maybe it’s just the same as your renaming what you’re doing as being sexual instead of having sex, but as I’ve had to formulate my own definition for the teens I work with(and for my own daughters in too few years), I’ve settled on defining sex(or sexuality) as pretty much any interaction that excites your body that you wouldn’t do with your parents in the room.
    I think that leaves room for personal and cultural conviction or right and wrong, but still provides a pretty clear line of what’s OK when you’re all alone. I’d kiss my wife with my parents in the room. I might even pat her butt playfully if I’m feeling extra bold, but that’s as far as I would ever go with my parents (or my kids) in the room even after being married for 15 years. Other people might think that’s way too far, or would be unfazed by going a little farther. Whatever you’d do in front of your earthly parents is what God is telling you your line is with him that crosses into building sexuality with someone. I wouldn’t grope, tongue kiss, have her straddle me clothed or unclothed with my parents in the room. And I have to believe 99% of people wouldn’t sit on a couch and do that stuff with their parents on the loveseat 5 feet away, either. Those are private activities, and pieces of a sexuality we build between ourselves. Thank God he blesses sexuality in marriage, and therefore encourages you to cross that line often with your spouse
    A teen version of myself would have benefitted greatly from this definition.

    • @1980B.C. – I like it! I’ve used “anything you wouldn’t want your spouse doing with someone else. That is fine for married folks, but not as good for teens.
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