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Wait, does oral sex count as sex?

by Narda Skov, MPH, Sexual & Reproductive Health Specialist

Does oral sex count as losing your virginity? This can often be a confusing topic. Oral and other types of 'sex' are definitely types of sexual encounters and yes, it is a sexual act. Whether oral sex counts as sex, or losing one's virginity, is really up to the individual people in the relationship. There is no strict definition of virginity - being a virgin means different things to different people at different points in one's life. Some people define being a virgin as never having had any kind of sex (vaginal, anal, or oral). Others may say that being a virgin means never having had penile-vaginal sex, and that anal and oral sex don't count. Different people come to their won conclusions about what defines virginity, so consider deciding your own, personal criteria. What is most important is to understand what it means to you as an individual.


Using the Sexuality & Information Council of the United States (S.I.E.C.U.S.) definition of sexuality, our sexuality is more than what we do with other people sexually. It is about who we feel ourselves to be; how we experience and perceive our bodies; how we feel as people; the way we dress, move, and speak; and the way we act with and feel about other people. Each person has their own way of being or feeling sexual, even if it is never expressed with a partner. In fact, it is fine to wait until you are completely ready to take part in sex or sexual intercourse. You are a sexual person just the same. Sexuality is not just about what you do, but who you are and how you live. Sexuality is a natural and healthy part of our being and lasts throughout our whole lives.


Generally (historically) sex was defined, and assumed, to be between a man and a woman and as a penetrative penis to vagina sex. This is a very heteronormative way to look at sex and we know that there are many other ways people express their sexuality and receive pleasure. Many people, however, will choose not to have this type of sex. For many people, oral sex definitely counts as sex, especially if you are someone who is having a sexual or romantic relationship with someone of the same gender.


Having sex has also been defined or categorized as putting oneself at the risk of getting pregnant or an STI. Even if someone engages in oral sex, the risk of getting an STI still exists and prevention measures must be taken, including using a condom or dental dam, getting tested for STIs before any type engagement, etc..


The takeaway - yes, if you are sexually intimate with someone, feel vulnerable, share and feel pleasure, then this is a sexual experience (having sex), even if you never have penetrative sex. Luckily, people get to decide what and how they define their relationships and their sexual lives and ultimately, what they are most comfortable with and how they define their own relationships and sexual experiences.

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