not in Primary anymore

what is sex?

…and sex is, too!

“I lost my virginity.”

What does that mean?

“It means I had sex.”

What is sex?

“Everybody knows what sex is.”

Is holding hands sex? Is kissing sex? Is cuddling sex? Is sharing intimate memories with each other sex? Is staying up all night with a person you like a lot sex? Is telling somebody you like them a lot sex? Is staring into each others’ eyes and then laughing uncontrollably together sex? Is flirting sex? Romantic dinners? Massages?

Is reading erotica or watching porn together sex? Is acting sexy sex? Are birthday spankings sex? Is being suspended in the air as your partner whips you sex? Is grinding each other sex? Is feeling each other up softly sex? Is running your finger tips down the naked spine of your partner sex? Is running your tongue down their thigh until you get to their feet and suck on their toes sex? Is masturbating in the same room as your masturbating partner sex? Is using dildos and vibrators with your partner sex? Hand jobs? Blow jobs? Anal play?

No silly!

“I mean a penis was placed into a vagina, and one of those genitals belonged to me. Now I’m not a virgin.”

I doubt your entire identity has changed just because you did penis in vagina intercourse, but who knows.

You know what, though? Let’s just stop assuming one thing done while you’re intimately connecting with somebody is somehow superior to another.

There’s some cruddy penis in vagina intercourse out there and there are some awesome massages. One shouldn’t be considered inherently superior to the other.

Shoot, I don’t know what sex is to be honest. If you want to find the answer to that question, you won’t find it here.

When people say that they’re having sex, I usually just say I’m sharing an intimate moment with somebody I care about. Or I say I’m playing around. And if clothes stay on or come off, so be it. If orgasms happen or not, it’s all good. As long as we’re connecting deeply and having a good time, that’s good enough for me.

So what is sex anyway?

55 Responses to “what is sex?”

  1. Nouner

    There’s all kinds of sex, but hey just a heads up if you don’t know what sex is, I recommend not having it at least for a while until you learn. I recommend Wikipedia, it’s a pretty unbiased source.

  2. Otto

    So let us keep it simple. You gave up your virginity (first time act of putting something into your vagina) by way of coitus, with either an inanimate object or another organism’s object. Since hymens break doing other types of activities like sports and horseback riding, we can’t really use that as an indicator. Sex is physical contact between two individuals that purposely leads to arousal of sexual organs and sexual climax. This is why the LDS church teaches youth and adults alike to not practice “heavy petting” unless with a legal and lawful spouse. legal meaning by federal or state law, and lawful meaning under the laws of scripture.

    • curtispenfold

      So if somebody just licked my clit, my virginity is in tack? Or if I put a dildo in my bum? And what about those who have penises? Can they lose their virginity, too?

      If we go tantric and never cum, are we having sex? What qualifies as heavy petting? If I’m aroused just holding hands with my partner, are we having sex?

      It’s great that you have your own definition of what sex is and virginity is, but I bet you that if you walk into a room full of people and asked them each to write down their definition of what sex is or what virginity is, everybody (EVERYBODY!) would give you a different answer.

      • Nouner

        Sure, everyone would give you a different answer, but that doesn’t mean it’s correct or helpful to just throw your hands up and be all “welp everything and nothing is sex”

        If you want to get semantic and technical (which you clearly do), try the FBI’s definition of rape except lets assume consent:
        “Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person”

        It’s reductive and stupid to pose a bunch of “rhetorical” scenarios and blithely conclude that because you put zero effort into answering them, they must have no answers. So to answer your overly-simplified questions:

        Is holding hands sex? No, are you 5 or something how could you think this
        Is kissing sex? No
        Is cuddling sex? No
        Is sharing intimate memories with each other sex? No
        Is staying up all night with a person you like a lot sex? No
        Is telling somebody you like them a lot sex? No
        Is staring into each others’ eyes and then laughing uncontrollably together sex? No
        Is flirting sex? No
        Romantic dinners? No
        Massages? No
        Is reading erotica or watching porn together sex? No
        Is acting sexy sex? No, how could it possibly be
        Are birthday spankings sex? No
        Is being suspended in the air as your partner whips you sex? No
        Is grinding each other sex? No
        Is feeling each other up softly sex? No
        Is running your finger tips down the naked spine of your partner sex? No
        Is running your tongue down their thigh until you get to their feet and suck on their toes sex? No
        Is masturbating in the same room as your masturbating partner sex? No
        Is using dildos and vibrators with your partner sex? If you use them on each other yes, if you use them on yourselves no
        Hand jobs? No
        Blow jobs? Yes
        Anal play? Yes
        So if somebody just licked my clit? Yes, this is sex it’d be called “Oral Sex” look it up
        Or if I put a dildo in my bum? No
        If we go tantric and never cum, are we having sex? Assuming penetration Yes
        If I’m aroused just holding hands with my partner, are we having sex? No, fucking obviously, are you like a toddler or something that you don’t know that holding hands isn’t sex

        So hey question(s) answered. There you go. If you want to present more scenarios you don’t care to think about for like 2 seconds and want to pretend fall into some kind of grey area, I could give you some yes/no’s on them. Or you could use your judgement as a sane adult and stop acting like whether holding hands is sex or not is an unanswered question and not something that you could ask an educated 6 year old about and get a straight answer.

      • curtispenfold

        O.K. You have a pretty solid definition of sex there.

        The question I think I’m really trying to ask is even if you create a firm definition, does it matter?

        If I kiss my partner’s genitals or I kiss their lips, does it make a difference? Why is one act considered so different than the other?

      • Nouner

        Yes of course it matters. Whether people had sex with each other or not is pretty freaking relevant. Whether you kiss someone’s lips or genitals is a pretty important difference- I kiss my baby on the lips, this is not having sex with my baby. I hold my nieces and nephews hands when we cross the street, this is not having sex with them. I gave a friend of mine a shoulder rub, I did not have sex with him.

        I mean surely you were not confused as to whether holding hands constituted sex, right?

      • curtispenfold

        Nouner, that is definitely a situation where definitions of sex matter, and I hope that my points are never used to defend statutory rape.

        That said, this blog post is more trying to address the disturbing patriarchal idea (especially popular in Mormonism where every sexual act is rated in pamphlets) that certain romantic acts are superior to others.

        Sorry if what I wrote was unclear in that regard.

      • curtispenfold

        BTW, if you’ve never had a hand holding experience that felt sexual, you’re missing out.

        A certain lover of mine often moans when we’re laying in bed, stroking each others’ fingers, palms and wrists. Sometimes, we both come close to coming as we move from gentle to rough to gentle again, all without ever touching beneath the elbows.

  3. Juliette

    Sex: a penis penetrating a vagina or an anus. It’s not rocket science. All that other stuff isn’t sex, it’s just sexual. Different beasts.

  4. Rachelle

    I was half way through a lengthy reply when I realized that your comment sums it up nicely. There are probably slight variations from person to person but I think that this is a pretty generally accepted starting point.

  5. curtispenfold

    I’m going to re-ask the ultimate question that I post in the comments above:

    Even if you do create a solid definition on what sex is, does it matter?

    If I kiss my partner’s genitals or I kiss my partner’s lips, does it make a difference? Why is one act considered so different than the other?

    • Nancy

      If you’re a “Mormon,” as this site proports to be (though its fruits certainly seem otherwise) then of course it matters. If you don’t understand why it matters, then it’s probably time for a conversation with your bishop.

    • Juliette

      Because one is always a sexual act and one is not. If I kiss a family member when I’m saying goodbye versus if I go down on my knees to lay a smooch on their genitals, I’d call that a pretty big difference. I don’t understand why this concept is so difficult for you. Going down on someone versus kissing someone are entirely different because of where they lie on the sexuality scale. A mouth is not a primarily sexual organ, even from an evolutionary standpoint it’s not sexual. Genitals are. This is elementary school knowledge.

      • curtispenfold

        Even a kiss can be sexual, though. Do you think that making-out is different than oral sex?

        Because honestly, I tend to struggle to tell the difference.

      • Juliette

        A kiss CAN be sexual, it is not always sexual. And yes, making out is different than oral. One involves two non-sexual body parts engaging in an act and the other involves the act of a non-sexual body part on a sexual body part. I have a hard time believing your that confused. I think you just want to be contrary.

      • curtispenfold

        Growing up Mormon, I thought I couldn’t kiss until I was married–all forms of sexual intimacy considered sacred bonding acts reserved for one special eternal companion.

        Growing up in the U.S. surrounded by a patriarchal, heteronormative culture, I would hear about the strange superiority of penis in vagina sex over all other forms of intimacy.

        Even though now I’m sexually intimate with a variety of people, I interestingly feel more connected to the first paradigm than to the second. I think it’s valuable to view all forms of intimacy as deeply connected when with consenting, mature partners.

        I’m not being contrary here. I really don’t see one sexual act as inherently different than another. It’s just me connecting with another person. Am I starting to make sense now?

      • Juliette

        So your argument is you feel somehow looked down upon because since you don’t engage in true sexual intercourse, rather in sexual derivatives, that you think it’s not fair and want people to see your sexual acts as sex itself. You don’t like there being a distinction between actual sex and the sexual. Or is it something else?

      • curtispenfold

        Do you think it’s important to make a distinction between intercourse and every other sexual act? And if so, why?

      • Juliette

        Yes, absolutely. Because intercourse is sex and anything else is not sex. Just sexual.

      • Juliette

        For example, if someone holds my hand against my will and it’s so erotic for them that they almost cum, can I go to a police station and file that someone forced me to have sex with them? No, of course not. What if someone exposes their body to me when I told them I didn’t want to see it? Are they raping me? No. There’s a line between what is sexual and what is sex. And no matter how anyone wants to spin it, sex is a defined act of a penis being inserted into someone’s orifice(s).

      • curtispenfold

        What you’re talking about is still sexual harassment, even if it’s not rape.

        I recognize the importance, though, in having clear definitions of sex in those situations, but do you think it’s important to have such a clear definition between consenting adults?

      • Juliette

        Exactly; one is sex, one is sexual. Whether between consenting adults or not is besides the point. Sex isn’t transformed into something else if both parties agree to do something, nor are sexual acts sex itself because they may inspire the same feelings. That’s like saying kissing can mean lips coming into contact with another person’s body but it can also be swinging together on a swing set or running through a sprinkler because you feel just as much connection doing both. Or that riding a merry-go-round can mean riding a merry-go-round or eating an icecream cone because both make you feel happy inside.

  6. Keli

    Being Mormon or subscribing to Mormon beliefs is also a topic of “What is Mormonism?” Plenty of people in the church will argue what they believe and what they don’t believe. Everything is relative. And it’s not your place to tell anyone to speak with their bishop.

    • Nancy

      The lines of morality and chastity are quite clear. However, this Curtis seems to not understand where the line is nor obviously why the commandment “matters”. The bishop is a resource to understand and clarify doctrine. What problem do you have in speaking with him to clarify what you don’t understand?

      Oh that’s right, you all hate men so you take a comment out of context and jump to conclusions.

      • curtispenfold

        Nobody said they hated men, but I am interested why you personally think that one romantic act is different than another.

        Do you really think God cares about the details of intimacy, that he’s A.O.K. with kissing on the lips but that he’s suddenly all upset if you kiss their genitals?

        If that’s what you believe, why? Why would it actually make any meaningful difference?

      • Locke

        You seem to have already answered your question by disavowing statutory rape above.

        Do you think God gets upset when someone kisses a minor’s genitals as opposed to their lips? If you do (and I’m assuming you do), you already believe one act is different from the other in His eyes.

      • curtispenfold

        Believing that adults shouldn’t be sexual with minors isn’t related to believing that some sexual acts between consenting adults are somehow forbidden or superior than others.

      • Locke

        The above conversations posed two hypothetical situations: (1) an adult kissing a minor’s lips (an act performed by many parents towards their children infants), and (2) an adult kissing a minor’s genitals (an act performed by many pedophiles).

        Does God differentiate between these two actions? Let’s assume for argument’s sake that you think “yes.”

        Is it because of lack of consent that He differentiates? No, both situation (1) and (2) lack consent. The only difference between the two is the act itself.

        Thus, there must be an inherent difference between the two acts in His eyes.

      • curtispenfold

        Right, Locke. There is a difference. Sexuality can be destructive for people when their consent is taken away. Sexual molestation and abuse can lead to serious trauma.

        Sexual molestation should NEVER be compared to consenting, empowered adults deciding together to connect intimately through sexual activity. That’s essentially what you’re doing right now, though.

      • Locke

        Like I said, you had already answered your question in the conversation above. And now you answer it explicitly by saying “there is a difference.” As Juliette said, this is elementary school knowledge that you already knew.

        But I am afraid I will have to disagree with you on sexual molestation “NEVER” being compared to consensual sex. That is a dangerous road to travel and only empowers those who benefit from blurred lines on what is “consensual sex.”

        Up until now, you seem to have had difficulty in understanding the meaning of “sex” in that phrase. But understanding what is and what is not sex, and what is and what is not consent, is important. And you can only understand the terms by “comparing” contrasting actions.

        Do you really want us to stop comparing the two at freshmen orientation when talking about rape? Should we stop comparing the two actions when helping child victims that a rape was not their fault? I hope the answer is an obvious, “no.”

        I may be wrong. But I think what you really meant was that we should never “confuse” molestation and consensual sex.

      • curtispenfold

        Yes, that is what I meant.

        I don’t think you should ever be sexual with children. Nor do I ever think you should be sexual without an enthusiastic yes from a fellow adult.

        But once you are sexual, I don’t think any act should be considered superior to another. Penis in vagina intercourse shouldn’t be considered superior to making-out or vice-versa.

  7. Janey

    And now it all becomes clear. This is an anti-Mormon site. Curtis here left and church and so is not trying to learn something with this post, but rather is seeking to create division and contention. This is typical with this site as the founder, Hannah W is on the board of te apostate OW group. This the the source on Curtis:

    • curtispenfold

      Thanks for the ad hominem attack.

      Just because I resigned from the LDS Church and am publicly critical of a variety of policies and teaching doesn’t make me anti-Mormon (whatever that even means). I still identify as Mormon, since I feel very strongly a part of the larger Mormon legacy and a variety of Mormon communities.

      There are a lot of bloggers here, each of us with a variety of different sorts of relationships with Mormonism. The variety of opinions and experiences is what makes this blog so interesting and important among young Mormons today.

  8. Nouner

    So Curtis, what is your point again? Your blog post was a zero-effort mishmash of easily-answered rhetorical questions that seem to try and make the point of “Shoot, I don’t know what sex is to be honest.” Now that you’ve gotten some definitions that you apparently couldn’t be bothered to find yourself, you seem to be trying to make some kind of point about “no act is superior to another” which lets face it isn’t really going out on a limb.

    I’m asking because you seem to be trying to argue about all points at once and sometimes in opposition of your original point(s?).

    “If two people just want to hold hands that’s ok” -Curtis Penfold


    Hey thanks for your permission to hold hands and kiss, glad you approve

    • curtispenfold

      My original intentions was to deconstruct the social construct we call “sex” with all of its implications of penis in vagina intercourse being the central focus as well as the major focus on the (especially male) orgasm, and consider that perhaps all acts of intimacy should be considered equal.

      It was quickly addressed in the comments that sexual intimacy probably needs to remain separate from non-sexual intimacy on some level in order to separate healthy affection between adults and minors from sexual molestation.

      I agree with the need to separate the sexual from the non-sexual for that situation, however I still think that as we revisualize sex and relationships in the 21st century, we should move away from the idea that between consenting adults, one act of intimacy is so drastically different than another.

    • Nouner

      “Except for needing to keep kids from being raped, figuring out what sex is isn’t that important”

      Ok well then, I guess you’ve made your point.

      I’m going to go have sex with my dog, by which I mean kiss her doggy jowls. Then after that I’m going to fuck the shit out of my SO, by which I mean hold hands with them while we ride the train. After all that I’m going to pay a prostitute to service me, by which I mean get a pedicure.

      There we are, that’s so much better and less confusing than calling only certain acts “sex”.

      • Juliette

        ^ This! I love this! Haha, brilliant. Well done, Nouner.

    • Nouner

      Curtis since French people and many other cultures greet each other by little cheek air-kisses, is that a sex act????? Can’t wait for your 21st century deconstruction of whether or not common everyday activities with random strangers should be reclassified as “sex”

  9. Ellie

    So glad people aren’t buying your anti-Mormon, apostate bull crap Curtis. You can’t just say “Anything can be sex!” and “You must not have sex with a kid!”
    If kissing or holding hands is so sexual to you, then I hope to GOD you never kiss or hold hands with a child. There is a distinct line, if you’ve lost it, then your “liberal open-mindedness” has clearly let a few things slip out that should be closed in. Maybe you should revisit the lessons we learned in Elementary, junior high, and high school regarding reproduction and sex. There is a difference between Sex and Sexual. There is a difference between Sexual and romantic, loving, and platonic. You are a sad, sad, confused little man.

  10. curtispenfold

    Juliette and Nouner, the thing about redefining sex is that we’re not just redefining abstract dictionary definions with a word as pointless as ice cream. We’re recreating entire paradigms.

    If sex is the equivalent of penis in vagina sex (as an aside to Juliette, most people would call oral sex and even genital stimulation with another’s hand sex as well, but anyway) that’s fine. The word can mean whatever we want it to mean.

    Regarldess, we have so many toxic ideas and attitudes surrounding sexuality in our culture that we need to dismantle.

    Virginity, slut-shaming, forced monogamy, penis in vagina intercourse being considered superior to all other sexual acts, the focus on the male orgasm, the focus on orgasm in general when some people will spend their whole lives unable to experience it, sex (whatever that means to the people involved) as a duty within a relationship, the stuff we see in porn and movies, and other harmful, artificial concepts that hurt organic sexual relationships among consenting adults (and that can even lead towards cultural acceptance of sexual assault and rape and victim blaming)–these are the things that are associated with that word “sex” and that hurt so many people.

    But what if we focus on specific intentions of sexuality? What if it became all about adults connecting deeply and sharing a pleasurable experience together?

    If we focused on that, then together, organically, we’d find what acts we enjoy doing together most. Instead of working off a prescripted package of what sex was, we’d consider all acts that help us connect and that lead towards mutual pleasurable experiences.

    • curtispenfold

      *we’d consider all acts that help us connect and that lead towards mutual pleasurable experiences to be in the same ballpark.

    • Juliette

      You can’t change what sex is, just like you can’t change what the definition of gravity is so that people who trip and fall a lot don’t feel offended. Your point isn’t working. It’s nonsensical. I don’t agree that anything can be considered sex because if you’re going to do that with sex, you have to extend that to all things. Like Nouner said, I guess that getting a pedicure can be considered getting serviced by a hooker if her intention is to be aroused. It’d be like telling your friends you had sex with your Friday night date because you went out to dinner and thought it was arousing to watch each other snarf down burgers. You may be aroused, really turned on, and tell yourself all you want that holding hands, and every other act is sex as long as you want it to be but that’s simply not true.

      • curtispenfold

        It’s not about changing the definition, though.

        It’s about changing the attitudes and ideas surrounding it.

      • curtispenfold

        People being pressured into a monogamous relationship, sometimes through cultural expectations, sometimes violently.

        To be clear, I live a polyamorous lifestyle, so my views on this or influenced by that.

        I do think some people can have healthy monogamous relationships, though, where together they can make the lines of intimacy they won’t cross with others, but I think that still needs to be done couple to couple and shouldn’t be something that’s merely expected in a pre-scripted way for all people.

      • Nouner

        “Juliette and Nouner, the thing about redefining sex is that we’re not just redefining abstract dictionary definions with a word as pointless as ice cream. We’re recreating entire paradigms.”

        No you’re not. Every generation thinks they invented sex. People have been boning each other however they please since forever. There are no “paradigms” being “recreated”, you’re boning (holding hands) with people. You’re not the first, millionth, or billionth person to do anything to another person. “Recreating paradigms” is just spouting buzzwords and trying to sound web 2.0 about a human bodily function.

        Also lol if you think that your experiences as a cross-dressing polyamorous thinks-holding-hands-is-sex baphomet-worshipping-ex-mormon has anything at all to do with anyone else but yourself. You were treated unfairly, harshly, and unjustly by the church and BYU, but frankly dude you’re kind of a wierdo. (that doesn’t justify your treatment, but you’re so far off any kind of beaten path(s) that it makes your opinions less valuable)

        “I do think some people can have healthy monogamous relationships, though, where together they can make the lines of intimacy they won’t cross with others, but I think that still needs to be done couple to couple and shouldn’t be something that’s merely expected in a pre-scripted way for all people.”

        I’m glad we have your permission. I guess the world will just have to hold its breath, hug close your grudging conditional acceptance of pervasive social norms and keep turning. Frankly I shudder to think what might happen if you really put your foot down and refused to give us your leave.

        It just struck me, do you think you’ll allow pet ownership? I really like my dog, but if you don’t ok it I guess I gotta let her go

      • curtispenfold

        What sex means, how it’s imagined, the attitudes, the beliefs, the morals, the expected roles of each partner, and the worldview surrounding it are so very distinct from culture to culture. Talk about sex in Sunday School and then talk about sex with some kinksters if you don’t believe me on how different the two paradigms are that each community has regarding sex. Sex is rarely considered just two (or three or several) people boning.

        Regarding me being weird, well, I think that we have a moral obligation to not be normal. I had too much to say about it in one comment, so I decided to respond to you in a new blog post.

  11. Kat Jones

    I feel that thinking of penis in vagina intercourse as “real” sex and other forms of intimacy as inferior is delegitimatizing of many relationships. What if someone were a paraplegic or quadriplegic and could not have that type of intercourse? Does that mean they never have sex or can’t have a sexual relationship? What if someone has had testicular cancer and can no longer orgasm? Is their sex life over? I would say it’s not. What if someone was traumatized by child abuse or rape and isn’t psychologically ready to have penetrative intercourse? This person can still have an intimate sexual relationship with another person. What if someone was HIV positive or had another STI and didn’t want to put their partners at risk? They can still have intimate sexual relations with others without penetrative intercourse.
    What if the relationship is not a heterosexual relationship? I personally would be offended if someone told me that what I do in intimacy with my partner is not sex.

    Broadening the definitions of sexual intimacy I feel can help strengthen the bonds of relationship. It can also reduce the stress of feeling like sexual intimacy has to fit within a certain prescribed box in order for it to be “real.” What is real is someone’s close intimate connection with their partner(s) however they choose to define it for themselves. For myself personally I would answer yes to all of these questions. With an intimate romantic partner all of these things can be sex. That doesn’t mean that they are always sex. The act of kissing in and of itself is not sexual, but it can be. It all depends on the context. I feel that they are writing in the context of developing a richer and deeper and broader meaning of sex within the context of a consensual romantic relationship. Personally I would add a few more things to the list. I feel that’s up to me to define for myself. What may be sexual for me may not be for you. Personally I consider myself very fortunate and lucky that there are many ways for me to feel sexually intimate with my partners.

      • Dollie

        I’m glad you’re here to act as the personal Dictionary of Being Right 100% of the Time About Everything, Juliette. Now that you’ve decided and told us what you say is sex and what is not we can stop thinking for ourselves and accept your answer as the One True Answer.

  12. Ian Perkes

    Thank you for the lovely questions. I think that the responses you have gotten hold the answer to the question at the core of your writing: “why do we define sex the way we do?” The responses draw upon legal codes and moral prohibitions. Ultimately they represent communities that map out the boundaries of sex for criminalization, shaming, exclusion, and control. I’m not trying to claim that it’s not important to see a boundary between coercive, inappropriate sex and loving, consensual sex, but I don’t think these communities stop there. I believe you are getting such resistance, not as theySeem to claim – ‘because you don’t seem to understand a simple definition’, but because you are trying to evoke a mental landscape that celebrates and includes varieties of human experience under the term sex. It’s the celebratory aspect that really irritates communities of exclusion and criminalization. Celebration is not how they use the word at all.


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