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Sexual love is undoubtedly one of the chief things in life, and the union of mental and bodily satisfaction in the enjoyment of love is one of its culminating peaks. Apart from a few queer fanatics, all the world knows this and conducts its life accordingly; science alone is too delicate to admit it.
- Sigmund Freud
From the time we hit puberty until we die, sex dominates our lives. If we aren't having it, we're thinking of having it, dealing with the repercussions of having it, wishing we hadn't had it, wondering who else is having it or watching it on television. Even if we don't want to have it ourselves, we're having it thrust upon us in the form of advertising.
Humans, dolphins and bonobo chimps are the only creatures known to have sex for pleasure, rather than just to reproduce. This article cannot speak for dolphins or chimps, so will concentrate on humans. Intended as a light-hearted look at the ins and outs of it all, for more serious, important and in-depth information, follow the many links in this Entry.
What is This Sex Thing Anyway?
Remember, if you smoke after sex you're doing it too fast.
- Woody Allen
So what exactly is 'sex'? For many people, it's just whether you are a male or a female, so 'gender'1. For teenage boys it's something that they brag about having, while all the while trying desperately to find someone other than themselves to have it with. For teenage girls, it's something that they may have been conditioned to believe is 'wrong', 'dirty' and that can ruin their lives (although with the rate of teenage pregnancies in the UK being the highest in Europe, this is perhaps not so true anymore).
There is more to sex than that. Is it just the insertion of a penis into a vagina? Or can you have sex if the people involved are missing one or the other, or even both? One American President will always be remembered for his repeated denials that he 'had sex' with a young woman working at the White House as an intern. It turned out that although they didn't have 'baby-making' type sex, there was definitely an insertion of part of his body into part of hers. Did he really think that he could not call this 'sex'?
For the conventional 'boy-girl' couple, sex is likely to be kissing, caressing, foreplay and intercourse. Not necessarily in that order, or with equal time dedicated to each 'section'. When time (or space) is limited, it can be restricted to just one or two sections; for instance, on returning home from a long trip, they might go straight from kissing to intercourse in their desire to get as close as possible to each other as soon as possible. Or space might be limited; for instance, many teenagers have made very good use of the car as a venue. If you have a rather large model (car, not body parts), then this is all well and good, but if you have one of the more town-friendly smaller cars, you might start with kissing, get as far as foreplay and be satisfied with that.
So, no penises here then. So is it still sex? The reactions of boyfriends when their girlfriends consider the charms of other females is often 'I don't mind if you want to sleep with another women, just not another bloke', or 'can I watch?' as if not having a penis involved means that it's not really sex, and so it's not really cheating. However, the many gay women around would probably be extremely offended to be told that they have no sex life.
A brace of penises; does this mean that gay men are having double the amount of sex that everyone else is having? Male homosexuality seems to suffer from being more socially acceptable - there are more openly gay men on television for instance, than gay women. They are also not mourned in the same way that a gay woman is, as a loss to the opposite sex - yet at the same time are more socially 'unacceptable'. Many men would have nothing to do with a gay man, or a man who has joined another man in bed, and would consider it terrible beyond belief, if not an invitation to a smack in the mouth if anyone tried to touch them 'that way'. Yet they happily chuckle along to Graham Norton on the television.
At least, it seems to be true in the UK. Other areas may have different reactions.
That definitely isn't the case here in the States, and I've heard the same of Russia, at least.
What Else do People do in the Pursuit of a Good Time?
People should be very free with sex, they should draw the line at goats.
- Elton John
When you like a little variety in the bedroom, this is often considered to be something best kept behind closed doors and not talked about at all in public. In fact, much of the excitement of being 'into something different' is that it often doesn't technically involve sex at all. Many people would rather give up the conventional version of sex, than they would their 'other' interests. Yet they would still consider themselves to have a very active sex life.
Sex can lead to babies. This is more often than not considered to be a bad thing, as many more sexual encounters are spent attempting to prevent conception than they are attempting to encourage it. If participants do want to have a child, convention demands a fertile male and a fertile female. However, we won't stand on convention, as it never stood on us. There are ways to reproduce if you are either a) not fertile in the traditional sense, or b) lacking one of the aforesaid males or females.
Occasionally sex is confused with love. The two aren't mutually exclusive, but what for one can be the sweet pangs of love, for another it's just the release of tension and a bloody good shag.
If you loved me you would. If you loved me, you'd wait. See? We said that sex is often confused with love. Teenagers and sex go together like strawberries and cream (unless you are allergic to one or the other of course, but there are exceptions to every rule).
Kinsey found men still making love about once a week at the age of sixty-five. In one group 75-year-olds were having sex about once a month; and 80-year-olds were managing it once every nine or ten weeks.
Adult sex is something very different. As far as teenagers are concerned, the older you get, the less you have, which is why they seem to want as much as possible as quickly as they can get it. When you're really old, say, 35, then it's all over for you.
Luckily for us adults, it's not really like that. Men go on fathering children (real proof they are having sex) well into their 70s. Rod Stewart and Stevie Wonder are just two over-50s who have proved they are still having sex by impregnating their partners.
So, we're still having sex, what should the average adult be concerned with?
The best contraceptive is the word 'no' - repeated frequently.
- Margaret Smith
It's all very well for celebrities to carry on reproducing into their senior years, but for normal people it's a time to sit back and relax, possibly because they've already raised their family, and want to enjoy watching said family mucking up their own. And of course, many teenagers would perhaps like to make sure that their youth isn't frittered away by looking after someone else's youth. So what can we do? There's a long list of things we can do to avoid pregnancy.
- Just say no
- Hold hands instead
- Use a condom
- Use one of the many other forms of contraception
- Try a chastity belt
Disease and death are always a worry. However, there are various ways to avoid them. Everything in the above list, except for number five, should help to protect you.
Despite each generation's belief that they invented sex, and so only they really understand it, sex has been around for a very long time - in much the same format as it is today. Luckily for the human species, it's likely to be around for a very long time to come.