When we first learn about sex, it’s often in the terms of penis in vagina (PIV) penetration. While this is what most people are referring to when they say ‘sex’, this is a cisheteronormative way of looking at sex that assumes sex is going to be happening between a cisgender man and a cisgender woman. We’re taught to see PIV penetration as ‘real’ sex and any other intimate acts as lesser. However, there are so many ways you can have sex, and ‘real’ sex is whatever you and your partner(s) decide it is.
It can still be ‘real’ sex if you don’t orgasm, you don’t take your clothes off, you don’t even touch each other. Here are six intimate acts that totally count as ‘real’ sex:
1. Sexting and phone sex
First things first: you don’t need to be in the same place as your partner to have sex. Exchanging explicit messages with your partner – or hearing them whisper fantasies into the phone – definitely counts as ‘real’ sex. It can be incredibly intimate to talk about sex and try to turn your partner on with words, and very hot to hear their sounds as they touch themselves while thinking about you! Sexting and phone sex is a great way to connect to your partner and feel intimate even when you’re not physically together.
2. Mutual masturbation
Mutual masturbation – when you and your partner(s) touch yourselves simultaneously – is a severely underrated way to have sex. It can be a good way to have sex if you haven’t discussed STIs and safer sex practices yet, or if you’re nervous about touching each other but still want to feel close to your partner. You can get naked and watch each other touch yourselves – and you can learn a lot about what someone likes from the way they touch themselves! And you know what you like, it’s also sex that’s pretty much guaranteed to feel good for you. It might feel exposing to sit or lie next to your partner while pleasuring yourself, but that’s a bit part of why mutual masturbation can feel so intimate.
3. Hand sex
Even if you are touching each other, penetration absolutely isn’t needed for it to be ‘real’ sex. Whether you’re giving a hand job or fingering your partner, hand sex can be just as intimate as PIV penetration. You’re going to be physically close to your partner, and often intensely focussed on their pleasure as well. As no sex act is a ‘one size fits all’ experience, hand sex can often involve explaining what to your partner what you enjoy – and while talking about sex can be awkward, it can also be incredibly hot to ask for what you want.
4. Anal play
Anal play encompasses everything from rimming to pegging and butt plugs to penetration with a penis. The vulnerability and intimacy needed to explore anal play with your partner means that it definitely qualifies as ‘real’ sex’. If you’re going to try any anal play, remember to take your time preparing your body and ‘warming up’ before diving straight in to penetration. And, of course, to use lube! Momentum Hybrid Lubricate works well for anal play, as it’s a long-lasting water- and silicone-based lube that’s safe to use with condoms and ensures a silky, smooth glide.
5. Using sex toys
Sex toys are often seen as a substitute for a partner, but in reality they can be a great addition to partnered sex! You might want to use a vibrator during penetration, for example, because clitoral stimulation can increase a person with a vulva’s chance of having an orgasm during PIV. Or you might use sex toys themselves for penetration – which is no less ‘real’ than penetration with a penis – or just because they feel good. You can use sex toys to explore different sensations and experience different kinds of pleasure, which can feel very intimate.
6. Whatever you want
At the end of the day, it’s up to you and your partner(s) to choose what you want to ‘count’ as ‘real’ sex. You might decide that sex is watching porn together on the sofa and touching yourselves, or maybe that sex includes kissing while you grind against each other. Maybe PIV penetration isn’t on the table for you and your partner(s) at all – there’s lots of other ways you can experience pleasure and get each other off. PIV penetration isn’t the only kind of ‘real’ sex – sex can be whatever you want it to be, and it’s worth exploring what feels pleasurable for you and your partner(s).