WTF is “real” sex anyway?

Close your eyes for a moment, and think back to one of your favorite, most pleasurable sexy times/sex experiences. When and where was it? What else was going on in your life? How were you feeling, physically and emotionally? Were you solo or with other(s)? How was your relationship with yourself and any partner(s)? What kinds of sex acts did you do?

Since creating this exercise for my workshops a few years ago, I’ve led hundreds of womxn through it. In our discussion after, participants mostly talk about trust and affection; how they were really feeling themselves that day; or, the special occasion that particular sexy time celebrated. When sex acts do get mentioned, I mostly hear about all the things except intercourse—at the least, how they had at least one orgasm before intercourse.

In other words: the sex acts we call “foreplay” typically bring womxn the most pleasure.

Let’s burn down the sexual hierarchy

In our heteronormative society, one act stands above the rest as “real” sex: penis in vagina intercourse (PIV). The terms get used interchangeably, even as both anecdotal and scientific evidence suggests that PIV isn’t what brings many people, especially those with vulvas, the most pleasure. 

Under PIV there’s oral, hand sex, and various other sex acts like kissing and outercourse. Kink puts, well, a kink into the order; however, people still judge and dismiss it for a variety of reasons including it not being “real” sex.

Putting PIV at the top of the sexual pyramid stems from society’s Puritanical roots, obsession with procreative sex, and stigmatization of pleasure. It puts cis, heterosexual men’s needs first. It also serves to dismiss and stigmatize those who don’t have or enjoy PIV, from people with disabilities to LGBTQIA+ individuals, cis women struggling with pelvic pain, and more.  

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