You may be laughing because you're sure we all know what "sex" means, right? Well, not really. Do you remember that former President Bill Clinton, said he had NOT had sex with "that woman," and lots of people believed he was simply lying? He had a different definition of what sex means. Many people think that only sexual intercourse is sex and that anything short of full intercourse, no matter how intimate, is just not sex. Think of young women or men who may have done lots of pretty intimate sexual things but never had intercourse. What sex means to them may be different than to others. They still say they are virgins and they're right. So you need to be sure you and the people you talk to about the topic are on the same page about what sex means. Now, notice that in the above paragraph, we use the term sexual intercourse or intercourse. Everyone knows exactly what sex means, right? Again, not really. When 300 Yale students were asked to define what sex means, they offered a wide range of answers. Some said, "It's any kind of intimate sexual touching." Others thought it wasn't true intercourse unless there was simultaneous, mutual climax. In fact, sex means that the man's penis enters the woman's vagina. Even dictionaries vary in their definitions of what sex means. Some include male ejaculation in the definition, others don't. Maybe the inclusion of ejaculation in the definition reflects a very reproductive view of intercourse, but it is not an accurate or practical definition. Another confusing term is one that doctors sometimes use. They may ask if you are "sexually active." One woman we heard about said, "No, I just lie still." Joke. The doctor probably wants to know if the patient has had or is having sexual intercourse, not because the doctor is nosy, but so that she or he can talk about contraception, safer sex, and/or whether the patient has any questions or worries about sex. Then there are all the terms that are used in casual conversation, for example, "hooking up." We THINK most people use it to refer to two people meeting and having a rather casual, probably one-night sexual encounter that may or may not include intercourse. We suspect that these casual terms change their meaning from time to time and may even mean different things in different places. If you have any questions or can enlighten us about terms you and your friends use, send an email to Ask . The Experts
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