Sexual Myths and Your Relationship
Myth #2: Sex = sexual intercourse

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Cultural Meaning of Sex

In our cultural shorthand, "sex" is typically understood to be "sexual intercourse": penis-in-vagina activity, culminating in ejaculation. Yet this formulation drastically limits our understanding of this rich and complex human phenomenon.

When President Bill Clinton was defending himself during his impeachment hearings he famously declared, "I did not have sex with that woman." He meant, apparently truthfully, that he did not have intercourse with her. Yet everyone who heard this knew without any doubt that what happened between them in the Oval Office was sexual.

When Sex Was Thrilling

Limiting our understanding of sex in this way serves to limit the scope and depth of sexual pleasure and enjoyment. Do you remember how thrilling your first sexual explorations were? How much territory there was to explore before ever arriving at intercourse? Too many adults speed past these enchantments, shortening time for relaxed foreplay and sensual caresses, hurrying to "have sex."

Sexual intercourse is sexual behavior, an expression of sexual desire. Our sexual energies run deep, stirring us throughout our lifetimes in ways beyond knowing. Limiting the primordial power of Sex to simply intercourse doesn't do justice to this fundamental life energy.

We are sexual creatures, from birth to death. We experience our sexual energies, thoughts, attractions, and sensations whether we are "having sex" or not. Clever advertisers know that a pretty girl or a handsome guy in front of a product helps to sell it. Handsome politicians or attractive news anchors or gorgeous movie stars generally are more successful than those who are not so sexually appealing.

Optimal Sex

The optimal experience of sex is based on enjoying every moment, from flirting and teasing to foreplay to the wide range of activities we call making love. When we limit our understanding of sexual expression in a way that prioritizes intercourse, it's like limiting a five-course gourmet meal to just the entree.

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