What is sex?

Being a sexual being is an awesome thing – but, like anything in life, it can pose some risks. 'Sexual health' means having consenting, pleasurable and safe sexual experiences. It's up to you to have sex in a way that reduces the chances of getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or having an unplanned pregnancy. Remember you are in charge of your body, your health and your decisions about sex.

Different kinds of sex

Sex can mean different things to different people. When most people talk about ‘having sex’ they are usually referring to sexual intercourse (or penetrative sex).

It is also possible to be ‘sexual’ without actually having sex. Things like kissing, touching, rubbing and stroking are all things that can make you feel good. Knowing about all of the options can help you make informed choices that are best for you.


When people use their lips for pleasure – either touching each other's lips, or other parts of the body with their lips. Kissing can be with or without tongues.


When you touch or stroke a part of your own body to become aroused. Different people find different things erotic. Body parts could include the clitoris, breasts, nipples, vagina, penis or anus. Exploring your own body through masturbation can be a good way to find out about your sexual feelings and your body. Masturbation is not bad for you. It's your choice whether or not you do it or not.

Mutual masturbation

When two or more people touch the sensitive parts of each other's bodies


Using fingers to stimulate another person's genitals.


Any kind of kissing, massage or touching that happens before intercourse. It can help to get people aroused and can make sex more enjoyable.

Oral sex

Using the mouth and tongue to stimulate your partner's genital area. Of all the myths and misconceptions out there: one of the most common ones is that oral sex isn't really sex. While you can't get pregnant by having oral sex, sexually transmitted infections can be passed on in this way.

Non-penetrative sex

Sex that does not involve penetration of the mouth, vagina or anus.

Penetrative sex (also called sexual intercourse)

When something (like a penis or a sex toy) goes inside someone else's mouth, vagina or anus. Vaginal, anal and oral sex are all types of penetrative sex.

Vaginal sex

When a penis goes inside a vagina.

Anal sex

When there is penetration of an anus by a sex toy or penis. The anus is the opening at the end of the digestive system where solid waste comes out of the body.


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