3 Signs You Don't Actually Know What Sex Is

3 Signs You Don't Actually Know What Sex Is

Sarah Riccio

Most of us learned about the birds and bees way back in grade school and have a firm grasp of what sex is. Or what we think it is, anyway. There are some sex myths — three in particular — that have circulated for so long, many of us believe them.

What does the word "sex" really refer to, anyway? Are some kinds of sex more valid or meaningful than others? And why does it matter? 

Let's dig into three of the most common misconceptions about sex and find out. 


Perhaps the most prevalent of all sex myths is the idea that a penis must be present for it to be considered actual sex. Patriarchal culture has consistently promoted the notion that all the other stuff — oral sex, manual stimulation, making out, etc. — is a prelude to the main event: PIV (penis in vagina) penetration.

That is false with a capital F. 

Real sex does not need to include a penis, or penetration of any kind. Non-penetrative sex is just as valid (and pleasurable!) as penetrative sex, and can involve a deliciously wide variety of activities.

Let’s look at some of the most popular ways people enjoy sex without the involvement of a penis. 

Oral Sex. Though the word sex is in the title of this one, many people don’t consider oral sex to be "all the way" lovemaking. But make no mistake: oral sex is sex. In fact, plenty of couples, especially those who don’t enjoy penetrative play, engage exclusively in oral sex for pleasure and orgasm.

And if you think oral sex is the exclusive playground of the mouth and your nether regions, think again. Adding a stroker or vulva stimulator to the mix can take things to a very exciting next level. 

Grinding/Tribbing. Scissoring, grinding, tribbing, or otherwise rubbing erogenous zones together is a fan-favorite among folks who aren’t into penetrative sex.

Whether you bump and grind with clothes on or in your birthday suits, the combo of friction and pressure can stimulate your genitals all the way to orgasm. To enhance sensation, you can add a vibrator that can be slipped between bodies! 

Handjobs. Giving your partner a handjob is a tried and true way to explore sexual intimacy. Again, no penetration is involved here, but the tight, lubricated grip of a hand can mimic the feel of a mouth or vagina (especially when paired with a sex toy!).

To really ramp up your handjob game, try adding a penis sleeve to the mix. 

Fingering. Now this one can involve penetration, as fingering refers to the timeless art of stimulating a vulva or anus with — you guessed it — fingers.

Whether the fingers belong to your lover or your own sexy self, this penetrative form of pleasure can stimulate the G-spot or prostate in dexterous ways that a penis cannot, especially if you add a finger vibe to the fun! 

What is considered real sex?

Mutual masturbation. This refers to the act of stimulating yourself alongside your partner. You can masturbate each other while whispering sweet nothings, or masturbate in front of each other (my personal fave). Either way, mutual masturbation is an erotic and intimate act that might not look like the sex we see on TV, but is indeed sex!

Want to make it really fun? Throw some couple’s toys into the game to kick things off.

Cyber sex. Perhaps the most hotly debated item in the is-this-real-sex discussion is cyber sex, which includes phone sex, webcam play, steamy sext sessions, and just about anything else you can do through the airwaves.

And the answer is: yes, cyber sex absolutely is sex. If it weren't, then why are long-distance sex toys so popular?

Ultimately, sex is a fluid concept that’s interpreted differently across cultures and within relationships. But one thing we can say for certain is that sex is not just one thing. There are plenty of ways to enjoy it without penetration or the inclusion of anything phallic, human or otherwise.

More: Learn about all types of romantic and platonic connections in our Ultimate Guide to Relationships 


If you think sex must be solidified by an orgasmic grand finale, I’ve got news for you. 

Orgasms are undoubtedly a perk of sexual intimacy, but they’re not the sole purpose by any means. Pleasure, connection, and intimacy are the name of the game when it comes to sex. If that results in an orgasm, great! If not, also great. As long as everyone enjoys themselves, mission accomplished. 

In fact, a focus on pleasure instead of an orgasm lets sexual partners relax and stay present in the moment, which can help them reach orgasm more easily. Too much emphasis on the destination can make the journey feel like a chore. Instead of asking your partner, “Did you cum?” try “Did you have fun?” This shows that you care more about their overall experience than one brief sexual response. 

More: Read Tell Me What You Want to learn sexy, effective communication in the bedroom!


Finally, let’s address the pervasive (and toxic) myth that sex toys are artificial replacements for real sex. Using sex toys in the bedroom can be an exciting way to enhance pleasure and stimulation for all involved. Toys can play a minor role in your sexual experiences or be the main event.

How you use toys is entirely up to you, but no matter how you choose to play, remember: they are not competition for your partner, nor are they designed to replace human intimacy. 

Also, I encourage you to firmly reject the idea that only a man’s penis entering a woman’s vagina is real penetrative sex. Whether you prefer a strap-on dildo, a rabbit vibrator, a few fingers, or any other body-safe object, penetrative sex of all kinds is valid and wonderful.  


Now that you've updated your definition of sex, you’re ready to spread this knowledge (and pleasure!) to friends and partners. But before you go, don't forget to follow Delicto on TikTok and Instagram for more sex education, toy reviews, and product recommendations.

Questions? Comments? Feel free to reach out to sarah@delicto.com.