I firmly believe there’s no such thing as a stupid question.
That doesn’t mean that all questions are important. There are a lot of questions whose answers just don’t matter – especially questions about sex. There are all these deeply unimportant questions that people are burning to ask, because these are the questions the ridiculous media present as being important.
People ask them all the time and I try REALLY hard not to roll my eyes or sigh heavily or otherwise indicate how little I care about the answer, how little the answer will make them healthier or happier, and how little the answer will make the world a better place. I’ve got a list of them, these questions that don’t matter.
Is oral sex/anal sex/manual sex “sex”?
Who fucking cares what “sex” is? Why does this matter? Why is it important that 80% of young adults don’t think oral sex is sex? So what?
The claim I hear to justify this question is related to prevention of STIs: if a teenager doesn’t think anal sex is sex, won’t that mean they think they can’t get a sexually transmitted infection?
I have yet to see a single study that indicates that identifying a behavior as “sex” increases the likelihood of using protection with that behavior. If you know of that study, PLEASE, for the love of mike, send me a link. Until I see such evidence – and I doubt I ever will – I’m bored out of my mind by this question. I just don’t care if oral, anal, and manual count as “sex.” I’ve never seen any evidence that these artificially imposed categories are important from a (physical or mental) health perspective.
The important question, instead, is “Are there any STI risks associated with oral/anal/manual/vaginal/whatever sex?” So ask that one and report about it. The answer would tell us a lot more about what young people do and don’t know, and tell us more about what we need to teach them.
I’d like to take this opportunity to add that, in fact, manual and oral sex, while not remotely “risk-free,” ARE lower risk for STI transmission than penile-vaginal intercourse and they are superb contraception. So from a harm reduction perspective… right on.
EDIT: It is a strange and bewildering coincidence that the same day I post this, Heather Corinna’s very thoughtful article on “What’s Sex” was also published.