Sexual Behavior

Sexual feelings, fantasies, and desires are natural and you will have them throughout your life. It is possible to enjoy sexual feelings without acting on them but at various points in your life you may choose to engage in sexual behaviors. Using the scientific or technical term to talk about a sexual behavior can feel awkward or uncomfortable and a lot of times friends and partners are going to use slang. But, learning the correct terms for different sexual behaviors can be important — it can help you understand information you find in textbooks or talk to a healthcare provider about STDs or pregnancy.

Batter up! Generations of young people have compared sex to baseball and labeled various behaviors as first, second, or third base. We all know that a baseball player has to touch second base before he can run to third. This makes it seem like there is a right way to go about sex. There isn’t. Couples have to decide which behaviors they are going to engage in and then they can choose an order for themselves.

Here are few common behaviors:


Abstinence means choosing not to do certain things. For some people abstinence means choosing not to engage in any sexual behavior at all. Other people consider themselves abstinent as long as they haven’t had vaginal sex. We define abstinence as avoiding oral, vaginal, and anal sex because these activities put you at risk for pregnancy and/or STDs. People of all ages, genders, and sexual orientations can choose to be abstinent at any time in their lives. You may choose to be abstinent for specific periods throughout your life, like when you are a teenager. Or you might decide to be abstinent until you reach certain milestones in your life like graduating from high school, finding a life-long partner, or getting married.


Touching or rubbing your own genitals to feel good is called masturbation. Most people - male and female — have masturbated at some point in their lives. Whether you masturbate at all, and how often you do, is completely up to you. Many people are uncomfortable talking about masturbation and lots of myths still exist. You should know that masturbation causes no physical or mental harm - so don’t worry about going blind or growing hair on your palms.


We pucker up all the time, whether it’s giving Grandma a kiss on the cheek to say hello or brushing lips with your date to say goodnight. Obviously not all kisses are sexual, but kissing can be a sexual experience and is often the first thing that partners do together. Sexual kissing often involves open mouths and tongues and is sometimes called French kissing or making out.

Masturbation with a Partner:

We usually think about masturbation as something people do alone, but some people choose to touch their own genitals in front of a partner as a shared sexual experience.

Oral Sex:

Stimulating a partner’s genitals with the mouth is called oral sex. Mouth-to-penis oral sex is sometimes referred to as fellatio and mouth-to-vulva oral sex is called cunnilingus.

Vaginal Sex:

Vaginal sex/intercourse is putting the penis inside a partner’s vagina. For many heterosexual couples this is the activity that they are talking about when they say “having sex” or “doing it.” You should remember, though, that vaginal intercourse is just one of many things couples do together.

Anal Sex:

Putting the penis inside a partner’s anus is called anal sex. Many couples (both opposite sex and same sex) choose to have anal sex.

Many sexual behaviors carry some risk for contracting STDs and some can lead to pregnancy. Check out the Health section for more information on birth control and STDs.

On TV, characters tend to go from kissing good night at the door to deciding whether to have sex in just a few scenes. This can happen in real life too, but for most couples there are a lot of steps in between.

Often lumped together with terms like “fooling around” or “hooking up,” these activities can be anything from giving your partner a massage, to caressing each other, touching a partner’s breast, dry humping, or touching a partner’s genitals. These activities may or may not lead to orgasm.

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