There are different kinds of sex — but you need good communication and consent no matter what kind of sex is involved. Sex can lead to pregnancy and/or STDs, but there are ways to protect yourself. 

What’s sex?

People define "sex" in different ways. Some people believe that it only counts as sex if a penis goes into a vagina, but this isn't true for everybody. Different types of sex include:

  • Vaginal sex (penis-in-vagina intercourse)

  • Oral sex (mouth-to-genital contact)

  • Anal sex (penis-in-butt intercourse)

  • Fingering or hand jobs (hand-to-genital contact)

  • Dry humping or genital rubbing

  • Masturbation (touching yourself)

Whatever sex means to you, being sexual with another person comes with a lot of responsibility. Before you have sex, think about what things you feel comfortable doing, ask what the other person feels comfortable doing, and think about any risks involved — like STDs or pregnancy — and how to help prevent them.

It's just as important to think about what you DON'T feel comfortable doing — and then talk about it with your partner. And if you're in the middle of doing something that you thought you wanted to do but change your mind, that's OK, too. You can stop any time you want.

If you're going to have vaginal, oral, or anal sex, talk with your partner about how you'll help protect each other from STDs.

If you're having vaginal sex, it's also important to use birth control if you don't want to get pregnant.

What’s oral sex?

Going down. Eating out. Blow job. These are all names for oral sex — using your mouth to stimulate another person's genitals.

Some people like oral sex, and others don't. Some people like giving oral sex but don't like getting it. Some like getting it but not giving it. All of this is totally fine and normal — it's up to you to decide what you're comfortable with, and let your partner know.

You can't get pregnant from oral sex, but you can get an STD if you don’t protect yourself. Although it's less likely you'll get an STD from oral sex than from unprotected vaginal or anal sex, safer is always better. Use a condom to cover the penis, or a Sheer Glyde dam, cut-open condom, or plastic wrap to cover the vulva or anus to help prevent STDs.

What’s anal sex?

Anal sex means penis-in-anus (butt) intercourse. Some people enjoy anal sex, and some people don't like it at all. Either way is perfectly fine. If you don't like it or don't want to try it, it’s not ok for someone to pressure you into it. Sex should feel good and be comfortable for both of you.

Anal sex can hurt if you're not relaxed and don't use lubricant. The anus doesn't make it’s own lubrication like the vagina does, so using lube helps the penis (or a sex toy) go in the anus easier and keeps the condom from breaking.

Don't use anything with oil in it, like Vaseline, lotion, or baby oil. Oil-based lubes can weaken a condom and make it more likely to break. You can get safe lubricants (water or silicone based) in the condom aisle at drug and grocery stores.

Listen to your body. If anal sex (or any sex) hurts, stop doing it. Sex that's painful or uncomfortable shouldn’t continue and your partner should respect that.

You can't get pregnant from anal sex. But there's a bigger chance of getting STDs, including HIV, from unprotected anal sex (without a condom). So it's important to always use condoms AND lube to lower your chances of getting an STD.

What’s vaginal sex?

Vaginal sex is when a penis goes inside a vagina. Some people really enjoy vaginal sex, and some people don’t. Some people with a vulva/clitoris orgasm from vaginal sex alone, and some people don’t. Just like all kinds of sex, everyone has different things they like and don’t like — and that’s ok. Let your partner know what feels good to you.

You can get pregnant and pass STDs from unprotected vaginal sex. But there are a lot of different birth control methods that help prevent pregnancy. Just like with oral and anal sex, condoms can help prevent STDs.  

What’s an orgasm?

An orgasm is the release of tension that can happen during sex or masturbation. It’s often intense and feels really good. Having an orgasm is sometimes called coming/cumming or climaxing.

Before and during an orgasm, you might notice changes to your body like:

  • your face and chest become warm and red

  • your heart beats faster

  • muscle spasms in your genitals

  • a pleasurable feeling in your genitals or even across your whole body

During an orgasm, the penis squirts a small amount (1-2 tablespoons) of semen, a white liquid that contains sperm and other fluids. This is called ejaculation. It’s possible to have an orgasm without ejaculating or to ejaculate without an orgasm, but they usually happen together.

It’s also possible for fluid to squirt out of the vulva before or during an orgasm — this is sometimes called female ejaculation. This fluid isn’t pee. Female ejaculation is less common than ejaculation out of the penis, but if it happens to you, it’s totally okay - nothing is weird or wrong with you.

Every body is different and there’s not one “right” way to have an orgasm. You might be able to have an orgasm quickly and easily. Or you might need more time or a very specific type of stimulation. You might be able to have an orgasm when you masturbate but not when you have sex with a partner. All of these differences are normal.  Experimenting with what feels good can help you understand your body and what feels good for you.

Although people tend to think that having an orgasm is the goal of sex, you can get lots of pleasure from doing sexual things even if you don’t have an orgasm. In fact, putting a lot of pressure on having an orgasm can make you or your partner anxious, which can make sex stressful and less enjoyable. Relax, and remember that pleasure, not orgasms, is the goal.