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» Got Questions? Get Answers. » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » When you say "We had sex," why do we say "What do you mean by that?"

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Author Topic: When you say "We had sex," why do we say "What do you mean by that?"
Heather
Executive Director & Founder
Member # 3

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This may be very obvious to some of our users, but less obvious, or not at all clear to others. So, I figured we should remind everyone about this and be clear so everyone can understand.

Why is our asking that totally obvious to some people but not others?

Well, it's probably obvious to people who:
• aren't heterosexual, which is around half of our users and staff.
• aren't themselves, or doesn't have partners, who are cis gender: whose gender "matches" the set of body parts most often associated with that gender. That's around 10% of our readership.
• have experienced sexual pleasure or feelings from more than one way of being sexual.
* have engaged in sex, but not the kind one given person is calling sex.
• had sex education or information in their lives which made clear that sex isn't any one thing only, or that there isn't one kind of "real" sex.
• don't have the physical ability to engage in all kinds of sex.
• know that not everyone who uses and works at the site is heterosexual or with a partner of a different sex than they are.

We need to know exactly what people mean by "sex" in order to answer questions like:
• Could I be/get pregnant? What was my risk of pregnancy?
• Could I get/transmit an STI? Which ones?
• Why isn't sex feeling good for me? Why does sex hurt?
• Why can't I/my partner orgasm from sex? Why don't I like sex?
• My partner is asking me to have sex with them, should I?
• I want my partner to have sex with me: how do I ask them?

It is probably obvious that with questions like those and more, if we don't know what kind of sex someone is talking about, we can't answer them.

And we can't just assume that every time someone says "sex" they mean vaginal intercourse, because:
• that's just not what people always mean.
• we'd wind up giving a lot of people the wrong information that way, and some of those mistakes could put people at risk of some seriously bad or unhealthy outcomes.
• as people who work in sexual health and sexuality, we know that it isn't true there is only one kind of sex or one thing that is sex.
• that would create a situation where a great portion of our userbase would be presented with information that wasn't relevant to them, but where they couldn't know for sure if it was or wasn't.
• that would necessarily involve us stating things about one kind of sex that would sound true for all kinds of sex, but wouldn't be factual at all.

Now and then, we've had some users clearly feel frustrated or impatient when we ask this.

If that's the spot you're in, we ask that you just read through this to get a better sense of our rationale, and know that when we ask what kind of sex you mean, we're not being cheeky. When it seems very clear, we will usually make sure that's what you meant then give information based on what it seems like you mean. When we're not sure, or have doubts, we ask. And we do that in order to serve you and everyone here as best we can, and hope you can appreciate and respect that.

Thanks!

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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