Oral sex, manual sex, anal sex...what's it all mean, jellybean?

What is the difference between oral sex, manual sex, and anal sex?
Heather Corinna replies:

Here's a quick roundup for you.

Oral sex is sexual activity between partners in which someone's genitals -- penis, testicles, vulva (vagina, clitoris, labia) or anus -- are being stimulated by someone else's mouth, lips or tongue.

Names for some common oral sex activities are cunnilingus -- giving a person with a vulva/vagina oral sex, often colloquially called "eating out," or "going down on," -- fellatio -- giving a person with a penis oral sex, often colloquially called "giving head," or a "blowjob" -- and analingus -- stimulating the anus of a person of any gender with the mouth, lips or tongue, often colloquially called "rimming."

Manual sex is sexual activity done with the hands. It's called that because the things we do with our hands are manual (the Latin word for hands is manus). So, if someone is stimulating someone else's genitals with their hands -- a lot of people call doing that for or to people with vulvas "fingering," and doing it for or to people with penises a "hand job," -- that's manual sex. You might also hear it called "digital sex," not because there are computers involved, but because "digital" is another word that expresses something done with the hands or fingers (as they are digits).

Anal sex is any kind of sex that involves a person's anus or rectum (their butt). That can be oral sex, manual sex, or it can also be anal intercourse, with either a penis or a sex toy. When most teens are asking about anal sex, they are most often asking about anal intercourse, even though that's not the only kind of anal sex, and anal sex for many people doesn't feel very good without other kinds of anal sex done first.

All of these activities are very common sexual activities that many people of all sexes and genders do and enjoy. Just like with intercourse, none of them are required, and how much people do or don't like them, and if someone does or doesn't want to do them is going to depend on the person. Too, just like with vaginal intercourse, all of these activities have the possibility of both negative and positive consequences; of both possible negative and positive risks. While only vaginal or anal intercourse between opposite-sex partners can create a possible pregnancy risk, all of these kinds of sex carry possible risks of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). So, if you want to know how to do any of them safely, take a look at this: Safe, Sound & Sexy: A Safer Sex How-To.

Just in case you're asking this because you've found yourself in a situation where someone is asking you if you want to do something, but you've found you don't know what they're asking you to do, please know that it is always okay to ask that person what they mean. After all, if we can't even talk about sex comfortably with someone, or be honest about our level of knowledge and experience, then it's safe to say we probably shouldn't be having any kind of sex with that person. Being able to talk about this stuff with a potential partner and freely ask questions when we have them is ground zero when it comes to being ready for any kind of sex.

Here are a few links to some other sex basics for you:

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