Sexual intercourse

Sexual intercourse (or coitus or copulation) is a sexual activity typically involving the insertion and thrusting of the penis into the vagina for sexual pleasure or reproduction.[1] This is also known as vaginal intercourse or vaginal sex.[2][3] Other forms of penetrative sexual intercourse include anal sex (penetration of the anus by the penis), oral sex (penetration of the mouth by the penis or oral penetration of the female genitalia), fingering (sexual penetration by the fingers) and penetration by use of a dildo (especially a strap-on dildo).[4][5] These activities involve physical intimacy between two or more individuals and are usually used among humans solely for physical or emotional pleasure and can contribute to human bonding.[4][6]

Sexual intercourse in the missionary position depicted by Édouard-Henri Avril (1892)

There are different views on what constitutes sexual intercourse or other sexual activity, which can impact on views on sexual health.[7] Although sexual intercourse, particularly the term coitus, generally denotes penile–vaginal penetration and the possibility of creating offspring,[1] it also commonly denotes penetrative oral sex and penile–anal sex, especially the latter.[8] It usually encompasses sexual penetration, while non-penetrative sex has been labeled "outercourse",[9] but non-penetrative sex may also be considered sexual intercourse.[4][10] Sex, often a shorthand for sexual intercourse, can mean any form of sexual activity.[7] Because people can be at risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections during these activities, safer sex practices are recommended by health professionals to reduce transmission risk.[11][12]

Various jurisdictions place restrictions on certain sexual acts, such as incest, sexual activity with minors, prostitution, rape, zoophilia, sodomy, premarital and extramarital sex. Religious beliefs also play a role in personal decisions about sexual intercourse or other sexual activity, such as decisions about virginity,[13][14] or legal and public policy matters. Religious views on sexuality vary significantly between different religions and sects of the same religion, though there are common themes, such as prohibition of adultery.

Reproductive sexual intercourse between non-human animals is more often called copulation, and sperm may be introduced into the female's reproductive tract in non-vaginal ways among the animals, such as by cloacal copulation. For most non-human mammals, mating and copulation occur at the point of estrus (the most fertile period of time in the female's reproductive cycle), which increases the chances of successful impregnation.[15][16] However, bonobos, dolphins and chimpanzees are known to engage in sexual intercourse regardless of whether the female is in estrus, and to engage in sex acts with same-sex partners.[17] Like humans engaging in sexual activity primarily for pleasure, this behavior in these animals is also presumed to be for pleasure, and a contributing factor to strengthening their social bonds.[18]


Share this article:

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Sexual intercourse, and is written by contributors. Text is available under a CC BY-SA 4.0 International License; additional terms may apply. Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.