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Sexual intercourse


Sexual intercourse, or coitus or copulation, is principally the insertion and thrusting of the penis, usually when erect, into the vagina for sexual pleasure, reproduction, or both. This is also known as vaginal intercourse or vaginal sex. 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). These activities involve physical intimacy between two or more individuals and are usually used among humans solely for physical or emotional pleasure and commonly contribute to human bonding.

A variety of views concern what constitutes sexual intercourse or other sexual activity, which can also impact views on sexual health. Although the term sexual intercourse, particularly the variant coitus, generally denotes penile–vaginal penetration and the possibility of creating offspring, it also commonly denotes penetrative oral sex and penile–anal sex, particularly the latter. It is usually defined by sexual penetration, while non-penetrative sex acts, such as non-penetrative forms of cunnilingus or mutual masturbation, have been termed outercourse. Non-penetrative sex acts, however, may additionally be considered sexual intercourse. The term sex, often a shorthand for sexual intercourse, can mean any form of sexual activity. Because people can be at risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections during sexual activities, though the transmission risk is significantly reduced during non-penetrative sex,safe sex practices are advised.



  • Most denominations of Christianity, including Catholicism, have strict views or rules on what sexual practices are and are not acceptable. Most Christian views on sexual intercourse are influenced by various interpretations of the Bible. Sexual intercourse outside of marriage, for example, is considered a sin in some churches; in such cases, sexual intercourse may be referred to as a sacred covenant, holy or as a holy sacrament between husband and wife. Historically, Christian teachings often promoted celibacy, although today usually only certain members (for example, certain religious leaders) of some groups take a vow of celibacy, forsaking both marriage and any type of sexual or romantic activity. The Bible may be interpreted as endorsing penile-vaginal penetration as the only form of acceptable sexual activity, while other interpretations view the Bible as not being clear on oral sex or other particular sexual behaviors and that it is a personal decision as to whether or not oral sex is acceptable within marriage. Some sects consider the use of birth control to prevent sexual reproduction a grave sin against God and marriage, as they believe that the main purpose of marriage, or one of its primary purposes, is to produce children, while other sects do not hold such beliefs. The Bible also prohibits sexual intercourse during menstruation.
  • In the Roman Catholic Church, if a matrimonial celebration takes place (ratification), but the spouses have not yet engaged in intercourse (consummation), then the marriage is considered to be a marriage via ratum sed non consummatum. Such a marriage, regardless of the reason for non-consummation, can be dissolved by the pope. Such an annulment declaration implies that the marriage was void from the start; i.e., there was no marriage in canon law.
  • In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormonism, sexual relations within the bonds of matrimony are seen as sacred. Mormons consider sexual relations to be ordained of God for the creation of children and for the expression of love between husband and wife. Members are discouraged from having any sexual relations before marriage, and from being unfaithful to their spouses after marriage.
  • In Judaism, a married Jewish man is required to provide his wife with sexual pleasure called onah (literally, "her time"), which is one of the conditions he takes upon himself as part of the Jewish marriage contract, ketubah, that he gives her during the Jewish wedding ceremony. In Jewish views on marriage, sexual desire is not evil, but must be satisfied in the proper time, place and manner.
  • Islam views sex within marriage as something pleasurable, a spiritual activity, and a duty. In Shi'ia Islam, men are allowed to enter into an unlimited number of temporary marriages, which are contracted to last for a period of minutes to multiple years and permit sexual intercourse. Shi'ia women are allowed to enter only one marriage at a time, whether temporary or permanent.
  • Hinduism has varied views about sexuality, but Hindu society, in general, perceives extramarital sex to be immoral and shameful.
  • Buddhist ethics, in its most general formulation, holds that one should neither be attached to nor crave sensual pleasure since it binds one to the cycle of birth and death, samsara, and prevents one attaining the goal of Nirvana. Since Buddhist monastics (i.e. bhikshus and bhikshunis) are to be fully dedicated towards this goal, they undertake the training rule of total abstinence from sexual intercourse, i.e. of celibacy. Other monastic training rules from the Code of Discipline (Patimokkha or Pratimoksasutra) and canonical Vinaya scriptures are to prevent masturbation, lustfully touching and speaking to members of the other sex, and other forms of sexual behaviour. Buddhist lay people undertake the Five Precepts, the third of which is avoiding sexual misconduct. Peter Harvey says that this precept “relates primarily to the avoidance of causing suffering by one’s sexual behaviour. Adultery – ‘going with the wife of another’ ... – is the most straightforward breach of this precept. The wrongness of this is seen as partly in terms of its being an expression of greed, and partly in terms of its harm to others. ... It is said that a man breaks the precept if he has intercourse with women who are engaged, or who are still protected by any relative ..., or young girls not protected by a relative, .... Clearly, rape and incest are breaches of the precept.” The Buddhist Canonical scriptures contain no other regulations or recommendations for lay people — for example, with regards homosexuality, masturbation, sexual practices and contraceptives —. However, in keeping with the Buddhist ethical principles of not-harming and avoiding shame, guilt and remorse, socially taboo forms of sexuality as well as obsessive sexual activities can also be seen as being included in the third precept. Later Buddhist authors such as Nagarjuna give various clarifications and recommendations.
  • In the Bahá'í Faith, sexual relationships are permitted only between a husband and wife.
  • Unitarian Universalists, with an emphasis on strong interpersonal ethics, do not place boundaries on the occurrence of sexual intercourse among consenting adults.
  • According to the Brahma Kumaris and Prajapita Brahma Kumaris religion, the power of lust is the root of all evil and worse than murder. Purity (celibacy) is promoted for peace and to prepare for life in forthcoming Heaven on earth for 2,500 years when children will be created by the power of the mind.
  • Wiccans believe that, as declared within the Charge of the Goddess, to "Let my [the Goddess] worship be within the heart that rejoiceth; for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals." This statement appears to allow one freedom to explore sensuality and pleasure, and mixed with the final maxim within the Wiccan Rede – "26. Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill – an' it harm none, do what ye will." – Wiccans are encouraged to be responsible with their sexual encounters, in whatever variety they may occur.
  • Shakers believe that sexual intercourse is the root of all sin and that all people should therefore be celibate, including married couples. The original Shaker community that peaked at 6,000 full members in 1840 dwindled to three members by 2009.
  • Meher Baba maintained that "In the beginning of married life the partners are drawn to each other by lust as well as love; but with conscious and deliberate cooperation they can gradually lessen the element of lust and increase the element of love. Through this process of sublimation, lust ultimately gives place to deep love."
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