sex is more than just sex

Remember when a blowjob wasn’t sex? I do. I’ll never forget when my Gr. 10 science teacher asked us, “you guys know that oral sex is sex, right?” I was mortified. I hadn’t considered myself a sexually active person, yet. We don’t learn that there are different kinds of sex: oral, digital (hands and fingers), masturbation, sex with toys… All of which are, in fact, sex, and yet many of us don’t see it that way. Many of us still think that penis-in-vagina intercourse is “real” sex, and everything else is just “fooling around.”

We can thank heteronormativity for this ignorance about sex. Heteronormativity is a word to describe when people cannot see beyond dominant heterosexual lifestyles, including heterosexual sex (which is often regarded as penis-in-vagina intercourse). This is obviously problematic for illegitimizing the sex-lives of LGBTQ people who may not be having heterosexual sex. But this is actually a problem for everyone, beyond the politics.

I recently became very curious about the sex-lives of people during and after pregnancy. I learned a lot about pregnancy and birth during my doula training and I learned a lot about sexuality during my Undergraduate program at the University of Waterloo in Sexuality, Marriage, and Family; but neither educational experience touched on sex during pregnancy. I tried to find some books or academic articles on the subject and at best, I got some half-baked blog articles on some positions to try for heterosexual intercourse. I checked out some local book stores. I read a few brief sections in some very good pregnancy books, but again, penis-in-vagina sex was the only sex being discussed and in an extremely limited way.

I decided to take matters into my own hands. I compiled a survey, appropriately titled “Sexuality Throughout Pregnancy.” This by no means was an academic study with proper control groups or any institutions overseeing my work. I asked questions about “what did you like most about sex during pregnancy? What did you like least? What would you tell yourself knowing what you know now?” I wasn’t looking for answers to specific questions so much as I was looking to get a picture of people’s stories.

I had 41 responses. The responses were striking. There were definite themes that kept popping up across multiple respondents, and I was reminded once again of my Gr. 10 science teacher: “You know Oral sex is sex, right?”

If I could boil the survey down to one giant take home message it was this: there are many different kinds of sex. It seemed for many of the respondents (who were mostly heterosexual) pregnancy forced them to reconsider how they were having sex for the first time in their life. Penis-in-vagina sex just didn’t work for many of the people for about the first year (especially if the birthing person had an episiotomy or c-section). The people who still had raging libidos and whose sex lives thrived regardless had one thing in common: an ability to see sex as more than just penis-in-vagina. Masturbation! Oral sex! Sex Toys! Snuggling! Hands! Fingers! Mouths! Tongues! Polyamorous and LGBTQ individuals didn’t seem to struggle with this problem in the same way. Their sex lives clearly had more variety and exploration, which allowed them to ebb and flow more easily with the changes that came along with pregnancy and birth.

Obviously, research needs to be done. By people with fancy acronyms at the end of their name who have access to computers with statistical programs and tried, tested, and true psychological measures.

But you and I don’t have time to wait for science to validate our experiences. We have sex lives to get back to- so get to it! And don’t forget… Masturbation is sex too! Fingering is sex too! Blowjobs are sex too! If going out for dinner and having a big piece of chocolate cake makes you feel hot and bothered all over…

Eating out is sex too!