Apparently, it’s more than just cars that are on the wrong side in England, where a recent oral sex survey run by a British data and analytics group found that a majority of participants don’t consider oral sex to be actual sex. Regardless of the hypothetical genitalia involved — the survey asked specifically about blow jobs, cunnilingus, hand jobs and fingering — the results were consistent: 45% of people said those acts alone don’t amount to sex, while 8% were unsure and 7% declined to express an opinion. There were notable divisions among respondents, however, especially along sexual preference and generational lines. A majority of people older than 50, and a majority of people who identified as queer, regardless of age, said sexual acts other than penetration do indeed qualify as sex.
These results might not shock queer folks and queer affirming educators who have spent generations advocating for a broader, more inclusive and less penis-centric understanding of sex and pleasure. In reaction to the survey, sex and relationship expert Annabelle Knight told The Independent that “the concept that penetrative sex is the only ‘proper’ form of sex is not only outdated but also heteronormative — presuming that there has to be a penis (and in most cases, a vagina) involved.”
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But perhaps the results shouldn’t shock any of us, considering that they were produced in the UK, where the government has failed to modernize sex education even after committing £6 million to teacher training in 2019. The U.S. federal government — which is similarly in the Dark Ages — funnels millions of dollars into schools to structure sex education around abstinence and reproduction. Because sex acts that produce orgasms instead of babies are rarely taught in school, and because we’ve been socialized to think of oral sex and hand stuff as foreplay before the main penetrative event, many sexually active straights have been conditioned to value intercourse more than they value non-penetrative sex.
Not only does this contribute to straight people’s trivialization of queer sex, it de-emphasizes the acts that specifically enhance female pleasure or the pleasure of anyone with a clitoris. In 2022, YouGov, the same market research company that issued the above survey, reported that only 30% of women in Britain “always climax during intercourse,” pointing to the orgasm gap that sexuality experts have flagged for years. It’s been proven again and again (again! and again!) that clitoral stimulation, in whatever form, is the most important sex act in the pursuit of a gal’s orgasm.
Because we do not live inside a Nathaniel Hawthorne novel set in 17th century Salem, sex is always about pleasure and only sometimes about fertilizing an egg — so licking, stroking and whatever else you do to excite each other’s genitals is Grade A, certifiable sex. And to anyone who says otherwise, remember: Roger Chillingworth is not real, but eating pussy is.