Sexuality Wiki
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This article is primarily about humans. For other animals, see Animal sexual behaviour.

Sexual intercourse, also known as coitus or copulation, is principally the insertion and thrusting of a male's penis, usually when erect, into a female's vagina for the purposes of Sexual stimulation or reproduction, or both.[1] This is additionally known as vaginal intercourse or vaginal sex.[2][3] Other forms of penetrative sexual intercourse include penetration of the anus by the penis (anal sex), penetration of the mouth by the penis or oral penetration of the female genitalia (oral sex), sexual penetration by the fingers (fingering), and penetration by use of a strap-on dildo.[4][5][6] 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.[4][7]

A variety of views concern what constitutes sexual intercourse or other sexual activity,[8][9] which can also impact views on sexual health.[10] Although the term sexual intercourse, particularly the variant coitus, generally denotes penile-vaginal penetration and the possibility of creating offspring (which is the fertilization process known as reproduction),[1] it also commonly denotes penetrative oral sex and particularly penile-anal sex.[11] Non-penetrative sex acts, such as non-penetrative forms of cunnilingus or mutual masturbation, have been termed outercourse,[12] but may additionally be considered sexual intercourse.[4][13] The term sex, often a shorthand for sexual intercourse, can mean any form of sexual activity.[14][15] Because people can be at risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections during some of these activities,[10][16] though the transmission risk is significantly reduced during non-penetrative sex,[17][18] safe sex practices are advised.[10]

Various jurisdictions have placed restrictive laws against certain sexual acts, such as incest, sexual activity with minors, extramarital sex, prostitution, sodomy, rape and zoophilia. Religious beliefs also play a role in personal decisions about sexual intercourse or other sexual activity, such as decisions about virginity,[9][19] 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 termed 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.[20][21] However, bonobos, dolphins and chimpanzees are known to engage in sexual intercourse regardless of whether or not the female is in estrus, and to engage in sex acts with same-sex partners.[22] Like humans engaging in sexual activity primarily for pleasure,[7] this behavior in the aforementioned animals is also presumed to be for pleasure,[23] and a contributing factor to strengthening their social bonds.[7].


  1. 1.0 1.1 Sexual intercourse most commonly means penile-vaginal penetration for sexual pleasure and/or sexual reproduction; dictionary sources state that it especially means this, and scholarly sources over the years agree. See, for example;
  2. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Weiten, 2008
  3. Essential Concepts for Healthy Living Jones & Bartlett Learning
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Sexual Intercourse. Discovery Channel. Archived from the original on 2008-08-22. Retrieved on 2008-01-12.
  5. Comprehensive Textbook of Sexual Medicine Jaypee Brothers
  6. The Gender of Sexuality: Exploring Sexual Possibilities Rowman & Littlefield
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee Radius
  8. Handbook of Adolescent Psychology John Wiley & Sons
  9. 9.0 9.1 See page 11 onwards and pages 47–49 for views on what constitutes virginity loss and therefore sexual intercourse or other sexual activity; source discusses how gay and lesbian individuals define virginity loss, and how the majority of researchers and heterosexuals define virginity loss/"technical virginity" by whether or not a person has engaged in penile-vaginal sex. Virginity Lost: An Intimate Portrait of First Sexual Experiences NYU Press
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Global strategy for the prevention and control of sexually transmitted infections: 2006–2015. Breaking the chain of transmission. World Health Organization (2007). Retrieved on November 26, 2011.
  11. The Encyclopedia of Mental Health Infobase Publishing
  12. Template:Cite journal
  13. Defining sexual health: Report of a technical consultation on sexual health 4. World Health Organization (January 2002). Retrieved on September 5, 2012. "In English, the term 'sex' is often used to mean 'sexual activity' and can cover a range of behaviours. Other languages and cultures use different terms, with slightly different meanings."
  14. Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2008). Retrieved on December 6, 2011. Also see Fact Sheet
  15. An Invitation to Health Brief 2010–2011 Cengage Learning
  16. Sexually Transmitted Infections Elsevier Health Sciences
  17. {{Cite book|author=Bryan Strong, Christine DeVault, Theodore F. Cohen|title=The Marriage and Family Experience: Intimate Relationship in a Changing Society| publisher = [[Cengage Learning|year = 2010|accessdate=October 8, 2011 |pages = 186| isbn = 0-534-62425-1|url= people agree that we maintain virginity as long as we refrain from sexual (vaginal) intercourse. But occasionally we hear people speak of 'technical virginity' [...] Data indicate that 'a very significant proportion of teens ha[ve] had experience with oral sex, even if they haven't had sexual intercourse, and may think of themselves as virgins' [...] Other research, especially research looking into virginity loss, reports that 35% of virgins, defined as people who have never engaged in vaginal intercourse, have nonetheless engaged in one or more other forms of heterosexual sexual activity (e.g., oral sex, anal sex, or mutual masturbation).}}
  18. Advanced biology Oxford University Press
  19. The Pearson General Studies Manual 2009, 1/e Pearson Education India
  20. Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good Palgrave Macmillan