Sex often starts by caressing, cuddlingkissing and licking each other, and stimulating each other’s erogenous zones (foreplay). When both partners are aroused, they may want to have sexual intercourse

Foreplay example 1: a woman caressing a man
Foreplay example 2: a man and a woman cuddling
Foreplay example 3: a man and a woman kissing
Foreplay example 4: a man licking a woman's breast

Vaginal sex

Vaginal sex (vaginal sexual intercourse) is sex with penetration of the woman’s vagina with a hard penis

You can have vaginal sex in different ways:

  • Vary positions: You can have sex lying, sitting, standing or squatting. For example, the man can be on top of the woman, the woman on top of the man or the man behind the woman.
  • Vary movements in speed, rhythm and intensity.

You can also have vaginal sex using objects, like a dildo or a vibrator (sex toys). 

A man and a woman having sexual intercourse

A woman can get pregnant through vaginal sex if she and her partner do not use a condom or other methods of contraception

You can infect your partner with an STI through vaginal sex. A condom reduces the risk of getting STIs

Oral sex

Oral sex means stimulating the erogenous zones on your partner’s body with your mouth, lips and tongue.

  • Oral sex with a woman: the partner licks, sucks, nibbles or gently bites the woman’s sexual organs. The clitoris, especially, is very sensitive. 
  • Oral sex with a man: the partner uses the mouth, tongue and lips to stimulate the man’s penis and scrotum

You can also stimulate your partner’s nipples or anus with your tongue. 

A man giving a woman oral sex
A woman giving a man oral sex

There is a small risk of infecting your partner with an STI, or getting an STI from him/her, through oral sex:

  • Do not give oral sex when you have blisterssores or lesions in or around your mouth.
  • Avoid getting vaginal dischargeblood or semen in your mouth and do not swallow.
  • To protect yourself even better, you can cut open a condom and place it over the sexual organs. 

Anal sex

Anal sex (anal sexual intercourse) is sex with penetration of someone’s anus with a hard penis. A man or woman can also penetrate the anus with his/her finger or caress it.

You can infect your partner with an STI through anal sex:

  • Use a condom. Use a new condom if you want to have vaginal sex or oral sex as well.
  • Use lots of lubricant. Use a water-based or silicone lubricant. Do not use oil or cream, as the condom might tear. 
2 men having anal sex


Masturbation means giving yourself sexual pleasure by stimulating your own body, especially the vagina, clitoris, penis, nipples or anus, with your hands or sex toys. Partners can also masturbate each other.

Talking with your partner

You can have sex in different ways. Not everyone wants sex in the same way. Talk with your partner about it and come to an agreement.

Couple talking in bed

Dictionary and translations

Looking for help? Find a health professional.