Portal:Sexuality/Selected article

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The following selected articles appear on Portal:Sexuality. The layout for new additions is at Portal:Sexuality/Selected article/Layout.


Portal:Sexuality/Selected article/1

The Kinsey scale

Bisexuality is a sexual behavior or an orientation involving physical or romantic attraction to both males and females. It is one of the three main classifications of sexual orientation, along with a heterosexual and a homosexual orientation. Individuals who lack sexual attraction to either sex are known as asexual.

Despite misconceptions, bisexuality does not require that a person be attracted equally to both sexes. In fact, people who have a distinct but not exclusive preference for one sex over the other may still identify themselves as bisexual.

Bisexuality has been observed in various human societies and elsewhere in the animal kingdom throughout recorded history. The term bisexuality, however, like the terms hetero- and homosexuality, was coined in the 19th century.


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Male and female couple holding hands

Heterosexuality consists of sexual behavior, practices, and identity predicated on a primary preference or desire for the opposite sex. As a sexual orientation, heterosexuality refers to "an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectional, physical or romantic attractions primarily to persons of the opposite sex"; it also refers to "an individual’s sense of personal and social identity based on those attractions, behaviors expressing them, and membership in a community of others who share them". The term is usually applied to human beings, but it is also observed in all mammals.

The physical action of heterosexual fertilization is the only means of sexual reproductive capability among humans without the use of assisted reproductive technology. The associations with romantic love and identity in addition to its original, exclusively sexual, meaning dates back to early human societies and gender role separation. As such, gender role separation has been the subject of considerable scholarly commentary and study in human societies since the earliest written records. Heterosexuality has been more intensely studied by medicine and later biology disciplines, and more recently that of psychology. Heterosexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality together make up the heterosexual-homosexual continuum.


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Same-sex couple holding hands

Homosexuality is romantic or sexual attraction or behavior among members of the same sex/gender. As a sexual orientation, homosexuality refers to "an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectional, or romantic attractions primarily to" people of the same sex; "it also refers to an individual’s sense of personal and social identity based on those attractions, behaviors expressing them, and membership in a community of others who share them."

Homosexuality is one of the three main categories of sexual orientation, along with bisexuality and heterosexuality, within the heterosexual-homosexual continuum. The longstanding consensus of the behavioral and social sciences and the health and mental health professions is that homosexuality per se is an example of normal and positive variation in human sexual orientation. Currently the most common adjectives in use are lesbian for women and gay for men, though gay can refer to either men or women. The number of people who identify as gay or lesbian — and the proportion of people who have same-sex sexual experiences — are difficult for researchers to estimate reliably for a variety of reasons. In the modern West, major studies indicate a prevalence of 2% to 13% of the population. A 2006 study suggested that 20% of the population anonymously reported some homosexual feelings, although relatively few participants in the study identified themselves as homosexual. Homosexual behavior in animals is also widely encountered.


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Asexuality (also known as nonsexuality), in its broadest sense, is the lack of sexual attraction or the lack of interest in and desire for sex. Sometimes, it is considered a lack of a sexual orientation. One commonly cited study placed the incidence rate of asexuality at 1%.

Asexuality is distinct from abstention from sexual activity and from celibacy, which are behavioral and the latter is usually for a religious reason. A sexual orientation, unlike a behavior, is definitionally "enduring". Some asexuals do have sex, despite lacking a desire for it.

In the mid-twentieth century, Alfred Kinsey rated individuals from 0 to 6 according to their sexual orientation from heterosexual to homosexual. He also included a category he called "X" for individuals with "no socio-sexual contacts or reactions". He labeled 1.5% of the adult male population as X. In Kinsey's second book, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, he reported this breakdown of individuals who are X: unmarried females = 14–19%, married females = 1–3%, previously married females = 5–8%, unmarried males = 3–4%, married males = 0%, and previously married males = 1–2%.


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A rolled-up condom

A condom (US /ˈkɒndəm/ or UK /ˈkɒndɒm/) is a barrier device most commonly used during sexual intercourse to reduce the probability of pregnancy and spreading sexually transmitted infections (STIs—such as gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV). It is put on a man's erect penis and physically blocks ejaculated semen from entering the body of a sexual partner. Because condoms are waterproof, elastic, and durable, they are also used in a variety of secondary applications. These include collection of semen for use in infertility treatment as well as non-sexual uses such as creating waterproof microphones and protecting rifle barrels from clogging.

In the modern age, condoms are most often made from latex, but some are made from other materials such as polyurethane, polyisoprene, or lamb intestine. A female condom is also available, most often made of polyurethane. As a method of birth control, male condoms have the advantage of being inexpensive, easy to use, having few side effects, and of offering protection against sexually transmitted diseases. With proper knowledge and application technique—and use at every act of intercourse—women whose partners use male condoms experience a 2% per-year pregnancy rate.


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Female condom

A female condom is a device that is used during sexual intercourse as a barrier contraceptive and to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs—such as gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV). Invented by Danish MD Lasse Hessel, it is worn internally by the receptive partner and physically blocks ejaculated semen from entering that person's body. Female condoms can be used by the receptive partner during anal sex.

The female condom is a pouch with flexible rings at each end. Before vaginal intercourse, the ring inside the pouch is inserted deep into the vagina, holding the condom in the vagina. The penis is directed into the pouch through the ring at the open end, which stays outside the vaginal opening during intercourse.


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Kama Sutra illustration

The Kama Sutra (Sanskrit: कामसूत्र), (alternative spellings: Kamasutraṃ or simply Kamasutra), is an ancient Indian Hindu text widely considered to be the standard work on human sexual behavior in Sanskrit literature written by Mallanāga Vātsyāyana. A portion of the work consists of practical advice on sexual intercourse. It is largely in prose, with many inserted anustubh poetry verses. "Kāma" means sensual or sexual pleasure, and "sūtra" literally means a thread or line that holds things together, and more metaphorically refers to an aphorism (or line, rule, formula), or a collection of such aphorisms in the form of a manual. The modern English word "suture" is derived from the same root.

The Kama Sutra is the oldest and most notable of a group of texts known generically as Kama Shastra (Sanskrit: Kāma Śāstra). Traditionally, the first transmission of Kama Shastra or "Discipline of Kama" is attributed to Nandi the sacred bull, Shiva's doorkeeper, who was moved to sacred utterance by overhearing the lovemaking of the god and his wife Parvati and later recorded his utterances for the benefit of mankind.


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Kinsey scale of sexual responses

The Kinsey scale attempts to describe a person's sexual history or episodes of their sexual activity at a given time. It uses a scale from 0, meaning exclusively heterosexual, to 6, meaning exclusively homosexual. In both the Male and Female volumes of the Kinsey Reports, an additional grade, listed as "X", was used for asexuality. It was first published in Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) by Alfred Kinsey, Wardell Pomeroy and others, and was also prominent in the complementary work Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953).

Introducing the scale, Kinsey wrote: "Males do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual. The world is not to be divided into sheep and goats. It is a fundamental of taxonomy that nature rarely deals with discrete categories... The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects."


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JudgesTools Icon.png

While the phrase age of consent typically does not appear in legal statutes, when used in relation to sexual activity, the age of consent is the minimum age at which a person is considered to be legally competent of consenting to sexual acts. The European Union calls it the legal age for sexual activities. It should not be confused with the age of majority, age of criminal responsibility, the marriageable age, the age at which one can purchase and consume alcoholic beverages, or drive a car, or other purposes.

The age of consent varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The relevant age may also vary by the type of sexual act, the sex of the actors, or other restrictions such as abuse of a position of trust. Some jurisdictions may also make allowances for minors engaged in sexual acts with each other, rather than a single age. Charges resulting from a breach of these laws may range from a relatively low-level misdemeanor such as corruption of a minor, to statutory rape (which is considered equivalent to rape, both in severity and sentencing). Many jurisdictions regard any sexual activity by an adult involving a child as child sexual abuse.


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Silhouetted domme

BDSM is a type of roleplay or lifestyle choice between two or more individuals who use their experiences of pain and power to create sexual tension, pleasure, and release. The compound acronym, BDSM, is derived from the terms bondage and discipline (B&D, B/D, or BD), dominance and submission (D&s, D/s, or Ds), sadism and masochism (S&M, S/M, or SM).

BDSM includes a wide spectrum of activities, forms of interpersonal relationships, and distinct subcultures. Many of these experiences are still considered to fall out of conventional sexual activities and human relationships.

Activities and relationships within a BDSM context are characterized by the fact that the participants usually take on complementary, but unequal, roles. Typically, participants who are active — applying the activity or exercising control over others — are known as tops or Dominants.


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Sign advertising the services of a sexologist in the Old city of Delhi

Sexology is the scientific study of sexual interests, behavior, and function. In modern sexology, researchers apply tools from several academic fields, including biology, medicine, psychology, statistics, epidemiology, sociology, anthropology, and criminology. It studies sexual development and the development of sexual relationships as well as the mechanics of sexual intercourse. It also documents the sexualities of special groups, such as the disabled, the handicapped, children, and the elderly. Sexologists study sexual dysfunctions, disorders, and variations, such as erectile dysfunction, pedophilia, and sexual orientation. Sexological findings can become controversial when they contradict mainstream, religious, or political beliefs.


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Star of life.svg

Herpes genitalis (or genital herpes) refers to a genital infection by herpes simplex virus.

Following the classification HSV into two distinct categories of HSV-1 and HSV-2 in the 1960s, it was established that "HSV-2 was below the waist, HSV-1 was above the waist". Although genital herpes is largely believed to be caused by HSV-2, genital HSV-1 infections are increasing and now exceed 50% in certain populations, and that rule of thumb no longer applies. HSV is believed to be asymptomatic in the majority of cases, thus aiding contagion and hindering containment.

When symptomatic, the typical manifestation of a primary HSV-1 or HSV-2 genital infection is clusters of genital sores consisting of inflamed papules and vesicles on the outer surface of the genitals resembling cold sores. Genital HSV-1 infection recurs at rate of about one sixth of that of genital HSV-2.

In males, the lesions occur on the glans penis, shaft of the penis or other parts of the genital region, on the inner thigh, buttocks, or anus. In females, lesions appear on or near the pubis, labia, clitoris, vulva, buttocks or anus.


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Sex in space is sexual activity in weightless and extreme environments of space. Usually only human sexual activity is considered. The act of human intimacy, sexual intercourse, and procreation distinguished by the state of weightlessness (precluding artificial gravity) presents difficulties surrounding the performing of most sexual activities due to Newton's Third Law. The topic also includes conception and pregnancy in off-Earth environments.

The topic has been hotly disputed to clarify its potential impact on human beings in the isolated, confined, and hazardous environment of space. Past discussions often included attempts to determine the truth of speculations (e.g., about the STS-47 mission, on which married astronauts Mark C. Lee and Jan Davis flew), and even hoaxes, such as Document 12-571-3570.

Experts such as Princeton astrophysics professor Dr. J. Richard Gott consider humanity's expansion into space crucial to survival.


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Polyamory (from Greek πολύ [poly, meaning many or several] and Latin amor [love]) is the practice, desire, or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved. Polyamory, often abbreviated to poly, is sometimes described as consensual, ethical, or responsible non-monogamy. The word is occasionally used more broadly to refer to any sexual or romantic relationships that are not sexually exclusive, though there is disagreement on how broadly it applies; an emphasis on ethics, honesty, and transparency all around is widely regarded as the crucial defining characteristic.

"Polyamorous" can refer to the nature of a relationship at a given time, or be used as a description of a philosophy or relationship orientation (much like gender orientation), rather than a person's actual relationship status at a given moment. It is an umbrella term that covers various forms of multiple relationships; polyamorous arrangements are varied, reflecting the choices and philosophies of the individuals involved.


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Paraphilia (in Greek para παρά = beside and -philia φιλία = friendship, having the meaning of love) is a biomedical term used to describe sexual arousal to objects, situations, or individuals that are not part of normative stimulation and that may cause distress or serious problems for the paraphiliac or persons associated with him or her. A paraphilia is a condition involving sex fetishes where a person's sexual arousal and gratification depend on fantasizing about, and engaging in, sexual behavior that is atypical and extreme.

The term was coined by Wilhelm Stekel in the 1920s and popularized by John Money in the 1960s, who described paraphilia as "a sexuoerotic embellishment of, or alternative to the official, ideological norm."


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Safe sex is defined as "Sexual activity engaged in by people who have taken precautions to protect themselves against sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS." This is also referred to as safer sex, or protected sex, while unsafe sex or unprotected sex is sexual activity engaged in by people who have not taken precautions to protect themselves against sexually transmitted infections. Some sources prefer the term safer sex, as it more precisely reflects the fact that these practices reduce, but do not completely eliminate, the risk of disease transmission.

Safe sex practices became more prominent in the late 1980s as a result of the AIDS epidemic. Promoting safe sex is now a principal aim of sex education. From the viewpoint of society, safe sex can be regarded as a harm reduction strategy aimed at reducing risks.


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Demonstrating applying a condom, using a banana

Sex education is a broad phrase used to describe education about human sexual anatomy, sexual reproduction, sexual intercourse, reproductive health, emotional relations, reproductive rights and responsibilities, abstinence, contraception, and other aspects of human sexual behavior. Common avenues for sex education are parents or caregivers, school programs, and public health campaigns.

Sex education may also be described as "sexuality education", which means that it encompasses education about all aspects of sexuality, including information about family planning, reproduction (fertilization, conception and development of the embryo and fetus, through to childbirth), plus information about all aspects of one's sexuality including: body image, sexual orientation, sexual pleasure, values, decision making, communication, dating, relationships, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and how to avoid them, and birth control methods.


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Frequency graph of LifeStyles length data

Human penis size is the measured length and width of the human penis.

While results vary across studies, the consensus is that the mean human penis is approximately 12.9–15 cm (5.1–5.9 in) in length with a 95% confidence interval of (10.7 cm, 19.1 cm) (or, equivalently, 4.23 in, 7.53 in). The typical girth or circumference is approximately 12.3 cm (4.85 in) when fully erect. Yet, one reputable source claims that the relaxed human penis has an average length of only 4 inches (≈10.2 cm) and diameter of 1¼ inches (≈3.2 cm) while fully erect it has an average length of 6 inches (≈15.2 cm) and diameter of 1½ inches (≈3.8 cm). The mean penis size is slightly greater than the median size. Studies have not found a relation between penis size and race.


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Sexual intercourse, also known as copulation or coitus, commonly refers to the act in which the male reproductive organ enters the female reproductive tract. The two entities may be of opposite sexes, or they may be hermaphroditic, as is the case with snails. Over time, the definition of intercourse has expanded and may include other penetrative sexual acts, such as penetration of non-sexual organs (oral intercourse, anal intercourse) or by non-sexual organs (fingering, etc.). For example, penetrative acts between same-sex individuals can also be regarded as sexual intercourse.

Sexual intercourse typically plays a powerful role in human bonding, often being used solely for pleasure and leading to stronger emotional bonds. Non-penetrative sex (oral sex may or may not be penetrative) and mutual masturbation have been referred to as "outercourse", as it contrasts "outer" with "inter" (though the "inter" in "intercourse" means between two beings rather than being inside or outside of the body), but may also be among the sexual acts contributing to human bonding and considered intercourse. Despite strict definitions of sex, in the context of sexual intimacy (such as ones relating to "technical virginity"), it can be taken to mean any mutual genital stimulation (i.e. all forms of intercourse and outercourse). As with most forms of sexual interaction, individuals are at risk for contracting sexually transmitted diseases, and thus safe sex practises are advised.


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Bronze statue Belle in Amsterdam's red-light district. It was unveiled in 2007 with the inscription "Respect sex workers all over the world."

Sex workers' rights encompass a variety of aims being pursued globally by individuals and organizations that specifically involve the human rights and labor rights of sex workers. Sex worker activists and advocates argue that sex workers should have the same basic human rights and labour rights as other working people. Since the mid-1970s sex workers across the world have organised, demanding the decriminalisation of prostitution, equal protection under the law, improved working condition and the right to travel and receive social benefits such as pensions.

The sex workers’ right movement emerged in the 1970s as the prostitutes' rights movement. A key event occurred in 1975 when 150 prostitutes took over the main church in Lyons, France, to protest about the unsolved murders of local prostitutes, exorbitant police fines and multiple arrests. The movement spread to other parts of France as prostitutes joined the strike and took over other churches. In Paris prostitutes demanded their full rights as citizens and called for the introduction of a non-punitive tax system that would provide them with the right to pension and welfare benefits like “every other French woman”, but they refused to be nationalised as civil servants of sex. The prostitutes challenged the notion that those who sold sex were deviant and claimed that sexual commerce was a “job determined by the sexual needs of one part of society” – the client who always went unpunished.


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Greek art depicting masturbation, from 1st century BCE

Masturbation refers to sexual stimulation of a person's genitals, often to the point of orgasm. The stimulation can be performed manually, by other types of bodily contact (short of sexual intercourse), by use of objects or tools, or by some combination of these methods. Self masturbation is a common form of autoeroticism. Masturbation with a partner (called mutual masturbation), is also common.

Men and women have techniques and characteristics in common, but also have specific preferences in the ways they like to masturbate or be masturbated. Studies have found that masturbation is frequent in humans of both sexes and all ages, although there is variation. Various medical and psychological benefits have been attributed to a healthy attitude to sex in general and to masturbation in particular, and no causal relationship is known between normal masturbation and any form of mental or physical disorder. Acts of masturbation have been celebrated in art worldwide since prehistory. While there was a period (spanning between the late 18th and early 20th centuries) when it was subject to medical censure and social conservatism, it is considered a normal part of healthy life today. There have been masturbation marathons and health service slogans such as "an orgasm a day keeps the doctor away". It is commonly mentioned in popular music as well as on television, in films and in literature.


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Hypersexuality, or excessive sexual drive, are medical terms for a desire to engage in sexual activities at a level that is considered abnormally high in relation to normal development or culture and at a level that causes distress or serious problems for the person affected or to persons associated with him or her. It is considered to be a psychological disorder characterized by a hyperactive sex desire and an obsession with sex, and lowered sexual inhibitions. Hypersexuality in women has historically been known as nymphomania or furor uterinus, while in men the disorder has been known as satyriasis.

In the American Psychiatric Association's classification of mental disorders, DSM-IV, the term "hypersexuality" has replaced the concepts of "nymphomania" and "'satyriasis", which are no longer listed. However, in the World Health Organization's International Classification of Diseases (ICD), which is used globally, satyriasis (for males) and nymphomania (for females) are still used in most recent version of that document, ICD-10, as subdivisions of the diagnosis "excessive sexual drive" (code F52.7). For the etymology of the words, see nymph and satyr.


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U.S. propaganda poster targeted at World War II soldiers and sailors appealed to their patriotism in urging them to protect themselves. The text at the bottom of the poster reads, "You can't beat the Axis if you get VD." Images of women were used to catch the eye on many VD posters.

A sexually transmitted disease (STD), also known as sexually transmitted infection (STI) or venereal disease (VD), is an illness that has a significant probability of transmission between humans by means of human sexual behavior, including vaginal intercourse, oral sex, and anal sex. While in the past, these illnesses have mostly been referred to as STDs or VDs, in recent years the term sexually transmitted infections (STIs) has been preferred, as it has a broader range of meaning; a person may be infected, and may potentially infect others, without showing signs of disease. Some STIs can also be transmitted via the use of IV drug needles after its use by an infected person, as well as through childbirth or breastfeeding. Sexually transmitted infections have been well known for hundreds of years.


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A family planning centre in Malaysia

Birth control is a regimen of one or more actions, devices, sexual practices, or medications followed in order to deliberately prevent or reduce the likelihood of pregnancy or childbirth. There are three main routes to preventing or ending pregnancy before birth: the prevention of fertilization of the ovum by sperm cells ("contraception"), the prevention of implantation of the blastocyst ("contragestion"), and the chemical or surgical induction or abortion of the developing embryo or, later, fetus. In common usage, term "contraception" is often used for both contraception and contragestion.

Birth control is commonly used as part of family planning.

The history of birth control began with the discovery of the connection between coitus and pregnancy. The oldest forms of birth control included coitus interruptus, pessaries, and the ingestion of herbs that were believed to be contraceptive or abortifacient. The earliest record of birth control use is an ancient Egyptian set of instructions on creating a contraceptive pessary.


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Orgasm (from Greek orgasmos, from organ to mature, swell, also sexual climax) is the peak of the plateau phase of the sexual response cycle, characterized by an intense sensation of pleasure. Experienced by males and females, orgasm is controlled by the involuntary, or autonomic, limbic system, and is accompanied by quick cycles of muscle contraction in the lower pelvic muscles, which surround the primary sexual organs and the anus. Orgasms are often associated with other involuntary actions, including muscular spasms in multiple areas of the body, a general euphoric sensation and, frequently, body movements and vocalizations are expressed.

Orgasm is an autonomic physiologic response to sexual stimulation. Brain wave patterns have shown distinct changes during orgasm, which indicate the importance of the limbic system in the orgasmic response. In humans, orgasms usually result from the stimulation of the penis in males and the clitoris in females. Stimulation can be by self (masturbation) or by a partner (sexual intercourse, oral sex, mutual masturbation, etc.). Partners simultaneously stimulating each other's sex organs by mutual masturbation, penetrative intercourse, or other rhythmic inter-genital contact may experience simultaneous orgasms.


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Martin van Maele's print Francion 15 depicts a couple engaging in foreplay outdoors

In human sexual behavior, foreplay is a set of intimate psychological and physical acts between two or more people meant to create desire for sexual activity and sexual arousal. Either or any of the sexual partners may initiate the foreplay, and they may not be the active partner during the sexual activity.

Any act that creates and enhances sexual desire in a sexual partner may constitute foreplay, including kissing, touching, embracing, talking, and teasing (teasing, in this case, may include methods of satisfaction, such as erotic sexual denial). The manual or oral stimulation of erogenous zones may be considered foreplay, as well as being part of the sex act itself. Sexual role-playing, fetish activities, and BDSM can also be considered foreplay, though they may continue into the sexual activity and not just precede it.


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Erotic sculptures in Khajuraho

Most world religions have sought to address the moral issues that arise from people's sexuality in society and in human interactions. Each major religion has developed moral codes covering issues of sexuality, morality, ethics etc. Though these moral codes do not address issues of sexuality directly, they seek to regulate the situations which can give rise to sexual interest and to influence people's sexual activities and practices.

Sexual morality has varied greatly over time and between cultures. A society's sexual norms — standards of sexual conduct — can be linked to religious beliefs, or social and environmental conditions, or all of these. Sexuality and reproduction are fundamental elements in human interaction and society worldwide. Furthermore, "sexual restrictions" is one of the universals of culture peculiar to all human societies. Accordingly, most religions have seen a need to address the question of a "proper" role for sexuality in human interactions. Different religions have different codes of sexual morality, which regulate sexual activity or assign normative values to certain sexually charged actions or thoughts.


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The internal anatomy of the human vulva, with the clitoral hood and labia minora indicated as lines. The clitoris extends from the visible portion to a point below the pubic bone.

The clitoris is a sexual organ that is present only in female mammals. In humans, the visible button-like portion is located near the anterior junction of the labia minora, above the opening of the urethra and vagina. Unlike the penis, which is homologous to the clitoris, the clitoris does not contain the distal portion of the urethra. The only known exception to this is in the Spotted Hyena. In this species, the urogenital system is unique in that the female urinates, mates and gives birth via an enlarged, erectile clitoris, known as a pseudo-penis.

In humans, the clitoris is the most sensitive erogenous zone of the female, the stimulation of which may produce sexual excitement and clitoral erection; its continuing stimulation may produce sexual pleasure in the female and orgasm, and is considered the key to females' sexual pleasure.