Vanilla sex (or conventional sex) is what a culture regards as standard or conventional sexual behaviour. Different cultures, subcultures and individuals have different ideas about what constitutes this type of sex. Often, it is interpreted as sex which does not involve such elements as BDSM, kink, or fetish activities.
Among heterosexual couples in the Western world, vanilla sex often refers to the missionary position. It can also be used to describe insertive sex without any element of BDSM or any fetish. The British Medical Journal defines vanilla sex between homosexual couples as "sex that does not extend beyond affection, mutual masturbation, and oral and anal sex." In addition to mutual masturbation, penetrative sexual activity among same-sex pairings is contrasted by non-insertive acts such as intercrural sex, frot and tribadism, although tribadism has been cited as a common but rarely discussed sexual practice among lesbians.
The term "vanilla" derives from the use of vanilla extract as the basic flavoring for ice cream, and by extension, meaning "plain" or "conventional". In relationships where only one partner enjoys less conventional forms of sexual expression, the partner who does not enjoy such activities is often referred to as the vanilla partner. As such, it is easy for them to be branded unadventurous and dull in sexual matters. Through exploration with their partner, it is possible for a more vanilla-minded person to discover new facets of their sexuality. For others, such exploration is not a positive experience, and they may find the practices they are comfortable with are sufficient for their satisfaction.
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