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Conventional sex

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Conventional sex, colloquially known as vanilla sex, is sexual behavior that is within the range of normality for a culture or subculture, and typically involves sex which does not include elements of BDSM, kink, fetishism, and/or happens within a marriage or relationship.


What is regarded as conventional sex depends on cultural and subcultural norms. Among heterosexual couples in the Western world, for example, conventional sex often refers to sexual intercourse in the missionary position.[citation needed] It can also describe penetrative sex which does not have any element of BDSM, kink or fetish.[1]

The British Medical Journal regards conventional sex between homosexual couples as "sex that does not extend beyond affection, mutual masturbation, and oral and anal sex."[2] In addition to mutual masturbation (including manual sex), 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.[3][4]

Vanilla sexuality[edit]

The term "vanilla" in "vanilla sex" leverages the polysemic nature of the term, meaning both literally "vanilla" or "conventional", depending on the context. [5] It originally 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 as much as the other is often referred to as the vanilla partner. As such, it is easy for them to be erroneously branded unadventurous in sexual matters.[6] Through exploration with their partner, it may be possible for a more vanilla-minded person to discover new facets of their sexuality. As with any sexually active person, they may find their preferences on the commonly termed "vanilla-kink spectrum" are sufficient for their full satisfaction.[7]


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  1. ^ Loynaz, Annette (2021). Exploring Personality and Sexual Behavior: BDSM and Vanilla Practices as Complementary Lenses (Doctoral dissertation). San Francisco State University.
  2. ^ Bell, Robin (13 February 1999). "Homosexual men and women". BMJ. 318 (7181): 452–5. doi:10.1136/bmj.318.7181.452. PMC 1114912. PMID 9974466.
  3. ^ Carroll, Janell L. (2009). Sexuality Now: Embracing Diversity (Third ed.). Belmont, Calif.: Cengage Learning. p. 629. ISBN 978-0-495-60274-3. OCLC 426044136.
  4. ^ Halberstam, Judith (1998). Female Masculinity. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press. p. 61. ISBN 978-0-8223-2243-6. OCLC 39235591. Retrieved 2010-12-19. Lesbians tribadism.
  5. ^ Tiidenberg, K.; Paasonen, S.; Sundén, J.; Vihlman, M. (2023). "Vanilla normies and fellow pervs: Boundary work on sexual platforms". Sexualities. doi:10.1177/13634607231215763.
  6. ^ Nichols, Margaret (2006). "Psychotherapeutic Issues With 'Kinky' Clients: Clinical Problems, Yours and Theirs". In Kleinplatz, Peggy J.; Moser, Charles (eds.). Sadomasochism: Powerful Pleasures. New York: Harrington Park Press. pp. 281–300. ISBN 978-1-56023-639-9. OCLC 61758612. Retrieved 9 November 2011. Paper on the difficulties facing "vanilla partners". Sadomasochism: Powerful Pleasures, p. 281, at Google Books.
  7. ^ Goerlich, Stefani (2023). With Sprinkles on Top: Everything Vanilla People and Their Kinky Partners Need to Know to Communicate, Explore, and Connect. Sounds True. ISBN 978-1649630346.