What Is Considered Sexually Active | 5 Factors To Know

The term “sexually active” gets thrown around often, and people often assume it means only one thing. But the reality is that being sexually active encompasses a wide range of activities, from kissing and touching to oral sex and beyond. 

Unfortunately, many misconceptions about sexual activity can lead to misunderstandings and even unintended consequences.  So let’s get started on the main topic.

What Does Sexually Active Mean?

 It refers to having sex with one or more partners. That includes vaginal, anal, and oral intercourse and other sexual activities that lead to arousal and satisfaction.

You might think you haven’t had “real” sex yet, but that doesn’t mean you’re not sexually active! In fact, things like manual stimulation (like fingering or handjobs), genital-to-genital contact, and oral sex all count.

Keep in mind that everyone’s level of sexual activity is different. It could depend on your age, relationship status, or personal preferences.

And no matter what you’re into, it’s important to practice safe sex by using protection and getting tested regularly for sexually transmitted infection.

Different Forms Of Sexual Activity

There are various types of sexual activity that individuals can engage in, including:

• Masturbation: touching oneself for sexual pleasure

 • Oral sex: stimulating the genitals with the mouth

• Vaginal sex: penetration of the vagina with the penis or other object \

• Anal sex: 

 Manual sex: stimulating the genitals with hands or fingers

• Mutual masturbation: two or more individuals stimulating themselves in each other’s presence

 • Kissing and cuddling: non-penetrative acts of intimacy

But Masturbation

Technically, masturbation does not fully encompass the shared emotional and physical intimacy in partnered engagements. Yet, it remains an essential aspect of self-exploration and understanding of one’s own body. 

Well, not really. Masturbation can be classified as a sexual activity, but it typically doesn’t involve direct skin-to-skin contact with another person.

This means that there’s no need to fret about the risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or other communicable diseases, as there’s no exchange of bodily fluids or contact with someone else’s intimate areas involved.

Factors To Consider When Defining Sexually Active

Here are some of the essential factors to considered sexually active:

Use of birth control and contraceptives:

Sexual activity involves a risk of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Therefore, being sexually active typically includes using birth control or a contraceptive method, such as condoms, IUDs, oral contraceptives, or other forms of protection.

Gender and sexual orientation:

 People of any gender identity or sexual orientation can be sexually active. Therefore, defining sexually active must consider these factors and acknowledge that everyone experiences sexuality uniquely.

Level of intimacy: 

Sexually active can involve various levels of intimacy, depending on the person’s preferences and boundaries. For example, some individuals may consider kissing and intimate touching as sexually active, while others may identify sexual activity as strictly involving genitalia.

Frequency of sexual activity: 

Engaging in sexual activity regularly can be an indication of being sexually active. However, there is no strict requirement for how often someone needs to have sex to classify as sexually active.

Incorporation of non-penetrative sexual acts: Sexual activity can include non-penetrative activities like oral sex, fingering or hand jobs, and other types of sexual play that don’t involve vaginal or anal intercourse.

Share With Doctors In Detail

Well, if you’re worried about sexually transmitted diseases and want to know more about your sexual health, it’s a good idea to talk to a doctor. Here, I have some key concepts that you can share with doctors.

  1. Share the number of sexual partners you’ve had: If you have been sexually active, it is crucial to tell your doctor the number of partners you have had. This information helps them to assess your risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and other related issues.
  2. Be specific about your sexual activities: It is also essential to tell your doctor about the specific sexual activities you have engaged in, such as oral sex. This information helps them understand your risk level and provide appropriate advice or treatment.
  3. Mention your use of barrier methods: Your doctor needs to know whether you have consistently used good condoms or other barrier methods during sexual activity. This information helps them to assess your risk for STIs and unintended pregnancies.
  4. Describe any unusual symptoms or experiences: If you have experienced pelvic pain, bleeding, or other unusual symptoms, you should share them with your doctor. These symptoms can indicate underlying conditions that require prompt medical attention.

By telling your doctor the truth about your sexual history, they can provide you with the most complete care possible.

If you don’t share this information, your doctor may not screen you for underlying conditions or provide the resources to reduce your risk. This can have significant consequences for your health and well-being.

Therefore, being honest with your doctor is essential to receive the best possible care.

sexual active mean

What Might Happen If You Don’t Tell Your Doctor The Whole Truth?

Basically, never hides anything from your doctor. Here are some possible consequences of not being honest with your doctor:

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease:

When sexually transmitted bacteria spread from the vagina to the uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries, it leads to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). PID often occurs as a result of untreated chlamydia or gonorrhea.

Although PID is often asymptomatic, symptoms may include pain in the lower abdomen and pelvis, unusual discharge, painful or difficult urination, pain or bleeding during intercourse, spotting between menstrual periods, fever, and chills. PID can lead to chronic pelvic pain, tubo-ovarian abscesses, and infertility if left untreated.


The group of viruses that can cause genital warts and certain types of cancer is Human Papillomavirus (HPV). At least 40 types of HPV are spread through sexual contact, and up to 79 million Americans have at least one type of HPV.

Some types of HPV are asymptomatic and clear on their own, but others can cause genital, anal, or oral warts, as well as certain types of cancer. Regular pap smears are the only way to screen for HPV and detect other abnormal cells.


If diagnosed and treated in time, there is a good chance of preventing liver cancer caused by Hepatitis B and C. Regular screenings and early detection can help prevent and treat HPV-related cancers. Regular HIV testing and treatment can significantly reduce the risk of developing certain cancers, such as Kaposi sarcoma, lymphoma, and cervical and anal cancer.

Other STIs:

Many sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are asymptomatic and do not cause symptoms. Therefore, you could have an infection without knowing it. The CDC estimates that more than 20 million new STI infections occur annually in the United States alone. 

Symptoms may include a rash, boils, itching, a strange discharge, burning when you urinate, pain when you s*x, fever, and other signs. 


It’s a virus that can mess with your immune system and is usually spread through sexual activity involving genital or rectal fluids. So, if you’ve been exposed to something, you might start feeling some symptoms within the first two to eight weeks.

You could get swollen glands, a fever, headaches, muscle soreness, etc. Did you know that if you don’t treat HIV, it can increase your chances of getting certain cancers and other serious health problems?

How To Know If A Couple Is Sexually Active

Here are some signs to look for to determine if a couple is sexually active:

  1. Increased physical touch: If a couple is sexually active, they tend to increase their physical touch. This includes holding hands, hugging, and kissing more often.
  2. Changes in communication: Couples who are sexually active tend to have more deep and meaningful conversations. They also tend to use more intimate language and share more personal stories.
  3. Spending more time together: Couples who are sexually active may spend more time together than those who are not. This is because they prioritize their intimate time together and want to maximize their opportunities for intimacy.
  4. Sexual tension: Couples with strong sexual attraction tend to exhibit sexual tension in their body language and non-verbal communication. This could be seen in eye contact, lingering touches, and playful teasing.
  5. Increased affection: Couples who are sexually active tend to be more affectionate with each other. This may include holding hands, cuddling, and other physical displays of affection.

Define Sexually Active Time Frame.

Basically, It defines the specific period in an individual’s life during which they engage in various forms of sexual activity, such as intercourse, oral sex, or other intimate exchanges.

This time frame may vary greatly depending on age, cultural norms, personal circumstances, and individual preferences.

It is important to acknowledge that the definition of a sexually active time frame is subjective and can differ significantly from one person to another, highlighting the need for open communication, understanding, and respect for individual autonomy in matters related to sexual health and relationships.

Can A Gynecologist Tell If You Are Sexually Active?

Basically a gynecologist or healthcare provider cannot independently confirm if someone has had sex just by looking. However, clinical signs can be noted during a pervaginal examination.

Remember that a pelvic or vaginal exam cannot reveal with absolute certainty whether a woman is a virgin or has been sexually active.

 When you visit a gynecologist, they will ask questions about your medical history, including sexual activity. This information is crucial to help the doctor diagnose and treat any potential issues. Harvard Health states that, like any other doctor, a gynecologist will prioritize your privacy and comfort.

Does Sexually Active Mean Intercourse

No, it’s not. The term “sexually active” typically refers to engaging in sexual activities, including a wide range of behaviors beyond just intercourse.

While sexual intercourse is one form of sexual activity, being sexually active can also encompass activities such as oral sex, anal sex, mutual masturbation, and various forms of intimate contact. It’s important to note that the definition of sexual activity can vary depending on cultural, personal, and individual beliefs and practices.

Final Verdicts:

We now know that being sexually active can mean different things to different people. Ultimately, it is a personal decision and choice based on individual beliefs, needs, and wants. Getting acquainted with all your options and resources is a good idea to make the best decision for yourself and your life.

Remember that sex carries physical, mental, and emotional risks, so it should not be entered lightly. Staying physically and mentally healthy depends on having an open dialogue with partners, including discussing consent, expectations, boundaries, and safe sex practices.

Clifton Morris
Clifton Morris

Meet Clifton Morris, MD. He’s a highly accomplished medical professional with an impressive career. Dr. Morris is a Professor of Medicine at MEC Medical School, and he works as a heart specialist at MEC General Hospital.
He’s involved in clinical practice, teaching, writing and conducting important research.

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