The “Top Forty” Sex List: Why Every Sexual Encounter is Not the Same

Sex means lots of things to lots of people; and lots of different things to the same person at different times. As Hamlet said, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

A short list, then, of some of the kinds of sex that we humans have invented, along with a few reasons or motives. With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…”

1. Make-up Sex. Here we have nothing more or less than sex after a fight or some injury done by one partner to the other. It is usually very satisfying.
2. Charity or Sympathy Sex. One partner feels sorry for the other and tries to make their love feel better, using sex as the vehicle. In some quarters the recipient of “charity sex” has to give a receipt for tax purposes to the person who made the donation. A few women have told me that their relationship with their future husband began because they felt sorry for him.
3. Nonstop Sex. This is the domain of the hyper-aroused and the very young. If you are older, you might want to be careful, unless you have Viagra and an oxygen tank handy, not to mention paddle electrodes to jolt your overtaxed heart.
4. Celebration Sex. This usually follows an award, a victory, a promotion, a raise, or a graduation, and finds everyone feeling pretty wonderful.
5. Anniversary/Birthday Sex. Not typically quite so wonderful as #4, but it can be very good depending on how the pair feel about the event. Alternatively, one member of the couple might simply be performing as a duty for the occasion.
6. Making Babies Sex. This carnal contact is done by the calendar for a purpose other than lust. It can easily lose the magic of other kinds of less purposeful and more spontaneous intimacy, but at least the Pope and Rick Santorum would approve.
7. Obligatory Sex (aka “Let’s Get It Over With” Sex). One of the two participants is doing this out of a sense of duty to the other or simply to stop being pestered over it. It is not usually the romantic experience of their dreams for either party.
8. Desperation Sex. If one of the companions is afraid the other might end the relationship, she may use sex to try to remind her lover of the excitement she can generate.
9. Insecurity Sex. The type of intimacy that falls under this heading is related to #8, but not identical to it. In this instance the insecure person wants sex as a form of reassurance that she is still loved and needed.
10. “I Love You” Sex. What is described here is just about the best: when the lovers are both in love and in heat; affection and physical attraction are at their peak.
11. Practice Sex. In this example it is usually (but not always) a young male who is trying to get as far as he can with his date and “go boldly where no man has gone before;” or, at least, this particular callow youth wants to lose his virginity, and needs some experience with the purely mechanical aspects of the act. Sorry for the Star Trek quote.

File:Pavel Filonov ManWoman.jpg

12. “Better Late Than Never” Sex. It is 3 AM and you are exhausted from a week of hard work and from partying earlier in the evening. Still…
13. “Everyone Else is Doing It, So I’d Better, Too” Sex. A young female (less often a teenaged boy) feels like everyone else is getting in on the act and that she is therefore missing something. The next available male is targeted.
14. Pressured Sex. Some men stop when a woman says “no,” some don’t. Not everyone is good at saying “no,” whether in a sexual situation or in the fully clothed world of business and social life. Some women are afraid that they will lose the male if they don’t perform. Some males are bullies and a few are rapists. Nothing about these scenarios is good.
15. Enticement Sex. Here we have an attempt by one partner to “capture” the other early in the relationship by giving him the sexual time of his life.
16. Intoxicated Sex. Too much alcohol or too high on drugs, disinhibited people often do things that they wouldn’t do sober, sometimes not even remembering why, how, or with whom. Beware.
17. Self-Conscious Sex. “Turn off the lights, I don’t want you to see me undress; don’t look at me until we are in bed.” Shame and a negative body image come alive in this moment.
18. Anxious Sex. This heading covers a lot of ground, from those who are inexperienced, to those who fear a performance failure, to those who worry that they will be badly evaluated by their partner.
19. Hostile Sex. One person does this to the other, attempting to express anger and cause pain; physical, psychological, or both. The goal is to demean and/or control the other, not to express love. Don’t be on either end of this.
20. Performance Sex. Basically, this category includes strip tease. The one “on stage” is motivated by a desire to please or to be admired, or both.
21. Selfish Sex (aka Fast Sex). This type of physical contact is a cousin to Obligatory Sex. However, in this example, it is usually the man who satisfies himself quickly, not out of duty, but simply because his needs are all that matter to him.
22. Slow Sex. The intent here is to savor every moment and allow for a build up of tension in order to achieve a more satisfying release.
23. “The Kids (Parents, Neighbors) Might Hear Us” Sex. The partners are very cautious and can’t be as spontaneous as they would like, for obvious reasons.

24. Role Playing Sex. Remember playing “Doctor” as a kid? Adults, too, can make just about anything into a game. The role play might involve dressing up, but certainly entails some portion of pretending to different identities.
25. “Make Believe” Sex. Item #25 is not quite the same as #24. Rather, at least one partner (usually secretly) is imagining that you are someone else. S/he might be thinking you are his ex, a porn star, an unrequited love, Gisele Bündchen, Brad Pitt, or anyone of his choosing.
26. “I Need to Be Held” Sex. One member of the couple wants to be held — needs the physical contact. For her or him, the sex that develops is more about closeness than mating. Indeed, there is some emerging research suggesting that the experience of physical pain is reduced if your hand is held by a loved one.
27. Risky or Dangerous Sex. Are you in the “Mile High” Club? Meaning, have you had sex in a commercial airplane washroom? The partners who go for this sort of thing enjoy the idea that sex in places where they might be seen or discovered adds an element of excitement. There are also those who use physical dangers/pain to enliven the experience, or to play out sadistic or masochistic urges.
28. Reunion Sex. If you and your love have been separated for a long time you probably feel about ready to burst when the reunion happens. It can be very pleasurable. Fulfillment of an aching longing usually is.
29. Professional Sex. This simply amounts to a visit with a prostitute or call girl/guy.
30. Seduction Sex. What we have here is not the enticement of #15, but rather some combination of playfulness, animal instinct, desire, a wish to please, and the satisfaction of successfully turning someone in your direction and getting him to follow your agenda.
31. Conquest Sex. When sex is about “scoring,” it is more like a game of football than love. “Frat” boys are especially prone to trying to “prove” themselves by seeing whether one particular woman or many young women can be added to their “count” of sexual conquests. Women aren’t entirely immune to this either, unfortunately. Keeping score changes everything and the object of your intention is, indeed, objectified and dehumanized.
32. Revenge Sex. Do you want to get back at some one who has done you harm? Stealing her lover usually does the trick, but at great cost to your own morality.
33. Novelty Sex. Bored? Working your way through the Kama Sutra or some other manual of sexual invention might be just the thing for those nights when the TV offers “nothing good on.” Just be sure you keep your chiropractor’s phone number on speed dial.
34. Recreational Sex. Nothing is to be found here but physical attraction and a way to pass the time. No harm done, unless one considers hurt feelings, STDs, pregnancy — you name it.
35. “Sexting” or Phone Sex or Cybersex. These behaviors are examples of human ingenuity that Ben Franklin probably didn’t have in mind when he experimented with electricity. His work did, however, add to the lexicon of dating expressions; as when a woman tells a man to “go fly a kite.”
36. Extramarital Sex aka “Cheating.” I’d include in this category any sex that happens outside of a committed relationship that is not freely sanctioned by both partners.
37. “Everything But…” Sex. Folks of certain moral (usually religious) persuasions come to define sexual activity as acceptable so long as it does not go beyond specified boundaries. The limits can be narrowly defined so that very little physical contact is permitted or allow every kind of physical contact known to man with the exception of intercourse. In the latter event, the danger is that one can maintain the letter of the religious law, but violate its spirit.
38. Good-bye Sex. One of the lovers knows it is the last time. Sometimes s/he communicates this before the act, sometimes not. In any case, the act is changed by the knowledge held by one or both people.
39. “Friends With Benefits” Sex. I’ve written about this here: Looking for Trouble? Why Being “Friends with Benefits” Might Not be to Your Benefit. Best to think carefully before you risk losing a friend.
40. Everyday Sex. This is the typically unremarkable, but satisfying garden-variety physical encounter of a loving couple; but probably not done in the garden.


The top photograph by Zambonia is of Fernand Léger’s 1921 painting Man and Woman. The second image is called A Man and a Woman (Adam and Eve) by Pavel Filonov. Next is Malakas and Maganda by Dragonbite. The pictured couple are considered to be the first man and woman according to Philippine folklore. Finally, an art work called Homosapiens09by Ade mc Ade McO-Campbell. It is described as a “simplistic representation of differing forces or elements within a man or woman.” All are sourced from Wikimedia Commons.