#SexEdSaturday: What Are You Even Saying?

At the end of almost every class I teach, I hand students a notecard and a pencil and ask them to anonymously write down any question they have related to sexuality. It could be about something we’ve covered, something we’re going to cover, or something they heard about. Some students will write a question, some will draw a picture, and some will simply write down the word “dyldo” (spelled exactly like that). I let them know that I’ll start the next class by reading their questions aloud and answering them. Yeah, even the one that says dyldo. You can turn anything into a learning opportunity.

These question-and-answer sessions are arguably the most important part of the curriculum. They’re also a big part of the reason my internet search history is really, really weird. But these questions allow me to meet students where they’re at and make sure that I’m covering the information that is most relevant to them and their sexuality.

I get a fair number of questions asking about definitions for words that have been whispered and giggled about. Here are two of those questions, along with their answers.

Q: What are the Bases? i.e., first base and so on

A: Conversations about sex are often full of slang, analogies, and innuendo. “The Bases” is a baseball analogy for certain sexual acts. There is no standard definition for what base correlates with which sex act, but as a general rule…

  • First base = Kissing
  • Second base = Touching breasts
  • Third base = Manual or oral stimulation of the genitalia
  • Home run = Penis-in-vagina sex

It’s not a great analogy. Not only does it require rudimentary understanding of a sport, but it turns sex into a set of instructions to follow if you want to “win.” This goal-focused model of sexuality ignores many activities, identities, and pleasures that people experience all of the time. For a truly lovely discussion on the problems of the bases and a better analogy, please watch Al Vernacchio’s talk “Sex needs a new metaphor. Here’s one.”

Q: When you “pull it out,” do you literally pull it with your hands?

A: “Pulling it out” is a slang term for the withdrawal method. It involves removing the penis from wherever it happens to be hanging out (the vagina, the anus, etc.) before ejaculation occurs. Some people use the withdrawal method as a form of contraception. However, this is not recommended as a primary form of contraception for a few reasons. One, before ejaculation occurs, pre-ejaculatory fluid can leave the penis. While it isn’t common, it appears that live, viable sperm can sometimes be present in the pre-ejaculatory fluid. That means sperm could leave the penis and set off on a merry fertilization adventure before ejaculation.

Two, someone might decide before engaging in sexual activity that they are going to pull out. They might have every intention of pulling out. However, the best-laid plans of (probably not mice) and men often go awry in the form of an unexpected ejaculation.

Finally, there’s also the issue of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Depending on the particular STI in question, they can be spread through skin contact and fluid exchange, which includes both pre-ejaculatory and ejaculatory fluid.

All of that is a long way of saying usually, no. Pulling out usually does not involve someone physically using their hands to pull a penis out of wherever it happens to be.