Sexual Anatomy & Sex

As HIV can be transmitted sexually, youth need to understand their sexual anatomy and different types of sexual activity. It is important that adolescent sex education lessons include basic male and female anatomical structures and physiology, where these structures are located, and their function related to sexual activity and reproduction.

To be inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth and to educate young people about the positive aspects of sexuality, lessons should include:

  1. Puberty (brain development, biological sex, and reproductive anatomy and physiology)
  2. Sex (types of sexual activity, risks associated with different types of sexual activity)
  3. Sexuality (sexual expression)
  4. Sexual health

Sexual Anatomy

Beyond the four biological functions of reproduction, most people use their sex organs (penis, vagina) to express their attraction to or love for a sexual or romantic partner.

Female sexual and reproductive organs include (in alphabetical order):

  • Accessory glands
  • Fallopian tubes
  • Ovaries
  • Uterus
  • Vagina
  • Vulva

Male sexual and reproductive organs include (in alphabetical order):

  • Bulbourethral glands
  • Network of excretory ducts (epididymis, ductus deferens (vas deferens), and ejaculatory ducts)
  • Pair of testes
  • Penis
  • Prostate
  • Seminal vesicles

In both females and males, the perianal region (area around the anus) and anus may also be used for sexual arousal.

Sex

Sex can be defined in many ways. While some people believe sex only includes vaginal sex (penis inserted in a vagina), sexual health experts know sex involves a spectrum of activities. Some people engage in no, some, or all types of sexual activity. Everyone is different and the way they express their sexuality is also different.

Types of sexual activity include (in alphabetical order):

  • Anal sex (penis in anus)
  • Dry humping (genital-to-genital)
  • Fingering or hand jobs (hand-to-genital)
  • Kissing (lip-to-lip or lip-to-body)
  • Masturbation (exciting one's own genitals)
  • Oral sex (mouth-to-penis, mouth-to-vagina, mouth-to-perianal region)
  • Outercourse (sexual stimulation between partners without anal or vaginal penetration)
  • Vaginal sex (penis in vagina)

While each activity is a way to express attraction to or love for a romantic or sexual partner, it comes with varying levels of risk for HIV, other STIs, and unintended pregnancy.

The sexual response cycle is the sequence of physical and emotional changes that occur as a person becomes sexually aroused in response to sexual activity. There are four phases in the cycle: excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution.

Pregnancy is caused by semen (ejaculate) or pre-ejaculate getting inside the vagina or vulva. Usually this occurs as a result of male orgasm achieved during vaginal sex. It may also happen if pre-ejaculate is released during penis-to-vulva contact without penetration. The most effective ways to prevent unwanted pregnancy are to: 1) choose not to be sexually active or 2) if sexually active, use a dual method (condom and another kind of birth control) every time.

Page last updated: April 2018