Sexual intercourse

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Heterosexual intercourse in a variant of the riding position .
Homosexual intercourse between two men in the missionary position .
Homosexual intercourse between two women who rub their external genitals on their partner for stimulation.

Sexual intercourse (also sexual act (from the Latin actus 'drive, movement' ), coitus (from the Latin coitus 'going together, copulation' ), copulation (from the Latin copulatio 'connection, connection' ), cohabitation (from the Latin cohabitatio , living together ) or cohabitation ) describes in the traditional understanding the heterosexual union of two sexual partners in which the man inserts the erect penis into the woman's vagina - vaginal intercourse .

With the increasing social acceptance of other sexual practices , the term “sexual intercourse” or “coitus” has expanded in meaning and is also used for other penetrative (Latin “to penetrate”) sexual practices such as anal intercourse in homosexual and heterosexual couples. Depending on the definition, other variants of intense stimulation , in which the primary sexual organs of both partners are not involved, for example oral intercourse or mammal intercourse , can increasingly also be viewed as a form or part of sexual intercourse in today's language.

Physiology and function

Penetration in heterosexual vaginal intercourse .

Biological function

In both cases, an orgasm (peak of excitement) can occur in both sexes , which in men is usually accompanied by ejaculation . Vaginal intercourse between men and women with ejaculation enables conception . It is achieved through fertilization , in which usually only one male and one female germ cell ( sperm and egg cell ) combine in the female body in humans and form a zygote , from which an embryo is then created. This actual fertilization takes place some time (up to a few days) after sexual intercourse. A prerequisite for this is the successful migration of the sperm through the cervix , the uterus and the fallopian tube of the woman as well as the presence of a fertilizable egg cell due to ovulation that has already taken place or that has taken place afterwards . Sexual intercourse with subsequent conception leads to pregnancy and thus biologically causes reproduction by passing on the genetic information of both parents.

Statistical key figures

Average frequency

The frequency of sexual intercourse (coitus frequency) in humans depends heavily on the strength of the individual sex drive and the availability or the sex drive of the partner. Humans have stimulating hormones which, like testosterone , can lead to increased desire and the willingness to take risks. Activities that require self-discipline, such as sport and intensely pursued hobbies, can lead to a reduction in sex drive. The stress hormone adrenaline can also cause the breakdown of sex hormones and even impotence .

The individual bandwidth varies between several times a day and never. There can be both satisfaction and dissatisfaction throughout the practice - there is no norm or “healthy” frequency. Various study results showed an average frequency of two to three times a week in most romantic relationships. Studies show that the frequency of sexual intercourse in heterosexual partnerships depends heavily on the length of the relationship;

Researchers at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction at Indiana University Bloomington found that people in the United States between the ages of 18 and 29 have the most frequent sexual intercourse, averaging 112 times a year or twice a week, respectively. In contrast, 30 to 39 year olds have sex 86 times a year, which corresponds to 1.6 times a week. Those in the 40 to 49 age group have sex only 69 times a year, which is half the average frequency of 18 to 29 year olds.

In Germany, the average frequency of sexual intercourse across both sexes and all age groups is around twice a week. Couples living in the major cities of Hamburg and Leipzig who were together for up to about two years had an average monthly frequency of eight to ten; if the relationship was between 11 and 20 years old, the monthly frequency was four to six (a monthly frequency of 13 is reported for France at the beginning of the relationship and 9 over five years).

The first sexual intercourse often occurs during puberty . A study of the behavior of fifteen-year-old adolescents from 24 countries showed that between 14.1% (Croatia) and 37.6% (England) of those questioned had already practiced coitus.

Libido and wellbeing

Vatsyayana Mallanaga describes techniques for increasing pleasure and well-being: the ancient Indian representation of sexual intercourse in the Kamasutra .

Psychological studies have shown that people of both sexes who engage in sexual activity for self-determined motivation have a more positive psychological well-being. While the participants engaged in sexual activities, they also had a higher sense of emotional fulfillment. This correlated with greater closeness to the partner and greater overall satisfaction in the relationship. Although both sexes engaged in sexual activities for self-determined reasons, there were some differences between men and women. Women have a higher level of satisfaction and relationship quality than men through sexual activity. Overall, the research concluded that psychological well-being, sexual motivation, and sexual satisfaction were all positively correlated when couples engaged in sexual activity for self-determined reasons.

Teens who had their first sexual experience at the age of 16 showed greater well-being than those who were sexually inexperienced or who were not sexually active until the age of 17. In addition, adolescents who had their first sexual experience at the age of 15 years or younger, or who had many sexual partners, were not negatively affected and had no lower well-being.

In couples who were together for up to two years, no different needs could be determined for men and women, neither with regard to sexual intercourse nor with regard to tenderness; with women in relationships of 3 to 30 years of duration, the desire for sexuality decreased , in relation , from an initial about 70% to about 25%; in men this wish remained largely the same at around 70%. In contrast, the interest in tenderness in men decreased from about 80 to 60%, while in women it only decreased from just under 100 to about 90%.

There is a difference in the desire for sexual intercourse between men and women depending on age: the male sex drive is strongest in the decade after puberty, the female often in the third and fourth decades of life. In old age, the frequency of coitus decreases as the sex drive decreases. However, recent studies suggest that regular and satisfactory sexual intercourse is possible into old age and that older studies on the frequency of intercourse in old age must be questioned.

In a study by the University of Koblenz-Landau in 2000 it became known that 82 percent of all Catholics and 81 percent of all Protestants consider sexual intercourse to be important.

Average duration

The duration of intercourse can range from a few seconds to many hours. An average of five to six minutes pass between penetration and ejaculation . The first ejaculation does not necessarily have to mean the end point of sexual intercourse.

In a multinational study, the authors examined 491 men in Europe and the USA. The men were in stable heterosexual relationships. Over a period of four weeks, couples measured the time between intromission and first ejaculation with the help of a stopwatch and noted the use of condoms. The mean duration was independent of the use of condoms and decreased with increasing age (18–30: 6.5 minutes, 31–50: 5.4 minutes, over 51: 4.3 minutes). The average for all participants was 5.4 minutes but varied significantly from person to person with 14% of men under 3:20 and 26% of men over 10:00. Potential problems include overall sample size, small sample size per country, insufficient observations for each participant, and the psychological effects of using a stopwatch.

Glitches and problems

Disorders of the male and female libido mainly have psychological causes, including functional disorders such as B. premature ejaculation in men ( prevalence of 20%) often play a role. In addition to pleasure and joy, the reason for having sexual intercourse is often also a desire to have children; in this case, a possibly missing desire - especially at the time of a calculated or measured ovulation date of the woman - is consciously overcome.

The coitus partners then sometimes feel the sexual act more as a burden than as pleasure. If infertility is present when trying to have children , sexual behavior can be disruptively influenced by the associated treatment measures or the resulting psychological problems.

Organic malformations can make sexual intercourse impossible or only allow it between certain partners, but can sometimes be corrected by surgery.

If there is a long break from sex in a couple relationship, this can be an indicator of a disruption in the relationship on another level, especially when stress and a physical cause are eliminated. The willingness to have sexual intercourse can also be used as a means of power, according to the motto: If one partner fails to do something or does something specific, then the other partner refuses to have sexual intercourse. The psychologist Felicitas Heyne sees the cause, among other things, in the fact that women learned from their mothers to influence their partners through sexuality.

Socio-cultural factors

Oldest known coitus representation of Ain Sakhri (around 9000 BC)

Because of its reproductive function , sexual intercourse is viewed at all times and in all societies as a physiological and normative act of sexual life between men and women. Depending on sexual morality , marriage between the sexual partners can possibly be viewed as a moral precondition for sexual intercourse and premarital intercourse may be outlawed, even if it was and is generally considered safe from a medical point of view and in the Middle Ages and early modern times even as desirable and as it was In ancient times it was regarded as beneficial to health. In ancient times, however, as the origin of the sperm was believed to be in the brain, too frequent ejaculation was associated with a loss of brain mass - an idea that had persisted into the Middle Ages (and longer). In addition, in many societies, sexual intercourse between close relatives ( incest ) is outlawed as immoral. In addition to the different social classification, coitus is usually understood by both men and women as part of the wider sexual life, which also includes other forms of physical tenderness.

Sexual intercourse is often called sex , but this term has many other meanings and in a broader sense refers to all interpersonal actions that serve sexual satisfaction. Dealing with sexually relevant terms and the practices and ideas associated with them has become more liberal in recent decades as a result of better education . The modern methods of contraception and changed moral concepts have largely decoupled human sexuality from the reproductive function. Today, in some cultures, it is primarily regarded as a pleasure with a strong social and health-promoting function.

Representations of coitus positions can be found in so-called Chinese pillow books, for example.

Legal regulation

Biologically, humans are considered to be the only species that subjects them to a conscious decision of the will. The rape - the induced against the will of the partner sexual intercourse - is punishable in virtually all countries. The sexual abuse of children is also a criminal offense .

According to a study related to 1995 and 167 states, prostitution and the involvement of third parties in prostitution in around 60% of these states , e.g. B. running a brothel is punishable, in approx. 35% of these states prostitution was not an offense and the involvement of third parties was punishable and in approx. 5% of these states prostitution and the involvement of third parties were not punishable.

Same sex couples

Depending on the country and the statistical recording method, the relatively low percentage of people who prefer to have sex with a same-sex partner is given with different numerical values. In Germany and many countries of the western cultural area there are efforts to give sexuality among same-sex partners an equal status within the framework of sexual self-determination . For example, two women or two men have been able to get married in Germany since October 2017 and in Austria since 2019 - as was previously the case in other countries. In Switzerland, as in Germany and Austria, same-sex couples can have a registered partnership . Accordingly, free same-sex relationships are also gaining increasing recognition in many societies.


Technical terms

Sexual intercourse in the narrower sense is technically also referred to as "coitus", "coitus", "cohabitation" and "copulation".

In some areas, the Latin term coitus , which was previously mainly used in medicine, is used or taken from information, especially with more detailed additions:

  • coitus per vaginam 'vaginal intercourse'; coitus per anum or coitus per rectum 'anal intercourse'; coitus per os 'oral sex'
  • coitus inter femora or coitus in femoribus ' thigh intercourse '; Coitus a tergo '
  • coitus anticipatus 'coitus before marriage'; coitus illicitus 'unauthorized intercourse' in general, also for incest; coitus damnatus 'damn coitus', often for incest ; coitus contra naturam 'unnatural intercourse' in almost the same range as the old sodomy

Sexual acts without penetrating the penis fall under the term petting .

Legal terminology

There is a legal distinction between:

  • “Cohabitation”, often the older term “near-dwelling”, stands for the at least partial penetration of the penis into the female sexual organ, the vaginal vestibule .
  • “A sexual act that can be equated with cohabitation” or “a sexual act that can be equated with cohabitation” is in any case oral or anal intercourse with the penis and penetration of the female sexual organs with fingers or objects.
    • In Germany, penetrating the anus with fingers or objects is not an act similar to sexual intercourse, as this is not a genitalia.
    • In Austria, according to the rulings of the Supreme Court since 1990, this includes “every form of oral, vaginal or anal penetration aimed at satisfying the sexual instinct”, including anal penetration with fingers (“digital anal penetration”) and objects. "With the notorious practices [...] it cannot be said that the anus is fundamentally not part of the sex sphere and therefore an intervention in the intimate area with an objectively significant (albeit perverted) sexual reference [...] behavior with sexual motivation [...] ] represents an »outwardly non-gendered act«. ”Various legal experts disagree. Rubbing the penises together ( terrycloth ), even with intense copulatory movements, is not included, as is the rubbing of the (erect) member on the thighs and ejaculation on the face or chest, but probably cunnilingus , where the tongue often penetrates.
    • In Liechtenstein, this includes penetration of the anus with fingers and objects and oral stimulation of the female genitals.

In addition, there are and have been:

  • “Sexual acts” or “sexual acts”, on the other hand, are everything, also apart from sexual intercourse, such as petting , mutual masturbation . Actions without physical contact are, for example, inducing “sexual acts on yourself” in order to arouse others.
  • Fornication ” is an outdated term for morally condemned sexual acts outside of marriage. It was used until the early 1970s and still sporadically adhered to old regulations or contracts. A distinction was made between “sexual abuse with minors” (severe sexual abuse, Section 206 Austrian Tax Code) and “fornication with minors” (sexual abuse, Section 207 Austrian Tax Code). The "unnatural fornication, [...] between persons of the male sex" of the German § 175 of 1871 only comprised acts similar to intercourse and sometimes it was discussed whether the penis was only licked or whether it was put into the mouth. The reformulation to "man who fornicate with another man" from 1935 recorded all sexual acts, as well as the "same-sex fornication" of the Austrian Criminal Code of 1971/1975. “Commercial fornication” is prostitution and related things.

Attempts are also punishable under criminal law. Therefore, penetration or even ejaculation does not have to have occurred during intercourse and intercourse-like acts. The intention to penetrate is important. On the other hand, it has to be more than just a fleeting, sexually meaning-related touch. The age up to which sexual acts or intercourse are prohibited is called the age of consent.

"Adjacent apartment":

  • In the German Civil Code (BGB) there is talk of the adjacent apartment . In the context of the judicial determination of paternity, it is assumed according to § 1600d Paragraph 2 Clause 1 BGB that the father of a child is the one who was present with the mother during the conception period . According to the conventional definition, it is sufficient for the sexual organs to be touched in a way that, according to the experience of science, makes procreation possible. The term is therefore not identical with sexual intercourse in this case either.
  • In Austria, for historical reasons, the term can also be found in the determination of paternity in Section 163 ABGB , where it is supplemented by a reference to medically assisted procreation, as well as in the case of compensation for criminal acts against sexual self-determination in Section 1328 ABGB.

German language and colloquial language

In high-level language, terms such as “unite” or “unite” are often used to describe “have sexual intercourse”. In a figurative sense, “loving yourself” is also used less often. In technical terms, the terms fututio are also used for sexual intercourse and as a corresponding verb futuere .

In colloquial language, the term " fuck ", which is considered vulgar, is used. Seldom used terms such as “push” or “pop” have an aggressive-chauvinistic connotation. The term “ vögeln ” comes from the Middle High German word vogelen , which means “to catch birds” or “mate birds”. At the end of the 19th century, the expression pimpern spread , which probably developed from the Low German pümpern for (in a mortar ) to pound . The term “poppen”, which comes from the Cologne dialect, has been experiencing an upswing since the late 1990s. In many cases it has replaced the term "bumsen", which has been used since the 1960s, and which in turn replaced the "rumsen" of the 1930s. The latter terms are not viewed as derogatory like "fuck". Various vulgar terms for sexual intercourse (especially “fuck”) are often used in youth language for “defeat someone”, “show someone” or “insult someone” or “attack someone”.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, the colloquial phrases “going to bed with each other” and “sleeping together”, which are considered non-offensive, have become commonplace for terms with paraphrase. Less common is the expression "make love", translated from English ( to make love ) or French ( faire l'amour ). In English, to make love is the most common non-offensive slang phrase used to describe the sexual act.

See also

Portal: Love, sexuality and partnership  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the subject of love, sexuality and partnership


  • Wilhelm Reich : Drive concepts from Forel to Jung, The coitus and the sexes. In: Journal of Sexology. 1921.
  • K. Herold: Despite the desire to have children, seldom intercourse. In: Sexual Medicine. 19, 1990, pp. 680-684.
  • Desmond Morris : The Naked Monkey. Droemer Knaur, Munich / Zurich 1968, ISBN 3-426-03224-4 (Chapter 2).
  • Eric Berne : Types and rules of love. 22nd edition. Rowohlt, Reinbek near Hamburg 2005, ISBN 3-499-16848-0 .
  • Hans Giese (Ed.): The sexuality of the people. Manual of Medical Sex Research. 2 volumes, 2nd edition. Enke, Stuttgart 1968-1971, DNB 458936162 .

Web links

Commons : Sexual intercourse  - collection of pictures, videos, and audio files
Wiktionary: Sexual intercourse  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Sexual act  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Koitus  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

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