Bodies and sexuality

There is a common assumption that people with certain kinds of bodies cannot be sexual, for example, those with older, larger, or disabled bodies, or bodies experiencing illness. This can mean that people with such bodies are stigmatized and struggle to access information about sex. Given the diversity of sexual practices there is no reason why people with diverse bodies cannot be sexual if they want to be, and recognition that sexual desires, practices and identities can shift over a lifetime is helpful here.

There is also a strong cultural link between ‘attractiveness’ and sex, which puts pressure on people to appear in a certain way. This is related to sexual problems as people who are uncomfortable with their bodies, due to feeling that they do not fit the ideal, often struggle to relax and enjoy sex, or to tune into what they want sexually. Again, emphasis should be on the diversity of bodies and appearances there are, all of which can be sexual.

Specifically, in relation to sex, some may have concerns about genital appearance. For example, it is common to worry about having a small penis or an unattractive vulva, and some even resort to cosmetic surgery to address this. Again, it is helpful to be aware of the wide range of shapes and sizes which genitalia come in. For example, penises can vary in length from 2cm to 30cm long, and they also vary in thickness, similarly vaginas vary in length and width, and clitoris and labia vary in size and shape markedly[28].

Bodies also respond differently to sex itself. For example, different people require different stimulation in order to orgasm: most women require clitoral stimulation, so vaginal penetration alone will often not achieve this, and most people need to be psychologically excited in order to orgasm – physical stimulation alone might well not do it. People make a variety of faces and noises as they experience sexual pleasure and/or orgasm due to the muscles tensing, and they may twitch and/or feel physically tired afterwards. Bodies also make noises, particularly if they are penetrated and air is trapped and then escapes. There is often a lot of fluid released by both penises and vaginas either slowly or in a spurt on orgasm (known as ‘squirting’ when it occurs in vaginas)[29].

Of course bodies need not necessarily be involved in sex at all when it is over the phone, online messenger, text or email, or between avatars in cybersex.

Gender and sexuality

28. See

Gender and sexuality