Human sexual activity, human sexual practice or human sexual behaviour is the manner in which humans experience and express their sexuality. People engage in a variety of sexual acts, ranging from activities done alone (e.g., masturbation) to acts with another person (e.g., sexual intercourse, non-penetrative sex, oral sex, etc.) in varying patterns of frequency, for a wide variety of reasons. Sexual activity usually results in sexual arousal and physiological changes in the aroused person, some of which are pronounced while others are more subtle. Sexual activity may also include conduct and activities which are intended to arouse the sexual interest of another or enhance the sex life of another, such as strategies to find or attract partners (courtship and display behaviour), or personal interactions between individuals (for instance, foreplay or BDSM). Sexual activity may follow sexual arousal.

Human sexual activity has sociological, cognitive, emotional, behavioural and biological aspects. It involves personal bonding, sharing emotions, the physiology of the reproductive system, sex drive, sexual intercourse, and sexual behaviour in all its forms.

In some cultures, sexual activity is considered acceptable only within marriage, while premarital and extramarital sex are taboo. Some sexual activities are illegal either universally or in some countries or subnational jurisdictions, while some are considered contrary to the norms of certain societies or cultures. Two examples that are criminal offences in most jurisdictions are sexual assault and sexual activity with a person below the local age of consent.

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Chess grandmaster Hans Niemann denies using vibrating sex toy to cheat

An American grandmaster who was part of a row which rattled the world of chess has denied using a vibrating sex toy to cheat. In September 2022 Hans Niemann sat down to play Norwegian grandmaster Magnus Carlsen in chess's Sinquefield Cup St Louis, Missouri.

Russell Brand accuser sparks debate about staggered age of consent

At 16, you can't legally drink alcohol, place a bet or vote in a general election - but you can consent to sex. It has been this way since 1885 in the UK, when the age of consent was raised from 13.

The troubling rise in congenital syphilis

Syphilis has been called many names since the first record of it in the 1490s, most of them uncomplimentary – "the French disease", "the Neapolitan disease", "the Polish disease". One however has stuck: "the great imitator".

Sex robots may cause psychological damage

US researchers have warned that the availability of sex robots with artificial intelligence (AI) poses a growing psychological and moral threat to individuals and society. They say the technology is escaping oversight because agencies are too embarrassed to investigate it.

CES 2019: Sex toy reawarded robotics prize

The Ose robotic vibrator by Lora DiCarlo was originally given the prize by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) in January. However, the CTA quickly changed its mind and ousted the device, causing outrage.

Unmasking the men who trade in subway train groping videos

Women who are groped on trains in East Asia face the further threat of their assault being filmed and uploaded for sale online. In a year-long investigation, the BBC World Service's investigative unit, BBC Eye, has gone undercover to unmask the men cashing in on sexual violence.

Amsterdam ‘erotic centre’: EMA unhappy at planned red-light district

The European drugs regulator says it does not want a purpose-built red-light district near its post-Brexit headquarters in Amsterdam. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) says it fears "nuisance, drug-dealing, drunkenness and disorderly behaviour".

Male pill - why are we still waiting?

The once-daily pill contains hormones designed to stop sperm production. It would be a welcome addition to condoms or vasectomy - the only options currently available to men.

Male contraceptive pill prototype stops sperm swimming

An on-demand, non-hormonal male contraceptive pill may be a real possibility say scientists who have found a cell pathway, or switch, that stops sperm from being able to swim. Tests in mice suggest it keeps sperm stunned for at least a few hours - long enough to stop them reaching the egg.

More than 4,800 victims of sexual abuse uncovered in Portugal's Catholic Church

An independent commission looking into the sexual abuse of minors in the Catholic Church said on Tuesday it had documented cases pointing to at least 4,815 victims.

Sex and no sleep may be killing endangered quolls

Endangered male northern quolls are giving up sleep for more sex - and it could be killing them, according to new research from Australia. The study found that males travel long distances in search of mating partners, often giving up sleep in the process.

Romeo and Juliet: Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting sue over 1968 film's 'sexual abuse'

The stars of the Oscar-winning 1968 film Romeo and Juliet are suing Paramount Pictures for sexual abuse over a nude scene they appeared in. Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey were teenagers when they made the movie.

South Korea lifts ban on import of adult sex dolls

South Korean officials have lifted an import ban on adult-sized sex dolls. The decision comes after years of debate over whether the government was interfering in people's private lives.

Sextortion: Big rise in victims with 'tens of thousands at risk'

There's been a big rise in the number of victims of sextortion being reported to the National Crime Agency (NCA). There were 1,304 cases reported in 2017, up from 428 in 2015 - although the real number of victims is thought to be much higher.

Australia: Scientists find clitorises on female snakes

Scientists have discovered that snakes do have clitorises, shattering a long-held assumption that the females didn't have a sexual organ. Research published Wednesday provides the first proper anatomical descriptions of female snake genitalia.

Age of consent: Why is consensual teen sex a crime in India?

But as the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act criminalises all sexual activity by children under 18, many adolescent boys in consenting relationships are finding themselves on the wrong side of law.

Indonesia passes criminal code banning sex outside marriage

Indonesia's parliament has approved a new criminal code that bans anyone in the country from having extramarital sex and restricts political freedoms. Sex outside marriage will carry a jail term of up to a year under the new laws, which take effect in three years.

Indonesia set to punish sex before marriage with jail time

Indonesia's parliament is expected to pass a new criminal law this month that will punish sex outside marriage with imprisonment of up to a year. Bambang Wuryanto, a politician involved in the draft, said the code could be passed as early as next week.

Boogie Nights: How Hollywood and porn shaped each other

It's my idea to make a film that the story just sucks them in… [so] they can't move until they find out how the story ends… It's my dream to make a film that is true and right and dramatic.

Inside the secret world of trading nudes

Women are facing threats and blackmail from a mob of anonymous strangers after their personal details, intimate photos and videos were shared on the social media platform Reddit. The BBC has unmasked the man behind one of the groups, thanks to a second-hand cigarette lighter.

The rising curiosity behind open relationships

Dedeker Winston has been in non-monogamous relationships for more than a decade, yet she has never seen such keen interest in open relationships. The subject has traditionally been very taboo in many places, including the US, where Winston is based.

Why people watch pornography at work

Many workers would admit to taking a break from work to scroll through Instagram, shop for a new pair of sneakers or even browse a new dating app.

Why Hollywood is shunning sex

Fred MacMurray obsesses over the way an anklet digs into Barbara Stanwyck's leg in Double Indemnity. Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello melt from a marital fight into lustful, aggressive sex on a staircase in A History of Violence.

The Arab country turning to 'female Viagra'

As Egypt becomes the first Arab country to authorise the production and sale of a drug meant to boost the female libido, the BBC's Sally Nabil explores whether there's a market for it in such a socially conservative country.

Why young Arab men turn to anti-impotency drugs

In his apothecary shop in the historic neighbourhood of Bab al-Shaaria in the heart of Cairo, herbalist Rabea al-Habashi shows what he calls his "magical blends". Mr Habashi has made a name for himself selling aphrodisiacs and natural sexual enhancements in the Egyptian capital.

Here's what we know sex with Neanderthals was like

As we end another extraordinary year and start a new one, BBC Future is taking a look back at some of our favourite stories for our "Best of 2021" collection. Discover more of our picks here. Their eyes met across the rugged mountain landscape of prehistoric Romania.

The sex myth that's centuries old

"Am I virgin?" asked the stranger across the internet, matter of factly, in Abir Sarras's inbox. Sarras wasn’t sure how to reply. It was the first time she had been sent what she describes as a "vagina selfie". 

Are Baby Boomers having the best time in bed?

Society loves to focus on the sex and dating lives of Gen Z and millennials. How are they dating, what sexual orientations are they identifying with and what are their relationships like? But as glossy as young love may be, dating and sex don’t begin and end in young adulthood. 

Great sexpectations: How your mindset shapes your love life

In one memorable episode of Sex and the City, Carrie admits to being completely taken with her new beau, Jack Berger. “Everything is fresh, everything is a first, everything is foreplay,” she says, describing their time together.

Maharashtra: Rubber penis in family planning kit sparks row

A rubber penis in family planning kits used by local health workers has led to a controversy in the western Indian state of Maharashtra.Opposition lawmakers say the rubber models will embarrass female health workers who use the kits to spread awareness on reproductive health.

Does 'solo polyamory' mean having it all?

As 2022 comes to a close, we're bringing back our favourite pieces of the year. See the rest of our Best of Worklife 2022 collection for more great reads. After Chris, 35, came out as bisexual three years ago, he decided that he “didn’t necessarily want to live a heteronormative life”.

Sex Work: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

As long as sex work has existed, so have efforts to end it. John Oliver explains why criminalizing the trade hasn’t helped the most vulnerable people involved, and why we should start listening to those at the center of the conversation: sex workers. Connect with Last Week Tonight online... Sub

Dry dating: The rise of sober love and sex

Naomi Bridgman started ‘dry dating’ by accident. During UK lockdowns amid Covid-19, “the usual route of going to a pub… was no longer an option”, says the 30-year-old social-service worker, from Sheffield.

Metaverse app allows kids into virtual strip clubs

Some apps in the virtual-reality metaverse are "dangerous by design", the NSPCC has warned in response to a BBC News investigation. The children's charity said it was "shocked and angry" at the findings.

Roblox: The children's game with a sex problem

A naked man, wearing just a dog collar and a lead, is led across the floor by a woman in a bondage outfit. Two strippers dance next to a bar. One man is wearing a Nazi uniform.

Model pulled hair out after Met Police detective secretly filmed her

A model who was secretly filmed by a senior detective has been left with bald spots after pulling out her hair through stress, a court has heard.Met Police Det Insp Neil Corbel conducted fake photoshoots in hotel rooms and Airbnbs across the UK.

Why more women identify as sexually fluid than men

As we head into 2022, Worklife is running our best, most insightful and most essential stories from 2021. When you’re done with this article, check out our full list of the year’s top stories.  The way we think about sexuality is changing.

Eco-friendly sex: What is it and how does it impact on climate change?

When we think about the different ways we can reduce our carbon footprints, our sex lives are not usually at the top of the list. Yet web searches for sustainable products such as vegan condoms and waste-free contraception have been steadily on the rise in recent years.

Laser vagina menopause therapy shows no benefit in trial

A potentially risky laser treatment offered to menopausal women to rejuvenate the vagina is no better than sham or fake therapy, researchers say. They tested it in a trial to see if it might ease vaginal dryness and painful sex linked to going through the change.

Stealthing: California bans non-consensual condom removal

About 30 years ago, just months after starting work as a prostitute, Maxine Doogan became pregnant. She had been with a new client at a massage parlour in Anchorage, Alaska, when she realised he had removed his condom surreptitiously during intercourse. Shocked, she ran to the bathroom.

The extraordinary case of the Guevedoces

The discovery of a small community in the Dominican Republic, where some males are born looking like girls and only grow penises at puberty, has led to the development of a blockbuster drug that has helped millions of people, writes Michael Mosley.

Brian Houston: Hillsong Church founder denies concealing child abuse

The Australian founder of the global Hillsong Church will plead not guilty to charges of concealing child sexual abuse. Brian Houston, 67, was charged by police in Australia in August following a two-year investigation.

Are we heading towards a summer of sex?

After more than a year of social isolation during the pandemic, the sentiment may perfectly encapsulate the purported vibe of the coming months – a period in which people are swapping masks for a different kind of protection. Welcome to summer 2021: the summer of sex.

The benefits of having many lovers

To mark the end of a turbulent year, we are bringing back some of our finest stories for BBC Future’s “Best of 2020” collection. Discover more of our picks here. “What does exclusivity mean to you?” asks Amy Hart, a contestant on UK reality TV show Love Island in 2019.

Pornography 'desensitising young people'

Most children are exposed to online pornography by their early teenage years, a study warns. About 53% of 11- to 16-year-olds have seen explicit material online, nearly all of whom (94%) had seen it by 14, the Middlesex University study says.

Pornography 'one click away' from young children

Children are stumbling upon pornography online from as young as seven, a report has indicated. The survey, from the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), suggested three-quarters of parents felt their child would not have seen porn online but more than half had done so.

Father calls for pornography sites to require proof of age

image copyrightBBC newsA father and a student campaigner are seeking a High Court hearing to consider whether the government should tighten youngsters' access to porn.

The man who thought orgasms could save the world

The orgasm, it is generally accepted, is A Good Thing. An intensely pleasurable experience that can promote bonding between partners.

How the pandemic has changed our sex lives

Before the pandemic, many couples lived like “two ships passing in the night”, says Houston, Texas-based sex therapist Emily Jamea. Previously overscheduled with out-of-home commitments, some partners found that pandemic-related lockdowns offered a much-needed respite.

Can online sex fill the connection void?

About three months into lockdown in the UK, 26-year-old student Emma signed into a Zoom meeting with a group of people she’d only ever met through online chats.

Australia ditches milkshake sex education video amid furore

Australia's government has scrapped two sex education videos designed to teach teenagers about consent and sexual assault after they were widely panned. The online education campaign used metaphors such as smearing milkshake on someone's face in order to depict disrespect and abuse.

The erotic origins of Italy's most famous sweet

Naples has pizza, Rome has cacio e pepe and Sicily has cannoli.

Sex workers say 'defunding Pornhub' puts their livelihoods at risk

Credit card giants Visa, Mastercard and Discover have blocked all payments to Pornhub, after the adult site was accused of being "infested" with child abuse and rape-related videos.

Sister Abhaya: Indian priest and nun jailed for murder of convent sister

image copyrightGetty ImagesA Catholic priest and nun have been sentenced to life in prison for the killing of another member of their convent in India nearly 30 years ago.

When sexual abuse was called seduction: France confronts its past

An 83-year-old French writer once feted by the Paris intellectual set now finds himself ostracised because of his writings about sex with teenage boys and girls. From the 1960s onwards, Gabriel Matzneff made no secret of his passion for seducing adolescents.

Does the US have a problem with topless women?

Women fed up with being forced to cover up their breasts and nipples are challenging American laws about nudity and sparking a debate about the country's attitude to the naked female form.

Coronavirus and sex: What you need to know

If I have sex can I catch coronavirus? You might have thought about it but been too embarrassed to ask. To separate the facts from myths, we've put your questions to health experts.

Bill Clinton claims Monica Lewinsky affair was to 'help anxieties'

Former President Bill Clinton says his affair with Monica Lewinsky was a way of managing his anxieties. He made the remarks as part of a documentary series titled "Hillary" which looks at the public life of 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The invention of ‘heterosexuality’

Whenever I tell this to people, they respond with dramatic incredulity. That can’t be right! Well, it certainly doesn’t feel right. It feels as if heterosexuality has always “just been there.”

Coronavirus: Sex workers fear for their future

With social distancing rules in place and strip clubs and brothels closed, sex workers around the world have seen their incomes disappear almost overnight as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

How Pretty Woman erased sex from its story

A middle-aged businessman pays a much-younger prostitute to be his live-in lover for a week. It’s a sordid premise for a feel-good romantic comedy, but that didn’t stop Pretty Woman being one of the biggest hits of 1990.

California condors: Virgin births discovered in critically endangered birds

US wildlife researchers have discovered that two California condors, a critically endangered bird, gave birth without any male genetic DNA. The discovery that condors are capable of virgin births - formally called parthenogenesis or asexual reproduction - surprised scientists.

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