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#295: Do You PIV or VEP When You Have Sex?

Jacqueline Hellyer - Sunday, May 31, 2020

How do you describe the act of intercourse? Do you call it ‘penetrative sex’? If you do, which wouldn’t be surprising as it’s such a common term, have you ever thought about what the word actually means and symbolises?

Penetration means ‘breaking through resistance’. Which might have applied to sex in the bad old days when a wife was supposed to just submit to her husband whether she wanted to or not, so it may well have been an act of breaking through resistance. But now, in 2020, do we really want to think of sex as an aggressive act?

Worse still, the term ‘penetrative sex’ gives agency to the ‘penetrator’ - the man - who does it to a resistant, or at least passive, recipient – the woman.

Is this really the concept of intercourse we want to be perpetrating these days – that it’s something done to a woman by a man? Of course not, yet we still use the term.

Now you might say it’s just a word and it’s not meant in that way. But words have power. Think of the difference between ‘penetrative sex’ and ‘invitational sex’ or ‘envelopment sex’. Don’t the last two terms feel softer, welcoming, and give equal or more agency to the woman. When you hear those terms, your body softens and opens, as opposed to the word penetration, which makes the body contract.

I’ve had women with vaginismus (a condition of tight pelvic muscles which prevent the penis, or even fingers or tampons, entering the vagina) recover simply by changing the language they use for sex. Rather than conceptualising it as something done to them, they realise that it is something they invite when they are ready and that the act is one of them enveloping and holding their partner’s penis with their vagina. They have agency. It sounds much more equal and so much more pleasurable that way. Their bodies relax and their faces open up with smiles of delight when they realise how their language has led to an attitude that is counterproductive to the experience they want, and how it can be changed so simply.

So what else can we call it? Intercourse is a fairly dry term, but definitely useful in clinical and medical settings, I’d much rather we use that term in those situations, rather than ‘penetrative sex’. (I feel I’m on a one-woman crusade trying to change the language of my profession.) It’s a bit dry for personal use though, so what else do we have? Fucking, shagging, bonking are more casual, sometimes a bit crude depending on the mood. Making love is good, but sometimes too romantic…

I like to call it PIV: penis in vagina. So, I tell women, when you’re ready for some PIV, invite him in and give his penis a good cuddle with your vagina. Or as a participant in a recent couples retreat said – VEP: vagina enveloping penis.

Whether you prefer PIVving or VEPping, they are light-hearted neutral terms that lack the baggage of patriarchy and aren’t too soft and romantic or too direct and crude, and they say it like it is – two sets of genitals joining together.

So, are you in the mood for a bit of PIV? Do you fancy some VEPping tonight…?



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