Vanilla sex or conventional sex is used to describe what a culture regards as standard or conventional sexual behavior. Different cultures, subcultures, and individuals have different ideas about what constitutes this type of sex. Often it is interpreted as sex that does not involve such elements as BDSM, kink, or fetish activities.


Among heterosexual couples in the Western world, vanilla sex often refers to the missionary position. Among homosexual men it sometimes implies that the activity is non-insertive (i.e. intercrural intercourse, frottage etc.)[citation needed]. It can also be used to describe insertive sex without any element of BDSM or any fetish. The British Medical Journal defines it as "Sex that does not extend beyond affection, mutual masturbation, and oral and anal sex." [1]

The term "vanilla" derives from the use of vanilla extract as the basic flavoring for ice cream, and by extension meaning "plain" or "conventional". Thus, the term "vanilla" is sometimes used as an insult to describe someone who is overly conventional or unwilling to take risks, in both sexual and non-sexual contexts.

“Vanilla sex” may also be intended by the user to indicate "Caucasian"[citation needed] in the stereotypical but unfounded belief that such cultures are less sexually adventurous and promiscuous than others. Generally speaking, there is a much broader variance of sexual behavior within individual cultures than between them.

In relationships where one partner enjoys less conventional forms of sexual expression, the partner who does not enjoy such activities is often referred to as the vanilla partner. As such it is easy for them to be branded unadventurous and dull in sexual matters.[2] Through exploration with their partner, it is possible for a more vanilla-minded person to discover new facets of their sexuality. For others such exploration is not a positive experience and they may find the practices they are comfortable with are sufficient for their satisfaction.


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