Try asking me for a word that’s more of loaded gun than “sex.” Chances are, I won’t be able to give you one.

In my rational, engineering-trained way of conceptualizing information, it doesn’t make sense. “Sex” is just a word, after all. I should be able to define it — as should anyone else. When someone asks me what I feel about sex, or whether sex would be appropriate in a particular situation, (I should be able to give a clear-cut, no-nonsense “yes” or “no.”)

But the fact is, “sex” is more than just a word; it’s a series of emotions. How I treat sex plays a lot into who I am and how my past experiences have shaped me. The linguistics of it is fascinating, all right. But can it be generalized?

A 1980 study on cybersex published in the International Journal of Public Heath found that in heterogeneous sex, men had a tendency to associate the word “intercourse” with body-centered imagery — such as breast and kiss — while women drew more parallels between the word “intercourse” and relationship-centered linguistics. Similarly, a 1974 publication found that in general, men could link more slang vocabulary to sexual expressions than women.

Putting criticism aside, if the sex research done over the last half-decade accurately reflects trends on college campuses (note: feel free to contradict that one), that means as a woman, I have the tendency to attribute a greater number of physically intimate activities — besides vaginal intercourse — with the word “sex,” as compared to a man.

More than that, this means that my sexual behaviors — my actions surrounding how I personally define “sex” and “intimacy” — can be predicted. Gulp.

Let’s fast forward to 2014: I walk around with the belief that on Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus, women actively try to break gender norms. I feel constantly surrounded by strong-willed, informed women who don’t characterize their beliefs about sex according to a rigid standard — rather exploring their relationship with sex through their own experiences.

Interestingly, data shows there are significant differences between how men and women define “sex” themselves and how the opposite gender believes the other define it.

A more recent study found that both male and female college students considered vaginal intercourse to be “sex” — though more women believed that men would be less likely to consider intimacy as “sex” when neither participant experienced an orgasm.

During oral sex, approximately 54 percent of men and 43 percent of women considered it “sex” when a man experienced an orgasm. Forty-one percent of students believed men considered female orgasm during oral sex to be “sex,” while over 15 percent more believed women would see the same activity as “sex.” Surprisingly, nearly half the male survey respondent viewed a female orgasm as sex, though women believed that less men would.

Trust me when I say that I’m the biggest skeptic you’ll find of social studies research. In a way, it’s odd to think that I make decisions that affect my life in a way that conforms to the way that everyone else around me makes decisions about their own. Personal decisions take an identity, a personality — and sex is as personal as it gets.

There’s also the issue with quantifying identity: there’s no numerical value that can fully explain where I, or any other college student, fall on the spectrum of possible gender identities and sexual orientations. There’s no study that completely manages to capture the beautiful spirit of self-identification.

Yet, there’s a certain comfort that comes out of knowing I’m not alone in my uncertainty about men. It’s scary, and no study can adequately prepare me for what to expect when with being with someone for the first time.

I’ve seen the data, and now so have you. But for now, I think I’m going to take a step back from it all. There’s been this rumor floating around that sex needs to have a monumental meaning to be statistically — or even socially — significant.

So, no, I get to decide when sex is significant to me.

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