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File:Missionary style.svg

The missionary position, a typical example of conventional sex.

Conventional sex (known colloquially asVanilla sex ) is a description of what a culture regards as standard or conventional sexual behaviour. Different cultures, subcultures and individuals have different norms about what constitutes this type of sex. Often, it is interpreted as sex which 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. It can also be used to describe insertive sex without any element of BDSM or any fetish. The British Medical Journal defines vanilla sex between homosexual couples as "sex that does not extend beyond affection, mutual masturbation, and oral and anal sex."[1] This is contrasted by non-insertive acts such as intercrural sex, frottage and tribadism, although tribadism has been cited as a common, but rarely discussed, sexual practice among lesbians.[2][3]

The term "vanilla" derives from the use of vanilla extract as the basic flavoring for ice cream, and by extension, meaning "plain" or "conventional". In relationships where only 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.[4] 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.


  1. (13 February 1999)Homosexual men and women. BMJ 318 (7181).
  2. Carroll, Janell L. (2009). Sexuality Now: Embracing Diversity, Third, Belmont, Calif.: Cengage Learning. ISBN 0495602744, ISBN 9780495602743. URL accessed 2010-12-19.
  3. Halberstam, Judith (1998). Female Masculinity, Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press. ISBN 0822322439, ISBN 9780822322436. URL accessed 2010-12-19.
  4. Nichols, Margaret (2006). "Psychotherapeutic Issues With 'Kinky' Clients: Clinical Problems, Yours and Theirs" Sadomasochism: Powerful Pleasures, 281–300, New York: Harrington Park Press. ISBN 1560236396, ISBN 156023640X. URL accessed 9 November 2011. Paper on the difficulties facing "vanilla partners". Template:Google books.