Sex vs. Love: Differences Between Love and Sex

teenage sex

Love and sex are NOT the same thing. Love is an emotion or a feeling. There is no one definition of love because the word "love" can mean many different things to many different people. Sex, on the other hand, is a biological event. Even though there are different kinds of sex, most sexual acts have certain things in common. Sex may or may not include penetration.

"What's the difference between sex and love? I have four wives and five kids. I apparently don't know the difference."

- James Caan, actor

Differences Between Love and Sex


  • Love is a feeling (emotional).
  • There is no exact "right" definition of love for everybody.
  • Love involves feelings of romance and/or attraction.


  • Sex is an event or act (physical).
  • There are different kinds of sex but all kinds of sex have some things in common.
  • Can happen between a male and a female, between two females, between two males, or by one's self (masturbation)


The word for not having sex is called abstinence. Some people, especially people who think it's not cool to wait to have sex, think that abstinence is a completely bad thing. Actually, there are some really good things about abstinence and some of them might apply to you.

  • Abstinence, or not having oral, vaginal or anal sex, is the best way to protect yourself. It is possible to get an STD even without having intercourse (penetrative sex) through skin-to-skin contact (herpes and genital warts can be passed this way).

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    You also have to think about your own personal values and feelings. Your teenage years bring a lot of changes in how you feel about yourself, family, friends and potential love interests--even if you don't think about sex. No matter what your feelings on sex are, it may be smart to wait until something "feels right."

Ways to Express Love Without Sex

There are millions of nonsexual ways to show someone you like them. You can show a person you care for them by spending time with them. Go to the movies. Or just hang out and talk. If you are with someone you really like, then anything can be fun. There are other ways to feel physically close without having sex. These ways include everything from kissing and hugging to touching and petting each other. Just remember that if you're not careful these activities can lead to sex. Plan beforehand just how far you want to go, and stick to your limits. It can be difficult to say NO and mean it when things get hot and heavy.

next: Does Having Sex Mean Falling in Love

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, December 25). Sex vs. Love: Differences Between Love and Sex, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 15 from

Last Updated: August 19, 2014

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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