It makes no sense to ask whether "sex" burns calories. Sex is just too broad a church to offer a definitive answer: it runs the gauntlet from the humble through-the-pants hand-job to full-blown, genitals-entering-genitals fucking. While all forms of sexual contact are equally valid – can we please stop glorifying the penetrative! – some require a greater level of exertion and, as a result, burn more calories.
But which sex acts will give you the best workout? There are too many to consider every one, so let's instead focus on the stalwarts; the standards; the all-time classics.
Does Penetrative Sex Burn Calories?
Obviously there's a variation between different positions, vaginal or anal, but in short: yes. Research by the University of Minnesota suggests that men burn 100 calories during the average sex session, while women burn 69 (I refuse to go "...nice!" because I'm not a fucking loser.)
So far, so heteronormative. For the men who have sex with men out there, Superdrug’s website has a feature that helps you to calculate how much energy you're burning during sex, based on your weight, gender and preferred sexual position. It suggests that, if you're a top, you'll burn 162 calories, while if you're a bottom you’ll only burn 152… top privilege strikes again!
In an effort to be as inclusive as possible towards queer women, I tried to find some similar stats for pegging, but sadly this remains an under-researched area.
Does Giving Head Burn Calories?
According to an article published in that famous newspaper of record, The Daily Star, "a woman can burn 100 calories every half an hour from performing oral sex". This is roughly the same amount of calories as burned by 15 minutes on a rowing machine. The article continues, "Los Angeles–based sexologist Jaiya Kinzbach recommends doing push-ups during the act or even trying out some yoga."
Now, far be it from me to contradict Los Angeles-based sexologist Jaiya Kinbzach, but it's hard to imagine anything more disconcerting than someone doing push-ups while they're sucking your dick. One website, offering the same advice, predicts that "your partner will be so excited and amazed!" Perhaps – although I personally would be given the impression that they were not entirely focused on the task at hand. Why not just do some cardio beforehand and then suck someone off? In the immortal words of the meerkat from the Compare the Market adverts: simples!
Does Eating Someone Out Burn Calories?
There's a surfeit of information out there on the benefits of sucking dick, but when it comes to eating pussy – tumbleweed. If there’s a more damning indictment of the gender bias in STEM, I'm yet to see it. But cunnilingus requires a similar level of tongue-action as fellatio, if a slightly less intense degree of head-bobbing, so it stands to reason that it would burn a similar number of calories.
Men's magazine Maxim suggests that the greatest health benefit of performing cunnilingus is actually the fuzzy glow of altruism it gives. Thinking of sex with your partner as a favour you’re doing them – your good deed for the day – seems a very cool and healthy approach.
Does Receiving Oral Sex Burn Calories?
It depends. Receiving fellatio can be the laziest sex act possible. If you're just lying back and letting your partner do all the work, the calorie-burning potential is likely to be close to nil. But a vigorous face-fucking session would presumably burn as many calories as penetrative sex, providing the thrusts are of the same depth and pace.
Does Rimming Burn Calories?
I'm sorry, but I simply refuse to say "eating ass", given the fact I'm neither American nor a lame straight guy desperately trying to convince women I'm both a selfless lover and a bit of a freak. But for all that rimming has become a millennial meme, there has been no rigorous academic research carried out on whether it burns calories – so what the hell am I paying my taxes for!
In the absence of any peer-reviewed studies from Imperial College London, I took to the next best thing: Reddit. But still I found nothing. The closest thing is a thread that poses the question "how many calories would I consume per hour eating ass?" to which one user helpfully replies, "It depends on the ass." The ensuing conversation was unnerving: do these people know they’re not supposed to literally eat the ass?
Lacking any solid research to cite, I'm going to hedge my bets and say that rimming will burn some amount of calories, but probably not enough to make a discernible impact on either your physical health or appearance.
So maybe sex isn't the most efficient way to burn calories. But, importantly, who cares? Must we allow these capitalistic ideas of self-optimisation to infiltrate every aspect of our lives? Do we really need to be self-improving while we're getting our end away? Not everything has to be productive. Some things are fun and good on their own terms. So shag away, my friends. Shag away.
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.