Like most Americans, when I heard reports that philandering South Carolina Governor governor Mark Sanford confessed to crossing the line, but not "the sex line" with many women, I assumed he meant the 70th Parallel North, aka The Sex Line—meaning he went many places with many women, but didn't take any of them to Victoria Island in Canada. It's a weird thing to mention, but, whatever, he seems like a weird guy.

CBS News, however, thought Sanford was referring to, you know, doing it. The problem is, no one ever sat CBS News down and explained to them that when two people love each other very much, they take off all their clothes and jump up and down on a bed with the doors closed. Later on, they call a stork together, and nine months later a baby arrives. That's called sex. Birds do it. Bees do it. People do it. Everyone, it seems, does it. Except for CBS News (via Gawker):

We talk about sex. A lot.

But all too often we don't know exactly what we're talking about. What's considered getting to third base these days anyway?

And when it comes to philandering politicians, the line on what's considered sex is especially fuzzy.

President Bill Clinton said oral sex wasn't sex. South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford says in his latest revelation that he "crossed lines" with women other than his wife and Argentine mistress, but "didn't cross the sex line." He wouldn't say what that meant.

If those distinctions have you confused, you aren't alone. Neither are Clinton and Sanford. Americans just aren't explicit when they talk about having "had sex."


Poor CBS News. They just want some politicians to talk dirty to them. I mean, it's pretty obvious what sex is. It's stock footage of shooting geysers and trains going into tunnels. Also, it's when people are kissing on or near a bed, and then the camera pans over to the window. And sometimes, it's this:

That's sex. You would think that a decades-strong national news organization would know that by now. But apparently, everything CBS News learned about sex, they learned from Meat Loaf:

In the classic Meat Loaf song, "Paradise By The Dashboard Light," radio broadcaster Phil Rizzuto describes baseball players advancing bases, as a young couple negotiates intimacy in their car.

It helped cement the public on the 1960s analogy of first, second, third and home to increasingly intimate sexual activities.

But even that is changing. According to a book by Australian sex researchers Juliet Richters and Chris Rissel, in the 1960s third base was "touching below the waist."

"Nowadays it seems that for many people the pattern of accepted activities includes oral sex as third base," Richters and Rissel wrote in "Doing it Down Under."    


Maybe that's how the bases are in Australia, but here in America oral sex is second base, and rainbow parties/light furry play are third. Also, no one listens to "Paradise By The Dashboard Light" as a sex guide anymore (or ever). Nowadays people use George Michael's "Monkey"—if you can make it through all the bases by the time "Monkey" is over, you've "had sex." If not, then you're "just fooling around." Everyone knows that.

But "sex" isn't the only word CBS News wants clarification on. They also want to know exactly what "cheating" means:

And intentions - lusting in your heart just like former President Jimmy Carter - bring about a whole other issue for politicians, because cheating is so loosely defined, Janssen said.

Is it cheating to go out to dinner with someone other than your spouse and not tell, or what about dancing together? Sanford met his future mistress in Uruguay on the edge of a dance floor.

Sanford himself said, "If you're a married guy at the end of the day you shouldn't be dancing with somebody else."


"Cheating" obviously means whatever individual couples decide it means to them. But I'm pretty sure that whenever politicians say they were "dancing" with someone else, they mean "fucking." Does that help?