A symbol for sex

About 2 min reading time

“What is an appropriate symbol for sex?”. The question I asked myself some time ago might seem somewhat trivial at first, but when you dig deeper, it reveals a bunch of sub-questions and scenarios.

The project I worked with was Spotimood, and I was in the process of creating/finding icons for the different activities. I came to “sex”. My absolutely first initial thought was going with the old male/female symbol:


But this isn’t cutting it. Sex isn’t about just a male and a female person (hetero). This symbol alienates a bunch of groups of people. I did some googling and surprisingly didn’t find much noteworthy written information about a universal icon or symbol for the sex act.

This was some time ago, and I’m afraid I didn’t document my process of finding the symbol, so let’s take a jump in time to the final result I ended up with. In all sorts of design (software, UI, graphical) it’s vital to simplify. Complicated designs are to me evil and un-human. Reduce lines, reduce shapes, reduce the visual impression to its core values. That’s what I did.

I imagined the act itself. What is sex? It’s not only for procreation these days, so babies in the symbol was a no-no. Further it’s not only about love either, so I couldn’t bring in any heart icons or that kind of stuff. In order to create a symbol which alienates no one, I had to go very abstract: no gender specific icons, since it would be a ton of more work to incorporate every sexual orientation. To me, sex is about being one. It’s one of the unique things we share with animals in nature. In the act, we are physically and mentally so close to each other, which doesn’t exist in any other part of daily life or society.

Sex symbol

The above result is the most simple and abstract symbol for sex I could come up with.

A breakdown:

  • A circle is to me a symbol for life.
  • Two almost connected circles stands for two individuals being close to one, but still being separate.
  • The two circles are equal, since the participants in the act should be just that.
  • If the act is about procreation, the circles symbolize the process of the sperm and the egg fusing into one.
  • The circle intersection is about surrendering and sharing a part of yourself to another person, since the act is about giving and taking.

On top of all the high-level speak above, I find the symbol attractive, meaningful and simple.