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Wiktionary defines a hobby as

An activity that one enjoys doing in one's spare time.

Other dictionaries tend to have similar definitions.

Viewpoint 1

Some people believe that the word hobby can be used for any regularly practiced leisure activity, such as watching TV, or listening to music.

Viewpoint 2

On the other hand, others believe use of the word is not appropriate for passive activities such as watching TV. If watching TV were a hobby, one could argue that watching the wall could also be technically a hobby.

Also, by Wiktionary's definition, having sex would fall under 'hobby'. It is not commonplace to refer to having sex as a hobby so another logical criterion to refer to something by the word 'hobby' could be that the activity (or interest in it) should not be too universal.

Question

So, what constitutes correct usage of the word 'hobby'?

Does any pastime (watching TV, having sex...) qualify to be called a hobby or are there one or more criteria such as:

  • Shouldn't be too universal
  • Shouldn't be a passive activity
  • Should be a productive or developmental activity

Edit: Please let us not get carried away with sex-related jokes and discussions but focus on the definition of the word hobby

closed as primarily opinion-based by user140086, Mitch, Drew, NVZ, tchrist Jun 25 '16 at 12:58

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    Sex Beyond Procreation - Sex as Hobby : We should treat Sex as a Hobby. A hobby is defined as an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure. Does that not describe a healthy non-procreative sex life? Sex should be treated as a leisure time activity that many people engage in, but not everyone, and that’s okay. People enjoy different hobbies; people take up different hobbies at different points in their lives. That’s how sex should be treated, an activity that mutually-consenting people enjoy. ieet.org/index.php/IEET/print/10500 – user66974 Jun 22 '16 at 10:22
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    "By continually participating in a particular hobby, one can acquire substantial skill and knowledge in that area. " Wikipedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hobby – Kris Jun 22 '16 at 10:24
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    I can't see any reason not to call it a hobby. However, in most situations where people discuss hobbies, I can see why one would not mention it as a hobby - mainly because of social taboo. If I'm interviewing you for a job, it may be interesting to know you run marathons, collect stamps or enjoy reading. I certainly do not want to, or need to know that a prospective employee sees having sex as a hobby, the same way I would not be interested in learning that said prospect likes to crossdress or is a nudist. Those fall under the "too much information" (TMI) category. – oerkelens Jun 22 '16 at 11:46
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    I think everybody is right here (or wrong) sex because it's considered an essential part of daily life is not a hobby but it could be; the same for cooking : some people find it a boring chore, some do it by necessity, some do it by pleasure, some do it to please their partner, some make it a job, and some make it a hobby...replace cooking by sport, by walking, by any occupation or by sex and you got your answer. Sex is a biological function, but human can turn anything into a leisure activity (even being tortured as in BDSM), if it's recurring and you try to get better at it :it's a hobby. – P. O. Jun 22 '16 at 13:03
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    The nuances of the words 'hobby' and 'sex' are known. judgement as to their overlap are cultural or philosophical speculation. This question belongs on philosophy.stackexchange.com – Mitch Jun 22 '16 at 13:21
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No.

Although it may adhere to the dictionary definition, so do many other activities such as petting your cat and having a nice relaxing bath and these are not hobbies either.

I would argue it isn't a hobby for these reasons:

  • It (reproduction) is one of the 8 life functions and therefore would be biologically considered akin to breathing and eating (even if performed for pleasure, which eating often is too).

  • It is ubiquitously performed by the entire human race. Something that everyone does isn't a hobby, even if it is situational/seasonal.

  • It is generally involving a very specific set of circumstances. Hobbies are generally considered to be open to everyone and anyone, such as joining a mountaineering club or other club where you require a group of people. Sex is a personal activity requiring a specific person to perform with, that you've built up a rapport with over time. You cannot simply join a club or sign up for the activity.

Exceptions to the above might be if you actively seek partners out to have sex with, join swinging groups, etc. however you'd probably need to rephrase and say that your hobby is seeking out people to have sex with, rather than declaring sex to be a hobby directly in those situations.

  • I think your answer is really insightful. Would watching TV be considered a hobby under your definition? – hb20007 Jun 22 '16 at 12:59
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    Collecting celebrity chef meals can't be a hobby because it's eating? Practicing certain breathing styles (didgeridoo circular breathing, 4-7-8 relaxation breathing, deep sea dive oxygen saturation) can't be hobbies because it's breathing? Color me unconvinced by this rationale. If the split is "actively sought" vs "just because" to paraphrase the last paragraph, that's the answer, not the bullet list in front. – user662852 Jun 22 '16 at 13:05
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    Try living without breathing for about ten minutes, still alive? I doubt it. Try not eating food for 30 days, what happens? You're most likely to die. An adult man or woman can survive, and live, and work, and still have a family (artificial insemination) without having sex. Breathing and eating are not hobbies, they are a necessity. – Mari-Lou A Jun 22 '16 at 14:47
  • @Mari-LouA When you practice hypogastric breathing while running or mediating and when you enjoy exotic international cuisin on a regular basis, they could certainly be hobby, too. Your comment seems to support my argument that the question should be closed as primarily opinion-based. This question is not about English Language and Usage. I think Mitch nailed it. – user140086 Jun 22 '16 at 18:05
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    I don't think generally watching TV is a hobby unless you go more specialised, because I think hobbies imply a degree of participation/learning. Watching nature documentaries for example would give you the hobby of being interested in and learning about nature, rather than tv watching. Specialisation can certainly turn mundane tasks into hobbies, as I suggested in the last paragraph. So while eating isn't a hobby, exploring fine dining may be a hobby if it stops being a passive event and you seek to learn something from it. – NibblyPig Jun 23 '16 at 10:13
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Dictionary.com

  1. an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation:

Merriam-Webster

  1. a small Old World falcon (Falco subbuteo) that is dark blue above and white below with dark streaking on the breast
  2. a pursuit outside one's regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation

Cambridge Dictionaries Online

  1. an activity that someone does for pleasure when they are not working:

Wikipedia

A hobby is a regular activity that is done for enjoyment, typically during one's leisure time. Hobbies can include collecting themed items and objects, engaging in creative and artistic pursuits, playing sports, or pursuing other amusements. [...] By continually participating in a particular hobby, one can acquire substantial skill and knowledge in that area. Engagement in hobbies has increased since the late nineteenth century as workers have more leisure time and advancing production and technology have provided more support for leisure activities. As some hobbies have become less popular, like stamp collecting, others have been created following technological advances, like video games.

I've heard of people, usually men, who claim their favourite pastime is having sex. A few might even call that activity a hobby, and I don't find anything objectionable to it. The only inconvenience with claiming sex as a hobby is that you need two people in order to pursue it. Traditional hobbies such as: photography, birdwatching, jogging, travelling, rock climbing, etc. are activities which do not require the presence of a second ally.

Well, what about masturbation? That's something you can do alone. But I don't hear or read about people who claim to be experts in jerking off.

Actually, that's a lie I do. But I'm not going to hunt down examples from the net to prove it ...

Yes, I am.

  1. From, Yahoo.answers: How can you stop making masturbation a hobby?
  2. From, Yahoo.answers: Can masturbation be used as a hobby when filling out a job application to a prestigious law firm?
  3. From, Is it Normal: Masturbation is a hobby?
  4. Why you should never let your friends proofread your resume
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    I don't see the number of people required to be a factor in what defines a hobby. For instance chess is a 'traditional' hobby which requires 2 people – hb20007 Jun 22 '16 at 11:10
  • @hb20007 I'm pretty sure that people passionate about chess, can and do practice that game/hobby alone. Aren't there computer programmes for that sort of thing? (You play against the computer) And then there's solo chess – Mari-Lou A Jun 22 '16 at 11:19
  • @Mari-LouA Chess is essentially a competitive game for 2 players. One controls the white pieces, and the other the black pieces, regardless of them being humans, computers or the same person. Wikipedia defines chess as a "two-player strategy board game" – hb20007 Jun 22 '16 at 11:28
  • @hb20007 I didn't say having sex cannot be termed a hobby because you need to be in two, I simply said it had an inconvenience inasmuch as you need a willing partner. But I find nothing objectionable to calling sex a hobby per se. Anyway, read the Wikipedia link it discusses the question about solitary pastimes vs hobbies performed in groups. – Mari-Lou A Jun 22 '16 at 11:40
  • To be fair, it's hard to tell that within the body of the post, since in that sentence you've used the word "claiming" which implies that convincing was necessary due to that fact. That sentence and the one following it seems contextually superfluous if that connotation wasn't intended, given that in that case it does not seem like strictly lingual commentary, so I do suggest removing at least those two. – Tonepoet Jun 22 '16 at 15:16

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