Glossary

 

Click one of the letters above to advance the page to terms beginning with that letter.

A

abortion

A procedure to intentionally end a pregnancy before a birth. Miscarriage is also sometimes called "spontaneous abortion," even though it is usually not intended.

abuse

Purposeful harm or mistreatment of another person, which can be verbal, emotional, physical or sexual. An ongoing pattern or cycle of such mistreatment or harm can characterize an abusive relationship.

ace

In the context of sexuality, an abbreviation for asexual.

adults

People older than you who probably drive you batty. Or, people whose age in years exceeds the legal age of majority; people considered to be adults by law.

affection

A state or demonstration of fondness or care for someone, which may or may not be sexual.

age of consent

The age at which a person is considered in law to be able to consent to sexual activity. Someone above this age who has sex with someone below it can often be charged with statutory rape, even if the younger person wants to consent.

age-disparate

When two people are of different ages or life stages, usually with a substantial difference.

agender

A chosen or felt lack of gender identity.

aggressive

Behaving in a pushy, forceful or violent way.

AIDS

Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a very serious and often deadly disease of the immune system caused by HIV. AIDS itself can not be caught from another person, but those with AIDS have HIV, which is sexually transmissible. AIDS requires medical treatment.

anal intercourse

When a penis is inserted into and held by the anus while partners move their bodies as feels good to them for the purpose of sexual stimulation.

anal sex

Sexual activity involving the anus. Anal sex may include stimulation with fingers, the mouth, a penis, sex toys, or other objects or body parts.

analingus

Oral sex for, on or to the anus.

anatomy

The body, parts of the body, or physical structure of organisms like people, animals or plants.

androgyny

Being neither distinguishably masculine nor feminine (or a mishmosh of both), in dress, appearance, behavior or identity, either by choice or by circumstance.

anus

The external opening to the rectum, located between the buttocks.

aromantic

Not having an interest in romantic relationships.

arousal

A state of sexual excitement and interest that sends messages to the brain which create physical changes and sensations, such as increased blood pressure, erection, lubrication, loosening of the vaginal or anal muscles, and increased physical sensitivity.

asexual

In the context of human sexuality, someone who either does not experience or has not yet experienced any sexual desires at all, or who has experienced/does experience sexual desires, but not a desire to enact them with other individuals.

assertive

To be self-assured, self-confident. To stand up for oneself in a positive, nonviolent way.

autonomy

The state or condition of being independent and/or having the right to independence.

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B

Bacterial vaginosis

An imbalance in the vaginal environment, including pH changes, that occurs when different types of bacteria outnumber the normal, needed and healthy bacteria. It often requires some from of treatment, but sometimes will go away on its own.

BDSM

Describes sexual play and/or relationships involving exchanges of power and pain. B = bondage, D = discipline and/or dominance, S = submission and/or sadism, M = masochism.

binary

Made up of two things or parts; a system with only two possible options or parts.

biphobia

Prejudice against bisexuality and bisexual people.

birth control

Any number of methods people use to intentionally prevent unwanted pregnancy, including the condom, the cervical barrier, the implant, the patch, the pill, the rhythm method, the ring, the shot, the IUD, spermicide and withdrawal.

bisexual

A term for sexual orientation which either describes a person who can be sexually and emotionally attracted to both men and women or merely to people of more than one gender.

blastocyst

A stage of very early fetal development. If cell development continues and a blastocyst implants in the uterus, it will become an embryo and create a pregnancy.

blue balls

A slang term for a state of vasocongestion that becomes temporarily painful. Called "blue balls" because in those with testes, discomfort is also felt there, but people with vulvas can experience this too, and discomfort then is often felt in the uterus or clitoris.

body image

Our sense, awareness and perception of our body in appearance and function as it relates to our sense of self.

breast

Glandular tissue, fat, connective tissue and skin on the chest.

butch

Describes a person who is intentionally masculine in appearance, behavior, dress, identity or sexual attitude. Often used in relation to femme. Most often used in the LGBT community, but can refer to people of any orientation. However, some people see use of the word "butch" as an insult.

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C

celibate

Describes someone who does not engage in sexual activity, usually by choice.

cervical barrier

A birth control device which is inserted into the vagina to cover the cervix and prevent sperm from entering. Diaphragms, cervical caps and contraceptive sponges are kinds of cervical barriers.

cervix

The opening to the uterus, the bottom of which is at the back end of the vagina.

charting

A method of keeping track of fertility by keeping careful notes on the dates of a woman's period, as well as her temperature and cervical mucus. This is often used by people who are trying to get pregnant but is NOT an effective birth control method, as it fails frequently due to fluctuations in a woman's cycle and the fact that sperm can live in a woman's reproductive tract for several days. Also called "fertility awareness".

cherry

A slang term used to describe either the hymen/corona or something which signifies someone has not done something for the first time. "Popping the cherry" often describes doing something sexual for the first time, even though with first-time sex, there are not usually cherries or the popping of anything.

Chlamydia

A very common bacterial infection/STI. It can infect the cervix, urethra, testicles, fallopian tubes, and/or ovaries. It can also infect the throat when acquired through oral sex. Chlamydia requires medical treatment.

circumcision

A surgical removal of the foreskin from the penis, most often done in infancy, and most often done because of cultural or religious beliefs, parental aesthetic preferences or concerns about health. In some cases, circumcision is done at other times of life and/or for medical reasons.

cis gender

Describes people who have a gender identity which is traditionally thought to “match” their assigned sex, and thought to “match” many or most of the roles, behaviors and appearances culturally expected of that sex. For example, someone who was sexed male at birth and whose gender identity is masculine; who also feels male. Often used in relation to transgender.

classism

Prejudice, discrimination and oppression based on social or economic status/class or perceived or assigned social or economic status.

clean

In a sexual context, usually a word used to suggest not having any sexually transmitted infections. "Clean" is a poor choice of term, however, since it stigmatizes people with illness. Better choices are "negative," "clear" or "STI-free."

clitoris

A sexual organ both external and internal on the vulva and inside the pelvis of female sex-assigned people that is similar to the penis, but serves no other known purpose besides providing sexual pleasure.

communication

Various ways we express and share feelings or thoughts, such as through speech, written words or symbols, sign language, body language, touch or art.

conception

The onset of pregnancy, marked by implantation of the blastocyst into the endometrium (the lining of the uterus).

condom

A thin sheath or tube of latex or another material, worn over the penis during sex to prevent or reduce the risk of pregnancy and/or sexually transmitted infections.

consent

To agree to do something or give permission. In the context of sex, a person is giving full consent/is consenting when they freely and actively agree to do something sexual with someone else; however, the person still has the right to change their mind at any point. A person is NOT consenting if they do not actively agree, have been forced or pressured in some way or are in a state where they are incapable of full consent (such as when asleep, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or below the age of consent).

contraception

Devices, medications or behaviors used to intentionally aim to prevent pregnancy, including the condom, the cervical barrier, the implant, the patch, the pill, the rhythm method, the ring, the shot, the IUD, spermicide and withdrawal.

Contraceptive sponge

A method of birth control that consists of a spongy device filled with spermicide that provides a barrier at the entrance of the cervix.

corona

A newer name for the hymen, a thin membrane without nerve endings that most female-assigned people are born with that is just inside the vaginal opening. It gradually wears away over time due to hormones, vaginal discharges, general physical activity, sex and masturbation and/or childbirth. It does not snap, crackle or pop.

crura

The internal "legs" of the clitoris, which are within the outer labia (labia majora).

cunnilingus

Oral sex for, on or to the vulva.

cute little dog

Heather's pug, Sofia.

cybersex

Virtual (as in, not in person) sexual experiences or encounters which involve text conversations and/or visual exchanges via the Internet.

Cytomegalovirus

CMV is one member of a group of herpes-type viruses. It is an STI transmitted through body fluids, and requires medical treatment.

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D

dental dam

A barrier used for safer sex during cunnilingus or analingus, usually a thin sheet of latex. Dental dams can also be self-made by altering a condom or latex glove with scissors.

desire

A feeling of strongly wanting something. In the context of sex, desire can be a strong feeling of a physical and psychological want for any kind of sex.

dildo

An insertive sex toy that usually looks more or less like a penis (but can sometimes bear little resemblance) and is usually made from silicone or rubber, but can also be made with glass, wood, metal, or any number of innovative materials. Come in an endless variety of sizes, shapes, and colors.

discharge

In the context of sex and sexual health, any number of fluids which come from the genitals. Plenty of genital discharge is healthy, while some discharges can be symptoms of illness.

dry sex

A kind of sex where people have clothes on, but are pressing their genitals together. This can also be called frottage, grinding or dry humping.

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E

effectiveness

How well something works.

ejaculation

In a sexual context, a discharge of genital fluid, usually (but not always) as a result of sexual stimulation and/or orgasm.

embryo

During a pregnancy, the term for the developing cells of an organism until around eight-nine weeks after an ovum was fertilized. After this time, the organism would then be called a fetus.

emergency contraception

A method of contraception used to prevent pregnancy after sex or rape has already occurred, rather than used before or during, like most types of contraception.

enact

To put something into action: to actively do something, not just think or feel it.

endometrium

The lining of the uterus.

entry

In a sexual context, when a kind of sex involves someone putting one body part inside the body part of another person, such as with intercourse. Some people use the word "penetration" instead.

erection

When a body part, such as the penis or parts of the vulva, becomes filled with blood and enlarges and/or becomes more firm.

erogenous zones

Various areas of the body with a greater number of sensory nerve receptors than other areas, which people may find particularly sexually stimulating, such as (but by no means limited to) the lips, tongue, palms, fingers, feet, inner thighs, anus, nipples, neck, collarbone, nose, ears, armpits and/or the genitals.

erotica

Written, visual or other kinds of media either expressly designed to elicit feelings of sexual desire and/or which people use to elicit those feelings.

estrogen

A steroid hormone found in the bodies of all people which has several jobs. Like testosterone, people often say it's responsible for things it doesn't usually have much to do with (like mood).

exclusive

Something that is not divided or shared with others; which excludes others based on a given criteria.

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F

fallopian tubes

Two tubes that lead from the ovaries to the uterus. If and when an ovum is fertilized by a sperm, fertilization typically happens within the fallopian tube.

FAM

Fertility awareness methods of birth control, achieved by charting of fertility, ideally daily via cervical mucus and basal body temperatures, and interpreting that charting to determine when fertility is most and least likely, then abstaining or using a backup method during most fertile times.

fellatio

Oral sex for, on or to the penis.

female condom

A barrier method of contraception somewhat similar to a male condom, but inserted into the vagina rather than put on the penis. It has a flared base that sits on the outer parts of the vulva to hold it in place.

feminine

Describes something society associates with or attributes to women and girls or a state, experience or assignment of being female.

femme

Describes a person who is intentionally feminine in appearance, behavior, dress, identity or sexual attitude. Often used in relation to butch. Most often used in the LGBT community, but can refer to people of any orientation.

fertility awareness

A method of keeping track of fertility by keeping careful notes on the dates of a woman's period, as well as her temperature and cervical mucus. This is often used by people who are trying to get pregnant but is NOT an effective birth control method, as it fails frequently due to fluctuations in a woman's cycle and the fact that sperm can live in a woman's reproductive tract for several days. Also called "fertility charting" or just "charting".

fetus

In humans, the stage of prenatal development after an embryo, usually from about the eighth-ninth week after fertilization.

fisting

A term used to describe deep manual sex, where many fingers or a hand are gradually inserted into the vagina or anus.

foreplay

What some people call sexual activities that are not intercourse which they may do before intercourse or as a "warmup" to intercourse, such as kissing, manual sex or oral sex. However, all kinds of "foreplay" can also be or are kinds of sex, and may sometimes be the only sex people choose to or can engage in at a given time, or altogether.

foreskin

A loose tube of skin with nerve endings that extends from shaft of the penis to below the glans and which normally covers the head of the penis when it is not erect. Those born with penises are also born with a foreskin, but some foreskins are removed (circumcised) in infancy or later in life for any of a variety of different reasons.

fourchette

A small fold of skin at the posterior (bottom) end of the vulva.

friends with benefits

People who have a sexual relationship that is not romantic, but where they are also (and are supposed to behave like) friends. Often a casual relationship, but not always. FWBs may or may not be exclusive.

frottage

Rubbing against the body of another person -- usually with clothes on -- to express sexual feelings or seek out sexual pleasure. "Dry humping" is a form of frottage.

FWB

Friends with benefits.

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G

G-spot

A portion of the internal clitoris 1-3 inches within the vagina on the anterior (front) wall which can be sexually stimulating and which is often associated with female ejaculation.

gay

In the context of sexuality, a word for sexual orientation which either describes a man who is sexually and emotionally attracted to other men, or a person of any sex or gender who is sexually and emotionally attracted to people of the same or a similar sex or gender. Often used alongside lesbian.

gender

Characteristics that are seen or presented as distinguishing between male and female. Gender may or may not include assigned or chosen: sex, social roles, feelings, behaviors and/or presentation or appearance.

gender dysphoria

Discomfort with an assigned sex and/or gender and/or the gender norms and roles associated with either.

gender expression

The way people externally communicate gender identity to others through their behavior and their outward, chosen appearance.

gender identity

A person's own sense of whether and in what sense they feel they might be a man, a woman, a boy, a girl or gender nonconforming.

gender nonconforming

People who do not adhere to or who protest cultural rules or norms about dress, behaviors or activities for people based on their sex.

gendernormative

What is considered "normal" for a given gender or sex, even if it's not. These ideas may be widespread, or may be specific to a given group, area or historical period of time.

genderqueer

Describes someone whose chosen gender identity is neither masculine nor feminine, is between or beyond genders, which rejects binary gender, or which is some combination of genders.

genital sex

Kinds of sex people have which involve the vulva, vagina, penis, testicles, anus and/or rectum or any immediate areas surrounding those parts.

genitals

External sexual or reproductive organs.

glans

On the penis, the head of the penis. On the vulva, the external portion of the clitoris, beneath the clitoral hood.

GLBT

G = gay, L = lesbian, B = bisexual, T = transgender. Additional letters sometimes added include Q = queer/questioning, U = unsure, I = intersex, P = pansexual, S = straight allies.

gonads

The organs that make ovum or sperm cells (the ovaries and testes respectively).

Gonorrhea

A bacterial infection/STI which can infect the cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, urethra, mouth, throat or anus. It requires medical treatment.

gynecological exam

An exam usually for those with a vulva/vagina that may involve any of the following: a visual exam of the genitals, a breast exam, a bimanual exam, a speculum exam, a pap smear, STI testing, birth control consultation and other education or healthcare services.

gynecologist

(Pronounced guy-na-coll-o-jist) A doctor that specializes in the health of the female reproductive tract. They may also be referred to as "OB/GYNs" or, informally, "gynos".

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H

healthcare provider

A qualified person to provide sound physical and/or mental healthcare, such as a doctor, nurse, clinician, counselor, medical assistant, midwife or other healthcare professional.

Hepatitis

A chronic infectious liver disease with several different types. Hepatitis A, B and C are the most common and can all be transmitted sexually. All require medical care. Vaccines are available for hepatitis A and B.

Herpes

A viral disease caused by both or either herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and/or type 2 (HSV-2). Both can be transmitted via sex or other intimate contact, including between outbreaks. "Cold sores" are a symptom of HSV-1. Herpes cannot be cured, but treatments are available to reduce outbreaks.

heterosexual

Someone who is only or mostly emotionally and sexually attracted to people of a different sex or gender than they are themselves.

hickey

A bruise or bruise-like mark caused by intense kissing and sucking on the skin. Usually appear in delicate areas such as the neck, breast, or arm. How much sucking is required to cause a hickey will depend on the skin in question- on very delicate skin it may not take much at all. Also called a "love bite".

HIV

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that eventually destroys the immune system and weakens the body's ability to fight disease and infection. It usually progresses to AIDS. It is a serious sexually transmitted infection that requires medical treatment, although it cannot be cured.

homophobia

Prejudice against homosexuality and homosexual people.

homosexual

Someone who is only or mostly emotionally and sexually attracted to people of their same sex or of the same or a similar gender.

HPV

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common sexually transmitted infection with more than 40 HPV types that can infect the genitals as well as the mouth and throat. Some types of HPV can cause cancers, and some types cause genital warts. There are vaccines for some types of HPV, and those with HPV require medical treatment.

hymen

A thin membrane without nerve endings that most female-assigned people are born with that is just inside the vaginal opening. It gradually wears away over time due to hormones, vaginal discharges, general physical activity, sex and masturbation and/or childbirth. It does not snap, crackle or pop.

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I

identity

The defining character or personality of an individual; who we feel like we are as a person. Identity is often used to talk about sexual identity -- who we are as sexual people, which can include things like our sexual orientation, our preferences and things we like and want in sex and sexuality, our sexual politics -- or gender identity, who we feel we are and identify as (even if only to ourselves) in terms of our gender.

infection

When harmful microbes, or germs, or harmful levels of microbes/germs, enter the body and multiply, causing illness. The common cold, flu viruses, sexually transmitted infections, chickenpox, impetigo, rabies and diphtheria are some kinds of infections.

insertive partner

A sexual partner who is inserting a part of their bodies into a partner's body in some way.

intercourse

When people interlock their genitals and move together as feels good to them for the purpose of sexual stimulation and/or reproduction.

intersex

A socially constructed category that reflects real biological variation. Intersex is a general term used to describe a variety of conditions where a person is born with reproductive and/or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to, or isn't understood to, fit the typical definitions of female or male, and/or is born a chromosomal combination other than XX or XY. Some intersex conditions are Turner Syndrome, Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, Klinefelter's Syndrome, MRKH and Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia.

introitus

The entrance into a canal or hollow organ, such as the vagina. "Vaginal introitus" is another term for the vaginal opening.

IUD

Intra-uterine device. A long-term birth control method inserted into the uterus by a healthcare provider. Also called an IUS or IUC.

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K

kinky

Describes sexual practices or activities which a person or group of people considers to be outside "the norm", or describes a person who enjoys and/or pursues those practices.

kissing

Pressing one's lips against someone else's lips or some other body part to express affection and/or to seek out or provide sexual pleasure. May also include the tongue.

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L

labia

On the vulva, both inner (labia minora) and outer (labia majora) sets of skin with sensory nerve endings which surround the vaginal opening.

lesbian

Describes the sexual orientation of a woman who is sexually and emotionally attracted only or mostly to other women.

LGBT

L = lesbian, G = gay, B = bisexual, T = transgender. Additional letters sometimes added include Q = queer/questioning, U = unsure, I = intersex, P = pansexual, S = straight allies.

LGBTQ

L = lesbian, G = gay, B = bisexual, T = transgender, Q = queer or questioning. Additional letters sometimes added include U = unsure, I = intersex, P = pansexual, A= asexual, S = straight allies.

libido

The physical and emotional urge or feeling of desire for some kind of sex, which may include masturbation.

lubricant

A fluid used in order to make kinds of sex (such as masturbation, vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse or manual sex) more pleasant and comfortable, and/or to help prevent condoms from breaking by decreasing friction.

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M

making out

A vague term, but often a session of extended activity that includes passionate or deep kissing, some kind of other body contact and may even include other kinds of sex, like manual sex (fingering or handjobs).

manual sex

Sometimes also called digital sex. Kinds of sex involving the hands and fingers to sexually stimulate the genitals or other parts of the body. Fingering, handjobs or "fisting" (deep manual sex) are some kinds of manual sex.

masculine

Describes something society associates with or attributes to men and boys or a state, experience or assignment of being male.

masturbation

Ways that people seek out and/or experience sexual pleasure by themselves, without a sexual partner.

menarche

When menstruation begins, usually during puberty; a first period.

menses

The flow during menstruation, composed mostly of endometrium, including blood. Sometimes flow contains portions of the endometrium as solid tissue, which is often confused with blood clots.

menstrual

Having to do with menstruation.

menstruation

The shedding of the uterine lining as part of the menstrual cycle.

miscarriage

When a pregnancy ends before birth all by itself, often without anyone having done anything to make that happen.

molluscum

A viral infection that can be sexually transmitted and usually causes a mild skin disease. It will often go away on it's own in 6-12 months, but may also be able to be treated in some cases.

monogamous

In the context of sex, people choosing to be with each other sexually exclusively; to only have one sexual partner at a time.

mons

A mound of fatty tissue (skin) covering the upper portion of the vulva. In adult people, this area is usually where much of the pubic hair is.

mutual masturbation

When sexual partners masturbate together. Sometimes people also use "mutual masturbation" to mean manual sex (fingering or handjobs) done at the same time.

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N

nervous system

The system of cells, tissues and organs that regulate our body's responses to internal and external stimuli.

non-exclusive

Describes something which does not exclude others in some way, which is open.

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O

OB/GYN

A physician who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology; in the reproductive and sexual health of people with a vulva, including providing care with pregnancy, contraception, sexually transmitted infections and menstrual, vulval or vaginal issues and concerns.

oral contraceptives

Birth control pills.

oral contraceptives

Hormonal medications, taken by mouth daily, used to prevent unwanted pregnancy.

oral sex

Use of the mouth, lips or tongue for sexual stimulation. Cunnilingus ("going down on"), fellatio ("blowjobs") and analingus ("rimming") are some common kinds of oral sex.

orgasm

An event typically in response to physical or intellectual sexual stimulation, controlled by the involuntary nervous system. Orgasm often results in muscle contractions in and around the genitals, other muscular spasms throughout the body, and a feeling of sexual and/or tension release.

ovaries

The reproductive organs that contain and release ovum.

ovulation

The process in the human menstrual/fertilty cycle where a mature ovarian follicle ruptures and releases an ovum.

ovum

A reproductive cell, sometimes also called an egg. Ova (plural) are stored in the ovaries and released into the fallopian tubes during ovulation, and can then be fertilized by sperm cells which can result in pregnancy.

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P

pansexual

Someone who may be/is attracted to other people of any gender or sex, not just men or women. Pansexual is often used as a more inclusive term than bisexual, which supports or implies that gender is binary (which it isn't).

pap smear

A medical test (sometimes called a pap test) done by swabbing the cervix which checks for changes/abnormalities of the cervical cells. It can be used to identify changes to those cells due to HPV or cancer or which could lead to cancer.

partner

In a sexual context, a person with whom someone is having some kind of sex. The term "partner" can be used for all kinds of relationships, not just serious ones. "Partner" can also mean the person someone is with in a romantic or familial partnership.

penis

One of the two external reproductive organs of male-assigned people.

penis-in-vagina intercourse

When a penis is inserted into and held by the vagina while partners move their bodies as feels good to them for the purpose of either sexual stimulation and/or reproduction.

perfect use

When a birth control method is used correctly and reliably, the whole time, every time, in accordance with the manufacturer's directions. Many birth control methods will state an effectiveness for "perfect use" vs. "typical use."

perianal

Around the anus.

perineum

The general region of the body between the anus and the testes or the anus and the vaginal opening. Some people call the perineum the "tain't."

period

The fluid, which contains blood, from the shedding of the uterine lining usually at the end of each fertility cycle. Or, that flow you perhaps may have experienced once while shouting, "Oh thank GAWD!"

petting

Affectionate or sexual stroking and touching. Petting historically has also meant any kind of sex besides intercourse. When it includes kinds of genital sex, it's sometimes called "heavy petting."

phone sex

Sexual encounters or experiences in which people talk about sex or role-play sexually via the telephone, often paired with masturbation.

PID

Pelvic inflammatory disease is a serious infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes and other reproductive organs, most often caused by an untreated STI like chlamydia and gonorrhea. Douching has also been associated with PID. It is often associated with ectopic pregnancy and infertility, and those under 25 are more likely to develop PID than those over 25.

platonic

Something intimate or affectionate but not sexual.

PMS

Short for "premenstrual syndrome". A varying set of symptoms that many women experience just prior to their period. Possible symptoms may include irritability, fatigue, cramps, headaches, backaches, nausea, moodswings, feeling bloated, breast tenderness, and a huge number of other physical and emotional symptoms.

polyamorous

People choosing to have more than one sexual or romantic partner at a time. Polyamory usually implies that this is wanted by all parties, negotiated and agreed upon. Polyamory is not "cheating," unless someone breaks the agreements they have made in polyamorous relationships.

pornography

Written, visual or other kinds of media either expressly designed to elicit feelings of sexual desire and/or which people use to elicit those feelings.

pre-ejaculate

A fluid which the penis usually emits with or around erection and before ejaculation, sometimes more than once. Pre-ejaculate itself does not contain sperm, but in some cases, can pick up traces of sperm left in the urethra.

pregnancy

The state of carrying a developing embryo or fetus within the uterus. Medically, someone is considered to be regnant when an egg has been fertilized by sperm, cells divide, and the fertilized egg is implanted within the lining of the uterus.

pregnancy test

What we tell you to take when you ask us if you're pregnant. A test that can be done at home or by a healthcare provider to determine pregnancy. Usually a urine test, a pregnancy test measures for a specific hormone, hCG, only produced with pregnancy.

premenstrual syndrome

A varying set of symptoms that many women experience just prior to their period. Possible symptoms may include irritability, fatigue, cramps, headaches, backaches, nausea, moodswings, feeling bloated, breast tenderness, and a huge number of other physical and emotional symptoms. Frequently called "PMS"

progesterone

A steroid hormone in people's bodies, which is also included synthetically in hormonal birth control methods.

prostate gland

A highly sensory, walnut-sized gland inside the body, below the bladder and between the rectum and urethra at the base of the penis.

puberty

The process of physical and sexual changes from childhood to adulthood, initiated by hormone signals from the brain to the gonads. Puberty usually takes several years to complete -- sometimes even more then five or six -- and changes the brain, bones, muscles, skin, breasts and reproductive organs.

pubic hair

The hair that grows around the genital and anal regions (often extending a ways up the front or back and onto the inner thights) and usually first appears around puberty. It may vary in color, texture, length, and thickness.

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Q

queer

In the context of sexuality, a broad term for sexual orientation that can describe any number of orientations which are not heterosexual. People who identify as queer may be bisexual or pansexual, gay or lesbian, questioning, asexual or more.

QUILTBAG

An acronym used to express the following sexual and gender identities/groups: Q, Queer and/or Questioning, U, Unidentified, I, Intersex, L, Lesbian, T, Trans, B, Bisexual, A, Asexual (and/or) Allies, G, Gay and/or Genderqueer (GQ).

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R

racism

Prejudice, discrimination and oppression based on race or perceived or assigned race.

rape

When one person does a sexual act to, on or inside another person who does not want to participate; who refuses to participate and/or who does not or is unable to fully and freely consent to take part in that activity.

receptive partner

A sexual partner who is having something done to them, or who is taking a part of a partner's body or a sex toy into their bodies.

rectum

The internal passage between the anus and the colon; stores solid waste until it leaves the body through a bowel movement.

relationship

Some kind of ongoing interaction or association with another person, place or thing.

There are all kinds of relationships: family relationships, friendships, romantic relationships and sexual relationships are a few, and sometimes those will overlap where we have more than one kind of relationship with someone. Sometimes people use the word relationship to only mean a romantic, "serious" or committed relationship, even though that's not all this word means.

reproductive rights

Legal or practical rights and freedoms relating to reproduction and reproductive health. The right to choose when and if to become a parent for ourselves or to become or remain pregnant or not are some kinds of reproductive rights.

romantic

Of, or relating to, sexual or courtly love or interest.

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S

safer sex

Practices which aim to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections, such as use of condoms and other latex/nonlatex barriers, regular testing for infections and limiting the number of sexual partners. It's "safer" instead of "safe" because these practices can reduce risks greatly, but cannot remove all risk.

Scabies

A skin disease caused by a mite which can be transmitted sexually or by nonsexual contact. It requires medical treatment.

self-gratification

The act of satisfying only your own desires or only seeking pleasure for and/or about oneself.

semen

Fluid which comes from the urethra of the penis during ejaculation, and which usually contains sperm. Sperm cells are only about 2-5% of hat's in semen: semen also contains amino acids, enzymes, flavins, fructose, prostaglandins, proteins, acids and other elements. In human reproduction, semen both helps sperm "swim," and counteract the acidic nature of the vagina, which would otherwise be hostile to sperm.

sensitivity

A responsiveness to internal or external stimulus.

sex

Different things people choose to do to actively express or enact sexuality and sexual feelings; often this involves genitals, but not always. The word sex also means a way people, animals or plants are classified based on their chromosomes, genitals or reproductive organs.

sexism

Prejudice, discrimination and oppression based on sex or gender or perceived or assigned sex or gender.

sexual

About or relating in some way to sex or sexuality.

sexual assault

When someone is attacked, or attacks someone else, in a sexual way. Doing something sexual to someone who does not want that done to them, often by force or threat, or having something done to you sexually by someone else that is not wanted and/or which you have not consented to.

sexual fantasy

An idea, thought or pattern of thoughts and/or ideas that creates or enhances sexual feelings.

sexual orientation

A term -- like homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, queer, straight, lesbian, gay, asexual -- used to describe a person's usual or current pattern of emotional, romantic and/or sexual attraction to other people in terms of gender.

sexual partner

Someone besides yourself you have intentionally, actively and physically explored your sexual feelings with in some way, like via sexual activity such as intercourse, oral sex or manual sex.

sexually active

Someone who has had or is currently having some kind of genital sex with a partner or partners.

sexually transmitted infections

STIs: illness, infection and/or disease which is often or can be transmitted through sexual or other intimate contact, like HIV, Chlamydia or Herpes. Some people call STIs STDs.

shaft

On the penis, the portion of the penis extending from below the head to the base of the penis, where it is attached to the body. On the vulva, an internal portion of the clitoris behind and beneath the clitoral glans.

simultaneous orgasm

When people reach orgasm at the same time, which is generally rare.

slut

Usually a slur that judges women (and sometimes others) by their known or assumed sexual history, or puts it in question in order to harass her. Sometimes, people will refer to themselves as sluts to try and reclaim the word and give it a positive meaning.

social justice

An equitable distribution of advantages, assets, and benefits among all members of a society.

sodomy

A vague term which either means any kind of genital sex other than vaginal intercourse, or any kind of sex a given group or person considers "unnatural" or sinful.

sperm

Reproductive cells of male sex-assigned people which can fertilize an ovum and create pregnancy.

spermicide

A chemical agent used for birth control which works by immobilizing or "killing" sperm.

stereotype

A fixed, commonly held notion or image of a person or group, usually based on an oversimplification of some observed or imagined trait of behavior or appearance among all members of that group.

STI

Sexually transmitted infections: illness, infection and/or disease which is often or can be transmitted through sexual or other intimate contact, like HIV, Chlamydia or Herpes. Some people call STIs STDs.

stone

In the context of sexuality, stone -- usually attached to "butch" -- describes someone who gets pleasure from pleasing/touching a partner, but does not themselves like to be touched sexually.

Syphilis

A bacterial infection/STI which is transmitted when someone touches a sore on a person who has syphilis. These sores are can be on the mouth, penis, vagina, anus or skin. It requires medical treatment.

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T

testes

Reproductive glands of male-assigned people outside the body, contained within the scrotum.

testosterone

A steroid hormone in people's bodies which is often blamed for a whole lot of things it isn't actually responsible for.

the implant

Usually, a hormonal contraceptive implant, a long-term from of birth control which is inserted beneath the fat layer of the arm.

the patch

A hormonal form of birth control that is a stick-on patch put on the skin (anywhere except on the breasts) once a week.

the pill

A common term for birth control pills/oral contraceptives. A hormonal medication used to prevent unwanted pregnancy.

the rhythm method

One method of fertility awareness contraception, but often the least effective since it assumes all women have a similar fertility patterns, which often is not so.

the ring

The Nuvaring, a hormonal form of birth control which is a ring inserted into the vagina once each month.

the shot

Usually, a depo-provera injection, a long-term progestin-only hormonal from of birth control.

threesome

A term to describe a sexual experience or relationship in which there are three people actively participating together.

trans sexual

A medical term for trans people usually used to describe someone who has has sexual reassignment surgery/surgeries (SRS). Sometimes used interchangably with trans gender, whether or not a person has had or plants to have SRS.

transgender

Describes people who have a gender identity other than that traditionally thought to “match” their assigned sex, and other than that thought to “match” many or most of the roles, behaviors and appearances culturally expected of that sex. For example, someone who was assigned male sex at birth but who feels like/identifies as a woman.

transphobia

Prejudice against trans gender and trans women and men. Transphobia may also include prejudice against any kind of gender nonconformity or gender nonconforming people.

trauma

A serious or critical physical and/or emotional injury or physically and/or emotionally painful experience.

tribadism

Rubbing one's genitals against another person's genitals directly, usually without clothing, to express sexual feelings and seek out sexual pleasure. Used most often in the context of lesbian sex.

tribbing

Another term for tribadism.

Trichomoniasis

One of the most common STIs, due to a microscopic parasite which usually lives in the vagina, urethra, or bladder. It requires medical treatment.

trigger

In the context of behavior, a trigger is an experience that triggers a traumatic memory in someone who has experienced trauma.

triggering

Something which triggers -- elicits or creates -- a traumatic memory or reaction in/for someone who has experienced trauma.

typical use

When a birth control method is not used perfectly, every single time, the entire time. Many birth control methods will state their effectiveness rates with either "typical use" or "perfect use".

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U

urethra

The urinary tract, where people pee from. On a penis, the opening to the urethra is at the head of the penis; on a vulva, the opening is above the vaginal opening and below the external clitoris.

uterus

In female-assigned people (unless it has been surgically removed or was not formed in utero), an internal, muscular reproductive organ in the pelvis. During pregnancy, this is where a fetus will develop. When not pregnant, it is the lining of the uterus, when shed each cycle, that provides a menstrual period.

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V

vagina

The internal passage leading from the opening of the vulva to the cervix of the uterus.

vaginal intercourse

When a penis or sex toy is inserted into and held by the vagina while partners move their bodies as feels good to them for the purpose of either sexual stimulation and/or reproduction.

vaginal opening

The external opening to the vagina.

vanilla

A term used by someone or others to describe conventional or "normal" sexual activities (even though there is no normal), or what a given culture or group generally considers to be "normal" or common sexual activities.

vasocongestion

A swelling of body tissues caused by increased vascular blood flow and a localized increase in blood pressure. Vasocongestion plays a part in erection of the penis and clitoris, vaginal lubrication and menstruation.

vestibular bulbs

Two portions of erectile tissue that are part of the internal clitoris. As with the penis, erection can occur within the vulva due to these bulbs. Sometimes called the clitoral bulbs.

vibrator

A sex toy that, true to its name, provides stimulation by vibrating. They come in every imaginable shape, size, and color, and can be operated by regular batteries, electrical cords, or rechargeable batteries (like a cell phone.)

vulva

The name for the external genitals of female people or people who were assigned female sex at birth. The vulva includes the mons, external clitoris, inner and outer labia, fourchette and perineum.

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W

wet dream

(or nocturnal emission) An ejaculation during sleep that can occur for people with penises, often most frequently during puberty.

withdrawal

A method of birth control which involves the person with the penis "pulling out" of a vagina well before ejaculation and ejaculating away from a partner's genitals.

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X

XX

In the XY sex-determination system, a combination of chromosomes identified as female.

XY

In the XY sex-determination system, a combination of chromosomes identified as male.

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Z

ze

A gender-neutral pronoun. Can be used instead of he or she.

zir

A gender-neutral pronoun. Can be used in place of his or her.

zygote

The initial cell formed when a sperm has fertilized an ovum, which then travels down the fallopian tube for a few days, dividing into a larger cluster of cells to become a blastocyst.

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