On this page there’s an alphabetical list of sexual health words and terms. There are a lot of them. If you want to find a specific word, try searching within the page (Ctrl or Command + F). If there’s a word that we’re missing, let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
69: A sexual position for oral sex that involves both partners giving and receiving oral sex simultaneously. Usually involves lying side-to-side or on top of each other head-to-toe.
Abortion: A medical procedure that ends a pregnancy. There are two types of abortions: surgical and medical. Surgical abortions utilize a procedure called vacuum aspiration. Medical abortions, also called drug-induced abortions, involve taking medication that terminates a pregnancy.
Abortion Provider: The place where a person can get an abortion, or the doctor who performs the abortion. A private doctor or a free-standing clinic are examples of abortion providers.
Abstinence: This word means not doing something. It is most commonly used to describe not engaging in sexual behaviors. Each person decides which sexual behaviors they include in their definition of abstinence. A person who practices sexual abstinence may say that they are “abstinent,” and what qualifies as being abstinent from sexual behaviors can vary from person to person.
Abstinence-Only Education: A form of sexual education that teaches only about abstinence. No information is provided about condoms or other forms of birth control or safer sex practices. Unlike abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, there is not a timeframe or relationship status attached to when a person may choose to no longer be abstinent.
- (Noun) Someone who calls attention to a social problem and asks people with authority (lawmakers, school board members, etc.) to address that problem.
- (Verb) To call attention to a social problem and to work actively toward a positive change that addresses that problem.
Age of Consent: The age when a person is legally able to consent to sexual behaviors.
AIDS: An acronym that stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS is caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). AIDS is the diagnosis given to a person when they have a collection of symptoms and infections that result from an immune system that has been weakened by HIV.
Ally: Someone who is not a member of a group that tends to be discriminated against (such as people who identify as LGBTQ) but who works to support members of that group
Anal Intercourse: A sexual behavior where a penis or object is inserted into someone’s anus for sexual pleasure.
Analingus: A sexual behavior where a person’s mouth and/or tongue is used to stimulate a partner’s anus. This is also known as rimming.
Androgynous: This term describes someone or something that is gender neutral or non-gendered. It can refer to things like clothing or social status.
Anti-Choice: Someone who does not support a person’s right to decide whether or not to have an abortion. Also known as “pro-life”.
Areola: An area of skin around a person’s nipples that is darker than the rest of the breast.
Arousal: The physiological changes that occur as a result of sexual excitement. These include an erection, vaginal lubrication and an increased sense of sexual arousal.
Bacterial Vaginosis Also known as “BV”, this is the most common vaginal infection in people with vaginas. It is sometimes accompanied by discharge, odor, pain or burning. Bacterial vaginosis develops when there is an imbalance in the bacteria normally found in the vagina, and can sometimes be triggered by sexual behaviors. It can cause serious complications during pregnancy if it is not cured beforehand.
Barrier Method: Contraceptive methods that protect against pregnancy by placing a physical barrier between sperm and egg. This includes condoms (internal and external), diaphragms, and the sponge. Some barrier methods protect against the transmission of STIs (condoms) others do not (diaphragm).
Bi: A slang term for bisexual.
Bi-curious: A term that refers to someone who is primarily attracted to people of one sex, but who has romantic or sexual thoughts about people of another sex.
Birth Control: A collection of methods that are used to prevent pregnancy. Also known as contraception.
Bisexual: A person who is attracted to people of more than one gender.
Blow Job: A slang term for oral sex on a penis. Also called “giving head” or “dome”
Blue Balls: A term used to describe an uncomfortable feeling in the testicles when sexual excitement does not lead to ejaculation. In actuality, people of any gender can experience this uncomfortable feeling as a result of sexual pressure that builds up but is not released. It is usually described as a full feeling or an uncomfortable ache that occurs in the genitals. For people with testicles, this occurs in the testicles (balls) and for people with vaginas this occurs in the lower pelvic region. There is no damage as a result of pressure that is not released, and “blue balls” is never an excuse to keep going if someone wants to stop sexual behavior.
Boner A slang term for an erection. An erection is when the penis fills with blood in response to sexual excitement and becomes larger and stands away from the body.
Breeder: A slang term for a heterosexual person that is usually derogatory.
Butch: A gender role meaning mostly masculine and tough. People of any gender can be called “butch,” but generally it applies to women and may be used in a derogatory way. This term is also sometimes used to mean “lesbian,” although not all lesbians are masculine or identify as “butch.”
Camel Toe: A slang term that refers to the visible indent between the labia, which is sometimes seen when a person wears tighter clothing.
Celibacy: The decision not to engage in sexual behaviors, whether in the current time or in the future. This is used most commonly to refer to religious vows.
Cervical Cancer: A type of cancer that forms in tissues of the cervix. It is usually a slow-growing cancer that may not have symptoms, but can be found with a regular Pap test.
Cervix: The lower part of the uterus that connects the uterus to the vagina.
Cesarean Section (C-Section): A surgical procedure that removes a baby from the uterus by cutting open the pregnant person’s abdomen.
Choad: A penis that is wider than it is long.
Circumcision: The surgical removal of the foreskin from the head of the penis. The procedure is done for religious, cultural or cosmetic reasons.
Cisgender: A term that describes a person whose gender identity matches their biological sex.
Clitoris: A small, highly sensitive organ located above the opening to the vagina whose only function is sexual pleasure. Direct stimulation of the clitoris can lead to orgasm in some people but can be uncomfortable for other folks.
Closeted: A term that refers to a person who does not tell others their sexual orientation or gender identity. Sometimes referred to as being “in the closet.”
Coitus Interruptus: A method of birth control where a person pulls their penis out of their partner’s vagina before ejaculation.This method does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases. It is also known as pulling out or withdrawal.
Coming Out: When a person acknowledges that they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender and shares it with others.
Comprehensive Sex Education: A form of education that encourages a positive view of sexuality as a natural part of human development. It provides information about sexual abstinence as well as pregnancy and disease prevention, and provides people with skills to ensure they are able to take care of their sexual health by making healthy, responsible decisions.
Conception: The process of an egg and sperm joining in the fallopian tube. Conception is not the same as pregnancy, which is defined by medical experts as the point when the newly fertilized egg implants in the wall of the uterus.
Condom: Also knows as an External Condom, this is a latex or polyurethane sheath rolled over a penis to prevent semen and pre-cum from entering another person’s body.
The word “condom” also refers to the internal condoms, which is a polyurethane pouch that has two flexible rings on either end. One ring is inserted into the vagina and the other ring stays just outside of the vaginal opening.
Confidential: A policy about providing services to teens at a family planning clinic. It means that a that a doctor or other health care provider can’t discuss their conversations with a patient, their physical examination, medical history or test results with other people, even the patient’s parents, regardless of the patient’s age. To be sure of clinic’s confidentiality policy, when you call to make an appointment ask how they will ensure your visit is kept private.
Consensual: A behavior that both people agree to. In order for any sexual behavior to be consensual, each person must fully understand the situation and have the capacity to consent. “Consensual sex” means that no one was forced or manipulated into sexual behavior. If someone consents to one specific sexual behavior it does not mean that they have consented to all sexual behaviors.
Consent: When a person agrees to a certain action or behavior. A person, in order to consent, must have the capacity to consent, which means they are not mentally disabled, under the influence of drugs or alcohol and are of legal age to be able to consent.
Contraception: Methods that are used to prevent pregnancy. This is another term for birth control.
Cowper’s Glands: A pair of glands in the penis/testicle reproductive system that are responsible for secreting a fluid that makes up pre-ejaculate (pre-cum) and the fluids surrounding sperm in semen or ejaculate.
Crabs: A slang term for “pubic lice.” An STI that is caused by a parasite. Pubic lice live in pubic hair and lay their eggs. They can cause intense itching, especially at night. Public lice can be sexually transmitted but can also be transmitted if people share towels or other linens. They are cured with anti-lice medicated shampoo and body wash which can be purchased in a drug store.
Cum: A slang term for semen. Cum can also be a verb referring to having an orgasm or ejaculating. People of all genders use this term to refer to their orgasms and sexual fluids, although it is more commonly used to refer to orgasms involving penises, ejaculation or semen.
Cyst: A fluid-filled growth that is found on or inside of the body.
Date Rape: When someone is raped by someone considered to be a friend or a dating or romantic partner. This is also called “acquaintance rape.”
Dental Dam: A thin square of latex used to cover the vulva during oral sex or the anus during analingus to reduce the risk of spread of sexually transmitted diseases. It is called a “dental dam” because it was created for use in dental procedures.
Depo-Provera: A hormonal contraceptive method that is injected into a person’s arm or buttock every 12 weeks by a doctor or clinician. It works by preventing ovulation and by thickening cervical mucus to keep sperm from entering an egg. It is also known as “Depo” or “the shot.”
Diaphragm: A dome-shaped rubber cup used with a spermicidal gel or cream that covers the opening to the cervix to prevent sperm from entering the uterus. It does not protect against sexually transmitted infections.
Dildo: A penis-shaped sex toy often made of rubber or plastic.
Double Bagging: Using two condoms, at the same time, instead of one. Using two condoms does not pose any risk for the condoms breaking, but it is also unnecessary because it doesn’t offer any extra protection.
Douching: The rinsing of the inside of the vagina, usually with an over-the-counter product labeled for this purpose. Douching is not medically necessary and is not recommended. Some people mistakenly think that douching right after unprotected vaginal intercourse can help reduce the chances of pregnancy; it cannot. It can actually increase the risk for vaginal infections.
Dry Sex: A sexual behavior that encompasses going through the motions of sex (rubbing fully or partially-clothed bodies, especially genitals) against each other.
Eating Out: A slang term for performing oral sex on a vagina.
Ectopic Pregnancy: When a fertilized egg implants itself outside of the uterus, usually in the fallopian tubes. Since most ectopic pregnancies implant in the fallopian tube, they are also sometimes called tubal pregnancies. In this situation the fetus is not viable, which means it cannot survive. All ectopic pregnancies need to be terminated; if left untreated, they can be dangerous to the pregnant person’s health.
Ejaculate: The fluid containing sperm that is released from the tip of the penis during ejaculation. This is also known as cum.
Emergency Contraception: A way to reduce the risk of pregnancy after unprotected vaginal intercourse or intercourse where the method of birth control failed.
Emergency contraception (EC) comes in the form of pills (commonly known as the “morning-after pill,” even though it can be taken it up to five days after). The pills are sold under the name Plan B, Plan B One-Step, Next Choice and ella.
Plan B One-Step is available for sale over-the-counter at pharmacies for anyone regardless of age. It is also available at Planned Parenthood Toronto for $13.
Endometrium: The lining of the uterus that grows and sheds during the menstrual cycle. It is also where a fertilized egg implants to begin a pregnancy.
Engorge: To fill with blood and, as a result, swell. Typically refers to a penis, although the clitoris also fills with blood and becomes larger during sexual arousal.
Estrogen: A hormone produced by the ovaries. One of its functions is to help regulate the menstrual cycle.
External Condom: A latex or polyurethane sheath rolled over a penis to prevent semen and pre-cum from entering another’s body.
Fallopian tube: The narrow tubes that extend from the upper sides of the uterus to the ovaries and are the path along which eggs travel from the ovaries to the uterus.
Fellatio: The clinical term for oral sex on a male.
Internal Condom: A polyurethane pouch that has two flexible rings on either end. One ring is inserted into the vagina and the other ring stays outside the vagina. The rings help to hold the condom in place. They offer protection against some sexually transmitted diseases. They can be purchased without a prescription and, when the inner ring is removed, can be used during anal intercourse as well. Internal condoms should not be used at the same time as external condoms.
Fertile: The ability to produce offspring; the ability to get pregnant.
Fetus: An organism that develops from an embryo after about eight weeks of pregnancy. A fetus receives nourishment through the placenta. It will eventually develop to full term and when it is born is called a baby.
Fingering: A slang term for using one or several fingers to touch a vagina, usually including a combination of touching or rubbing the clitoris and placing fingers inside of the vagina.
Flaccid: This refers to when a penis is soft and un-aroused rather than erect.
Foreplay: All of the sexual activities that people might do to get each other sexually aroused either before or instead of intercourse.
Foreskin: A retractable area of skin that covers and protects the head (glans) of the penis. Some parents of children with penises have this skin removed soon after birth during a procedure called circumcision.
French Kissing: An open-mouthed kiss in which one or both people use their tongues to play with the other’s tongue and lips. Many people enjoy French kissing, and many do not. Although most STIs are not passed through French kissing, it is possible to transmit or contract herpes during French kissing.
G-spot: The shorter term for the “Grafenberg” Spot. It is an area about two knuckles’ length in on the top or bellybutton side of the vagina that can produce intense sexual pleasure in some people when stimulated. This can also cause some folks to ejaculate. Not everyone finds this pleasurable, however.
Gay: Being sexually and romantically attracted to people of one’s same sex. It can refer to men or women, although many gay women will use the term “lesbian.” Also known as homosexual, which some gay people feel is a derogatory word because homosexuality used to be a diagnosable mental illness.
Gender: This refers to the social and cultural norms related to one’s gender identity. A person’s gender identity may or may not be related to their biological sex. This term is often used interchangeably with sex. However, sex is biological and refers to having a penis or a vagina.
Gender Expression: How someone chooses to outwardly express gender identity through clothing, dress, haircut, voice and other physical characteristics.
Gender Identity: A person’s inner feelings and understanding about being a man, a woman, neither or a combination. Sometimes, these feelings will match one’s sex organs, called being cisgender. Or a person may be transgender, meaning their gender does not match their sex organs.
Gender Neutral: When the gender of a person or something that can be used by people is not specified or could apply to people of any gender. For example, the terms “spouse” and “partner” are gender-neutral alternatives to the gender-specific words “husband” and “wife.” Public restrooms that do not have the label “men’s room” or “women’s room” are gender neutral and can be used by a person of any gender.
Genderqueer: A way of describing one’s gender that does not include the current terms of man, woman or transgender. Similar to how some people have taken back the negativity of the term queer because they don’t feel the categories of sexual orientation describe accurately who they are, someone who identifies as “genderqueer” may not feel like the terms man, woman or transgender accurately reflect how they feel.
Genital Warts: A sexually transmitted disease caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) that causes small, painless, flesh-colored bumps that often look like small cauliflowers around and in the genitals, anus and/or mouth.
Genitals: The external sexual and reproductive organs; the vagina, labia, clitoris, penis and scrotum.
Glans: The head of a penis or clitoris.
Gonorrhea: A sexually transmitted infection that is bacterial. Symptoms in penises include a pus-like discharge and an increased need to urinate. In vaginas, there may be discharge. Many people will not have any symptoms. Gonorrhea can be treated and cured with antibiotics. Also referred to as “the clap” or “the drip.”
Harassment: Any unwelcome or offensive behavior by one person to another. Examples are bullying, unwanted, ongoing sexual attention, threats and intimidation.
Hepatitis B: A sexually transmitted disease caused by a virus that can result in serious liver damage, even death. Infection occurs through contact with infected blood, semen, vaginal fluids or saliva. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, headache, fever, dark urine and jaundice. Hepatitis B has a vaccine to prevent infection.
Hepatitis C: A sexually transmitted disease caused by a virus that can cause liver damage. Infection occurs through contact with another person’s infected blood, most often from sharing needles with someone who already has Hepatitis C. There are usually no symptoms associated with Hepatitis C. It is diagnosed through a blood test.
Herpes: A sexually transmitted disease that is caused by the Herpes SimplexVirus (HSV). It can also be transmitted non-sexually (such as through kissing) and causes small, blister-like sores (cold sores) around the mouth or genitals. Herpes type 1 is typically associated with sores around the mouth, while Herpes type 2 is typically associated with sores around the genitals or anus. Genital herpes cannot be cured, but the symptoms can be treated using antiviral medications.
Heteroflexibility: An expression of sexual identity, though not usually used to identifysexual orientation. For most people this term means they are typically in a heterosexual romantic relationship but also are open to having sexual experiences or romantic relationships with people of different genders.
Heterosexual: Being sexually and romantically attracted to someone of a different sex.
HIV: The human immunodeficiency virus is the virus that causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS ). The virus weakens a person’s immune system so that the person can’t fight off everyday infections. HIV is transmitted from exposure to an infected person’s blood,semen, vaginal fluids or breast milk.
Homophobia: An irrational fear, hatred or prejudice toward people who are or who are perceived to be gay, lesbian or bisexual.
Homosexual: An historically derogatory term that refers to being sexually and romantically attracted to a person of the same sex. Also known as gay, lesbian or queer.
Hormonal Injection: When a chemical (progestin) that is made to act like the natural hormones already in the human body is injected into a person’s body every three months to prevent pregnancy. In Canada, this shot is called Depo-Provera. Hormonal injections do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
Hormone: A chemical in the body that plays a role in sexual growth, development and reproduction. Examples include estrogen and testosterone.
HPV: The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted disease that may cause small, painless flesh-colored bumps around thegenitals, anus and/or mouth. The virus cannot be cured. Some strains of HPV can cause cervical cancer, which is why it is very important for people with cervixes to get regular Pap tests. Early detection can prevent cervical cancer. HPV has also been linked to penile and anal cancer in some rare cases
Humping: The rubbing of hips and genitals against another person or object for pleasure. If one or both people are wearing clothes, it is called “dry humping,” which carries no risk for pregnancy or STIs.
Hymen: A thin piece of tissue that partially covers the vaginal opening in most people with vaginas.
Hysterectomy: The surgical removal of the uterus and sometimes the fallopian tubes and ovaries. They are generally only performed in extreme circumstances and when medically necessary, usually in older people.
Impotence: The inability to have or maintain an erection.
Intersex: A person born with a combination of genitals and/or chromosomes that are different from an XY (“male”) with a penis and testicles or an XX (“female”) with a vulva, vagina and ovaries. Intersex people may have XO, XXY, XYY or any other combination of chromosomes and anatomy. The outdated word for intersex people is “hermaphrodite;” today that term is considered demeaning. For more information on intersex conditions, please see Rainbow Health Ontario’s Intersex Health Page (here) or the United Nations Human Rights Office’s factsheet (here).
Intrauterine Device: A contraceptive device that is inserted in the uterus. It works by preventing fertilization and/or implantation of a fertilized egg. IUDs are 99-percent effective with perfect use at preventing pregnancy. Prescribed and inserted by a health care provider, they cost several hundred dollars. This is not a method that was recommended or used by many teens and young people in the past because it typically prescribed after the birth of one or more children for people who want long-term protection against pregnancy but do not want to be surgically sterilized and who are not at risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). However, they are now being recommended for young folks even if they have never had a child.
Kinky: Relating to or appealing to more uncommon or atypical types of sexual behaviors.
Labia: The two lips surrounding the vaginal opening, urethral opening and the clitoris are known as the labia. The outer lips are called the labia majora and the inner lips are called the labia minora.
Late-Term Abortion: A term used to describe an abortion performed “late” in the pregnancy. However, experts do not agree about exactly when that is. For some, “late” abortions are those that take place after the 27th week of pregnancy; for others, the 21st week is considered “late-term.”
Late-term abortions are legal, although states may have restrictions regarding them, but harder to obtain than early abortions.
Latex barriers: Squares of latex (dental dams or condoms) used as protection during oral, vaginal or anal sex between two people to prevent pregnancy or the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Lesbian: A woman who is sexually and romantically attracted to other women.
Libido: A term that refers to someone’s sex drive or the amount or frequency of sex they would like to have.
Lubricant: A substance that reduces chafing, irritation and discomfort during many types of sexual activities. The vagina produces its own lubrication naturally, but there are also manufactured lubricants that can be used. Examples of these include AstroGlide, K-Y Jelly and Slippery Stuff. All are water-based and safe to use with latex condoms. Oil-based lubricants should never be used with latex, as it will cause the latex to break down and increase the risk of pregnancy or the transmission of sexually transmitted infections.
Masturbation: The touching of one’s own body, especially the genitals, for sexual pleasure.
Medical Abortion: When a pregnancy is ended by taking two medications rather than ended by a surgical procedure. First, a person is given Mifepristone (a pill) or Methotrexate (an injection). The first medication works by inhibiting their body’s ability to produce progesterone, a hormone that is necessary for sustaining a pregnancy. Three days later, another medication, Misoprostol, is given. This medication causes the muscles in the uterus to contract and cause a period. Medical abortions are 95-percent effective.
Menstrual Cycle: This is the monthly process in the body of people with vaginas/uteruses, which involves the release of an egg (ovum), the build-up of the lining of the uterus in preparation for a possible pregnancy and the release of the lining if no pregnancy occurs. Most menstrual cycles last about 28 days, but everyone’s cycle can be different—some cycles are longer and some are shorter.
Menstruation: When the blood and tissue lining of the uterus sheds and comes out of the vagina, usually once every month.
Mifepristone: A synthetic hormone used to end a pregnancy during the first seven weeks. This medication is available by prescription only. It was referred to as RU-486 during clinical trials and some people still refer to it as RU-486.
Miscarriage: When a pregnancy ends on its own before it reaches full term, which is approximately nine months.
Misogyny: The fear and hatred of women.
Molestation: The inappropriate sexual touching typically between an adult and a younger person. Molestation is illegal.
Mono: An infection caused by Epstein-Barr or Cytomeglovirus. Symptoms include sore throat, swollen glands and low-grade fever. It is transmitted through saliva and is often called the “kissing disease.”
Monogamy: Having only one sexual or romantic partner at a time.
Mons Pubis: The pad of fatty tissue that covers the pubic bone of a person with a vagina.
Mutual Masturbation: When partners either touch their own genitals while they are together, or touch each others’ genitals at the same time for sexual pleasure.
Nipples: The tips of the breasts which are sensitive to touch and temperature. The nipple is also where milk is expressed for people who are breastfeeding an infant.
Nocturnal Emission: The technical term for a wet dream, it is the release of semen from a penis while during sleep.
Nonoxynol-9: A spermicide (sperm-killing chemical) used for birth control, widely used in vaginal foams, jelly, film and in the lubrication of some condoms. Recent studies have found that Nonoxynol-9 can irritate the vagina andanus and do not recommend using it for repeated sessions of vaginal or anal sex.
NuvaRing: A form of hormonal birth control. The NuvaRing is a soft, flexible and transparent ring that prevents pregnancy when inserted into the vagina, up near the cervix. It releases a combination of hormones, and is 98-percent effective at preventing pregnancy with perfect use. NuvaRing is worn inside the vagina for three weeks and then removed at the beginning of the fourth week, then a new one is inserted a week later. It must be prescribed by a health care provider. It does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
Oral Contraceptives: This is another name for birth control pills.
Oral Sex: Using the mouth and/or tongue to stimulate the genitals of a partner.
Orgasm: A strong pleasurable sensation that can occur at the climax of sexual excitement.
Orgy: A sexual encounter involving many people engaging in sexual behaviors at the same time. It is also called group sex.
Outercourse: Sexual behaviors that do not involve the insertion of fingers, a penis, a tongue or sex toys into the mouth, anus or vagina of another person. This can include kissing and other kinds of sexual touching.
Ovary: The organ that produces, stores and, once a month, releases ova (eggs). Peopl with ovaries are usually born with two. Ovaries also produce hormones including progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone.
Ovulation: The release of an ovum (egg) from an ovary each month. Although the timing of ovulation can vary widely, especially when people are younger, ovulation typically takes place approximately 14 days after the first day of a person’s last period.
Ovum: The Latin word for “egg,” it refers to a human egg that carries half of the DNA that will make up a fetus should the egg become fertilized by a sperm. If there is no sperm present, an egg will not be fertilized and will not attach to the wall of a uterus and it will leave the body along the lining during the period.
Pap Test: A medical test that examines cells from a cervix to determine whether there are any irregular cells that could indicate a pre-cancerous condition. During a pelvic exam, a gynecologist or other clinician will gently scrape the cervix with an instrument to collect some of the cells near the opening to the cervix. These cells are placed on a slide and examined under a microscope at a lab.
Doctors recommend that people with cervixes make an appointment to see a gynecologist for a Pap test when they turn 21. Girls and women who have sex with other girls and women should also have a Pap test when they turn 21. Once a person starts to have Pap tests, regardless of the sex of her partner, in Ontario it is recommended to have them every three years after that.
Penis: A reproductive and sex organ that is made of spongy tissue that fills with blood during sexual excitement and becomes hard (also known as an erection). Urine and semen pass through the penis through a tube called the urethra. The average length of an adult erect penis can be anywhere from five to seven inches—although some are smaller and some larger. Beneath the shaft of the penis is the scrotum and inside the scrotum, the testicles.
Perineum: The area of tissue between the vaginal opening or the scrotum and the anus. The slang term for this is taint.
Phone Sex: A sexual encounter between two people that takes place entirely via the telephone.
PID: Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) is an infection of the internal reproductive organs in a person with a vagina, typically the result of untreated gonorrhea or chlamydia. PID often causes chronic pelvic pain, painful intercourse, bleeding between periods, inflamed fallopian tubes and possible scarring that can result in infertility. It can be treated with a combination of antibiotics; however, severe cases may require hospitalization.
Plan B: A brand of emergency contraceptive pills (EC), which can prevent pregnancy if taken within 120 hours (5 days) of unprotected vaginal intercourse. Plan B One-Step is available over the counter without a prescription for everyone regardless of age.
Platonic: A term to describe relationship that does not include romance or sex; a non-sexual friendship.
Pornography: Books, magazines, movies and videos about sexually-related topics that are designed to cause arousal in the people who read or view them. What can be considered pornography (as opposed to erotic literature or art) varies considerably. Any pornography involving children is illegal and wrong.
Pre-cum: Also known as pre-ejaculate, a small amount of fluid that is made in the Cowper’s Gland and that comes out of the tip of the penis shortly after a person gets an erection. It is designed to clean the urethra of urine and coat the walls to increase the chances of sperm surviving once they are ejaculated. Pre-cum does not, however, contain sperm, but it can transmit an STI (sexually transmitted infection).
Pregnancy: The process by which an implanted, fertilized egg develops into a fetus. This typically takes nine months.
Premature Ejaculation: When a person ejaculates shortly after their penis becomes erect and with little or no sexual stimulation. This is a very common occurrence that happens less frequently as a people get older. Although many will feel shame when this happens, there is nothing to be ashamed of; nearly everybody with a penis will experience this at some point in his life. If it continues, they should speak with a doctor or clinician to see whether there is a medical reason behind the premature ejaculation.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS): A set of symptoms, ranging from mild to severe, that many people experience leading up to and during their period, such as mood swings, headache abdominal cramping, stomach upset and lower back pain.
Prenatal Care: Medical services a person receives during pregnancy. The purpose of prenatal care is to monitor the health of the pregnant person and fetus to ensure proper growth and development for both. Prenatal care can also detect fetal abnormalities early on.
Pro-Choice: Someone who supports a person’s right to decide whether to carry a pregnancy to term and become a parent, place a baby for adoption or have an abortion.
Progesterone: A hormone produced in the ovaries primarily responsible for maintaining a pregnancy.
Prostate: A gland in the body of people with penises/testicles, located near the bladder, which produces a fluid that is part of semen.
Puberty: The process of developing from a child into an adolescent or young adult, which involves a range of physical and emotional changes. These changes include for some getting their period and developing breasts, and in others it includes the voice getting deeper and growing facial hair.
Pubic Hair: The coarse hair that typically grows around the penis and vulva
Pubic Lice: A parasite that lives in a person’s pubic hair causing intense itching. They can be sexually transmitted and cured with anti-lice medicated shampoo and body wash, which can be purchased in a drug store. Also known as crabs.
Queef: Also known as vaginal farting. It happens when a small amount of air is forced out of a vagina, such as during vaginal sex or other sexual behaviors that involve something being inserted into the vagina, or when one is doing certain exercises (such as squats) on their own.
Queer: A name some people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) use as an affirmation of their sexual orientation or gender identity as different and wonderful, as in “I’m queer and proud.” By using an historically negative word, some LGBT people are trying to erase the negativity associated with it. It is important to note that not all LGBT people use the term queer, and it should not be used by people who are heterosexual or cisgender to describe LGBT people.
Questioning: Someone who is not sure what their sexual orientation or gender identity is and is going through the process of figuring out how they feel.
Rhythm Method: The rhythm method is a behavioral form of birth control that calculates when a person with a uterus is fertile during her monthly cycle so that they can abstain from sex during this period of time. Those who want to have a baby can also use this method to know when someone is ovulating and therefore most likely to get pregnant. The rhythm method is actually made up of three separate methods: the tracking body temperature, charting the menstrual cycle and mucus methods. It is also called natural family planning or the fertility awareness method.
Safer Sex: Being responsible about shared sexual behaviors by doing things that reduce your chances of getting or spreading a sexually transmitted infections and/or becoming (or getting someone) pregnant. Usually, this means educating oneself about STIs and pregnancy, using latex barriers like condoms and dental dams, limiting the number of partners a person has, and getting tested for STIs on a regular basis. Because nothing is 100 percent safe, aside from continuous abstinence, the term is “safer” rather than “safe” sex.
Scabies: A sexually transmitted disease that is caused by a mite (a kind of insect) that burrows under the skin, causing intense itching and the formation of pus. Scabies can be cured by using medicated shampoo, which can be purchased at a drug store.
Scrotum: The loose bag of skin beneath the penis that holds the testes and regulates their temperature.
Self-Esteem: A person’s sense of their own worth and value.
Semen: The whitish, sticky fluid that is released from a penis during ejaculation. A typical ejaculation contains anywhere from a teaspoon to a tablespoon of semen, and hundreds of millions of sperm.
- A person’s biological makeup of sex organs and chromosomes that marks them as male, female or intersex;
- The act of engaging in sexual behaviors with another person—such as oral, anal or vaginal intercourse.
Sex Toy: Any device, such as a dildo or vibrator, that is created and used for sexual pleasure. They are usually only available for purchase by people ages 18 and older.
Sexism: Discrimination based on biological sex or gender, specifically discrimination against women; attitudes, conditions, or behaviors that promote stereotyping of social roles based on real or perceived gender.
Sexual Abuse: Sexual touching or behaviors that are unwanted, including rape, touching another person’s breasts or genitals and more. Sexual abuse is illegal.
Sexual Assault: Using force to engage in a sexual behavior (such as kissing, touching, oral, anal or vaginal intercourse) with another person when that person has not consented. It is illegal.
Sexual Intercourse: Typically, when people say sexual intercourse they mean when a penis is inserted into a vagina. But sexual intercourse can mean other kinds of intercourse too, like oral or anal intercourse between people of all different genders and orientations.
Sexual Orientation: A term to describe the gender or genders of the people to whom one is attracted physically and romantically. Typical words people use to describe sexual orientation are bisexual, gay, lesbian, heterosexual or queer.
Sexuality: Sexuality is a broad term that refers to far more than sexual behaviors and body parts. It also refers to how people feel about themselves and being with others, how they see their gender and sexual identities, and how they interact with other people.
Sexual Education: Classes and workshops that teach about sexuality and sexual health. Sexual education usually refers to classes that take place in a school rather than in a youth group or organization.
Slut: A derogatory word for a person who has had or is perceived to have had many sexual partners.
Sodomy: A legal term used to describe oral sex or anal intercourse.
Sperm: The reproductive cells that are found in semen. Hundreds of millions of sperm come out in each ejaculation, but it only takes one to cause a pregnancy.
Spermicide: A chemical that kills sperm. The most common spermicide is nonoxynol-9. It comes in a variety of forms including gel, cream, foam, suppositories and film which can be purchased in most drug or grocery stores without a prescription. Typically, it is used in conjunction with another method like a diaphragm or condoms. You can also purchase condoms lubricated with spermicide.
Spooning: When two people lie on their sides, both facing the same direction, and either wrap their arms around each other for intimacy or to sleep, or as a position for sexual intercourse.
STI: STI stands for sexually transmitted infection. Sexually transmitted infections can also be called sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). STIs are spread through sexual behavior or contact. Some STIs can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact or body fluids such as blood, pre-cum, semen, vaginal fluids or breast milk. STIs generally infect the genital area (penis, scrotum, vulva and vaginal opening), anus or mouth, although they can spread to other parts of the body if left untreated.
Sterilization: A permanent form of birth control. It is a minor operation that stops theovum (egg) and sperm from joining. Typically, this method is used by older people who have decided they do not want any more children. Sterilization for people with fallopian tubes is also known as tubal ligation or “getting the tubes tied.” Sterilization for people with testicles is called a vasectomy.
Straight: A slang term for being sexually and romantically attracted to members of a different sex, also known as heterosexual.
Surgical Abortion: A procedure done to end a pregnancy that is performed by a doctor or clinician in a clinic setting under local or general anesthesia. During this procedure, the cervix is dilated (widened) so that a vacuum-like tube or a curette (a spoon-like object) can be inserted and the contents of the uterus can be withdrawn. The procedure takes between five and 15 minutes. It is 99-percent effective.
Syphilis: A sexually transmitted infection that is caused by bacteria and results in chancres or painless sores in the genital area. It can be transmitted when an infected person comes into contact with another uninfected person’s vagina, penis, anus or mouth. Syphilis can be cured with antibiotics, but if left untreated, can cause brain damage and even death.
Tampon: A firm roll of absorbent cotton or other fiber that is worn inside the vagina to absorb menstrual fluids.
Testes: Testes (“balls”) is the plural of testis. Another word used for testes is “testicles.” The testes produce and store sperm cells as well as the sex hormone, testosterone. Testes are protected by a sack of skin beneath the penis called the scrotum.
Testicle: The gland in which sperm and the hormone testosterone are produced. The plural of testicle is testicles.
Testicular Exam: There are two types of testicular exams: one done by a health care provider and a testicular self-exam which a person can do on themselves, or have a partner do for them. During a testicular exam, a health care provider visually and manually checks the scrotum—the loose bag of skin which holds the testes—and penis for lumps or growths on the skin. The purpose of a testicular exam is to have people familiarize themselves with their bodies, so if there are lumps, bumps or warts, they can be checked out by a health care provider. Some medical professionals recommend performing monthly testicular self-exams. Early detection is the best way to improve the chances of survival if the abnormality is found to be cancerous.
Testosterone: The hormone made by the testes that is responsible for male secondary sexual characteristics like facial and body hair. Testosterone is also produced in much smaller amounts by the ovaries in people with uteruses.
Transgender: A term that describes a person whose gender identity does not match that person’s biological sex. This may include someone who was born biologically female who feels biologically male, vice versa, or something else altogether. Transgender people may alter their bodies using hormones, surgery, both, or neither.
Transvestite: A person who dresses in the clothing typically associated with a different gender. The preferred term for this tends to be “crossdresser.”
Trichomoniasis: A sexually transmitted disease that is caused by an organism that lives in the lining of the vaginal walls and causes an odorous, foamy, irritating discharge. Trichomoniasis, or Trich, can be passed between sexual partners and can be cured with antibiotics.
Tubal Ligation: A surgical procedure to prevent pregnancy in which the fallopian tubes are tied or cut and burned to prevent ova (eggs) from entering the uterus. It is designed to be a permanent procedure, although with additional surgery it can sometimes be successfully reversed. This is sometimes called “getting your tubes tied.”
Urethra: A tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body. In people with penises, the urethra is also a passageway through which semen and sperm leave the body. In people with vaginas who ejaculate, this fluid also leaves the body through the urethra.
Urinary Tract Infection: An infection caused by bacteria entering the system that involves how a person urinates. This includes the urethra, bladder and kidneys. Symptoms include an intense desire to urinate frequently and a burning sensation when urinating. It can be cured with antibiotics. In most cases, the infection is in the bladder and can be cured relatively easily.
Uterus: The pear-shaped muscular reproductive organ from which people menstruate and where a pregnancy develops. The uterus is about the size of a loosely closed fist.
Vagina: The passageway from the uterus to the outside of the body. This is how menstrual blood, vaginal fluids and babies leave the body. It is also where a penis would be inserted during penile-vaginal intercourse, a finger or object for sexual pleasure or a tampon during menstruation.
Vaginal Contraceptive Film (VCF): A spermicide that is a paper-thin sheet of polyurethane that is placed inside the vagina close to the cervix and that dissolves with body heat and releases spermicide. This is a method of birth control that is meant to be used as a back-up to another method, such as a condom. On its own, VCF has a very low effectiveness rate for preventing pregnancy and provides no protection against STDs.
Vaginal Discharge: The small amount of fluid that is released every day from a vagina. On a typical day, its purpose is to clean the vagina. The amount and consistency of fluid released varies throughout the month. When a person is getting close to ovulation, the discharge will be thin and stringy, almost like an egg white; other days it may be cloudy or yellowish. If the discharge is ever greenish or greyish or has a foul or musty smell, it may mean that the person has an infection and she should make an appointment with a healthcare provider right away.
Vaginal Intercourse: When a penis, sex toy or dildo is inserted into a vagina.
Vaginal Lubrication: Fluid that is released from the walls of the vagina when a person is sexually aroused.
Vaginal Opening: For people with vaginas, this is the largest of three openings between their legs. The other two are the small opening to the urethra above and the anus below.
Vaginal Sex: Vaginal sex (also called vaginal intercourse) is one of many ways for partners to give and receive sexual pleasure. Vaginal sex is when partners place a penis, sex toy or dildo into a vagina. Then both people move together to create friction, which produces pleasure. For partners who choose to have vaginal sex, the most effective way to avoid a pregnancy and/or STIs is by using hormonal birth control, like the pill, and/or a condom.
Vas Deferens: Thin tubes that transport sperm from the testes up past the prostate and seminal vesicles to the urethra.
Vasectomy: A surgical contraceptive procedure in which the vas deferens are cut and burned, closed or tied off. It is designed to be a permanent procedure but in some cases and with additional surgery it can be reversed. Vasectomy does not affect a sexual performance. The only difference post-vasectomy is that the ejaculated semen will no longer contain sperm.
Vibrator: A battery or electrically-powered device used to massage and provide stimulation to the body, especially the genitals. They are only available for purchase by those over 18 years of age.
Virgin: While there is no medical definition, it often means a person who has never had sexual intercourse. How sexual intercourse is defined is up to each individual.
Vulva: The external sex organs on a girl or woman’s body that includes the clitoris, the labia majora, the labia minora and the vaginal opening.
Wet: When some people become aroused sexually, their vagina will produce some fluid. Because the fluid is slippery, it is referred to as being “wet.”
Wet Dream: This is the release of semen from a penis while during sleeping, most commonly during puberty. This is also known as a nocturnal emission.
Withdrawal: A behavioral method of birth control that involves pulling a penis out of a vagina before ejaculation so that no sperm gets inside the vagina. It does not provide any protection against STIs. This method is also known as pulling-out or coitus interruptus.
Yeast Infection: An infection that is caused by an overgrowth of the naturally occurring yeast in a vagina. Symptoms can include itching, skin irritation, redness, white and clumpy discharge and burning during urination. The infection can be cured by using an anti-fungal medication which can be bought in a drug store. Wearing cotton, loose-fitting underwear and keeping the area around the vaginal opening dry can help prevent yeast infections.