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 email@example.com.
69: A sexual position for oral sex that involves 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.
- Note: The abortion pill (RU486) is approved for usage in Canada, but not yet widely available. As of January 2017 it is only available at clinics in Calgary and Vancouver.
Abortion Provider: The place where a person can get an abortion, or the doctor who performs the abortion. Examples could include a hospital, a private doctor, or a free-standing clinic.
Abstinence: This word means not doing something. It is most commonly used to describe not engaging in sexual activities.
- Fact: Each person decides which activities 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 activities can vary from person to person (e.g., abstinent from penetrative sex, but not masturbation).
Abstinence-Only Education: A form of sexual education that teaches only about abstinence. No information is provided about other safer sex practices, such as condoms or other forms of birth control.
- (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.
AFAB, AMAB: Acronyms meaning “assigned female at birth” and “assigned male at birth.” No one, whether cis or trans, gets to choose what sex they’re assigned at birth. We use this term instead of saying “biological sex” or “born as a boy/girl.”
Age of Consent: The age when a person is legally able to consent to sexual activities.
Agender: Someone who identifies as not having a gender or as gender-neutral. Some agender people are trans and some are not.
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 act 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 gender identity.
Anti-Choice: Also known as pro-life; someone who does not support a person’s right to decide whether or not to have an abortion.
Areola: An area of skin around a person’s nipples that is darker than the rest of the breast.
Aromantic: A type of romantic orientation. An umbrella term for people who don’t feel romantic attraction.
Arousal: The changes in the body that occur as a result of sexual excitement. These include an erection, vaginal* lubrication and an increased sense of sexual awareness.
Asexual: A sexual orientation. An umbrella term for people who don’t feel sexual attraction. Asexual people can have intimate emotional and intellectual relationships. The asexual community uses the slang “ace” to describe itself.
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 activity. 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: Slang for bisexual.
Bi-curious: A term that refers to someone who is primarily attracted to people of one gender, but who has romantic or sexual thoughts about people of another gender.
Biphobia: Discomfort, dislike or prejudice towards people who are, or who are perceived to be, bisexual.
Biromantic: A person who is romantically attracted to at least one other gender. This is different from being bisexual because it’s a romantic orientation, not a sexual orientation.
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: Also called “giving head” or “dome”; this is slang for oral sex on a penis.
Blue Balls: A term used to describe an uncomfortable feeling in the testicles when sexual excitement does not lead to ejaculation.
- Fact: 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: Slang 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: Slang for a heterosexual person that is usually derogatory (insulting).
Butch: An LGBTQ gender expression that leans towards masculinity. Although commonly associated with masculine queer or lesbian women, it’s used by many to describe a distinct gender identity or expression, and does not necessarily imply that one also identifies as a woman.
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 activities, 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 aesthetic reasons.
Cis, Cisgender: Adjective that describes a person whose gender identity matches their assigned biological sex. Not transgender.
Cis Privilege: The unearned advantages that cis people experience in the day-to-day by virtue of their gender identity.
Clitoris: A small, highly sensitive organ whose only function is sexual pleasure. Externally, this is located above the opening to the vagina. Internally, it extends to either side of the vaginal walls.
- Note: 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.” “Going back into the closet” is when someone stops telling people their sexual and gender minority identities, and so they are assumed to be straight or cisgender. Many LGBTQ people are “out” in some situations and “closeted” in others.
Coitus Interruptus: Also known as pulling out or withdrawal method; it is a method of birth control where a person pulls their penis out of their partner’s vagina before ejaculation.
- Fact: This method does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Colonialism: The policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically.
Coming Out: To declare and affirm to oneself and possibly to others your identity as LGBTQ+. Coming out is often an ongoing process. Not everyone comes out or thinks it’s necessary to do so.
Comprehensive Sex Education: A type 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 STI prevention, and provides people with skills to take care of themselves by making healthy, responsible decisions.
Conception: The process of an egg and sperm joining in the fallopian tube.
- Note: 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: This is often what people popularly call External Condom. This is a latex or polyurethane sheath rolled over a penis to stop 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 placed inside the vagina and the other ring stays just outside of the vaginal opening.
Confidential: A policy about providing services to teens at a community health centre. That means 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 make sure your visit is kept private.
Consensual: An activity that two or more people agree to. In order for any sexual activity to be consensual, each person must fully understand the situation and have the capacity to consent.
- Fact: “Consensual sex” means that no one was forced or manipulated into sexual activity. If someone consents to one specific sexual activity, like kissing, it does not mean that they have consented to all sexual activities, like sex.
Consent: When a person agrees to a certain action or activity. A person, in order to consent, must have the capacity to consent, which means they are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and are of legal age to be able to consent.
Contraception: Also known as birth control; these are methods that are used to prevent pregnancy.
Cowper’s Glands: A pair of glands in the penis/testicle reproductive system that are responsible for releasing a fluid that makes up pre-ejaculate (pre-cum) and the fluids surrounding sperm in semen or ejaculate (cum).
Crabs: Slang for pubic lice. A 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.
Cross-dresser: A person who sometimes wears clothes that represent a gender other than the one they identify as. “Transvestite” is a pejorative and outdated term for cross-dresser. Cross-dressing may not be tied to an erotic activity and may not be related to a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Cum: Slang 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.
Cyst: A fluid-filled growth that is found on or inside of the body.
Date Rape: Also known as “acquaintance rape”; it’s when a person is raped by someone considered to be a friend or a dating/romantic partner.
- Fact: 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 that is inserted into the vagina. It is used with a spermicidal gel or cream to cover the opening to the cervix to prevent sperm from entering the uterus.
- Note: It does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Dildo: A penis-shaped sex toy often made of rubber, silicone, or plastic.
Discrimination: Unjust treatment based on prejudiced ideas.
Double Bagging: Using two condoms, at the same time, instead of one.
- Note: Using two condoms doesn’t provide any extra protection. In fact, both condoms are likely to tear from the friction of rubbing together.
Douching: The rinsing of the inside of the vagina, usually with an over-the-counter product labeled for this purpose.
- Note: Douching is medically unnecessary and is not recommended. Some people 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.
Drag: Exaggerated, theatrical performance of gender. There are drag kings and drag queens. Most often a type of cross-dressing on stage, although anyone of any gender can do any form of drag.
Dry Sex: A sexual activity that encompasses going through the motions of sex (rubbing fully or partially-clothed bodies, especially genitals) against each other.
Eating Out: Slang for performing oral sex on a vagina.
Ectopic Pregnancy: When a fertilized egg implants itself outside of the uterus, usually in the fallopian tubes.
- Fact: Since most ectopic pregnancies implant in the fallopian tube, they are also sometimes called tubal pregnancies. The fetus is not viable in this situation, 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: Also known as cum. The fluid containing sperm that is released from the tip of the penis during ejaculation.
Emergency Contraception: A way to reduce the risk of pregnancy after unprotected vaginal intercourse or intercourse where the method of birth control failed.
- Fact: Emergency contraception pills (ECP) are commonly known as the “morning-after pill,” even though it can be taken it up to five days after. Brands of ECP include Plan B, Plan B One-Step, Next Choice and ella. Copper IUDs can also be used as emergency contraception for up to 7 days after sex with a risk of pregnancy.
- Tip: 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.
Estrogen: A hormone produced by the ovaries. One of its functions is to help regulate the menstrual cycle.
External Condom: An external condom is a thin covering, usually made of latex rubber, that is worn over an erect (hard) penis or sex toy during oral, vaginal or anal sex. The external condom prevents both unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
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 penis.
Femme: A gender expression used by many feminine-identified LGBTQ people.
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.
- Fact: A fetus receives nourishment through the placenta. It will eventually develop to full term and when it is born is called a baby.
Fingering: Slang 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 rather than erect (or hard).
Foreplay: All of the sexual activities that people might do to get each other sexually aroused (or turned on) either before or instead of intercourse.
Foreskin: A retractable area of skin that covers and protects the head (glans) of the penis.
- Fact: 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.
- Note: 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.
FtM: Acronym for female to male. A trans person who is transitioning from female to male. They are male identified.
G-spot: This is short for the “Grafenberg” Spot. It is an area about two knuckles’ length down from the bellybutton inside the vagina that can produce intense sexual pleasure in some people when stimulated. This can also cause some folks to ejaculate.
- Note: Not everyone finds this pleasurable!
Gay: Being sexually and romantically attracted to people of the same gender as you. Also known as homosexual, which some gay people feel is a derogatory word because homosexuality used to be a diagnosable mental illness.
- Note: Gay can refer to men or women, although many gay women will use the term “lesbian.”
Gender: This refers to the social and cultural norms and beliefs related to one’s gender identity. A person’s gender identity may or may not be related to their assigned biological sex. “Gender” is often used interchangeably with sex. However, sex is a biological designation, and refers to having a penis or a vagina.
Gender Affirming Surgeries: Surgeries related to transition. Remember that surgery is only one part of transitioning, and they aren’t for everyone. Genital surgeries are expensive and are inaccessible to most trans people.
Gender Binary: The idea that the only legitimate genders are woman and man, and that these identities are opposite and distinct from each other. No other types of gender can exist in this system, and these genders correspond to birth sex: male or female. There is no room for those living between genders or for transcending the gender binary. This oppressive system is rigid and limiting, especially for those who don’t fit neatly into “woman” or “man.”
Gender Expression: How someone chooses to outwardly express their gender identity through clothing, dress, haircut, voice, name/pronouns and other characteristics. Typically referred to as masculine or feminine. Everyone has a gender expression. Many trans people match their gender expression (how they look) with their gender identity (who they are), rather than with their sex assigned at birth.
Gender Identity: A person’s inner feelings and understanding about being a man, a woman, agender, or any identity around or between the two. Sometimes a person’s gender identity will align with their biologically assigned sex (eg. the idea that men have penises and women have vaginas). This is called being cisgender. Sometimes a person may be transgender, meaning their gender does not align with their biologically assigned sex.
Gender-Neutral: This describes a term or thing that is not specifically gendered. 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.
Gender Non-Conforming: A person who don’t conform to society’s expectations of gender expression based on expectations of masculinity and femininity.
Genderfluid: People who have shifting gender identities. Their genders can change over time along the gender spectrum.
Genderqueer: A way of describing one’s gender that does not include the current definitions of “man” or “woman.” They may identify and express themselves as “feminine men” or “masculine women” or as androgynous, or outside of the categories “boy/man” and “girl/woman.” Not all genderqueer people are trans.
Genital Warts: A sexually transmitted infection caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). Certain strains of HPV can cause 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, vulva, 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.
- Note: Many people will not have any symptoms. Gonorrhea can be treated and cured with antibiotics. Also referred to as “the clap” or “the drip.”
GSA: An acronym for Gay-Straight Alliance. A student-run club, typically in a high school or middle school, which provides a safe place for students to meet, support each other, talk about issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, and work to end homophobia and transphobia.
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 infection 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 infection 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 infection that is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (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 identify sexual 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: Discomfort, dislike, or prejudice towards people who are, or who are perceived to be, gay, lesbian or queer.
Homoromantic: A person who is romantically attracted to a member of the same gender. This is different from being gay or lesbian because it’s a romantic orientation, not a sexual orientation.
Homosexual: Also known as gay, lesbian, or queer. A historically derogatory term that refers to being sexually and romantically attracted to a person of the same sex or gender. It’s best not to use this term and instead use LGBTQ.
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.
- Note: 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 infection that may cause small, painless flesh-colored bumps around the genitals, anus and/or mouth. The virus cannot be cured.
- Note: 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.
Internal Condom: This is a soft, loose fitting, non-latex pouch that lines the inside of the vagina or anus during sex. They can be purchased without a prescription. Internal condoms should not be used at the same time as external condoms.
Internalized Oppression: When a member of an oppressed group believes the stereotypes created about their group.
Intersectionality: Intersectionality is a sociological theory about how an individual can face multiple threats of discrimination when their identities overlap a number of minority groups. The barriers the individual experiences are interconnected, creating compounded and complex forms of discrimination.
Intersex: A person born with a combination of genitals and/or chromosomes that are different from the medically defined “male” (XY, with a penis and testicles) or “female” (XX, with a vulva, vagina and ovaries) identities.
- Note: 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).
IUD: IUD is short for Intrauterine Device. This is 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 a few hundred dollars. There are two types of IUDs: Hormonal and Non-Hormonal/Copper
Invisibility: Because straight and cis cultures are assumed to be what’s normal, and LGBTQ identities and experiences are “other,” LGBTQ people are not always seen or represented. This is why LGBTQ people have to continue to come out. If they didn’t, they would be assumed to be straight or cis.
Kinky: Relating to or appealing to more uncommon types of sexual activities.
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-term 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 in Canada. They are harder to obtain than early abortions, partly because there are fewer providers comfortable with performing late-term procedures.
Latex barriers: Squares of latex (dental dams or condoms) used as protection during oral, vaginal, or anal sex between people to prevent pregnancy and/or the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Lesbian: A woman who is sexually and romantically attracted to other women. A type of sexual orientation.
LGBTQ: Umbrella term for sexual and gender minorities. LGBTQ is an acronym that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, Two-Spirit, queer and questioning.
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.
- Fact: Vaginas produces their own lubrication naturally, but manufactured lubricants can also 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 and/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 medication 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% effective.
- Note: The abortion pill (RU486) is approved for usage in Canada, but not yet widely available. As of January 2017 it is only available at clinics in Calgary and Vancouver.
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 expulsion of the lining if no pregnancy occurs.
- Fact: 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.
Microaggressions: A verbal or non-verbal communication that is subtly and unintentionally discriminatory against an oppressed group.
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.
- Note: The abortion pill (RU486) is approved for usage in Canada, but not yet widely available. As of January 2017 it is only available at clinics in Calgary and Vancouver.
Miscarriage: When a pregnancy ends on its own before it reaches full term, which is on average nine months.
Misgender: When you refer to someone using a pronoun or another form of address that doesn’t correctly reflect their gender.
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 Virus 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.
MtF: A trans person who considers themselves to be transitioning from male to female.
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 released 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 during sleep.
Non-binary: A gender identity. An umbrella term that covers most identities outside of the gender binary of man/woman.
Non-monogamy: A type of relationship style where partners are free to be involved with more than one person at once.
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 and anus 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 infections.
Objectification: The act of degrading someone to the status of a mere object that doesn’t have thoughts or feelings.
Omnisexual: A person who is attracted to people from across the gender spectrum. Similar to pansexual. Omnisexual people recognize potential partner’s genders, are attracted to all genders, and make decisions about partners based on their gender.
Oppression: A term used to describe systems, relations and behaviours which disadvantage some groups. Some examples of oppressive systems include transphobia, homophobia, racism, ableism and sexism.
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: Also known as group sex. This is a sexual encounter involving many people engaging in sexual activities at the same time.
Outercourse: Sexual activities 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). People 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.” This refers to a human egg that carries half of the DNA that will make up a fetus if the egg becomes fertilized by a sperm. If there is no sperm present, the egg will not be fertilized and will not attach to the wall of a uterus. It will leave the body along the lining during the period.
Pansexual: A person who is attracted to people from across the gender spectrum. Similar to omnisexual. Pansexual people recognize all genders but do not consider gender when choosing a partner.
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 brush 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.
In Ontario, it is recommend that people with cervixes make an appointment to see a gynecologist for a Pap test when they turn 21. People with cervixes are recommended to have a pap test once every three years, regardless of their sexual orientation, or the gender of their partners.
Passing: Being perceived as cisgender or straight. LGBQ people may pass as straight, and trans people may pass as cis. This can be a controversial term because it can imply that you aren’t genuinely what you’re passing as. For example, a trans man “passes” for a man, but in truth he simply is a man.
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.
Perineum: Also known as the taint. This is the area of tissue between the vaginal opening or the scrotum and the anus.
Phone Sex: A sexual encounter between 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 (ECP), 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 a relationship that does not include romance or sex; a non-sexual friendship.
Polyamory: A relationship style; ongoing relationships with more than one person at once.
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.
- Note: Any pornography involving children is illegal.
Pre-cum: Also known as pre-ejaculate, this is 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 contain sperm on its own, but it can transmit STIs.
Pregnancy: The process by which an implanted, fertilized egg develops into a fetus. This typically takes nine months.
Prejudice: A negative prejudgment or preconceived ideas about another person or group of people based on perceived characteristics rather than reason or evidence.
Premature Ejaculation: This is the term for when a person with a penis ejaculates sooner than they want to, often 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 their 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: A point of view that supports a person’s right to decide whether to carry a pregnancy to term and become a parent, to place a baby for adoption, or to have an abortion.
Progesterone: A hormone produced in the ovaries 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.
Privilege: Unearned advantages granted to a particular group of people who (often unintentionally) gain from the oppression of another group. Some examples of privilege include cis privilege, straight privilege, white privilege and class privilege.
Pronouns: Words that replace nouns to create more ease in a sentence. Some examples of pronouns are he/him and she/her. Many trans and non-binary people use gender-neutral pronouns, such as a singular they/them.
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, developing breasts, the voice getting deeper, and/or growing facial hair.
Pubic Hair: The coarse hair that typically grows around the penis and vulva
Pubic Lice: Also known as crabs. It is 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.
Queef: Also known as vaginal farting. It happens when a small amount of air is forced out of a vagina. This can occur 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.” It’s often used as an umbrella term for all minority sexual orientations and sometimes minority gender identities as well. Associated with historical negativity, and so not all LGBTQ people will use the term.
Questioning: Someone who is not sure what their sexual orientation or gender identity is and is going through the process of figuring it out. People who are questioning are still valid in their identity.
Rimming: A sexual act where a person’s mouth and/or tongue is used to stimulate a partner’s anus. This is also known as analingus.
Safer Sex: Being responsible about shared sexual activities by doing things that reduce your chances of getting or spreading sexually transmitted infections and/or becoming (or getting someone) pregnant. Usually, this means educating oneself about STIs and pregnancy, using condoms/dental dams, using birth control (if necessary) and getting tested for STIs on a regular basis.
- Note: Because nothing is 100% safe, aside from continuous abstinence, the term is “safer” rather than “safe” sex.
Scabies: A sexually transmitted infection 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 activities with another person—such as oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse.
Sex Assigned at Birth: The assignment and classification of people as male, female, intersex, or another sex assigned at birth, often based on physical anatomy at birth.
Sex Negativity: Dislike or hostility towards open expressions of sexuality.
Sex Positivity: An attitude that says that consensual and pleasurable sexual activities are healthy, including the decision not to have sex at all.
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. These are attitudes, conditions, or behaviors that promote stereotyping of social roles based on real or perceived gender.
Sexual and Gender Minorities: An umbrella term for people who are not straight or cisgender.
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 sexual activities (such as kissing, touching, oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse) with another person when that person has not consented. Sexual assault is illegal.
Sexual Behaviour: A person’s sexual practices. Can include who they have sex with and what types of sexual acts they engage in.
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 person’s sexual identity. It defines or communicates the gender of the people that you are romantically or sexually attracted to in relation to your own gender. 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 activities 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 non-reproductive sex acts, such as oral sex or anal intercourse.
Sperm: The reproductive cells that are found in semen.
- Fact: 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. These can be purchased in most drug or grocery stores without a prescription. Typically, it is used in conjunction with other birth control methods 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.
Stereotype: Simplistic assumptions or judgments about a group of people that disregard individual differences among group members and emphasize negative preconceptions that characterize all members of a group as being the same.
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. Typically, this method is used by people who have decided they do not want to ever get pregnant or get somebody else pregnant. 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: Slang for being sexually and romantically attracted to members of a different gender, also known as heterosexual.
Straight Privilege: The unearned advantages that straight people experience in the day-to-day by virtue of their sexual orientation.
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% 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 an 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: Firms 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:
- A clinical testicular exam, where 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.
- A testicular self-exam, which a person can do on themselves, or have a partner do for them. The purpose of a testicular self-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.
- Fact: Testosterone is also produced in much smaller amounts by the ovaries in people with uteruses.
Tokenism: When one or two people from an oppressed group are included without having the same authority or power as the other group members, under the guise of equality or inclusivity. The individuals are then given the unfair burden of representing other people who share the same identity. Being a token gay or trans friend is challenging because it’s unclear if you’re liked because of your personality or because of the identities you hold.
Trans: An umbrella term for people who feel that they don’t fit into the gender they were assigned at birth.
Trans man: A man who was assigned female at birth and identifies as male.
Trans woman: A woman who was assigned male at birth and identifies as female.
Transgender: A term that describes a person whose gender identity does not match their assigned sex. For example, someone who was assigned female at birth who identifies as male. Transgender people may alter their bodies using hormones, surgery, both or neither.
Transition: A person’s process of taking on a gender expression to match their gender identity. Transition can include coming out to your family, friends, or co-workers; changing your name or sex on legal documents; hormone therapy; and possibly (though not always) some form of surgery. The transition process is different for everyone, can be social and/or medical. There is no checklist or average time for a transition process, and no universal goal.
Transmisogyny: Coined by the author Julia Serano; refers to the oppression of transphobia and misogyny combined.
Transphobia: Discomfort, dislike or prejudice towards people who are, or who are perceived to be, trans.
Transsexual: A person who does not identify with the sex they were assigned at birth. A transsexual person may have changed how they look to fit how they feel, may be in the process of doing so, or may want to.
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.”
Two Spirit: A sexual and gender minority identity specific to Indigenous cultures. Two Spirit people hold masculine and feminine spirits. Before colonization, Two Spirit people were respected in many Indigenous communities and played valuable roles as educators, healers and leaders. After colonial contact, Two Spirit people were abused and assaulted.
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 through which 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 other 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.
- Note: This is a method of birth control that is often used as a back-up to another method, such as condoms. On its own, VCF has a 72-94% effectiveness rate for preventing pregnancy and provides no protection against STIs.
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 they should make an appointment with a healthcare provider right away.
Vaginal Intercourse: When a penis, sex toy, or dildo is inserted into a vagina. For partners who choose to have vaginal sex with penises, the most effective way to avoid a pregnancy and/or STIs is by using hormonal birth control, like the pill, and/or a condom.
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 the vagina, and the anus.
Vaginal Sex: Vaginal sex (also called vaginal intercourse) is when a penis, sex toy or dildo is inserted into a vagina. For partners who choose to have vaginal sex with penises, 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.
- Note: 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.
Victim Blaming: Occurs when those who are oppressed are held individually responsible for the outcomes of their own oppression. Rather than blaming victims, it’s important that we examine the systems of privilege and oppression that create predictable outcomes.
Virgin: While there is no medical definition, it often means a person who has never had sexual intercourse.
- Note: How sexual intercourse and virginity is defined is up to each individual.
Vulva: The external sex organs on the body of people with uteri 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: Also known as a nocturnal emission. This is the release of semen from a penis while during sleeping, most commonly during puberty.
Withdrawal: Also known as pulling-out or coitus interruptus. This is a 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.
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.
- Tip: Wearing cotton, loose-fitting underwear and keeping the area around the vaginal opening dry can help prevent yeast infections.
Zie, Hir: Alternate pronouns that are gender neutral and preferred by some gender non-conforming people. Pronounced zee and here, they replace “he”/”she” and “his”/”hers” respectively.
*We know that these aren’t the words everyone uses for their bodies (eg. trans folks), and support you using the language that feels best for you.