Glossary

Glossary

Talking about sex is not easy. Words mean different things to different people. The glossary includes terms about sex, as well as slang and colloquial words relating to sex. Warning! You may find some words vulgar or offensive. Such words are added not to suggest that they become standardized, but to equip you as parents to understand these terms that are often used in popular culture. In turn, you can help your child understand the meanings of these vulgar or offensive terms, as well as important vocabulary terms about sex, when the need arises. Read through this glossary to get familiar with the words. In some instances, whole new levels of awareness will occur as you more fully understand the meanings of these terms. I also invite you to stop and think about the words you use to casually talk about sex—what values and assumptions do you convey with your language?

Also note that the contraceptive technologies listed here, such as Depo Provera and hormonal birth control pills, are not necessarily effective prevention against STIs. Be sure to check whether a given birth control method also serves as protection against STIs.

Explanatory notes:

Colloquial—informal but not vulgar.

Slang—informal, may be playful, but also may be vulgar or derogatory.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Z

A

abortion: removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus, which can occur spontaneously (miscarriage) or be artificially induced through chemical, surgical, or other means.

abstinence: avoidance of sexual behavior. For some this refers exclusively to intercourse; others define it broadly as avoiding all forms of sexual activity.

AC-DC: (slang, often derogatory) a person who engages in sexual activities with members of both sexes.

addiction, sexual: uncontrollable sexual compulsivity.

adolescence: the period between childhood and adulthood when the physical changes of puberty initiate a transition in all spheres of development.

adultery: sexual intercourse when at least one partner is married to someone else.

afterbirth: the placenta which is discharged after delivery.

agape:Greek term referring to unconditional love that does not involve sexual relations.

AIDS: acronym for acquired immune deficiency syndrome, a virus spread through the exchange of bodily fluids that destroys the immune system.

amenorrhea: absence of menstruation.

anal intercourse: inserting a man’s penis into the anus of his partner. Also any sex act involving the anus.

anal stage: Freud’s second stage of psychosexual growth, in which pleasure is derived from holding or releasing bowel movements. Freud believed that this holding physical behavior was related to one’s emotional management of control.

analingus: oral stimulation of the anus.

androgen: male sex hormone secreted through the testes of men and adrenal glands of both men and women, which enhance masculine activities. From the Greek andros, meaning “man.”

androgyny: having psychological and physical attributes of both men and women.

aphrodisiac: chemicals considered to enhance sexual arousal.

arousal: stimulation toward sexual desire and erotic behavior.

artificial insemination: medical intervention to inject sperm into a woman’s uterus, for the purpose of conception.

asexual: experiencing no sexual attraction toward either males or females.

asceticism: philosophy originating with ancient Greeks, emphasizing that wisdom and virtue can be achieved by avoiding passion.

attraction: interest in others based upon particularly desirable characteristics. What is considered desirable will vary from person to person and from historical period to historical period.

autoeroticism: self-stimulation or masturbation.

attachment: emotional connection between people, e.g., parent and child, or people or in an intimate relationship. Attachment theory points out that romantic relationships are greatly affected by the connection of a child with his or her parents.

abortion: removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus, which can occur spontaneously (miscarriage) or be artificially induced through chemical, surgical, or other means.

abstinence: avoidance of sexual behavior. For some this refers exclusively to intercourse; others define it broadly as avoiding all forms of sexual activity.

adolescence: the period between childhood and adulthood when the physical changes of puberty initiate a transition in all spheres of development.

AIDS: acronym for acquired immune deficiency syndrome, a virus spread through the exchange of bodily fluids that destroys the immune system.

amenorrhea: absence of menstruation.

anal intercourse: inserting a man’s penis into the anus of his partner. Also any sex act involving the anus.

anal stage: Freud’s second stage of psychosexual growth, in which pleasure is derived from holding or releasing bowel movements. Freud believed that this holding style in physical behavior was related to one’s emotional management of control.

analingus: oral stimulation of the anus.

androgyny: having psychological and physical attributes of both men and women.

anorgasmia: the inability to achieve orgasm. This lack usually has roots in other physical, psychological, or relational problems.

artificial insemination: medical intervention to inject sperm into a woman’s uterus, for the purpose of conception.

asexual: experiencing no sexual attraction toward either males or females.

attachment: emotional connection between people, e.g., parent and child, or quality of connection in an intimate relationship. Attachment theory points out that romantic relationships are greatly affected by the connection of a child with his or her parents.

autoeroticism: self-stimulation or masturbation.

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B

balls: (slang) testicles.

balling: (vulgar slang) having sexual intercourse.

BDSM: acronym for bondage, domination, sadism, masochism.

bestiality: having sex with animals.

birth: beginning of a new life.

bisexuality: sexual attraction toward both men and women.

blow job: (colloquial) oral sex; specifically, the oral stimulation of a man’s penis.

blue balls: (slang) testicular pain created by excitation without ejaculation or the need to ejaculate.

bondage: the practice of tying people up or restraining another person for sexual pleasure.

bottom: (slang) submissive partner in a sexual relationship.

brothel: the location where prostitutes provide sexual services. Sometimes called a cathouse.

buggery: (slang) anal intercourse.

butch: (colloquial) a lesbian who assumes a dominant or masculine gender role or masculine dress or behavior.

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C

call girl: prostitute who arranges sexual contacts by phone. Call refers both to a telephone call and to being “on call.”

Casanova: a man with bravado about sexual virility who seduces women. Eighteenth century adventurer Giovanni Giacomo Casanova’s name has become synonymous with his infamous seductions.

castration: removal of a man’s testes; castration anxiety in psychoanalysis refers to a man’s fear of losing his genitals and erotic interest.

cathouse: see brothel.

celibacy: sexual abstinence or a vow not to engage in sex. Sometimes this refers to being unmarried or vowing to remain single.

cervix: the lower, narrow end of the uterus that projects into the vagina.

chancre: a painless sore or ulcer caused by a virus or a bacterium. Also the primary lesion in syphilis.

chastity: a state of virginity, not having had sexual relations; purity of mind and body, often equated with the avoidance of all sexual activity.

chat rooms: live online discussion sites where people communicate by typing messages.

chlamydia: the most prevalent sexually transmitted pathogen causing infection in the genitourinary tract for both men and women.

circumcision: surgical removal of the foreskin of the penis, performed in certain cultures as a religious practice or health measure.

clap: (slang) gonorrhea.

climacteric: menopause for women; a period of reduced sexual activity for men.

climax: orgasm.

clitoris: a woman’s sexual organ that focuses sexual sensation, often compared to a man’s penis but without direct reproductive function.

closet homosexual: one who does not openly express his or her same-sex orientation.

cock: (slang) penis.

coitus: sexual intercourse as a man inserts his penis into a woman’s vagina.

coitus interruptus: withdrawal of the penis during intercourse as an attempt to avoid conception. This method of birth control is highly ineffective and does not prevent STIs.

compulsive sexual behavior: uncontrollable sexual behavior and drive that interferes with daily life.

computer porn: pornography acquired through the Internet.

concubine: a second wife, usually of inferior status. From the Latin word concubina, meaning “to lie together.” In current usage, it refers to a woman who lives with a man and shares a marriage-like relationship, though they are not officially married.

condom: a sheath made from latex or a membrane worn during coitus (or oral sex) over the penis to prevent pregnancy and the transmittal of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Note that there are also female condoms.

congenital: acquired by the fetus in the womb and present at birth, e.g., heart defects that a child is born with.

conversion therapy: practice that attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. Also known as reparative therapy, this therapy is highly controversial with unproved efficacy.

corpora covernosa: spongy tissue in both the clitoris and penis that becomes engorged with blood and stiffens in sexual arousal.

coprophilia: a paraphilia where sexual arousal is attained in connection with feces during the sex act. From the Greek kopros, meaning “dung.”

copulation: sexual intercourse. From the Latin copulare, meaning “to unite” or “connect.”

corona: the ridge of the penis, separating the glans from the body. From the Latin corona, for “crown.”

covert sensitization: behavior modification in which an aversive fantasy is paired with a paraphilic fantasy in an effort to extinguish the paraphilic fantasy.

crabs: (slang) pubic lice.

crimes against nature: legal term used in published court cases in the United States since 1814. It refers to intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, masturbation, and paraphilias.

cross-dressing: wearing garments of the opposite sex.

cruising: seeking out a sexual partner.

crush: an infatuation; a state in which one fantasizes about romantic involvement with another person.

cum (come): (slang) semen.

cunnilingus: oral sex acted upon a female; sexual arousal involving licking and sucking a women’s genitalia (vulva).

cut: (slang) describes a circumcised penis.

cybersex: engagement in sex through the Internet.

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D

date rape: rape that occurs during a social encounter in which the perpetrator is known to the victim. Legally, the crime is considered to be just as serious as a rape perpetrated by a stranger.

defloration: rupture of the hymen, particularly associated with first intercourse and certain cultural rituals.

dental dam: a small sheet of latex used to prevent the spread of STIs during oral sex.

Depo-Provera: a highly effective injection that blocks ovulation and conception. Sometimes also used to suppress sex drive in men.

deviant: outside the cultural norm. Note: For those whose sexual behavior is outside the norm, this word is offensive because their behavior is normal to them. For those who identify with the majority, describing a sexual behavior as “deviant” may lead to judging such sexual behaviors rather than attempting to understand them.

diaphragm: a shallow rubber cup, fitted to the contours of a woman’s vagina, that is coated with spermicide and inserted before coitus to prevent conception.

dick: (slang) penis.

dildo: a sex toy that can be inserted vaginally or anally. Often but not necessarily shaped like a penis.

Don Juan: refers to a compulsive seducer or philanderer, or to a man with an insatiable sexual appetite or drive. A fictional Spanish noble, seventeenth century Don Juan seduced women by disguising himself as women’s lovers or by promising marriage; he is often portrayed as absurd or villainous.

doggy style: (slang) intercourse when one person penetrates another by entering from behind.

drag queen: a gay male who dresses as a female, often for theatrical purposes.

dyke: (slang, sometimes derogatory) lesbian. Can be derogatory, but is also used in the gay community as a way of proudly asserting one’s identity.

dysmenorrhea: painful cramps experienced during menstruation.

dualism: philosophy that separates physical and spiritual dimensions, often characterizing the spiritual as higher and better

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E

egg: reproductive cell in women.

ejaculation: the expulsion of semen.

Electra complex: a girl’s attraction to her father. In psychoanalytic theory, a conflict of the phallic stage of girls, in which they wish to possess their father and perceive their mother as a rival, as portrayed in the ancient Greek drama Electra. This conflict is analogous to the boy’s Oedipus complex.

embryo: fertilized egg until eight weeks gestation.

erectile disorder: difficulty achieving erection for men that can be related to multiple and various factors.

erection: the aroused state of a penis because of vasocongestion of the tissue and engorgement by blood.

erogenous zone: a part of the body that produces sexual excitement when stimulated.

eros: sexual passion related to physical passion. In Greek mythology, Eros was the god oflove, son of Aphrodite.

erotic: associated with sensual or sexual pleasure.

erotica: literature or art with a sexual theme.

estrogen: hormone produced by a woman’s ovaries and in small amounts by both men and women in the adrenal glands and by men in the testes.

eunuch: a castrated man. Historically, these men were often castrated to fill specific social roles such as high-register vocal performers, guardians of women, or religious specialists.

exhibitionist: a person who exposes genitalia compulsively and in inappropriate settings to obtain sexual gratification and to shock and startle victims.

exploitation: the act of using another for one’s own advantage.

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F

faggot: (vulgar slang, often derogatory) male homosexual.

fallopian tubes: the passageway the egg follows to the uterus.

fantasy: mental imaging used to become sexually aroused.

fellatio: oral stimulation of a man’s genitals.

female: the sex that bears children and produces ova; a girl or woman; feminine, lady-like, proper.

femme: (colloquial) a lesbian who assumes traditional feminine gender roles.

feminine: having qualities attributed to a woman.

femininity: qualities attributed to women. Cultural stereotyping identifies women as feminine, meaning that they are soft, frilly, irrational, passive, helpless, and needing a man’s protection. The feminist movement has raised awareness regarding the limiting impact of the usage of this term.

fetishism: condition in which sexual arousal involves inanimate objects or a particular body part.

fetus: term to describe the embryo after the eighth week of pregnancy.

fisting: (slang) inserting one or both hands into the vagina or rectum of a sexual partner.

foreplay: stimulating sexual interactions that set the stage for intercourse.

foreskin: loose skin of the penis that folds over the glans; the foreskin may be cut in circumcision.

fornication: sexual intercourse between two people who are not married to one another. This term is often used in religious contexts.

French kiss: kissing in which one partner’s tongue touches the other’s.

French tickler: a condom-like device with small protrusions that fits over the penis, designed to give a woman additional sexual pleasure during intercourse.

frigid: (colloquial) averse to sexual intercourse. The term carries a negative connotation and can be used to describe men or women.

frotteurism: a paraphilia in which sexual arousal occurs by rubbing one’s genitals against another unconsenting person in public places.

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G

G-spot: a sexually sensitive area on the front wall of the vagina named after Ernest Gräfenberg who identified this as an erogenous zone. Some report that this area provides a “deeper orgasm” and female ejaculation, and men have identified a similar area near the prostate gland.

gang bang: (slang) sexual intercourse (usually rape) in which multiple men penetrate one woman.

gay: describes a person whose attractions are to people of the same sex. Gay is more often used to describe men, while lesbian is often the preferred term for women. Sometimes used pejoratively for effeminate men. Derogatory slang referring to gay men includes fag, queen, fairy, homo.

gender: one’s cultural, social, and legal status as a man or woman.

gender dysphoria: the feeling that one’s gender does not match the sex of one’s body. Also referred to as gender identity disorder.

gender identity: one’s subjective sense of being a man or woman.

genital herpes: herpes infections affecting the genital and genitourinary system that are painful. See herpes.

genitals/genitalia: reproductive organs of men and women; often refers to external sex organs.

gestation: period of time in the development from conception to birth.

gigolo: a male prostitute who caters to women.

glans: the rounded end of the penis or clitoris.

gonads: sex glands. A man’s gonads are testes; a woman’s gonads are ovaries.

gonorrhea: an STI caused by a bacterium that creates a burning sensation at urination. From the Greek gonos, meaning “seed,” and rheo, meaning “to flow”; the ancient Greeks erroneously interpreted gonorrhea as a loss of seminal fluid. If untreated, gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease.

grinding: rubbing against one another; mimicking intercourse for sexual excitement, often while dancing.

gynecologist: a doctor specializing in the female reproductive system and women’s medical health.

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H

hand job: (slang) manual sexual stimulation of the genitalia by one’s partner; especially refers to the stimulation of the penis.

hedonism: belief system in which pleasure represents life’s highest good.

hermaphrodite: person who possesses both ovarian and testicular tissue (named after the Greek gods Hermes and Aphrodite).

herpes:painful viral infection causing blisters, herpes I (oral herpes), and herpes II (genital herpes). From the Greek herpein, meaning “to creep.”

heterosexual: having an erotic attraction to, and preference for, romantic and/or sexual relationships with the opposite gender.

heterosexism: thinking in exclusively heterosexual terms about sexuality specifically, and human experience generally, thereby neglecting and invalidating the existence of homosexual and bisexual attraction, behavior, and relationships.

hickey: a red mark, usually on the neck, created on the skin from prolonged sucking and biting. Teenagers sometimes flaunt these as status symbols of their romantic involvement.

HIV: acronym for human immunodeficiency virus, the virus that is the precursor for AIDS.

homophobia: fear of homosexuals. From the Greek homos, meaning “same,” and phobia, meaning “fear.”

homosexual: having an erotic attraction to, and preference for, romantic and/or sexual relationships with one’s own gender. In certain contexts, it is used as a slur. The term is usually used in clinical speech; in more common usage the preferred terms include gay, lesbian (as a noun or adjective), or same-sex (adjective). From the Greek homos, meaning“same,” not from the Latin homos, which means “man.”

hooker: (slang) prostitute.

hooking up:(slang) usually refers to a casual sexual encounter that can involve varying degrees of activity ranging from kissing to sexual intercourse.

hormone: secretion from a gland that regulates various body functions. From the Greek hormon, meaning “to set in motion,” “to stimulate,” or “to excite.”

horny: (slang) —having sexual tension.

hottie: (slang) sexually attractive person.

hussy: (vulgar slang) a brazen, lewd, immoral woman.

hustler: man or woman who serves as a prostitute.

hymen: thin membrane partly covering the opening to the vagina. May be broken during sexual intercourse or other physical activity such as sports.

hypoactive sexuality: less than normal drive that contributes to sexual dysfunction.

hysterectomy: surgical removal of the uterus.

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I

id: from Freud, a mental structure driven by primary drives for gratification.

impotence: difficulty achieving and sustaining erections sufficient for intercourse. Because of the pejorative connotation of this term, this word has been replaced in popular and medical discourse by male erectile disorder or erectile dysfunction.

impregnate: to make pregnant or inseminate; to cause conception.

incest: sexual relationship or marriage involving those in a family (blood) relationship that is prohibited and illegal. From the Latin in, meaning “not,” and cestus, meaning “chaste.”

infatuation: a state of unreasoning, intense emotional preoccupation with another, including sexual arousal.

infertility: inability to conceive a child.

inner lips: labia minora; the delicate folds immediately surrounding the vagina.

intercourse: sexual activity between two people, usually involving a penis inserted into a vagina.

Internet sexuality: sexual connection on the Internet where participants view material with sexual content, or connect with others, both with the object of achieving sexual pleasure.

intimacy: feelings of connectedness marked by sharing innermost affections, feelings, and thoughts. This chosen state of openness and vulnerability occurs in secure relationships.

intromission: penile penetration of the vagina. See also intercourse.

IUD (intrauterine device): device (loop, coil, or shield) inserted into the uterus to prevent the egg from implanting.

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J

jerk off: (vulgar slang) to masturbate (for a male).

john: a man who hires prostitutes for sexual services.

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K

kinky: having unusual sexual practices or desires.

knocked up: (slang) pregnant.

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L

labia: folds (labia majora and minora) that run down the mons along the vulva.

lactation: production of milk by mammary glands for the purpose of breast-feeding.

latency: the fourth stage in Freud’s model of psychosexual development between the ages of 8 and 12; “the quiet before the storm” preceding puberty.

lesbian: a female who is homosexual; a girl or woman who has significant sexual or romantic attractions toward other women. From the Greek Lesbos, an island in the Aegean Sea where the poet Sappho ran a school for girls for whom she expressed passion.

lesbo: (vulgar slang) a derogatory term for a lesbian.

LGBT: acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender.

libido: psychoanalytic term referring to one’s sexual drive and desire.

love: a committed, trusting relationship with another. The word takes on many meanings. Sometimes it means sexual intercourse; other times, it means a spiritual connection.

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M

machismo: Spanish term referring to a man’s masculinity, bravado, and virility.

madam: woman who manages the business of a brothel, often a former prostitute.

maidenhead: condition of virginity; hymen.

male: the sex that produces sperm that can fertilize female eggs; a man or boy; masculine, manly, or virile.

man: adult male human; sometimes used generically to refer to a person of either sex (as in mankind); a person endowed with strength and characteristics attributed to men; (colloquial) husband.

masculine: possessing qualities attributed to men.

masculinity: qualities attributed to men. Cultural stereotyping identifies men as strong, aggressive, dominant, silent, and mechanically competent. Furthermore the stereotype emphasizes that they should not express tenderness, sensitivity, or pain. This narrow prescription for men has changed as a result of the women’s movement.

masochist: person who is sexually gratified by experiencing emotional and/or physical pain and humiliation.

masturbation: sexual self-stimulation by touching or rubbing one’s own genitals for pleasure.

mate swapping: sex involving couples’ exchanging partners; open marriage.

ménage à trois: sex involving three people. From the French ménage, meaning “household,” and trois, meaning “three”—household of three. The “household of three” comes from the fact that a ménage à trois was typically a husband and wife couple with a (live-in) lover.

menarche: the onset of menstruation.

menopause: the end of menstruation.

menstruation: the cyclical bleeding in females that results from shedding the uterine lining (endometrium).

MILF: (vulgar slang) acronym for “mom I’d like to fuck”; a sexually attractive older woman. Originating from the film American Pie.

miscarriage: a spontaneous, natural abortion.

molestation: sexual assault.

mons: a mound of fatty tissue covering the pubic area in women.

morning-after pill: estrogen pill taken after coitus that inhibits pregnancy by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. It does not prevent STIs.

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N

natural childbirth: delivery of a child without drugs or anesthesia.

necrophilia: a paraphilia characterized by desire of sexual activity with corpses. From the Greek nekros, meaning “dead body.”

nocturnal emission: involuntary ejaculation of seminal fluid while asleep. Also referred to as a wet dream, it is not necessarily related to the individual dream content.

nuts: (slang) testicles.

nympho: (slang) pejorative term for a woman who is sexually interested or active.

nymphomaniac: a woman with excessive, insatiable sexual appetite or drive.

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O

obscene: refers to sexual material judged by society as being potentially offensive, lacking serious value, and appealing to prurient interests.

obstetrician: a physician who specializes in prenatal care and the delivery of babies.

Oedipus complex: a boy’s attraction to his mother. In psychoanalytic theory, this is a conflict to be resolved by boys, who wish to possess their mother yet perceive their father as a rival (the analogous conflict for girls is the Electra complex). Derived from the ancient Greek tragedy in which King Oedipus kills his father and marries his mother.

onanism: coitus interruptus. The term is derived from Onan in the Hebrew scriptures, who interrupted intercourse, “spilling his seed.” This reference is the basis for those who point to biblical sanctions against masturbation.

openly gay: describes those who do not hide their being lesbian, gay, or bisexual.

oral sex: sexual stimulation involving the genitals of one partner and the mouth of the other.

oral stage:Freud’s first stage of psychosexual development, related to trust. Refers to the infant’s oral connection with the mother, through breast-feeding.

orgasm: the climax of sexual excitement.

organ: (slang) penis.

orifice: refers to any opening in the body, most commonly the mouth, vagina, or anus.

orgy: unbridled sex among many participants.

outer lips: labia majora.

outercourse: forms of sexual activity that do not involve the exchange of bodily fluids, such as hugging, masturbation, and rubbing (sometimes known as “dry sex”).

outing: (slang) revealing another person’s sexual orientation without his or her approval. This may be done in an attempt to discriminate against or discredit an individual, or to combat discrimination by forcing closeted gays to acknowledge their sexual orientation.

ovaries: almond-shaped organs that produce egg cells and the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

ovulation: the release of an egg from the ovary.

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P

paraphilia: a diagnostic category referring to atypical patterns of sexual arousal, which do not conform to social norms. These urges are recurrent and central to a paraphiliac’s excitement. From the Greek para, meaning “to the side of,” and philos, meaning “love of another.”

passion: ardent desire; strong physical attraction, particularly in sexual relations and romance.

pederasty: sexual love of boys. From the Greek paidie, meaning “boy.”

pedophilia: a paraphilia involving sexual desire for children.

Peggy Lee syndrome: the letdown that some teenage girls feel when their first sexual experience is less exciting than expected. Named for the song made famous by singer Peggy Lee, “Is That All There Is?”

penetration: entrance of the penis, fingers, or sex toys into any orifice (vagina, anus, mouth).

penis: the male organ for sexual intercourse. From the Latin penis, which means “tail.”

perineum: the area between the anus and penis or vulva. From the Greek peri, meaning “around,” and ineum, meaning “to empty out.”

perversion: psychological abnormality; compulsive sexual behavior outside the identified cultural norm.

pervert: person who departs from socially acceptable standards of sexual conduct.

petting: physical gestures in romantic exchange often differentiated as “light” or “heavy,” terms which distinguish contact above the waist from contact below the waist.

phallic stage: Freud’s third stage of psychosexual development involving the genitalia, specifically the penis, related to pleasure and emotional power, aggression, and dominance.

phallus: the penis or something symbolizing the penis.

pheromones: body chemicals that attract sexual partners;, particularly profound in nonhuman species.

philanderer: one who carries on a sexual affair without the intent to marry, especially in an adulterous context.

Pill, the: a synthetic hormonal substance that effectively prevents ovulation. This is an effective method for contraception, but it does not prevent STIs.

philia:Greek word for love, referring to friendship based on liking and respect ratherthan sex.

pimp: a man who solicits business for a prostitute and lives off those earnings.

plastic: (colloquial) condom.

plays: (colloquial) overtures intended to bring a relationship into sexual territory.

platonic love: nonsexual relationship; often a close relationship that transcends physical desire or interest.

PMS: acronym for premenstrual syndrome; the physical and emotional changes women experience during the three to fourteen days prior to the start of each menstrual cycle.

polymorphous perversity: from psychoanalytic theory, openness to all forms of sexual stimulation.

pornography: depictions of erotic or lewd material designed to cause sexual arousal. Soft-core pornography features nudity, sexually suggestive behavior, and simulated or veiled sex; hardcore pornography contains visible aroused genitalia and penetration.

positions: sex positions; the placement of bodies during intercourse.

prick: (vulgar slang) penis.

primary sexual characteristics: physical characteristics that differentiate men and women, specifically those directly involved in sexual reproduction, such as sex organs.

progesterone: hormonal substance that prepares the uterus for implantation and maintains pregnancy.

promiscuity: casual sexual activity with various partners.

prophylactic: condom. From the Greek phylacto, meaning “to prevent”; so-called because of its use in preventing pregnancy and the transmission of various STIs.

prostate gland: chestnut-sized gland in males, connected to the neck of the bladder and vas deferens, that stores and secretes alkaline fluid and enzymes that make up one-third of the seminal fluid.

prostitute: a person who exchanges sexual services for money.

prostaglandins: hormones that may cause muscle contractions associated with menstrual pain.

prurient: tending to excite sexually; lewd. From the Latin prurire, meaning “to itch.”

psychosexual: relating sexual development to psychological factors.

puberty: biological sexual transition from childhood to adulthood. From the Latin, pubertas, meaning “ripe old age.”

pubic hair: secondary sexual characteristic of hair around genitals developed in puberty.

pubic lice: small parasitic insects that inhabit pubic hair. Also known as crabs.

puppy love: (colloquial) passing affection felt by a child or teen. The term may be used pejoratively, to dismiss such feelings as inconsequential.

pussy: (vulgar slang) vagina. Also a derogatory term for a weak male.

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Q

queen: (slang) effeminate or flamboyant gay man.

queer: (slang, sometimes derogatory) gay. Historically an insult, queer has been reclaimed by some in the gay community as a term of pride. In contemporary usage, it is an inclusive, unifying sociopolitical umbrella term for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, and intersexual people, as well as for heterosexuals whose sexual preferences and activities are outside the mainstream.

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R

rape: forcible, nonconsensual sexual act.

refractory period: period of time, such as after orgasm, when person is not responsive to sexual stimulation.

rhythm method: ineffective method for contraception where partners attempt to schedule sexual activity around the woman’s monthly cycle, avoiding sex at times when the egg is most likely to be fertilized.

rimming: (slang) analingus.

RU-486: drug (mifepristone) that induces menstruation by blocking absorption of progesterone, which prevents uterine lining from supporting the embryo, thereby inducing abortion of the embryo/fetus. Sometimes referred to as the abortion pill.

rubber: (slang) condom.

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S

sadist: person who derives sexual pleasure from inflicting physical and emotional pain on others.

safe(ty): (slang) condom.

safe-sex: (colloquial) using a condom, dental dam, or other protective device during sex to prevent the spread of STIs.

screwing: (slang) sexual intercourse.

scrotum: the pouch that hangs at the base of the penis and contains the testicles.

semen: thick, white, milky liquid ejaculated from the penis that contains sperm.

sex: characteristics that define humans as male or female; often refers to the anatomical structures involved in reproduction and sexual pleasure. Also refers to acts involving the sex organs, especially coitus.

sexism: gender-based prejudice.

sexuality: all the attitudes, feelings, and behavior associated with sex.

sexual orientation: the direction of a person’s sexual attraction, in terms of whether the person is attracted to members of the same and/or opposite gender. Sexual orientation can be described as heterosexual (straight), bisexual, or homosexual (gay or lesbian). This term is considered more appropriate than the term sexual preference, which implies that a person chooses to be straight, gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

shaft: body of the penis that expands as a result of vasocongestion.

sissy: derogatory term for a male who is not manly or is girlish or effeminate.

sixty-nine (69): (slang) simultaneous oral sex of both sexual partners.

slut: (vulgar slang) prostitute, or a woman considered to be sexually promiscuous.

S and M: (slang) acronym for sadomasochism; sexual acts involving a partner who derives sexual pleasure from experiencing physical and emotional pain, and a partner who derives sexual pleasure from inflicting it.

sodomy: definition varies by community; a range of sexual acts, which can include anal sex, intercourse with animals, oral sex, and homosexual acts.

Spanish fly: a dangerous aphrodisiac that irritates the digestive system, bladder, and urethra but promises to increase sexual drive.

sperm: the male reproductive cell. From the Greek sperma, meaning “seed.”

statutory rape: legal term for sexual intercourse with a minor. The definition of minor varies from state to state.

STD: acronym for sexually transmitted disease; diseases such as gonorrhea and syphilis that are spread almost exclusively through vaginal intercourse, oral sex, and anal sex. Also known as STIs.

STI: acronym for sexually transmitted infection; an infection transmitted between partners through some form of sexual activity. While the acronyms STD and STI are often used interchangeably, they are not exactly the same thing. Infection refers to a germ, bacteria, or parasite; disease refers to a sickness. The term STI is a broader term as it refers to infection with any germ that can cause an STI.

sterilization: surgical techniques such as vasectomy and tubal ligation that prevent sperm from reaching ova.

straight: heterosexual.

superego: in Freud’s theory, the psychological structure that functions as a moral guardian and establishes high standards for behavior.

stud: (colloquial) a man perceived as attractive and virile.

swinger: (slang) sexually active person who engages in sex with numerous partners.

syphilis: sexually transmitted bacterial disease, characterized by sores called chancres. If left untreated, the disease may render a person insane, blind, crippled or dead; the disease can be treated with antibiotics.

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T

tampon: absorbent material inserted into the vagina that absorbs menstrual flow.

testicles: male sex glands that produce testosterone.

testosterone: primary hormone associated with sexual desire. While predominant in men, women also manufacture testosterone.

threesome: sexual relations between three persons; also see ménage á trois.

top: (slang) dominant partner in a sexual relationship.

transgender: term describing those whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth.

transsexual: outdated term originating in the medical and psychological communities describing a person who identifies as a member of the gender opposite to the one assigned at birth; the term currently in use is transgender.

transvestite: person, usually heterosexual, who derives sexual pleasure from wearing garments of the opposite sex; not to be confused with a transsexual or transgender person.

tubal ligation: sterilization operation that involves cutting or tying the fallopian tubes.

tumescence: swelling or engorgement of the penis. From the Latin tumere, meaning “to swell.”

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U

umbilical cord: anatomical connection of the baby and placenta that is cut at birth.

uncut: (colloquial) describes an uncircumcised penis.

urethra: canal leading from the bladder to the urethral opening, in both males and females. While this tube carries both urine and semen in men, it is not possible for both to be released during intercourse.

uterus: hollow, muscular, pear-shaped organ where fertilized ovum implants and develops until birth.

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V

vagina: tubular organ connected to uterus. From the Latin vagina, for “sheath.”

vas deferens: tube that extends from testicle to prostate gland, which is responsible for transporting sperm and ejaculatory fluid.

vasectomy: male sterilization in which vas deferens are cut or tied to block transport of sperm.

venereal disease: outdated term for disease transmitted by sexual contact. Term has been replaced by sexually transmitted disease (STI) or sexually transmitted infection (STI). Named after the Roman goddess of love, Venus.

Viagra: medication that enhances erection, which is prescribed to men who suffer from erectile dysfunction.

vibrator: electric or battery-operated vibrating device used for sexual stimulation.

virgin: person who has not had sexual relations. In colloquial parlance, a sexually inexperienced person.

virility: sexual potency in a man.

voyeur: person who derives sexual pleasure from observing unsuspecting individuals engaged in sexual activity.

vulva: external genitalia of women.

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W

wet dream: (colloquial) nocturnal emission. This is often a boy’s first experience with ejaculation.

whore: (vulgar slang) female prostitute. This can also be used as a derogatory term to verbally attack a woman.

withdrawal: ineffective contraceptive method of removing the penis from the vagina prior to ejaculation. See also coitus interruptus.

woman: adult female human; a person endowed with characteristics attributed to women, femininity, or womanliness. (Slang) wife. (Vulgar slang) used to describe a woman as an object.

womb: uterus.

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X

X-rated media: media presenting pornography.

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Z

zoophilia: paraphilia characterized by sexual intercourse with animals.

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