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Glossary

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– A –

abortifacient
A drug, herb, or device that can cause an abortion.

abortion
The termination and expulsion of a pregnancy before birth.

abortion pill
Popular term for mifepristone, a medication used to terminate pregnancy. (Mifeprex is the brand name.) Sometimes used to describe the process of medication abortion, which includes the use of two medications, usually mifepristone and misoprostol, to terminate and expel a pregnancy. 

abstinence
Not having sex play with a partner.

abstinence-only programs
Curricula that teach abstinence as the only morally correct option for unmarried people. They do not include information about the health benefits of condoms for the prevention of sexually transmitted infections and other methods of birth control for the prevention of unintended pregnancy. See "abstinence-only-until-marriage programs."

abstinence-only-until-marriage programs
Curricula that teach abstinence as the only morally correct option for unmarried people. These programs, funded under Title V of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act, do not allow instructors to share information about the health benefits of condoms for the prevention of sexually transmitted infections or other methods of birth control for the prevention of unintended pregnancy. Government-funded abstinence-only-until-marriage programs

  • teach only one set of values as morally correct
  • use fear tactics
  • often promote specific religious values
  • teach that sexual expression before marriage is dangerous and has harmful physical, emotional, and social consequences
  • only allow discussion of the negative consequences of premarital sex
  • forbid medically accurate, positive, or normalizing discussion about abortion, birth control, masturbation, safer sex, sexual behavior, sexual identity, and sexual orientation
  • discuss and often exaggerate the failure rates of condoms and other methods of birth control
  • teach that carrying a pregnancy to term and keeping the baby or placing the baby for adoption is the only morally correct option for pregnant teens

abstinence-plus education
See “comprehensive sex education.”

acquaintance rape
Sexual intercourse that is forced by someone the victim knows.

acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)
The most advanced stage of HIV disease.

adolescence
The period of physical and emotional change between the beginning of puberty and early adulthood.

adrenarche
The time in early puberty when secondary sex characteristics begin to develop.

adultery
Sexual intercourse between a married person and someone who is not his or her spouse.

A-frame orgasm    
The climax or peak of sexual arousal for women that is caused by stimulating the vagina without stimulating the clitoris.

afterbirth
The placenta and other tissue that empty out of the uterus following childbirth.

age of consent
The age at which state law considers a person old enough to decide to have sex with a partner.

age of majority
The age at which state law recognizes a person as a legal adult.

AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome)
The most advanced stage of HIV disease.

AIS (androgen insensitivity syndrome)
A genetic intersex condition that causes a fetus with male chromosomes to be unable to develop male sex organs, so it has a female anatomy at birth and throughout life. Usually raised as girls, individuals with AIS do not have reproductive organs, do not menstruate, are infertile, and usually have vaginas that are too shallow to allow vaginal intercourse.

ally
A friend. Often used to describe someone who takes a stand against oppression or discrimination who is not a member of the oppressed group — for example, a white person who speaks out against racism or a straight person who speaks out against homophobia.

alternative insemination
See "donor insemination.”

alveoli
Sacs inside the breast that produce milk.

amenorrhea
A lack of menstruation.

amniocentesis
A prenatal test that examines the fluid that surrounds and protects the fetus. If indicated, usually performed between 15–18 weeks of pregnancy to detect certain birth defects.

amniotic fluid
The liquid that surrounds the fetus within the amniotic sac.

anal intercourse
Sex play in which the penis enters the anus.

androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS)
A genetic intersex condition that causes a fetus with male chromosomes to be unable to develop male sex organs, so it has a female anatomy at birth and throughout life. Usually raised as girls, individuals with AIS do not have reproductive organs, do not menstruate, are infertile, and usually have vaginas that are too shallow to allow vaginal intercourse.

androgens
Certain hormones that stimulate male sexual development and secondary male sex characteristics. Large amounts are produced in men’s testicles and small amounts are produced in women’s ovaries. The most common androgen is testosterone.

androgyne
A person who has characteristics of both genders, feminine and masculine. A person whose gender looks mixed or neutral — androgynous.

androgyny­
A gender identity that allows the expression of both gender roles.

andropause
The gradual decline in sexual vigor as men age, due to decreasing levels of testosterone. Similar to menopause in women.

androphobia
Fear of men.

anesthesia
Medication that causes a loss of sensation and protects against pain during medical procedures. Topical anesthesia stops sensation on surfaces of the body.  Local anesthesia stops sensation in a small area of the body. Regional anesthesia stops sensation in a larger area of the body. General anesthesia stops sensation in the whole body and makes one unconscious. Conscious sedation stops sensation in the body while allowing a person to remain awake but deeply relaxed.

anilingus
Oral sex play with a partner’s anus.

anorexia
An eating disorder often caused by poor body image in which people, usually women, don’t eat or eat very little to remain or become thin.

anorgasmia
Inability to have an orgasm or difficulty in having an orgasm.

antibiotics
Medicines that are used to cure infections caused by bacteria, fungi, or protozoa.

antibody
A protein developed by the immune system in response to a toxin introduced into the body.

anti-choice
Opposed to the belief that women have the right to make their own choices about whether and when to have a child.

anus
The opening from the rectum from which solid waste (feces) leaves the body.

aphrodisiac
A substance that is supposed to increase sexual desire.

areola
The dark area surrounding the nipples of women and men.

artificial insemination
See preferred term, “donor insemination.”

asexual
Having no desire for sex play with a partner.

aspiration abortion
A procedure that ends pregnancy by emptying the uterus with the gentle suction of a manual syringe or with machine-operated suction. Also called “in-clinic abortion.”

atrophic vaginitis
A vaginal irritation without a discharge caused by lowered levels of estrogen due to

  • breastfeeding
  • induced menopause
  • natural menopause

autoerotic
Providing sexual stimulation for one’s self and/or being aroused by one’s self.

autoerotic asphyxiation
Self-strangulation for sexual arousal. It is very dangerous. Hundreds of young people, mostly men, die of autoerotic asphyxiation every year.

 

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– B –

backup birth control
Any method — including condoms, diaphragms, sponges,  or withdrawal — that is used while waiting for hormonal birth control methods to become effective in a woman’s system or when hormonal methods are not taken on schedule.  Some people also refer to emergency contraception as backup birth control.

bacterial vaginosis (BV)
Inflammation of the vulva and/or vagina — vaginitis — caused by a change in the balance of vaginal bacteria, which may be caused by vaginal intercourse or manual sex play, especially with a new partner.

balanitis
An inflammation of the glans and foreskin of the penis that can be caused by infections — including sexually transmitted infections — irritations, drugs, or other factors.

B & D (bondage and discipline)
Sexual role-play that includes elements of sadism or masochism. Often one partner is physically restrained, bound, or leashed.

barrier methods of birth control
Contraceptives that block sperm from entering the uterus. These are the condom, female condom, diaphragm, cap, spermicide, and sponge.

Bartholin’s glands
Two glands that provide lubrication during sexual excitement.  They are located in the inner labia on each side of the opening to the vagina.

basal body temperature method
A fertility awareness-based birth control method for predicting a woman’s fertility by taking her temperature. Can be used for contraception or planning a pregnancy.  

bear
Slang for men, especially gay men, who may be burly and hairy and who reject the most popular ideas of what it is to be attractive.

berdache
In some Native American cultures, a person who is both feminine and masculine.  See "transgender" and "two-spirited."

bestiality
Sexual contact with an animal.

bigendered
Expressing femininity and masculinity at different times.

bilateral mastectomy
The surgical removal of both breasts. Performed to treat disease or to create a male-appearing chest. See "chest surgery."

bimanual exam
Physical examination of a woman’s internal reproductive organs.

binge-eating disorder
Compulsive overeating.

biology
The scientific study of life.

biopsy
Taking a small sample of tissue to make a diagnosis.

birth canal
The passage from the uterus through the cervix and vagina through which the fetus is pushed out of a woman’s body during childbirth.

birth control
Behaviors, devices, or medications used to avoid unintended pregnancy.

birth defect
A physical abnormality present at birth.

bisexual
A person who has sexual desire for people of both genders.

bladder
The organ that collects and stores urine produced by the kidney. The bladder is emptied through the urethra.

blastocyst
The developing pre-embryo shortly before implantation when it is a hollow ball of cells.

blended orgasm
The climax or peak of sexual arousal for women that is brought about by stimulating the clitoris and the vagina.

blood type / blood group
One of several classifications based on the presence or absence of substances that affect red blood cells in different ways and stimulate the production of certain antibodies.

blue balls
Slang for uncomfortable feeling in the genitals that may occur when men do not have an ejaculation following sexual stimulation. Women may experience similar aches if they do not reach orgasm. Because of sexist influences, there is no common expression to describe a woman’s symptoms.

body image
One’s attitudes and feelings about one’s own body and appearance.

bondage and discipline (B & D)
Sexual role-play that includes elements of sadism or masochism. Often one partner is physically restrained, bound, or leashed.

boner
Slang for an erect penis.

breastfeeding
Providing a baby with nourishment of human milk from the breast.

breasts
Two glands on the chests of women. Breasts are secondary sex characteristics in women. They are also considered sex organs because they are often sexually sensitive and may inspire sexual desire. Like mammary glands in other mammals, they produce milk during and after pregnancy. Men also have breast tissue.

brothel
A place where a group of sex workers — prostitutes — serve their clients.

bubo
A swollen gland and sore caused by chancroid.

bulbourethral glands
The glands beneath the prostate gland that are attached to the urethra. They produce an alkaline fluid — pre-ejaculate or pre-cum — that neutralizes the urethra in preparation for ejaculation.  Pre-ejaculate also reduces friction in the urethra, making it easier for semen to pass through. Also called “Cowper’s glands.”

bulimia
An eating disorder in which binge eating is followed by purging with laxatives or self-induced vomiting.

bundling
A custom in colonial North America that allowed an unmarried young woman and man to sleep together, usually with a “bundling board” running the length of the bed between them, or with the young woman enclosed in a “bundling bag” that reached up to her armpits.

butch
Slang for acting masculine, especially in regard to lesbians and gay men. May be considered offensive.

butt plug
A toy for anal sex designed to stay in place in the anus and rectum. Some are designed to stimulate a man’s prostate gland.

BV (bacterial vaginosis)
Inflammation of the vulva and/or vagina — vaginitis — caused by a change in the balance of vaginal bacteria, which may be caused by vaginal intercourse or manual sex play, especially with a new partner.

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– C –

calendar method
A fertility awareness-based method for predicting fertility in which women chart their menstrual cycles on a calendar. Can be used for contraception or to plan a pregnancy.

call boy
A relatively high-end sex worker who makes appointments with his usually gay male clients through an escort service.

call girl
A relatively high-end sex worker who makes appointments with her usually straight male clients through an escort service.

cap
See “FemCap."

candida
A type of yeast — Candida albicans — and a common cause of vaginitis. Yeast infections may also occur in the penis or scrotum. When they occur orally, they are called “thrush.”

castration
Removal of the testicles. See "chemical castration."

casual sex
Sex play between partners who are not in a relationship with one another.

celibacy
Not having sex play. Formerly, not being married.

censorship
The official prohibition of information thought to be offensive or dangerous.

cerebral cortex
The gray, wrinkled mass that covers most of the brain, associated with higher functions, including learning and perception.

cervical cap
A firm, thimble-like, rubber or silicone cup that is intended to fit securely on the cervix. Used with contraceptive jelly, the cervical cap is a barrier method of birth control that is reversible and available only by prescription. The FemCap is the only cervical cap currently available in the U.S.

cervical mucus
The secretion from the lower end of the uterus into the vagina. It changes in quality and quantity throughout the menstrual cycle, especially around the time of ovulation.

cervical mucus method
A fertility awareness-based method for predicting a woman’s fertility by observing changes in her cervical mucus. Can be used for contraception or for planning a pregnancy.

cervicitis
An irritation of the cervix. May include abnormal discharge from the cervix that can look and feel like a vaginal discharge.

cervix
The narrow, lower part — neck — of the uterus, with a narrow opening connecting the uterus to the vagina.

cesarian section / C-section
Childbirth in which the fetus is taken out of the uterus surgically.

chancre
A sore on the skin or mucus membrane that is caused by syphilis during the first phase of infection.

chancroid
A once very common sexually transmitted bacterium that causes open genital sores, called buboes.  Only 23 cases were reported in the U.S. in 2007.

change of life
Common term for menopause.

chastity belt
A device designed to prevent women, men, or children from having sex. Used from medieval to modern times, these devices were also supposed to preserve morality. Some were meant to ensure fidelity in women in the absence of their husbands. Others were designed to prevent masturbation and nocturnal emissions in men and boys.

chemical castration
The use of an injection of progestin to decrease a man’s sexual desire and arousal.

chest binding
Flattening breast tissue in order to create a male-appearing chest.  Some FTMs and transmen don’t bind at all due to comfort issues, because they may have small chests, or because they have undergone chest reconstruction surgery. Some use different methods of layering clothing to help hide their chests. Some bind only on certain occasions; some bind all the time.

chest surgery / chest reconstruction surgery
Surgical reconstruction to create a more female- or more male-appearing chest. Sometimes also referred to as “top surgery.” Chest surgery is the most common surgical procedure sought by FTMs. For MTFs, chest surgery may involve breast implants, which are sometimes used to augment the amount of breast development that may have already been achieved through estrogen hormone therapy.

child abuse
Mistreatment of a child, physically, emotionally, and/or sexually.

child pornography
Images of children designed to be sexually arousing. Illegal.

child sexual abuse
Sexual contact by an adult with a child. See "incest."

chlamydia
A common, sexually transmitted bacterium that can cause sterility and arthritis in women and men.

chorionic villus sampling (CVS)
A prenatal test that examines the tissue that attaches the fetus to the wall of the uterus. If indicated, usually performed between 10–12 weeks of pregnancy to detect certain birth defects.

chromosome
Structures in a cell that carry genes, which carry hereditary information.

circumcision
An operation to remove the foreskin of the penis or the clitoral hood.  See ”female circumcision.”

cisgender
Cisgender refers to those who identify and present as the gender they were assigned at birth. For example, a baby born with a vulva is categorized a girl. If she also sees herself as a girl throughout her life, she is considered cisgender. See also "genderqueer" and "cissexual."

cissexual
An individual whose gender identity and physical sex have been aligned since birth. See also "cisgender" and "genderqueer."

climacteric
The physiological and emotional midlife changes for women that precede menopause. Caused by decreasing levels of estrogen and testosterone. See “andropause.”

climax
An orgasm or to have an orgasm.

clinician
A qualified health care professional, such as a doctor, nurse, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant. Also called “health care provider.”

clitoral hood
A small flap of skin formed by the inner labia that covers and protects the clitoris.

clitoral orgasm
The climax or peak of sexual arousal for women that is brought about by stimulating the clitoris without stimulating the vagina.

clitoral reduction
Shortening the clitoris surgically, as in gender reassignment surgery and female genital mutilation.

clitoridectomy
Removal of the external clitoris. See "female genital mutilation."

clitoris
The female sex organ that is very sensitive to the touch. It is made of spongy tissue that swells with blood during sexual excitement. The external tip of the clitoris is located at the top of the vulva, where the inner lips meet. The inner structure of the clitoris includes a shaft and two crura (roots or legs) of tissue that extend up to five inches into a woman’s body on both sides of her vagina to attach to the pubic bone. Networks of highly sensitive nerves extend from the crura in the pelvic area. The clitoris is the only organ in the human body whose only purpose is sexual pleasure.

closed marriage / closed relationship
The union of two people who agree to have no other sex partners.

closeted / in the closet
Concealing one’s true identity (especially bisexual, lesbian, gay, or transgender) to oneself and/or others.

CMV (cytomegalovirus)
An infection that may be transmitted through sexual or intimate contact or childbirth and that may cause permanent disability, including hearing loss and mental retardation for infants and blindness and mental disorders for adults.

coitophobia
Fear of vaginal intercourse.

coitus
Sex play in which the penis enters the vagina. Also called ”vaginal intercourse.”

colostrum
Milk a woman produces for a few days right after childbirth. It is low in fat but high in cells that help her infant fight infection.

colposcope
A viewing instrument with a bright light and magnifying lens that is used to examine the vagina and cervix. (Colposcopes are not inserted into a woman’s body.)

combination pill
A birth control pill that contains the hormones estrogen and progestin.

combined hormone contraceptives
Birth control methods — the pill, the patch, the ring — that contain the hormones estrogen and progestin.

combined oral contraceptives   ­
Birth control pills that contain the hormones estrogen and progestin.

combined test   
A special kind of prenatal ultrasound with a blood test that is used to screen a fetus for Down’s syndrome and other chromosomal problems.

coming out (of the closet)    
The process of accepting and being open about one’s previously concealed identity, such as being bisexual, lesbian, gay, or transgender.

complete miscarriage  
A miscarriage in which all the pregnancy tissue is passed. Treatment usually is not needed.

comprehensive sex education   
A medically accurate curriculum or classroom experience that provides young people with positive messages about sex and sexuality as natural, normal, healthy parts of life; includes information about abstinence as the best way to avoid sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy; teaches that condoms reduce the risk of infection, including HIV, and that other forms of birth control also reduce the risk of unplanned pregnancy for young people who are sexually active; and provides opportunities to help young people develop relationship and communications skills to help them explore their own values, goals, and options as well as the values of their families and communities. It also provides medically accurate information about 

  • human development
  • human reproduction
  • masturbation and other sexual behaviors
  • options for unintended pregnancy: raising a child, placing a child for adoption, abortion
  • relationships
  • moral and religious values
  • safer sex
  • sexual expression
  • sexual health
  • sexual identity
  • sexual orientation
  • social and cultural expectations about sex and sexuality

Comstock Act    
An 1873 law that made it a federal crime to use the U.S. mail to distribute anything considered “obscene, lewd, lascivious, indecently filthy, or vile,” including information about abortion, contraception, and sexual health. Many state “Comstock laws” were also passed during the turn of the 20th century.

conception    
The moment when the pre-embryo attaches to the lining of the uterus and pregnancy begins. Also used to describe the fertilization of the egg.

condom    ­
A sheath of thin rubber, plastic, or animal tissue that is worn on the penis during sexual intercourse. It is an over-the-counter, reversible barrier method of birth control, and it also reduces the risk of getting the most serious sexually transmitted infections.

congenital syphilis    
Syphilis that is transmitted from a woman to her fetus during pregnancy, leading to bone disorders, wasting, loss of sight and/or hearing, deformities, stillbirth, or death of newborn.

continuous abstinence    
Going without sex play for long periods of time — months or years.

contraception / contraceptive    
Any behavior, device, medication, or procedure used to prevent pregnancy.

contraceptive creams and jellies  ­
Substances containing spermicide, which block and immobilize sperm and prevent it from joining with the egg. These are over-the-counter, reversible barrier methods of birth control. Used with cervical caps or diaphragms.

contraceptive film / C-Film    
A thin, two-inch square sheet of chemicals that is inserted deep into the vagina, and melts into a thick liquid that blocks the entrance to the uterus with a spermicide. It immobilizes sperm and prevents it from joining with an egg. An over-the-counter, reversible barrier method of birth control. Most effective when used with a condom.

contraceptive foam   
A substance that is inserted deep into the vagina, and blocks the entrance to the uterus with bubbles that contain a spermicide to immobilize sperm, preventing it from joining with an egg. An over-the-counter, reversible barrier method of birth control. Most effective when used with a condom.

contraceptive suppository  
A solid capsule containing spermicide that­ is inserted deep into the vagina, and melts into a liquid to block and immobilize sperm, preventing it from joining with an egg. An over-the-counter, reversible barrier method of birth control. Most effective when used with a condom.

contraction   
The periodic tightening of the uterus during childbirth, which also causes cramping.

Coolidge Effect   
The shortening of the amount of time it takes for a man to be able to become erect again after orgasm by the appearance of a new potential sex partner. The name of this effect is based on one of the stories about President Calvin Coolidge and his wife, Grace, who were on different tours of the same farm in the Midwest. After learning that one rooster could have sex with a whole flock of chickens, Mrs. Coolidge sent a message to the president saying that it would be nice if he were as energetic as the rooster. President Coolidge responded by sending the First Lady a message in which he observed that the rooster seldom visited the same chicken twice.

copulation   
Vaginal intercourse.

core gender identity   
See “gender identity.”

corona   
The edge of the glans of the penis.

corporal punishment    ­
A form of discipline that inflicts pain on a person’s body — usually a child’s.

corpus cavernosa   ­
Two strips of erectile tissue in the glans, shaft, and crura of the clitoris and along the sides of the penis that extend back into the pelvic floor. During sexual excitement, they fill with blood and become erect.

corpus luteum   
A mass of cells that form on an ovary and produce testosterone following the release of an egg.

corpus spongiosum    
Erectile tissue that forms the glans of the clitoris and penis.  In the penis, it runs from the glans along the underside of the shaft, surrounding the urethra.

courtesan   
A high-end, woman sex worker who has some social status.

courtship   
The attempts of two people to attract each other, sexually and emotionally, often with a goal of establishing a relationship such as marriage. The way a courtship is carried out is influenced by cultural norms as well as by sexual instinct. Among all animals, including humans, courtship involves making signals by both individuals, for opposite-sex and same-sex relationships.

courtly love   
A medieval tradition beginning in the 12th century in which the wives of noblemen were unattainable objects who were in charge of the relationships they had with bachelor knights. A forerunner of the concept of romantic love that later grew out of the 17th century.

couvade    
Pregnancy symptoms experienced by the partner of a pregnant woman.

Cowper’s glands    ­
The glands beneath the prostate gland that are attached to the urethra. They produce a fluid — pre-ejaculate or pre-cum — that prepares the urethra for ejaculation.  Pre-ejaculate also reduces friction in the urethra, making it easier for semen to pass through. Also called “bulbourethral glands.”

cremaster   
The muscle that elevates the testicles as temperatures get colder or when the front or inner surface of the thigh is stimulated.

cremaster reflex    
­The automatic response of the cremaster muscle, which elevates both testicles when exposed to cold. In response to thigh stimulation, only the testicle next to the stimulated thigh will be elevated.

cross-dresser 
A person who sometimes wears clothing associated with the opposite sex in order to have fun, entertain, gain emotional satisfaction, or make a political statement about gender roles — for example, drag kings and drag queens.  See “transvestite.”

cross-living   
Full-time (24/7) presentation of one’s self in the self-identified gender.

cross-sex hormone use   
Taking medication to produce characteristics of a different gender.

cruising   
Searching for a sex partner in public places.

crura    
Internal extensions of the corpus cavernosa of the clitoris and penis that attach to the pubic bone.

cryotherapy   
The removal of abnormal or unwanted tissue — warts and other growths — by freezing them.

cryptorchidism    
A condition in which one or both testicles fail to descend into the scrotum within three months of birth.

cultural norm    ­
An activity, belief, or value that is shared by members of a particular culture. Straying from cultural norms often results in ridicule, punishment, or banishment.

culture   
The shared beliefs, values, heritage, customs, norms, art, food, language, and rituals of a community.

cum   
Slang for "ejaculate."

cunnilingus   
Use of the mouth, teeth, and/or tongue to stimulate the clitoris, vulva, and vagina.

curette   
A small metal loop used to scrape tissue. Used in dilation and curettage.

cutting   
Repetitive, self-inflicted cutting of the skin associated with being abused, gender dysphoria, depression, or dysmenorrhea. Some authorities consider it a defense against sexual desire as well as a way to satisfy sexual desire.

Cushing syndrome   
A condition associated with pituitary gland problems.

CVS (chorionic villus sampling)   
A prenatal test that examines the tissue that attaches the fetus to the wall of the uterus. If indicated, usually performed between 10–12 weeks of pregnancy to detect certain birth defects.

cybersex   
Receiving sexual stimulation using online media, the Internet, video cams, e-mail, or instant messaging.

cyberstalking    
To track and follow someone’s online presence and communications in a threatening way.

cystitis   
An infection of the bladder. Also called “urinary tract infection.”

cytomegalovirus (CMV)   ­
An infection that may be transmitted through sexual or intimate contact or childbirth and that may cause permanent disability, including hearing loss and mental retardation for infants and blindness and mental disorders for adults.

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– D –

D & C (dilation and curettage)   
The use of a curette — a metal medical instrument with a narrow loop — to gently scrape the lining from the walls of the uterus, and the use of suction to remove tissue from the uterus. May also be used for abortion.

D & E (dilation and evacuation)
The use of medical instruments and suction to gently remove tissue from the uterus during an abortion.

D & S (dominance and submission)    
Sexual role play that enacts fantasies of power and powerlessness.

date rape    
Sexual contact that is forced during a dating relationship.

Daughters of Bilitis    
Founded in 1955 by Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, the first U.S. organization for lesbians.

Katharine Bement Davis (18601945)   
Completed the first major study on women’s sexuality, Factors in the Sex Lives of Twenty-Two Hundred Women, which was published in 1929.  She gathered data for more than 10 years about the sex lives of middle-class women. Also worked with sex workers in prison. She looked at sexual desire, masturbation, frequency of intercourse, use of birth control, marriage, sources of sexual instruction and information, and same-sex intimate relationships. Her study challenged the narrow reproductive view of women’s sexuality that was common at the beginning of the 20th century.  It was our first real glimpse into the sex lives of real women.

Declaration of Sexual Rights
Drafted by the World Association for Sexual Health and endorsed by the World Health Organization, the declaration includes these sexual rights:

  • The right to sexual freedom — allows us to express our full sexual potential, but excludes all forms of sexual coercion, exploitation, and abuse.
  • The right to sexual autonomy, sexual integrity, and safety of the sexual body — safeguards making autonomous decisions about our own sexual lives within the context of our own personal and social ethics.  It also ensures our control and enjoyment of our own bodies, free from torture, mutilation, and violence of any sort.
  • The right to sexual privacy — protects our right to our individual decisions and behaviors about intimacy, as long as they do not intrude on the sexual rights of others.
  • The right to sexual equity — preserves our freedom from all forms of discrimination, regardless of age, class, color, gender, gender expression, gender identity, national origin, physical and emotional characteristics or disability, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status.
  • The right to sexual pleasure — recognizes that sexual pleasure, partnered or unpartnered, is a source of intellectual, physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being.
  • The right to emotional sexual expression — recognizes that sexual expression is not limited to erotic pleasure or sexual acts, but includes communication, emotional expression, gender expression, love, and touch.
  • The right to sexually associate freely — allows us to marry or not, to divorce, and to choose and establish other responsible sexual associations.
  • The right to make free and responsible reproductive choices — protects our right to decide whether and when to have a child, including the number and spacing of children, and the right to full and voluntary access to the means of fertility regulation.
  • The right to science-based sexual information — protects sexual information that is generated through the process of unencumbered, scientific, and ethical inquiry, and that is disseminated in appropriate ways at all societal levels.
  • The right to comprehensive sexuality education — acknowledges that learning about our sexuality is a lifelong process that begins at birth and that should involve all social institutions.
  • The right to sexual health care — acknowledges that sexual health care, including gender-confirming surgery, should be available to all people for prevention and treatment of all sexual concerns, problems, and disorders.

deep kissing   
Kissing that involves putting the tongue into a partner’s mouth. Also called “French kissing.”

delayed ejaculation    ­
Commonly used term for a man’s difficulty in having an orgasm.

dental dam   
A stretchable square of latex used as a barrier during certain dental procedures to keep particles from falling into the throat. Also used as a barrier for safer sex during cunnilingus — oral stimulation of the clitoris and vulva — and anilingus — oral stimulation of the anus.

Depo-Provera    
The brand name of a progestin, DMPA (depot medroxyprogesterone acetate), that is injected into the buttock or arm every 12 weeks to prevent pregnancy. It is a reversible method of birth control available only by prescription.

depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA)
Progestin found in Depo-Provera. Used for contraception. In larger doses, it is used for chemical castration.

depression    
The feeling of great sadness that takes control over one’s life.

DES (diethylstilbestrol)   
An artificial hormone used to prevent miscarriage in the 1950s and '60s. It caused reproductive disorders and cancers in one out of 700–7,000 children of the women who wanted to protect them.

desire phase    
The first stage of the sexual response cycle.

developmental disability   
Cognitive or physical impairment that may begin at birth and is expected to last a lifetime.

diabetic vulvitis   
A yeast infection caused by contact with urine that has the high sugar content associated with a woman with diabetes.

diaphragm   ­
A soft rubber dome intended to fit securely over the cervix. Used with contraceptive cream or jelly, the diaphragm is a reversible barrier method of birth control available only by prescription.

diethylstilbestrol (DES)   
An artificial hormone used to prevent miscarriage in the 1950s and '60s. It caused reproductive disorders and cancers in one out of 700–7,000 children of the women who wanted to protect them.

dilation and curettage (D & C)    
The use of a curette — a metal medical instrument with a narrow loop — to gently scrape the lining from the walls of the uterus, and the use of suction to remove tissue from the uterus.  May also be used for abortion.

dilation and evacuation (D & E)    
The use of medical instruments and suction to gently remove tissue from the uterus during an abortion.

dilators   
A series of increasingly thick rods made of plastic, metal, or absorbent natural fiber that are used to stretch open the cervix.

dildo    
A penis-shaped sex toy used to stimulate the vagina or anus.

diversity    
The presence of many different kinds of people, including people of various abilities, ages, genders, racial and ethnic backgrounds, religions, sexual orientations, and social classes.

DMPA   
Progestin found in Depo-Provera. The D stands for depot, the solution in which the hormone is suspended.  The MPA stands for the hormone medroxyprogesterone acetate. Used for contraception. In larger doses, it is used for chemical castration.

Doe v. Bolton   
The U.S. Supreme Court decision, issued on the same day as Roe v. Wade, that struck down restrictions on facilities that can be used for abortion services, which allowed them to be performed in clinics as well as hospitals.

domestic partnership    
The committed, long-term relationship of two unmarried people who live together.

dominance and submission (D & S)    
Sexual role play that enacts fantasies of power and powerlessness.

dominatrix   
A woman sex partner who takes the dominating role in sex play that involves bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, or sadism and masochism.  Some sex workers specialize in this role.

Don Juanism    ­
The desire by a man to have sex very frequently with many different partners.

donor insemination
Placing semen in a woman’s vagina or uterus without vaginal intercourse to produce a pregnancy. Also called "alternative insemination."

double standard
Unequal expectations, moral standards, or rules that allow one group to have more privileges than another group within a society. A sexual double standard, for example, usually places more restrictions on women than on men.

douche
A spray of water or solution of medication into the vagina.

doula
A person who provides non-medical support for a pregnant woman, especially during labor and childbirth and for some time after. Most often, doulas are women, but there are also some qualified men who work as doulas.

Down syndrome
A range of birth defects caused by the fetus having an extra copy of chromosome 21 (trisomy 21).

dowry 
The payment, in money or property, that a bride’s family makes to the groom at the engagement or marriage of the couple. (No longer practiced in most Western cultures.)

drag   
Exaggerated cross-dressing for entertainment.

dressing ring
In Victorian times, a ring of metal put through the glans of the penis.  It attached to a hook inside the leg of a man’s trousers to keep the penis in place so it wouldn’t bunch up and interfere with the sleek line of the tailoring. See "Prince Albert."

dry days
Days in the menstrual cycle when little cervical mucus is produced.

dry humping
Body rubbing with clothing. See "frottage."

dry orgasm
Male climax without ejaculation.

dysmenorrhea
Pain or discomfort during or before menstruation.

dyspareunia 
Painful vaginal intercourse for women that may be caused by hormonal imbalances. Most likely to happen after menopause.

 

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– E –

early ejaculation    
Ejaculation that happens before a man wants it to. Also called “premature ejaculation.”

eclampsia
A condition that can threaten the life of women during the second half of pregnancy. It can include high blood pressure, fluid buildup, and too much protein in the urine, which can lead to convulsions and coma. Symptoms include bluish skin, dizziness, mental confusion, pains in the stomach, problems with eyesight, twitching muscles, and vomiting. Eclampsia can be prevented by careful monitoring of blood pressure and urine during prenatal care.

ectopic pregnancy    
A life-threatening pregnancy that develops outside the uterus, often in a fallopian tube (tubal pregnancy).

egg
The reproductive cell in women; the largest cell in the human body.

Eisenstadt v. Baird   
The 1972 U.S. Supreme Court decision that protects the right of unmarried people to use birth control.

ejaculation
The moment when semen spurts out of the opening of the urethra in the glans of the penis. See "female ejaculation."

ejaculatory inevitability
The moment during sexual excitement when a man cannot stop his ejaculation. It occurs when the prostate begins to contract and pulse out seminal fluid. Also called “point of no return.”

Havelock Ellis (1859–1939)    
English author of Studies in the Psychology of Sex (1903–28). Until 1935, Ellis’s Studies, which argued that erotic dreams, foreplay, and masturbation were normal, were legally available only to medical professionals. He believed that birth control was the key to sexual liberation. He believed sex to be natural and good, and asked, “Why … should people be afraid of rousing passions, which, after all, are the great driving forces of human life?” Ellis was an important mentor to Margaret Sanger.

emancipated minor    
A minor who has legal autonomy and usually lives on her or his own without financial support from parents or guardians.

embryo
The organism that develops from the pre-embryo and begins to share the woman’s blood supply about 16–18 days after fertilization (seven to eight days after implantation).

emergency contraception
Hormonal birth control pills used to prevent pregnancy after unprotected vaginal intercourse. Must be started within 120 hours (five days) of intercourse. Also called EC.  IUDs can also be used as EC, inserted within five days of unprotected intercourse to prevent pregnancy.

emotional incest
Relationship in which a parent treats her or his child emotionally as a spouse. The child comes to feel responsible for the parent’s feelings. Although sexual abuse may not take place, the child, when adult, may not be able to form sexual relationships with other people.

endogamy
Marrying within one’s own cultural, ethnic, kinship, or religious group.

endometriosis
The growth of endometrial tissue outside of the uterus, causing pain, especially before and during menstruation.

endometrium
The lining of the uterus that develops every month in order to nourish a fertilized egg. The lining is shed during menstruation if there is no implantation of a fertilized egg.

endorphin
A hormone that suppresses pain.

Enovid
The brand name of the first birth control pill.

epididymis    
The tube leading from the testis to the vas deferens in which sperm are stored before ejaculation. It is tightly coiled on top of and behind the testis. The plural of epididymis is epididymides.

epididymitis
An inflammation of the epididymis.

epidural
An injection of pain killers into the membrane surrounding the spinal cord that reduces pain during childbirth.

episiotomy
An incision from the bottom of the opening of the vagina through the perineum to facilitate childbirth and reduce damage to vaginal and perineal tissue.

Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)   
A proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution advanced by the National Women’s Party in 1923, which would have guaranteed that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” The ERA’s long history ended in 1979 when it failed to be ratified by a full three-quarters of the states.

ERA (Equal Rights Amendment)    
A proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution advanced by the National Women’s Party in 1923, which would have guaranteed that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” The ERA’s long history ended in 1979 when it failed to be ratified by a full three-quarters of the states.

erectile dysfunction   
The inability to become erect or maintain an erection with a partner.

erectile tissue
Spongy tissue in the body that stiffens when filled with blood. See "vasocongestion."

erection
A “hard” penis when it’s becomes full of blood and stiffens. See "vasocongestion."

erogenous zone
Any area of the body that is sensitive to sensual touch.

erotic
Sexually arousing.

erotica
Sexually arousing imagery that is not considered pornographic, obscene, or offensive to the average person.

erotophilia
Appreciation of the erotic.

erotophobia
Fear of the erotic.

escort
A volunteer who helps women get safely into a reproductive health center during anti-choice demonstrations. Also, another word for a sex worker.

estrogen
A hormone commonly made in a woman’s ovaries. Estrogen’s major feminizing effects are seen during puberty, menstruation, and pregnancy.

estrus
The cyclic period of fertility and sexual receptivity in sub-primate female animals (vertebrates).

ethnocentric
The belief that one’s own country, culture, or ethnic group is superior to others’.

eugenics
A movement to improve the “fitness” of the human race by controlling who shall have and who shall not have children.  So-called “positive eugenics” encouraged couples who were thought to be more fit to have more children.  So-called “negative eugenics” discouraged couples who were thought to be less fit from having children.

eunuch
A man whose testicles, and less often, penis, have been removed.

eurotophobia
Fear of female sex organs.

excitement
The body’s physical response to desire and to stimulation. The second stage of the sexual response cycle.

exhibitionists 
Women or men who expose their sex organs to other people without their consent, usually in public places.

exogamy
Marrying outside one’s own cultural, ethnic, kinship, or religious group.

external sex and reproductive organs
The sex organs and structures on the outside of the body that are primarily used during sexual activity. These include the vulva in a woman and the penis and scrotum in a man.

extramarital sex
Sexual intercourse by a married person with someone other than his or her spouse.

 

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– F –

 

fake orgasm    
­The pretense of having reached climax in order to end sex play or please a partner.

failure rate   
The number of women who become pregnant each year out of every 100 who use a birth control method.

fallopian tube   ­
One of two narrow tubes that carry the egg from the ovary to the uterus.

false negative   
A test result that incorrectly indicates that the condition tested for is not present.

false positive   
A test result that incorrectly indicates that the condition tested for is present.

family planning   
Voluntary planning and action by individuals to have the number of children they want, when they want them.

FAMs (fertility awareness-based methods)
Ways to prevent or plan pregnancy by predicting ovulation based on understanding a woman’s fertility cycle. These are reversible behavioral methods of birth control that include the calendar method, the cervical mucus method, the Standard Days method, the Two-Days method, and the temperature method. All but the Standard Days method require careful, professional instruction.

FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome)   
Abnormalities that affect newborn children that are caused by alcohol use by women during pregnancy. They include damage to the brain, heart, and nervous system as well as physical malformation and below-normal IQ.

fantasy
Thinking about an experience, often sexual and/or sexually arousing. Most sexual fantasies are brief. For example, we might think for a few seconds about seeing a movie star naked. Other sexual fantasies are longer. For example, we may remember a sexual encounter we have had while we masturbate or have sex play with others.

feces
Solid waste that leaves the body through the anus.

fecundity
Technically, the physical ability of a woman or couple to have a child.  Often used as a synonym for ”fertility.”

federal abortion ban
The federal law passed in 2003 that would ban abortion as early as 12 to 15 weeks in pregnancy.  The federal ban includes no exception for the woman’s health and forces doctors to stop using procedures they believe are safest and best for their patients.

fellatio
Oral sex on a man.

female
The biological sex that provides the egg for sexual reproduction.

female circumcision
The practice of removing a girl’s clitoral hood, clitoris, and/or labia; often called female genital mutilation. This is practiced in some African, Near Eastern, and Southeast Asian cultures. In some cases, the vulva is sewn together to preserve virginity. See "infibulation."

female condom
A polyurethane pouch with flexible rings at each end that is inserted deep into the vagina like a diaphragm. It is an over-the-counter, reversible barrier method of birth control that provides protection against many sexually transmitted infections. Formerly called a vaginal pouch. May also be used for anal intercourse.

female ejaculation
The spurting of fluid out of the urethra during intense sexual excitement or orgasm. The fluid is most likely secreted by the Skene’s glands, which are located in the vulva near the opening of the urethra. Female ejaculation may be associated with stimulation of the G-spot and occurs in 1 out of 10 women.

female genital mutilation (FGM)
See "female circumcision."

female prostate glands
Term used by some authorities to describe the Skene’s glands in a woman’s vulva, which may secrete during female ejaculation a fluid similar to the fluid produced by the prostate gland in men.

female-to-male transsexual (F to M) (F2M) (FTM)   
A person whose sex assignment at birth was female but whose gender identity is male. Also can refer to those surgically assigned female at birth, in the case of intersex people, whose gender identity is male. Often, female-to-male transsexuals will seek hormonal and/or surgical treatment in order to live successfully as men in society.

FemCap / cervical cap
A silicone cup shaped like a sailor’s cap that fits securely in the vagina to cover the cervix. Used with contraceptive jelly, the FemCap is a barrier method of birth control that is reversible and available only by prescription.

feminine
Characteristics and ways of appearing and behaving that a culture associates with being a girl or a woman.

feminism
The belief that women and men have equal economic, political, sexual, and social rights. Also, the movement to secure equal rights for women.

fertility
The ability of women or couples to have children. Technically, the childbearing performance of individuals, couples, groups, or populations, i.e., the number of births they have.

fertility awareness-based methods (FAMs)
Ways to prevent or plan pregnancy by predicting ovulation based on understanding a woman’s fertility cycle. These are reversible behavioral methods of birth control that include the calendar method, the cervical mucus method, the Standard Days method, the Two-Days method, and the temperature method.  All but the Standard Days method require careful, professional instruction.

fertility cycle
Also called the menstrual cycle. The monthly recurrence of ovulation, the shedding of the lining of the uterus, and the body’s preparation for another ovulation.

fertility rate
The number of live births per 1,000 women of reproductive age (15–44).

fertilization
The joining of an egg and sperm that forms the zygote.

fetal alcohol effects
Abnormalities caused by alcohol during pregnancy that may not be as severe as those associated with fetal alcohol syndrome.

fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)
Abnormalities that affect newborn children that are caused by alcohol use by women during pregnancy. They include damage to the brain, heart, and nervous system as well as physical malformation and below-normal IQ.

fetus
The organism that develops from the embryo at the end of about eight weeks of pregnancy (10 weeks since a woman’s last menstrual period) and receives nourishment through the placenta.

FGM (female genital mutilation)
See "female circumcision."

fibroid
A benign tumor that grows on the walls of the uterus.

fidelity
Strict observance of promises, especially of sexual faithfulness.

first trimester
The first three months of pregnancy.

fisting
The insertion of fingers or hand into the vagina or anus of a sex partner.

flashing
Exposing one’s breasts or sex organs as a prank or for sexual gratification. See "exhibitionists."

flirtation
Commonly used to refer to playfully romantic gestures between people who are sexually attracted to each other. In sexological terms, a five-stage ritual people use to begin courtship.

  1. One or both people make a physical approach to get closer to each other.
  2. They speak to each other.
  3. They swivel from shoulder-to-shoulder positions to face-to-face positions.
  4. They allow a touch.
  5. They begin to mirror one another’s body movements.

follicle
A cavity and sac in the ovary that contains a maturing egg.

follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)
Made by the pituitary gland, it stimulates the growth of the egg in women and the development of sperm in men.

fondling
Touching a partner to give sexual pleasure.

Fordyce spots
Small, slightly bumpy yellowish or white papules or spots on the inside of the cheeks or lips, or on the glans or shaft of the penis, or the labia of the vulva. They are sebaceous glands and 50 to 100 may appear in one area. They are completely harmless, are not sexually transmitted, and are not infectious.

foreplay
Physical and sexual stimulation, kissing, rubbing, stroking, and touching that often happens in the excitement stage of sexual response. Foreplay often occurs before intercourse, but can lead to orgasm without intercourse, in which case it is called outercourse.

foreskin
A retractable tube of skin that covers and protects the glans (head) of the penis.

fornication
Outdated term for sex play between unmarried people.

Michel Foucault (1926–1984)
Foucault was a French philosopher who wrote three volumes on the history of sexuality. He challenged Freud’s view that women and men are sexually repressed by their cultures. He theorized about the role of power in sexual relationships. He suggested that power does not always come from the top down, but from the bottom up, as well. He believed that people have sexual power as individuals, despite sexual law or cultural norms. Although his ideas were not always based in scientific or historical fact, Foucault’s work enabled many people who belonged to oppressed sexual minorities to view themselves as powerful individuals, capable of resisting dominant sexual norms.

Free Love movement
A 19th-century group that advocated the abolition of marriage and the equality and sexual freedom of women and men. Free-love advocates believed that sexual relations should be based on love, not on marriage.

frenulum
In women, the highly sensitive tissue where the inner labia join below the glans of the clitoris. In men, the highly sensitive, triangular piece of skin just below the glans of the penis.

Sigmund Freud (1856–1939)
Influential psychoanalyst who believed that we must understand human sexuality if we are to understand human nature. He understood that children have strong sexual feelings and believed that we are all bisexual.

frigidity
Outdated term for a woman’s lack of sexual desire or ability to experience orgasm.

frottage
Body rubbing without clothing. Also called “dry humping.”

FSH (follicle stimulating hormone)
Made by the pituitary gland, it stimulates the growth of the egg in women and the development of sperm in men.

FTM (F to M) (F2M) (female-to-male transsexual)
A person whose sex assignment at birth was female but whose gender identity is male. Also can refer to those surgically assigned female at birth, in the case of intersex people, whose gender identity is male. Often, female-to-male transsexuals will seek hormonal and/or surgical treatment in order to live successfully as men in society.

 

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– G –

gamete
The reproductive cell — egg or sperm.

gamete intrafallopian tube transfer (GIFT)
A method of alternative insemination in which an egg is taken from a woman’s ovary and placed with semen in one of her fallopian tubes.

gang bang
Sexual intercourse between one person, usually a woman, and a series of others, usually men, in rapid succession.

gang rape
Sexual assault committed by two or more people; also known as fraternity or party rape.

gay
Homosexual, especially in regard to men.

gay bashing
Physical or verbal assaults on people who are perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

gay liberation movement
The national call to establish civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender women and men.

gay rights
The principle that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are equal to straight people.

gender
One’s biological, social, and legal status as male or female.

gender assignment
The medical and legal description of one’s sex that is given at birth.

gender confirmation surgery 
Interventions intended to alter the sex organs and/or secondary sex characteristics to conform to one’s gender identity.  Also called “sex change operation,” “sex reassignment surgery,” and “genital reconstruction surgery.”

gender cues
Characteristics culturally associated with gender or sex, e.g., body movement, body shape, facial hair, gesture, grooming, hairstyle, makeup, vocal inflection, etc.

gender dysphoria
The conflict between one’s sexual anatomy and one’s gender identity.

gender identity
­The innermost feelings about one’s sex (female or male), one’s gender, and one’s gender role.

gender identity disorder (GID)
A medical diagnosis of significant discomfort with one’s assigned sex, gender, and gender role.

gender normative
Conforming with social standards about what is appropriate feminine and masculine behavior.

gender norms
Social standards about what is appropriate feminine and masculine behavior.

genderqueer
An umbrella term for individuals who do not solely identify as a man or a woman. Some genderqueer individuals also identify as transgender.

gender role
Social norms about behaving as female or male. What one says or does as an expression of one’s sex as female, male, intersex, or genderqueer.

gender scripting
The socialization process by which one is conditioned to adopt certain attitudes, behaviors, and preferences considered appropriate for one’s gender, either feminine or masculine.

gender stereotype  
Exaggerated expectations of the way people of a certain sex should behave.

genderstraight
See "gender normative."

gender variant
Nonconformity to gender norms.

genes
Structures in the chromosomes of cells that carry hereditary information.

genitals
External sex and reproductive organs: the vulva in women, the penis and scrotum in men. Sometimes, the internal reproductive organs are also called genitals.

genital herpes
An infection of herpes simplex virus types 1 or 2 in the area of the anus, buttocks, cervix, penis, vagina, or vulva. Very often there are no symptoms, while the most common symptom is a cluster of blistery sores.

genital reconstruction surgery (GRS)
Sometimes referred to as “genital reassignment surgery” “gender confirmation surgery,” or “bottom” or “lower” surgery. For MTFs, this is usually the removal of the testes and the surgical creation of a vagina and clitoris. For FTMs, this is usually the construction of a penis from the client’s own tissue. Scrotal implants may or may not be added during these procedures.

genital warts
Soft, flesh-colored growths caused by a several types of the human papilloma virus. They may look like miniature cauliflower florets and are usually painless, but may itch.

genophobia
Fear of sex play.

gestation
The period of a pregnancy.

gestational age
The time in a woman’s pregnancy measured from the start of her last menstrual period.

GID (gender identity disorder)
A medical diagnosis of significant discomfort with one’s assigned sex, gender, and gender role.

GIFT (gamete intrafallopian tube transfer)
A method of alternative insemination in which an egg is taken from a woman’s ovary and placed with semen in one of her fallopian tubes.

gigolo
A male sex worker who provides social and/or sexual companionship for women.

glans
The soft, highly sensitive tip of the clitoris or penis. In men, the opening to the urethra is located in the glans. Also called the “head” of the penis.

golden shower
Slang for urinating on a partner for sexual pleasure.

gonadotropins   
Hormones secreted by the pituitary gland that triggers puberty by stimulating the ovaries of women and the testes of men.

gonads
The organs that produce reproductive cells — the ovaries of women, the testes of men.

gonorrhea
A sexually transmitted bacterium that can cause sterility, arthritis, and heart problems.

Sylvester Graham (1794–1851)
American advocate of sexual abstinence, who developed a diet of cold cereals and “Graham” crackers designed to curb sexual desire and eradicate masturbation.

Gräfenburg spot (G spot)
An area of tissue, located about one-third of the way along the upper wall of the vagina. Stimulation of the G spot leads to intense sexual arousal and orgasm in some women, and is also associated with female ejaculation.

GRS (genital reconstruction surgery)
Also called “genital reassignment surgery” “gender confirming surgery,” “sex change operation,” or “bottom” or “lower” surgery. For MTFs, this is usually the removal of the testes and the surgical creation of a vagina and clitoris. For FTMs, this is usually the construction of a penis from the client’s own tissue. Scrotal implants may or may not be added during these procedures.

G spot (Grafenburg spot)
An area of tissue, located about one-third of the way along the upper wall of the vagina. Stimulation of the G-spot leads to intense sexual arousal and orgasm in some women, and is also associated with female ejaculation.

guiche   
A metal ring about one inch in circumference that is inserted into the perineum, between the vulva and the anus, or between the scrotum and the anus, for increased sexual stimulation during intercourse.

gymnophobia
The fear of being seen naked.

gynecology
Sexual and reproductive health care for women.

gynecologist
A medical doctor who specializes in women’s sexual and reproductive health.

gynecomastia
A usually temporary condition during puberty in which the breasts of boys become larger and appear more feminine.

gynophobia
Fear of women.

 

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– H –

hand job
Slang for manually stimulating a partner’s sex organ.

harem
The women’s quarters of a Muslim home. Also, a group of women sex partners for one man.

HBV (hepatitis B virus) 
An infection that can be sexually transmitted and may cause severe liver disease and death.

health care provider
A medical doctor, nurse, nurse practitioner, nurse-midwife, or physician assistant.

heavy petting
Fondling a partner’s sex organs or breasts.

hedonism
The worship of pleasure.

he-man
A man who is exceptionally masculine.

hepatitis B virus (HBV)
An infection that can be sexually transmitted and may cause severe liver disease and death.

hermaphrodite
A rare condition in which someone is born with both female and male sex organs. “Intersex” is now the preferred term.

herpes
An infection of herpes simplex virus types 1 or 2 in the area of the anus, buttocks, cervix, mouth, penis, vagina, or vulva. Very often there are no symptoms, while the most common symptom is a cluster of blistery sores.

herpes simplex virus­ (HSV)
An infection of herpes simplex virus types 1 or 2 in the area of the anus, buttocks, cervix, mouth, penis, vagina, or vulva. Very often there are no symptoms, while the most common symptom is a cluster of blistery sores.

heterosexism
The belief that everyone is or should be heterosexual.

heterosexual
Someone who has sexual desire for people of the other gender.

high-risk pregnancy
A pregnancy that is at increased risk of complications for the woman or her fetus.

Hijra
A caste of male-to-female transsexuals in northern India and Pakistan.

Magnus Hirschfeld (1868–1935)
German sexologist who founded the Institute of Sexual Science in Berlin in 1919. He studied human sexuality in order to provide counseling for sexual problems. He published one of the world’s first sexological journals to encourage open debate about sexual issues. He challenged many of the repressive ideas about sexuality of this time. His institute, library, and research were destroyed by the Nazis in 1935.

hirsutism
Hair growth that is believed to be too much and/or in the wrong place.

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)
An infection that weakens the body’s ability to fight disease and can cause AIDS.

homoerotic
Arousing same-sex love, desire, and/or sexual activity.

homophobia
Fear of people who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

homosexual
Someone who has sexual desire for people of the same gender.

honeymoon cystitis
A bladder infection (UTI) in a woman that is caused by frequent vaginal intercourse — for example, during a honeymoon.

hormonal contraceptives
­Prescription methods of birth control that use hormones to prevent pregnancy. These include the implant, the Mirena IUD, the patch, the pill, the ring, and the shot.

hormones
Chemicals that cause changes in our bodies and influence how glands and organs work.

horny
Slang for having sexual desire — wanting to have sex — or for being sexually aroused.

hot flashes / hot flushes
Sudden or gradual waves of body heat that last from 30 seconds to five minutes. Common in perimenopause and menopause.

HPV (human papilloma virus)
Any of more than 100 different types of infection, some of which may cause genital warts. Others may cause cancer of the anus, cervix, penis, throat, or vulva.

HSV (herpes simplex virus)­
An infection of herpes simplex virus types 1 or 2 in the area of the anus, buttocks, cervix, mouth, penis, vagina, or vulva. Very often there are no symptoms, while the most common symptom is a cluster of blistery sores.

Humanae Vitae
“On Human Life,” a document written by Pope Paul VI in 1968 that forbade the use of contraception.

human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
An infection that weakens the body’s ability to fight disease and can cause AIDS.

human papilloma virus (HPV)
Any of more than 100 different types of infection, some of which may cause genital warts. Others may cause cancer of the anus, cervix, penis, throat, or vulva.

hustler
A male sex worker, usually employed by men.

Hyde Amendment
A 1977 legislative restriction, first sponsored by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL), that forbade the use of federal funds to pay for abortion services.

hydrocele
An accumulation of fluid in a testicle.

hymen
A thin fleshy tissue that stretches across part of the opening to the vagina.

hyperfemininity
­The exaggeration of gender-stereotyped behavior that is believed to be feminine.

hypermasculinity
The exaggeration of gender-stereotyped behavior that is believed to be masculine.

hyperphilia
Having sex more often than most people.

hypersexual
Having more libido (sexual desire) than most people.

hypoactive sexual desire
The lack of sexual desire.

hypophilia
Having sex very infrequently, or not at all.

hyposexual
Having less libido (sexual desire) than most people.

hypothalamus
A small area in the brain that controls sexual response and other basic functions.

hysterectomy
The surgical removal of the uterus.

hysteria
A mythical emotional disorder ascribed only to women for about 2,500 years. In ancient Greece, it was ascribed to not being pregnant often enough. In Roman times, it was ascribed to not having enough sex.  In Medieval times, and colonial times in North America, it was ascribed to not having enough or sufficient orgasms. In Victorian times and during the early 20th century, it was also ascribed to too much intellectual stimulation and became an excuse for denying education and voting rights to women. At the beginning of the 20th century, U.S. doctors invented the vibrator to treat hysteria. They brought women to orgasm with vibrators, which would supposedly calm them down and keep them from becoming hysterical. See "wandering uterus."

hysteroscope
A long, thin tool that lets a health care provider see inside a woman’s uterus.

hysteroscopic tubal sterilization
A non-incision method for permanent birth control in which microinserts are placed in the fallopian tubes, causing scar tissue to grow and block the tubes. The brand name of the microinserts is “Essure.”

 

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– I –

idiopathic hypogonadotropic hypogonadism (IHH)
A rare syndrome in which male infants are normal at birth and throughout childhood, but do not experience the surge of testosterone necessary to enter puberty. Unless treated with hormones, their testicles will not mature and they will remain infertile. It is thought that James Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, may have had IHH.

illegitimate
Having unmarried parents. (Outdated and offensive.)

immune system
The body’s natural protection against infection and disease.

Implanon
The brand name of a contraceptive implant. A thin, flexible plastic implant about the size of a cardboard matchstick. It is inserted under the skin of the upper arm. It contains and constantly releases a progestin that prevents ovulation and fertilization. Can be used for up to three years to prevent pregnancy. The implant is a reversible hormonal method of birth control available only by prescription.

implant
A thin, flexible plastic implant about the size of a cardboard matchstick. It is inserted under the skin of the upper arm. It contains and constantly releases a progestin that prevents ovulation and fertilization. Can be used for up to three years to prevent pregnancy. The implant is a reversible hormonal method of birth control available only by prescription. Implanon is the brand name of the implant.

implantation
The attachment of the pre-embryo to the lining of the uterus, which begins about six days after fertilization and is complete in three to four days. The beginning of pregnancy.

impotence
The inability to have an erection. ”Erectile dysfunction” is now the preferred term.

incest
Sexual activity between members of the same family.

in-clinic abortion
A termination of pregnancy that is done with instruments in a health center, doctor’s office, or hospital. In the first trimester, suction alone is often used. Later in pregnancy, other instruments are used, as well. See "aspiration abortion," "dilation and curettage," "dilation and evacuation," "manual vacuum aspiration," and "vacuum aspiration abortion."

incomplete abortion
A kind of miscarriage in which some pregnancy tissue passes out of the uterus but some stays inside. Can also occur following a pregnancy termination procedure. Sometimes treatment is needed to remove the remaining tissue.

incontinence
Being unable to control urination or defecation. Sometimes also used to describe difficulty controlling sexual impulse.

indecent exposure
Illegal, public display of body parts, usually breasts, buttocks, or sex organs. Also called “flashing.”

induced abortion
The intentional termination of pregnancy.

induced menopause
Menopause caused when both ovaries are removed surgically or damaged by radiation or chemotherapy.

inevitable miscarriage
Miscarriage that is certain to happen because of bleeding and an open cervix.

infant mortality rate
Number of deaths of infants under one year of age per 1,000 live births.

infatuation
Impulsive, usually short-lived, emotional, and erotic attachment to another person.

infertility
The inability to become pregnant or to cause a pregnancy.

infibulation
The most severe form of female circumcision, it includes clitoridectomy and the sewing together of the outer labia to cover the opening to the vagina.

infidelity
Failing to keep a promise to be monogamous.

inhibited orgasm
The inability to have an orgasm.

inhibited sexual arousal
The inability to become sexually aroused and enjoy sex play, despite one’s sexual desire. In women, often the inability to lubricate enough for sex play. In men, the inability to have or keep an erection.

inhibited sexual desire
The lack of sexual desire.

inhibition
Feeling restraint due to fear or guilt.

inner lips
The labia of the vulva that surround the clitoris and the openings to the urethra and vagina. Also called "labia minora."

insemination
Putting sperm into the reproductive tract of women or female animals.

intact penis
A penis with a foreskin, uncircumcised. Most often used by opponents of circumcision to suggest that circumcised men are not “intact.”

intercourse
Sex play in which the penis is inserted into the vagina (vaginal intercourse) or the anus (anal intercourse).

interfemoral intercourse
Sex play in which the penis is moved between the partner’s thighs. Also called "intercrural intercourse."

intermarriage
Marriage between people of different races.

internalized homophobia
The fear of homosexuality within one’s self.

internal sex and reproductive organs
The organs inside the body that are responsible for producing, moving, and nourishing human reproductive cells. Internal reproductive organs that are sensitive or respond to sexual stimulation are also called sex organs.

intersex
The condition of being born with external sex organs that are not easily distinguishable as female or male. Also, later in life, the development of secondary sex characteristics that are not easily distinguishable as female or male. About one in 2,000 people is born with an intersex condition in the U.S. each year. Sometimes a female or male gender is assigned through surgery. Up to five infant gender-assignment surgeries occur every day in the U.S. Some people believe surgery should be postponed until intersex people are old enough to decide for themselves whether they would like their genitals to be operated on. Most people agree that babies with intersex conditions should be assigned a gender at birth. Some people believe that assigning a gender means performing surgery on their genitals, while others believe that a baby can be assigned a gender without surgery. Used in the past, the term “hermaphrodite” is now considered offensive. Some intersex people are transgender, but intersex does not necessarily mean transgender, and vice versa.

intimate partner violence (IPV)
Emotional, verbal, physical, or sexual abuse in the context of an intimate relationship. Also called "domestic violence," "partner abuse," "relationship abuse," "dating violence," and "marital and date rape."

intimacy
The closeness and familiarity we feel as we share our private and personal selves with someone else.

intrauterine device (IUD)
A small device made of plastic, which may contain copper or a natural hormone, that is inserted into the uterus by a health care provider to prevent pregnancy. A reversible method of birth control available only by prescription.

intrauterine system (IUS)
A small intrauterine device made of plastic, which contains the hormone progestin, that is inserted into the uterus by a health care provider to prevent pregnancy. A reversible method of birth control available only by prescription. The brand name of the IUS is Mirena.

introitus
The tissue of the inner vulva that frames the opening to the vagina.

in vitro fertilization (IVF)
Any method of assisted reproduction in which fertilization takes place outside the body.

IPV (intimate partner violence)
Emotional, verbal, physical, or sexual abuse in the context of an intimate relationship. Also called "domestic violence," "partner abuse," "relationship abuse," "dating violence," and "marital and date rape."

IUD (intrauterine device)
A small device made of plastic, which may contain copper or a natural hormone, that is inserted into the uterus by a health care provider to prevent pregnancy. A reversible method of birth control available only by prescription.

IUS (intrauterine system)
A small intrauterine device made of plastic, which contains the hormone progestin, that is inserted into the uterus by a health care provider to prevent pregnancy. A reversible method of birth control available only by prescription. The brand name of the IUS is Mirena.

IVF (in vitro fertilization)
Any method of assisted reproduction in which fertilization takes place outside the body.

 

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– J –

jaundice
Yellowing of eyes, skin, and mucus membranes due to diseases of the liver.

jealousy
Anxiety about a partner's love and commitment.

jock itch
A very common fungal skin infection in the genital area of men that is caused by wearing tight clothing, sweating, or not drying the genitals carefully after bathing. It can cause a reddish, scaly rash that can become inflamed, very itchy, and painful.

Christine Jorgensen (1927–1989)
First highly publicized male to female transsexual in the U.S. Jorgensen’s example led to wider acceptance of transgender and transsexual women and men.

 

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– K –

Kama Sutra
An ancient sex manual first put into writing in the second century BCE. Offers insights into the spiritual aspects of sexuality as well as techniques and positions for increased sexual pleasure. The first English translation was published by Sir Richard Burton in 1883.

Kegel exercises
The tightening and releasing of the muscles that stop urination in order to prevent and improve urinary incontinence, improve sexual sensation in women and men, and aid recovery of vaginal muscle tone after childbirth. Because they exercise internal muscles, Kegels can be done anywhere, anytime.

John Harvey Kellogg (1852–1943)
Inventor of granola and corn flakes to compete with the Graham cracker as a cure for moral degeneracy and sexual passion. In his book, Plain Facts, Kellogg advocated a variety of extreme parental and medical interventions, including removal of the clitoris, to put a stop to masturbation.

kink / kinky
Slang for uncommon sexual behavior.

Alfred Kinsey (1894–1956)
Most influential American sex researcher of the 20th century. His research was unique and groundbreaking. In extensive live interviews, he and his team of researchers took thousands of case histories about the sex lives of women and men. No one else, before or since, has questioned such a huge sample of people so thoroughly about their sexuality. Although his sample did not precisely reflect the full range of diversity of the American people, he and his team provided us with important data from which we have learned a great deal.

Kinsey scale
Alfred Kinsey and his associates designed a scale in the late 1940s and early 1950s to demonstrate the range of sexual orientation. The seven points on the scale show the range of sexual orientation that people reported in Kinsey's surveys.  Kinsey used the word heterosexual to describe people who desire sex with people of the other gender. He used homosexual to describe people who desire sex with people of the same gender.

The Kinsey scale categories are

0 — exclusively heterosexual
1 — predominantly heterosexual, infrequently homosexual
2 — predominantly heterosexual, but more than infrequently homosexual
3 — equally heterosexual and homosexual (bisexual)
4 — predominantly homosexual, but more than infrequently heterosexual
5 — predominantly homosexual, infrequently heterosexual
6 — exclusively homosexual

Today, many sexologists see the Kinsey scale as simplistic. They suggest that sexual orientation and sexual identity are more complex and varied.

Klinefelter’s syndrome
An intersex condition in which the external male sex organs are undersized due to an individual having one Y and two X chromosomes.

Koro
Social panic experienced by some men in Africa, China, and Malaysia that is based on the belief that others can use magic to cause one’s sex organs to retract into the body and disappear. The cause may be guilt associated with masturbation. Victims call on family and friends to help prevent the disappearance of their sex organs.

Baron Richard von Krafft-Ebing
Moralizing pioneer in sexology, especially in the study of “deviant” sexual behaviors. In his Psycopathia Sexualis, he described and named sadism and masochism. He also showed that the late-stage symptoms of syphilis were caused by the syphilis organism that attacks the central nervous system.

 

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– L –

labia majora
The outer lips of the vulva.

labia minora
The inner lips of the vulva.

labor
The process of childbirth, from contractions of the uterus and dilation of the cervix to delivery of the infant and expulsion of the placenta.

lactational amenorrhea method (LAM)
Breastfeeding as birth control for up to six months after childbirth.

lactobacilli   
Bacteria present in healthy vaginas of women. They help prevent vaginitis by limiting the growth of candida, a yeast.

LAM (lactational amenorrhea method)
Breastfeeding as birth control for up to six months after childbirth.

laparoscope   
A rod-like instrument with a light and viewing lens. Often used for tubal sterilization procedures.

laparoscopy
A very common method of tubal sterilization that involves an injection of harmless gas to help see the reproductive organs and a small incision near the navel to allow the positioning of a laparoscope and an instrument that is used to block the fallopian tubes.

laparotomy
A method of tubal sterilization that involves major surgery, requiring a two- to five-inch abdominal incision through which the fallopian tubes are located and blocked.

LEEP
The loop electrosurgical excision procedure, which removes abnormal tissue from the cervix by cutting it away with a thin wire loop that carries an electric current.

lesbian
A homosexual woman.

lesbophobia
Fear of women who are lesbian.

lesophobia
Fear of strong women.

leukorrhea
­A white, yellow, or greenish, sticky vaginal discharge that is normal during adolescence, pregnancy, and other times when a woman’s hormone levels are changing.

levonorgestrel
A synthetic progestin similar to the hormone progesterone, which is produced by the body to regulate the menstrual cycle. Used in certain birth control pills, the Mirena IUD, and Plan B emergency contraceptives.

LGBTQ
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning.

LGV (lymphogranuloma venereum)   
A form of chlamydia, most common in tropical regions. Increasingly found in the U.S.

libido
The sex drive.

limbic system
The area of the brain that controls anger, fear, ovulation, pleasure, rage, and sexual arousal.

limerence
A powerful and constantly distracting and obsessive infatuation; lovesickness.

lingam
Hindu name for the penis. Hindus worship statues of the lingam made of wood, metal, or stone. Men wear symbols of the lingam as sexual amulets to promote sexual potency.

lobes
Groups of alveoli sacs in women’s breasts.

long-term reorganization phase   ­
The second phase of rape trauma syndrome, in which the survivor tries to regain control of life.

love   ­
A strong caring for someone else. It comes in many forms. There can be love for romantic partners and also for close friends, for parents and children, for God, and for humankind.

lovemap
The blueprint for one’s adult sexual appreciations and preferences that develops while one is growing up.

low birth weight
A condition of less than 5.5 pounds when born. Such an infant is at risk of bleeding, breathing, heart, and other problems.

lubricant
In women, the slippery liquid that is secreted from the walls of the vagina and the Bartholin’s glands during sexual arousal in order to facilitate vaginal intercourse. In men, the slippery liquid secreted by the Cowper’s glands in order to facilitate ejaculation and motility of sperm. Also, an oil-based, water-based, or silicone-based product used to increase slipperiness during anal or vaginal intercourse or other sex play.

lumpectomy
The removal from the breast of a malignant growth that has not metastasized (spread to other parts of the body).

lust
The desire for sexual pleasure. (Some find this word offensive.)

luteinizing hormone (LH)   
One type of gonadatropin, a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland. Triggers ovulation in women and the production of testosterone in men.

lymphocele
A small swelling caused by the collection of lymphatic fluid. May occur on the penis.

lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV)
A form of chlamydia, most common in tropical regions. Increasingly found in the U.S.

 

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machismo   
The mystique of masculinity in Latin American cultures that is centered on men who are aggressive, courageous, risk-taking, and virile, as well as casual and domineering in their relationships with women.

Madonna complex   
A sexual inhibition in which men separate sexual desire from love. They are only able to have sex with women they perceive as “whores” while being unable to have sex with women they love and perceive as “good,” e.g., their wives.

male menopause   
Andropause, the gradual decline in sexual vigor as men age, due to decreasing levels of testosterone. Similar to menopause in women.

male-to-female transsexual (MTF) (M2F)   
A person whose sex assignment at birth was male but whose gender identity is female. Also can refer to those surgically assigned male at birth, in the case of intersex people, whose gender identity is female. Often, male-to-female transsexuals will seek hormonal and/or surgical treatment in order to live successfully as women in society.

mammary glands   
Organs in a woman’s breasts that produce milk.

mammogram    ­
X-ray photographs of the breasts that can detect cancerous tumors before they can be felt.

manual sex play    
Providing sexual stimulation with one’s hands. Mutual manual pleasure is often and incorrectly referred to as “mutual masturbation.”

manual vacuum aspiration (MVA)   
An in-clinic, early abortion procedure in which the uterus is emptied with the gentle suction of a hand-held syringe.

marianismo    
The belief in Latin American cultures that women have a special affinity with the Virgin Mary that makes them more pure and virtuous than men, as well as morally superior.

marital rape    ­
Forced sexual intercourse within marriage.

marriage   
The socially and legally recognized ceremony and union of a couple as spouses.

masculine    
Characteristics and ways of appearing and behaving that a culture associates with being a boy or a man.

mastectomy   
The removal of a breast.

William Masters (1915–2001) and Virginia Johnson (1925–)   
Masters and Johnson are responsible for our understanding of the human sexual response cycle. They used mini-cameras and other electronic devices to observe what was going on inside and outside the body during the various phases of sexual arousal. They noticed and measured functions in the bodies of women and men that no one else had been able to observe. They first developed the concept of sex therapy by working with couples to help them overcome sexual problems, including sexual dysfunction.

mastitis  
An inflammation of the breast.

masturbation    
Touching one’s own body and sex organs for sexual pleasure.

maternal mortality   
The death of a woman during or shortly after pregnancy.

Mattachine Society   
Founded in 1951, the first equal rights organization for homosexual women and men.

medication abortion / medical abortion   
The use of a combination of drugs to end and expel a pregnancy. Also called the “abortion pill.”

Megan’s Law    ­
Federal and state laws that require police to notify citizens of the presence of convicted sex offenders in their communities.

ménage à trois   
Three people in a sexual encounter or relationship.

menarche    ­
The time of a girl’s first menstruation.

menopause    
The time at “midlife” when menstruation stops; a woman’s last period; usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. “Surgical” menopause, however, results from removal of the ovaries, and may occur earlier.

menorrhagia   
Menstrual bleeding that is heavier or longer lasting than usual.

menses   
The discharge during menstruation.

menstrual cup   
A latex or silicone receptacle that fits over the cervix to collect menstrual flow.

menstrual cycle    
The time from the first day of one period to the first day of the next period. In women of reproductive age, about 15–44, it is the period in which the lining of the uterus is shed whenever implantation does not happen, followed by the re-growth of the lining of the uterus in preparation for implantation.

menstrual extraction   
An early form of abortion in which gentle suction is used to remove the lining of the uterus and pre-embryo or embryo within two or three weeks of fertilization. (Outdated.)

menstrual flow    ­
Blood, fluid, and tissue that are passed out of the uterus during the beginning of the menstrual cycle. Often called a “period.”

menstrual synchrony   
Women having their periods at the same time because they live closely together.

menstrual suppression   
The use of hormonal treatments — usually birth control pills — to prevent having a period.

menstruation    
The flow of blood, fluid, and tissue out of the uterus and through the vagina that usually lasts from 3 to 7 days.

merkin   
A wig for the genitals, used from the 16th to the 18th centuries by people who had lost their pubic hair due to small pox or scarlet fever. Now used to describe decorative patches worn over the genitals.

metastasize   
To spread from one part of the body to another, as in cancer.

method effectiveness    ­
The reliability of a contraceptive method itself, when always used consistently and correctly.

methotrexate   
One of the medications that can be used with misoprostol for medication abortion.

metoidioplasty    
In genital reconstruction surgery, the process of freeing up the enlarged clitoris from connective tissue to serve as a penis (the clitoris is typically elongated and changes somewhat from testosterone therapy).

micropenis   
Men’s sex organs small enough to be considered abnormal.

midwife   
A person trained to assist a woman during childbirth.

mifepristone    
The most common medication used for medication abortion. Commonly known as “the abortion pill.”  The brand name in the U.S is Mifeprex.

mikveh   
The ritual purification performed by Jewish women a week after menstruation or childbirth. Usually a bath of spring or rain water.

milk ducts    
The passages in women’s breasts through which milk flows from the alveoli to the nipple.

mini-laparotomy   
A very common method of tubal sterilization that involves making a small incision on the lower abdomen through which the fallopian tubes can be located and blocked.

mini-pills    
­Birth control pills that contain only the hormone progestin. More correctly called “progestin-only pills.”

miscarriage   
The loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks gestation — before the embryo or fetus can live outside the uterus. Also called "spontaneous abortion" or "early pregnancy loss." One to two of every 10 pregnancies end in miscarriage, and 8 out of 10 happen in the first three months of pregnancy. Causes include abnormal chromosome, abnormalities in the uterus, certain severe chronic illnesses, severe trauma, very serious infections.

miscegenation    ­
Marriage or sexual relations between people of different races.  (Outdated and offensive.)

misogyny
Extreme fear and hatred of women.

misoprostol
A medication that is used to treat ulcers and to complete a medication abortion that has been induced with mifepristone, the abortion pill.  Although less effective than mifepristone, misoprostol is used alone for abortion in some countries.

missed abortion
A kind of miscarriage. The pregnancy ends, but the tissue remains in the uterus. Usually the tissue eventually comes out of the uterus on its own, but treatment is sometimes needed.

missionary position   
The position for vaginal intercourse in which the man lies on the woman, face-to-face. Taught to non-Christians by missionaries who believed that all other positions for sex play were sinful because they might provide more pleasure than necessary for procreation and because men must display their dominance over women at all times, including sex play.

mittelschmerz
Abdominal pain associated with ovulation in some women.

molar pregnancy   
The uncommon development of placental tissue without an embryo or fetus.

molluscum contagiosum    ­
A virus that can be sexually transmitted, causing small, pinkish-white, waxy, round, polyp-like growths in the genital area or on the thighs.

mooning   
Exposing one’s buttocks to other people.

monogamy
A relationship in which both people date or have sex only with one another and no one else. There are several kinds of monogamous relationships:

  • emotional monogamy — The relationship of couples who agree to have sex play with other partners as long as neither develops an emotional attachment for another partner.
  • genetic monogamy — The relationship of couples who agree to have sex play with other partners but to only have children with one another.
  • sexual monogamy —The relationship of couples who only have sex play with each other.
  • social monogamy —The relationship of couples who live together who agree to have sex with other partners.

mons veneris
The fleshy, triangular mound above the vulva that is covered with pubic hair in adult women. It cushions the pubic bone.

morning after pills
Emergency hormonal contraception that is started within 120 hours (five days) of unprotected vaginal intercourse to decrease the risk of unintended pregnancy.

morning sickness
Nausea and vomiting when they are symptoms of pregnancy.

morning wood   
Slang for the erection men often have when they wake up. Men have several erections at night as part of their sleep cycle. Very often, when they wake up, they are still erect.  Also called “nocturnal penile tumescence.”

morula   
The pre-embryo when it is composed of 16–32 cells.

MTF (M2F) (male-to-female transsexual)   
A person whose sex assignment at birth was male but whose gender identity is female. Also can refer to those surgically assigned male at birth, in the case of intersex people, whose gender identity is female. Often, male-to-female transsexuals will seek hormonal and/or surgical treatment in order to live successfully as women in society.

mucus method
The cervical mucus method, a fertility awareness-based method for predicting a woman’s fertility by observing changes in her cervical mucus. Can be used for contraception or for planning a pregnancy.

Müllerian ducts
Two structures in the embryo that develop into the female reproductive tract.

multiparous   
Having given birth more than once.

multiple marker screening   
A prenatal blood test at around 16 weeks of pregnancy to detect Down syndrome, brain and spine defects, and other defects. (Further tests will be offered if this blood test reveals an increased risk of birth defects.) Also called a “triple test” or “quadruple test.”

multiple orgasms    
­The occurrence of more than one orgasm within a short time.

Mut 'a   
A tradition of some Muslims that allows a man to pay a woman to join him in a temporary marriage in order to have sex.

mutual masturbation    
Sex play in which two or more people masturbate in each other’s presence.

myths   ­
Unfounded or false stories or ideas.

 

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– N –

narcissistic   
Having no empathy for others; preoccupied with oneself.

natural childbirth   
Using little or no medication during labor and delivery while reducing pain by reducing fear and tension, exercising and training abdominal and uterine muscles beforehand, and using relaxed breathing during labor and childbirth.

natural family planning   
Fertility awareness-based methods of contraception. (Inaccurately suggests that other methods are “unnatural.”)

necrophilia   
A paraphilia in which a person needs the presence of a dead body in order to be sexually aroused.

negative result   
A test finding that indicates that the condition tested for is not present.

neonatal   
Regarding the first four weeks of infancy.

neurula   
Developing from the blastocyst, the pre-embryonic stage of a pregnancy during which the neural tube develops, which then marks the beginning of the embryonic stage of development.

NGU (non-gonococcal urethritis)   
An inflammation of the urethra that is not caused by gonorrhea — often caused by chlamydia.

nidation   
Implantation, the attachment of the pre-embryo to the lining of the uterus, which begins about six days after fertilization and is complete in three to four days. The beginning of pregnancy.

night courting    
Bundling, a custom in colonial North America that allowed an unmarried young woman and man to sleep together, usually with a “bundling board” running the length of the bed between them, or with the young woman enclosed in a “bundling bag” that reached up to her armpits.

nipple    
The dark tissue in the center of the areola of each breast in women and men that can stand erect when stimulated by touch or cold. In a woman’s breast, the nipple may release milk that is produced by the breast.

nocturnal emission   
A wet dream; sexual arousal and ejaculation while sleeping, which most often occurs among young men during adolescence or older men who are sexually abstinent.

nocturnal orgasm   
A sexual climax during sleep.

nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT)   
Spontaneous erection during sleep that occurs among healthy men from birth through old age. NPT usually occurs about two or three times a night, lasting for a total of two or three hours.

non-gonococcal urethritis (NGU)   
An inflammation of the urethra that is not caused by gonorrhea — often caused by chlamydia.

non-op / non-operative   
Transgender people who have not had, and may not desire, gender reconstruction surgery, and may or may not seek hormonal treatment. Cross-living or other expressions of gender identity are sufficient for many transwomen and transmen who feel no need for surgical reconstruction.

Nonoxynol-9   
A chemical that immobilizes sperm that is used in most spermicides in the U.S.

nonparous
Having never given birth.

norgestrel
A kind of progestin used in some hormonal contraceptives.

normal
Typical, conforming to accepted standards. Being different is normal.

normophilia ­
Sexual preferences that are considered common or “normal” according to social norms.

Norplant
A contraceptive system of six small, soft capsules containing the hormone levonorgestrel that are inserted under the skin of the upper arm. A reversible method of birth control that is no longer available in the U.S. See "Implanon."

NPT (nocturnal penile tumescence)
Spontaneous erection during sleep that occurs among healthy men from birth through old age. NPT usually occurs about two or three times a night, lasting for a total of two or three hours.

nuchal translucency test / nuchal fold test
A screen for Down syndrome and other abnormalities using ultrasound to measure the fold of skin on the neck of a fetus.

nuclear family
A family whose members are limited to two generations: parents and their children.

nudism
Practice of being naked socially for health reasons.

nulliparous
Having never given birth.

nuptial
Regarding marriage.

nurse-midwife
A registered nurse who has special training to assist women during childbirth.

nurse practitioner
A registered nurse who has special training to provide primary health care, including many services performed by doctors.

NuvaRing
The brand name of a ring that contains hormones and is inserted in the vagina to prevent pregnancy. NuvaRing is a reversible hormonal method of birth control available only by prescription. Also called “the ring.”

nymphomania  ­
An excessive desire by a woman to have sex very frequently with many different partners. (Outdated and offensive.)

 

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– O –

obscenity ­
Sexually arousing imagery that is considered socially offensive.

obstetrician
A doctor who is especially trained to provide care to women during pregnancy and childbirth.

Oedipal conflict
The Freudian theory that children have an unconscious sexual attachment to the parent of the other gender, causing them to be hostile toward the parent of the same gender. Also called “Oedipal Complex.”

onanism
Commonly, but incorrectly, used to refer to masturbation. In the Torah or Old Testament, Onan practiced withdrawal when ordered by God to make his brother’s widow pregnant. God struck Onan down for “spilling his seed on the ground” and not making her pregnant. Christian theologians have used the story to corroborate their condemnation of masturbation.

one-night stand
Slang for having sex with people right after meeting them and not seeing them again.

oocyte
An immature ovum, egg.

oophorectomy 
Surgical removal of an ovary.

open marriage / open relationship   
The union of two people who agree that they can have other sex partners.

oral contraceptive 
The birth control pill.

oral herpes
An infection of the mouth with herpes simplex virus 1 or herpes simplex virus 2.

oral sex
Sex play involving the mouth and sex organs.

orchitis
Inflammation of a testicle.

orchiectomy
The surgical removal of one or both testicles. Usually performed to treat cancer or for genital reconstruction surgery.

orgasm
The peak of sexual arousal when all the muscles that were tightened during sexual arousal relax, causing a very pleasurable feeling that may involve the whole body. The fourth stage of the sexual response cycle.

orgasmic dysfunction
The inability to reach orgasm from sex play with or without a partner.

orgy
Sex play among three or more people.

Ortho Evra
The brand name of a patch that contains hormones and is worn on the skin to prevent pregnancy. Ortho Evra is a reversible hormonal method of birth control available only by prescription. Also called “the patch.”

osteoporosis 
Thinning of the bones, which makes them more susceptible to fracture.

out
Being open about one’s own sexual orientation, intersex, or transgender status.

outing 
Revealing someone else’s sexual orientation, intersex, or transgender status.

outercourse
Sex play that does not include inserting the penis in the vagina or anus.

outer lips
The labia that surround the inner lips of the vulva. Also called "labia majora."

ovarian cyst
A growth on an ovary, usually small, fluid-filled, and not cancerous. May cause abdominal pain or irregular periods. Most often resolves on its own.

ovaries
The two organs that store eggs in a woman’s body. Ovaries also produce hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

over-the-counter
Available without a prescription.

oviduct
Fallopian tube,one of two narrow tubes that carry the egg from the ovary to the uterus.

ovulation  
The time when an ovary releases an egg.

ovulation method
Cervical mucus method, a fertility awareness-based method for predicting a woman’s fertility by observing changes in her cervical mucus. Can be used for contraception or for planning a pregnancy.

 

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– P –

painful intercourse
The inability to have sexual intercourse without experiencing pain. In women, may result from lack of lubrication, infection, allergy, or psychological fears about intercourse and/or vaginal penetration. See also "vaginismus," and "dyspareunia." In men, may be caused by genital deformity or spinal cord injury.

Pap test
­A procedure used to examine the cells of the cervix in order to detect abnormal, precancerous, or cancerous growths. It is also called a Pap smear.

ParaGard / Copper T-380 A
An IUD that contains copper and can be left in place for up to 12 years.

paraphilia
A sex practice that becomes necessary for sexual arousal but is not approved by social norms. Some paraphilias are

  • asphyxophilia — A person needs to be strangled up to the point of passing out in order to be sexually aroused. It is very dangerous. Hundreds of young people, mostly men, die of autoerotic asphyxiation every year.
  • biastophilia — A person needs to sexually attack a nonconsenting, surprised, terrified, and struggling stranger in order to be sexually aroused. This is a kind of rape, but most rapes are committed by men without biastophilia.
  • coprophilia — A person needs contact with feces in order to be sexually aroused.
  • exhibitionism — Sexual arousal becomes dependent on exposing the sex organs to those who will be surprised.
  • fetishism — A person needs the presence of certain objects, substances, or parts of the body in order to be sexual aroused.
  • frotteurism — ­A person needs to press or rub against an unknown person in a crowded public place in order to be sexually aroused.
  • kleptophilia — A person needs to steal in order to be sexually aroused.
  • masochism — A person needs sexual role-play or fantasy that includes receiving punishment, discipline, or humiliation in order to be sexually aroused.
  • necrophilia — A person needs the presence of a dead body in order to be sexually aroused.
  • pedophilia — An adult needs to have sexual contact or fantasies of sexual contact with a child in order to be sexually aroused.
  • pictophilia — A person needs to view pornographic pictures, movies, or videos — with or without a partner — in order to be sexually aroused.
  • sadism — A person needs to participate in sexual role-play or have a fantasy that includes giving punishment, discipline, or humiliation in order to be sexually aroused.
  • transvestophilia — A person needs to wear clothing, especially underwear, associated with the other gender in order to be sexually aroused.
  • urophilia — A person needs contact with urine in order to be sexually aroused.
  • voyeurism — A person needs to watch people getting undressed or having sex play and who are unaware that they are being watched in order to be sexually aroused.
  • zoophilia — A person needs sexual contact with an animal in order to be sexually aroused. Also called "bestiality."

parental consent    
A requirement that one or both parents give permission for a minor child to receive medical attention or to enter into a legal contract. Many states have mandatory parental consent laws regarding abortion services for minors.

parous
Having given birth.

parthenogenesis
The development of an unfertilized egg into an organism.

parturition
Childbirth.

passing 
Succeeding at being perceived as the gender with which one identifies regardless of sex assignment at birth. Some transpeople object to the term “passing,” because it may suggest that one is being taken for what one is not. “Being read as a man” or “being read as a woman” is preferred.

passionate love­
Powerfully intense feelings of erotic attachment.

pearl necklace
Slang for ejaculate spilled onto a person’s neck or chest.

pearly pink papules / pearly penile papules
Tiny bumps that ring the edge of the head of the penis in 1 out of 3 men. Flesh-colored or a little lighter, they are shaped like smooth little domes. Although they may be sensitive to touch, they are not harmful and are not sexually transmitted. They can be removed with laser treatment.

pediculosis
An infestation of pubic lice: pediculus pubis. Also known as “crabs.”

peer pressure
Efforts by friends or colleagues to urge an individual to behave in a way that is acceptable to them.

pelvic exam
A physical examination of the vulva, vagina, cervix, uterus, and ovaries — usually includes taking cervical cells for a Pap test and a manual exam of the internal pelvic organs.

pelvic girdle
The bony and muscular structure inside a woman’s body that supports her internal sex and reproductive organs.

pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
An infection of a woman’s internal reproductive system that can lead to sterility, ectopic pregnancy, and chronic pain. It is often caused by sexually transmitted infections, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia.

pelvic tuberculosis
A rare, chronic bacterial infection of a woman's reproductive organs. Can cause infertility.

penis
A man’s reproductive and sex organ that is formed of three columns of spongy tissue — two corpora cavernosa and the corpus spongiosum. The spongy tissue fills with blood during sexual excitement, a process known as erection. Urine and seminal fluid pass through the penis.

perfect use
The effectiveness of a particular contraceptive method for women and men who always use it consistently and correctly. See "typical use."

performance anxiety
­Fear of being unable to please a sex partner.

perimenopause
The period of change leading to menopause.

perinatal
Around the time of childbirth.

perineum
The area between the anus and the vulva or scrotum.

period
Menstruation.

periodic abstinence  
Not having vaginal intercourse during the “unsafe days” of a woman’s fertile phase in order to prevent pregnancy.

pessary
A device inserted into the vagina to treat a prolapsed uterus. Old types of pessaries were used as barrier birth control methods.

Petri Papyrus
Written in Egyptian hieroglyphs nearly 4,000 years ago, the first description of a contraceptive: a pessary composed of fiber, honey, and crocodile dung.

petting
Outercourse.

Peyronie’s disease
A rare condition that is caused by fibrous growths inside the penis.

phallic
Shaped like a penis.

phallophobia
Fear of the penis.

phalloplasty
In genital reconstruction surgery, the construction of a penis from the person’s own genital tissue.

pharonic circumcision
A drastic form of clitoridectomy in which the labia are sewn together over the openings to the vagina and urethra.

pheromones
Odors given off by animals, including humans, to attract others sexually.

phimosis
A condition in which the foreskin of the penis is too tight to be pulled back.

phone sex
Sexually arousing telephone conversations in which people fantasize about having sex with each other and masturbate.

physician assistant
A health care provider who is trained to provide basic medical services, usually under the supervision of a physician.

physical fitness
­A condition of good health that results from healthful foods, exercise, and regular medical checkups.

PID (pelvic inflammatory disease)
An infection of a woman’s internal reproductive system that can lead to sterility, ectopic pregnancy, and chronic pain. It is often caused by sexually transmitted infections, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia.

pill, the
A common expression for oral hormonal contraception.

pimp
The usually exploitive manager of a sex worker.

pitching a tent
Slang for having an erection. It comes from the way pants or bed sheets look when the erect penis, like a tent pole, pushes them up and out.

pituitary gland
Located under the brain, the organ that produces hormones that regulate growth, reproduction, and sexual activity.

placenta
The organ formed on the wall of the uterus by the developing embryo that provides oxygen and other nourishment from the woman to her fetus and through which waste products are eliminated from the fetus.

Plan B
The brand name for oral hormonal emergency contraception: the “morning after pill."

plateau
The stage of sexual arousal in which a person has been sexually excited and may approach orgasm. The third stage of the sexual response cycle.

platonic
Not sexual.

PMS (premenstrual syndrome)
Emotional and physical symptoms that appear a few days before and during menstruation, including depression, fatigue, feeling bloated, and irritability.

point of no return
Ejaculatory inevitability, the moment during sexual excitement when a man cannot stop his ejaculation. It occurs when the prostate begins to contract and pulse out seminal fluid.

polyamory  
The ongoing sexual and emotional relationship among three or more people.

polyandry
The marriage of one woman to more than one man.

polycystic ovary syndrome
Various symptoms that result from small benign growths on the ovaries, including lack of menstruation, excessive body hair, and infertility.

polygamy
Having more than one spouse.

polygyny
The marriage of one man to more than one woman.

polyps
Small benign growths (tumors) that are common in the uterus and on the cervix or throat.

pornography
Erotic imagery or language that is considered by an average person to be obscene and offensive.

positive result
A test finding that indicates that the condition tested for is present.

post-exposure prophylaxis
Medication provided immediately after possible exposure to a sexually transmitted infection, including HIV, which is intended to prevent infection.

post-ovulation method    
A fertility awareness-based method of birth control using abstinence or barrier methods from the beginning of menstruation until the morning of the fourth day after predicted ovulation — more than half of the menstrual cycle.

postpartum
The first few weeks after childbirth.

postpartum depression
Depression in a woman following childbirth.

postpartum psychosis
Severe postpartum depression that may include withdrawal from reality, delusions, hallucinations, and, in some cases, murderous attacks on the newborn.

pre-cum
Slang for pre-ejaculate, ­the liquid that oozes out of the penis during sexual excitement before ejaculation; produced by the Cowper’s glands. Does not contain sperm, but may pick up sperm remaining in the urethra from previous ejaculations.

pre-eclampsia
An abnormal development during pregnancy that includes fluid buildup, high blood pressure, and protein deposits in the urine of the woman.  The complications may include brain hemorrhage, eye damage, heart problems, fetal malnutrition, low birth weight, and death.

pre-ejaculate
The liquid that oozes out of the penis during sexual excitement before ejaculation; produced by the Cowper’s glands. Does not contain sperm, but may pick up sperm remaining in the urethra from previous ejaculations. Also called “pre-cum.”

pre-embryo
The organism that starts developing at fertilization when the zygote is formed by the joining of an egg and a sperm. It attaches to the lining of the uterus after about seven days. It continues to develop until it forms an embryo, 9 to 11 days later. Up to 50 percent of all pre-embryos pass out of a woman’s body before a pregnancy is established.

pregnancy
A condition in which a woman carries a developing offspring in her uterus. It begins with the implantation of the pre-embryo and progresses through the embryonic and fetal stages until birth, unless it is ended by miscarriage or abortion. It lasts about nine months from implantation to birth. If clinically measured from a woman’s last menstrual period, it lasts 10 months.

premarital sex
Sex play between people before marriage.

premature delivery
Early childbirth. Occurs from the 20th week to the 37th week of pregnancy.

premature ejaculation
­Ejaculation occurring before a man wants it to occur — often before his partner reaches orgasm.

premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Emotional and physical symptoms that appear a few days before and during menstruation, including depression, fatigue, feeling bloated, and irritability.

prenatal vitamin
Multivitamins designed to support a healthy pregnancy.

prenuptial agreement
A contract made by a couple before marriage that spells out the division of property in case of divorce.

prepuce
Foreskin.

preputial glands
The organs that secrete a fluid that combines with bacteria and body oils to form smegma. Several are located under the foreskin and clitoral hood. Others are located under the corona of the glans of the penis and on either side of the frenulum. Also called  Tyson’s glands.

priapism    
­A prolonged and painful erection of the penis without sexual stimulation that is caused by too much blood flow into the corpus cavernosa.

primary sex characteristics    ­
Body organs and reproductive structures and functions, which differ between women and men. The differences include the external and internal sex and reproductive organs. It also includes a woman’s ability to produce eggs and a man’s ability to produce sperm.

primary syphilis   
The first stage of infection during which an open sore called a chancre develops.

primogeniture
The tradition in which the eldest, “legitimate,” surviving son is the only heir of his father.

Prince Albert
A metal ring, one inch in diameter, used to pierce the glans of the penis for increased stimulation during intercourse. Said to be worn by Albert, consort of Queen Victoria of England.  See "dressing ring."

pro-choice
The belief that women have the right to make their own decisions about whether or when to have a child.

procreative sex
Having vaginal intercourse for the purpose of having a child.

Progestasert  ­
An IUD containing natural hormones that must be replaced every year. (No longer available in the U.S.)

progesterone
A hormone produced in the ovaries of women that is important in the regulation of puberty, menstruation, and pregnancy.

progestin
A synthetic progesterone.

prolapsed uterus
A condition in which a woman’s uterus sags or slips out of its normal position into the vagina. Caused by weakened pelvic muscles. Most common in postmenopausal women who have given birth.

promiscuous
Being casual and indiscriminate about having sex play with partners. (Often considered offensive.) Alfred Kinsey once said that promiscuous people are the ones who have “more sex than you think they should.”

prophylactic
A device or treatment used to prevent infection; the condom.

prostaglandins   
Hormones that are used to induce uterine contractions for childbirth or abortion.

prostate
A gland the size of a golf ball that is located below the bladder in men and produces a fluid that helps sperm move. Very sensitive to the touch — “the male G-spot.”

prostatitis  
An enlargement and inflammation of the prostate gland that results in a dull persistent pain in the lower back, glans of the penis, scrotum, and testes. There may also be a thin mucus discharge from the penis, especially in the morning.

prostitute
A sex worker. (Often considered offensive.)

prostitution 
The act of providing sex for pay.

psychology ­
The study of the mind and its processes.

psychosocial
Involving a combination of psychological and social factors.

puberty 
The time between childhood and adulthood when girls and boys mature physically and sexually — when a girl is becoming a woman and a boy is becoming a man. Puberty is marked by changes such as breast development and menstruation in girls and facial hair growth and ejaculation in boys.

pubic hair
Hair that grows around the sex organs of women and men. Pubic hair is a secondary sex characteristic that appears during puberty.

pubic lice
Tiny insects that can be sexually transmitted. They live in pubic hair and cause intense itching in the genitals or anus.

puppy love
A brief but intense romantic infatuation during pre-adolescence and adolescence.

purdah
The custom of some Muslim societies and the choice of some individual Muslim women to be fully veiled when in public in order to remain unseen by all men except close relatives.

Puritans
Early American Protestant colonists who established English laws and social and sexual mores in the northeastern United States. Though actually less sexually restrictive than commonly believed, the Puritan is now the symbol of sexual suppression.

 

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– Q –

queef
The sound made when air is released from the vagina. Air is often pushed into the vagina during vaginal intercourse or penetration with tampons, fingers, or sex toys.

queer
An umbrella term for a variety of uncommon sexualities, including lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people, and some people with intersex conditions. Queer has been used as a slur. Some members of sexual minorities still find it offensive, but some now use it themselves as a term of pride. Therefore, it is best to find out if people describe themselves as queer before applying that label to them.

quickening
The time when a woman first notices the fetus moving in her uterus. (Outdated.)

 

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– R –

rape
Coerced sexual intercourse.

rape trauma syndrome
The emotional and physical consequences experienced after being sexually assaulted.

rapid orgasm
An orgasm experienced by a woman before her partner climaxes, at which time she loses interest in sex.

reality-based sexuality education    ­
Age-appropriate, culturally sensitive sexuality education programs that include open, nonjudgmental information about all aspects of sexuality; they encourage critical thinking, self-actualization, and behavioral changes through the empowerment of holistic knowledge about birth control, the body, gender role, relationships, safer sex, sex, and so on, by being realistic about people’s lives. Also called "comprehensive sex education."

real life test (RLT)    
A period of time in which a transsexual person cross-lives before beginning the medical gender reassignment process. The RLT is required under the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care, but other standards of care do not require RLTs. Individual mental health and medical professionals may use discretion when determining if an RLT is necessary.

recreational sex   
Sex play with a partner that is not procreative and has limited intimacy or emotional involvement.

rectovaginal exam ­
A physical examination of the reproductive organs and the tissues that separate the vagina and rectum.

rectum
The lowest end of the intestine before the anus, where solid waste (feces) is stored.

refractory period
­The time after ejaculation during which a man is not able to have an erection.

reproductive cell
A unique cell — egg in women, sperm in men — that can join with its opposite to make reproduction possible.

reproductive organs
In women: the fallopian tubes, ovaries, uterus, and vagina. In men: the penis, prostate, and testes.

resolution
The period after orgasm in which the body returns to a non-stimulated state. The last stage in the sexual response cycle.

retarded ejaculation
­A commonly used term for a man’s inability to have an orgasm.

retrograde ejaculation
A condition in which a man ejaculates from the prostate into the bladder.

Rh factor
The presence of certain proteins on the surface of red blood cells. It occurs in most people. People with Rh factor are said to be “Rh positive,” and people without it are said to be “Rh negative.” If a fetus has Rh factor and the woman does not, her immune system will develop antibodies that will destroy fetal blood, which can harm the fetus in any future pregnancies and cause death.

rhythm method
Outdated name for what is now called the calendar method of fertility awareness.

right-to-life
An expression that anti-choice people use to describe being anti-choice. The expression has limited meaning because it does not encompass a woman’s right to life, only that of the embryo or fetus she carries.

Roe v. Wade
­The 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

role-play
Acting out a fantasy with a partner.

romantic love 
An idealized love relationship that often is as unrealistic as it is passionate. In courtship, romance may have elements of flattery, excitement, and the feeling of being “swept away,” as in a fairy tale.

RU-486
The laboratory research code number that was used during clinical trials for a medication to cause abortion. (Outdated and inaccurate. Correct term is mifepristone.)

rugae
The folds of tissue in the walls of the vagina.

rut
The period of sexual arousal in many male animals that is a response to estrus.

 

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– S –

sadomasochism (S & M)
The consensual use of domination and/or pain for sexual stimulation in sex play. The “sadist” is the partner who dominates and inflicts pain. The “masochist” is the partner who is dominated and receives pain.

safer sex
Ways in which people reduce the risk of getting sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. A more precise term than “safe sex,” because no sex play is completely safe from the risk of sexually transmitted infections.

safe word
A previously agreed upon spoken signal that means a partner is no longer enjoying an activity during S & M play and it must stop.

S & M (sadomasochism)
The consensual use of domination and/or pain for sexual stimulation in sex play. The “sadist” is the partner who dominates and inflicts pain. The “masochist” is the partner who is dominated and receives pain.

Margaret Sanger (1883–1966)   
Founder of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Margaret Sanger began her career as a nurse who fought to legalize birth control in order to prevent women from relying on dangerous, illegal, self-induced abortions. Sanger established the first birth control clinic in the U.S. in 1916. In 1948, she helped found the International Planned Parenthood Federation. In the 1950s, Sanger drove the research and development of the birth control pill. One of the world’s leading sex educators, Sanger convinced people around the world that they held these four basic human rights:

  • A woman has a right to control her body.
  • Everyone should be able to decide when or whether to have a child.
  • Every child should be wanted and loved
  • Women are as entitled as men to sexual pleasure and fulfillment.

sanitary pad
An absorbent “napkin” made of cotton or similar fibers that is worn against the vulva to absorb menstrual flow.

SAR (sexual attitude reassessment)
An intensive and interactive multimedia workshop that illustrates the full range of sexual behaviors and improves personal and professional communication about them.

satyriasis
The desire by a man to have sex very frequently and with many different partners.

scabies
Tiny mites that can be sexually transmitted. They burrow under the skin, causing intense itching, usually at night, and small bumps or rashes that appear in dirty-looking, small curling lines, especially on the penis, between the fingers, on buttocks, breasts, wrists, and thighs, and around the navel.

scoptophobia
Fear of being seen naked.

script theory
The idea that sexual preferences develop from early childhood experiences in one’s culture, especially with one’s family, parents, peers, and teachers of religion.

scrotum
A sac of skin, divided into two parts, enclosing the testes, epididymides, and parts of the vasa deferentia.

secondary sex characteristics   
Features of the body that are caused by hormones, develop during puberty, and last through adult life. For women, these include breast development and widened hips. For men, they include facial hair development. Both genders develop pubic hair and underarm hair.

secondary syphilis
The second stage of the infection, during which a rash and fever develop.

second trimester
The second three months of pregnancy.

secret vice
Masturbation. (Outdated slang.)

self-abuse
Masturbation. (Outdated slang.)

self-esteem 
Self-respect; feeling worthwhile.

self-love
Masturbation.

self-pleasuring
Masturbation.

self-pollution
Masturbation. (Outdated slang.)

semen
Fluid containing sperm that is ejaculated during sexual excitement. Semen is composed of fluid from the seminal vesicles, fluid from the prostate, and sperm from the testes.

seminal fluid
A fluid that nourishes and helps sperm to move. Made in the seminal vesicles.

seminal pool
The hollow space that opens beneath the cervix during the plateau and orgasm stages of the sexual response cycle in order to accept semen.  See "tenting."

seminal vesicle
One of two small organs located beneath the bladder and connected to the urethra that produce seminal fluid.

seminiferous tubules
A network of tiny tubules in the testes that constantly produce sperm. Seminiferous tubules also produce androgens, the “male” sex hormones.

sensate focus
Communicating through touch to increase sexual pleasure and reduce performance anxiety.

septic abortion
A spontaneous or induced abortion that becomes complicated by infection. Usually associated with illegal and unsafe abortion, aggressive medical treatment is often required to save the life of the woman.

serial monogamy
A lifestyle in which a person has only one partner at a time, but more than one in the course of a lifetime.

seroconversion
The change in one’s status regarding test results for infection, from being negative to becoming positive.

seropositive
Test results that show infection is present.

sex
A person’s biological identification as female, male, or intersex. Also, the act of sex play.

sex addiction
The compulsive search for having very frequent sex that interferes with activities of daily life, such as work, school, and spending time with family and friends.

Sex Addicts Anonymous
A support group that helps members overcome compulsive sexual behavior.  See "sex addiction," "sexual compulsion," and "Sexual Compulsives Anonymous."

sex assignment
The designation of biological sex — female, male, or intersex — usually made by a physician at the birth of a child. The sex recorded on  person’s birth certificate.

sex cell
A reproductive cell.

sex change operation
Interventions intended to alter the sex organs to conform to one’s gender identity. For MTFs, this is usually the removal of the testes and the surgical creation of a vagina and clitoris. For FTMs, this is usually the construction of a penis from the client’s own tissue. Scrotal implants may or may not be added during these procedures. Also called “genital reconstruction surgery.”

sex chromosomes
The cell structures carrying hereditary information that differentiate female from male in humans and other mammals.  Females have a pair of X chromosomes. Males have one X chromosome and one Y chromosome.

sex drive
Our natural urge and desire to have sex. Also called “libido.”

sex flush
The temporary reddening or darkening of the skin that may happen from sexual arousal during the plateau stage of the sexual response cycle. It may occur on the abdomen, breasts, face, hands, and soles of the feet.

sexism
Bias against a certain gender, especially against women.

sex-negative
Believing that sex and sexuality are destructive forces in human life.

sexologist
One who is professionally trained in the field of human sexuality.

sexology
The scientific study of sex and sexuality through many disciplines including, but not limited to, anthropology, biology, history, law, medicine, psychology, and sociology.

sexophobia
Fear of anything to do with sex. 

sex organs
Parts of the reproductive system that are sensitive to sensual touch. In women: the vulva — especially the clitoris — and the vagina. In men: the penis, prostate, and scrotum.

sex play  ­
Any voluntary sexual activity, with or without a partner.

sex-positive   
Accepting sex and sexuality as constructive forces in human life.

sex reassignment surgery (SRS)    
Interventions intended to alter the sex organs and/or secondary sex characteristics to conform to one’s gender identity. For MTFs, SRS usually includes vaginoplasty and/or orchiectomy. Breast augmentation / implants may or may not be included. For FTMs, several surgical procedures are involved, including chest reconstruction surgery, hysterectomy / oophorectomy, and different types of genital reconstruction surgery (GRS). Many FTMs undergo chest surgery, but not GRS. Some have chest surgery and a hysterectomy, but not GRS. Some have all three procedures (which may include more than three surgeries because GRS can often involve several surgical procedures). Both MTFs and FTMs may be unable to afford any surgery at all, yet live successfully as women or men in society through ongoing hormone treatment. The requirements for changing the legal documentation of one’s gender vary from state to state, and often depend on the amount and type of surgery or hormone therapy one has had. A few states will not allow a change in legal documentation no matter how much surgery or treatment one has had.

sex role
See "gender role."

sex selection
The attempt to control the sex of offspring.

sex surrogate
The member of a sex therapy team who fulfills the therapist’s suggested sensory exercises by serving as the client’s partner, teaching the social and sexual skills that are needed. The International Professional Surrogates Association regulates the professional standards and ethics of its sex surrogate members.

sex therapy
Treatment to resolve a sexual problem or dysfunction, such as premature ejaculation, inability to have orgasm, or low level of sexual desire.

sexting
Using a cell phone to send a sexy text message or image — often of oneself.

sexual abuse
Sexual activity that is harmful, exploitative, or not consensual.

sexual addiction
The condition of needing to have sex so frequently that it interferes with activities of daily living, such as going to work or school or fulfilling other responsibilities.  See "Sex Addicts Anonymous," "sexual compulsion," and "Sexual Compulsives Anonymous."

sexual arousal
Erotic excitement.

sexual assault
The use of force or coercion, physical or psychological, to make a person engage in sexual activity.

sexual attitude reassessment (SAR)
An intensive and interactive multimedia workshop that illustrates the full range of sexual behaviors and improves personal and professional communication about them.

sexual aversion disorder    
Fear of sexual contact.

sexual compulsion
An obsession with having very frequent sex, often with many different sex partners.  See "Sex Addicts Anonymous," "sexual addiction," and "Sexual Compulsives Anonymous."

Sexual Compulsives Anonymous
A 12-step, self-help recovery group for women and men who want to control their sexual addictions. See "Sex Addicts Anonymous," "sexual addiction," "sexual compulsion."

sexual conflict    
The clash between sex drive and sexual inhibition.

sexual desire    ­
A strong, physically arousing attraction; the need for sexual intimacy and sex play.

sexual discomfort    
Feelings of sexual inhibition that are not as severe as dysfunctions.

sexual disorder  
A psychological or physical dysfunction that affects fertility or sexual anatomy, behavior, or health.

sexual dysfunction    
A psychological or physical disorder that affects fertility or sexual anatomy, behavior, or health.

sexual harassment    
Unwanted sexual advances with suggestive gestures, language, or touching.

sexual health
Enjoying emotional, physical, and social well-being in regard to one’s sexuality, including free and responsible sexual expression that enriches one’s personal and social life and fulfills one’s sexual rights. (Sexual health is not only the absence of sexual dysfunction or disease.)  See "Declaration of Sexual Rights."

sexual identity    ­
Feelings about one’s own sex, gender, gender role, and sexual orientation.

sexual inhibition   
The suppression of sexual desire.

sexual intercourse   
Usually, sex play that includes penetration of the vagina with a penis, but also describes penile penetration of the anus.

sexuality    
A person’s gender, gender role, gender identity, sexual orientation, sexual preference, and the way they affect emotional, physical, social, and spiritual life. Sexuality is shaped by family and the social norms of the community.

sexual liberation   
The shift of a society from repressive, sex-negative sexual attitudes to more accepting and sex-positive sexual attitudes.

sexually transmitted disease (STD)
A sexually transmitted infection that has developed symptoms. Also called "sexually transmitted infection."

sexually transmitted infection (STI)
An infection that is usually passed from one person to another during sexual or intimate contact. Also called "sexually transmitted disease."

sexual minority   
An individual or group who is considered outside socially accepted norms regarding gender identity, sexual behavior, sexual orientation, or sexual preference.

sexual mores   
A society’s attitudes, customs, and expectations regarding sex and sexuality. For example, one of the sexual mores in the U.S. is that boys are allowed more sexual freedom than girls.

sexual norms    
Social standards derived from a society’s attitudes, customs, and expectations regarding sex and sexuality. For example, one of the sexual norms in the U.S. is that women and men have only one sex partner at a time.

sexual orientation   
The term used to describe whether a person feels sexual desire for people of the opposite gender, same gender, or both genders. People who feel sexual desire for members of the other gender are heterosexual, or straight. People who feel sexual desire for people of the same gender are homosexual, or gay. Gay women are called lesbians. People who are attracted to both genders are bisexuals.

sexual preference   
An erotic attraction to particular types of people, behaviors, and stimuli.

sexual repression    ­
The social or familial suppression of sexual activities, ideas, or identities that are perceived to be harmful or morally wrong.

sexual response cycle    
The pattern of human response to sexual stimulation. The five stages of the cycle are desire, excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution.

sexual rights    
See "Declaration of Sexual Rights."

sexual revolution
Used to describe two different historic shifts in the sexual attitudes and norms of people in the U.S. The first American sexual revolution occurred in the aftermath of World War I — “the roaring '20s.”  It was characterized by younger women — “flappers” — openly insisting on the right to have sex before marriage. The second American sexual revolution occurred during the 1960s and '70s. It was accompanied by the women’s and gay liberation movements, which were entwined with the civil rights movement. The sexual revolution of the '60s and '70s was exemplified by the emergence of a generation of openly sexually active adolescents and college students and by a broad acceptance of the idea that women and men can enjoy sex as a recreational activity outside of committed relationships.

sexual selection   
In Darwin’s theory of evolution, this is the term for the female animal’s choice of partner(s) from a large group of potential mates, based on the sexual characteristics of the males — longest tail, brightest color, most antlers, etc. According to Darwin, sex characteristics that inspire sexual selection, like the peacock’s tail, evolve even though they may diminish an individual’s chances of survival.

sexual stereotype    ­
An overly simplified, but generally accepted, judgment or bias regarding the sexuality of a person or group.

sexual taboo   
Any behavior, relationship, symbol, or word related to sex and sexuality that a society forbids because it is a gross violation of social or religious norms. One of the most prevalent sex taboos worldwide is directed against incest. Another widespread taboo is directed against having contact with menstruating women.

sex worker
One who is paid for providing sex or sexually arousing conditions, including commercial phone sex, erotic massage, lap dancing, prostitution, and striptease.

shaft    
A structure of erectile tissue and nerves that is shaped like a column and forms the body of the penis and the clitoris.

shame   
Feeling embarrassed or humiliated because of a lack of ability or from being discovered doing some forbidden thing.  Often associated with sex and sexuality.

Sheer Glyde Dam   
A rectangle of latex approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for safer oral/genital, oral/anal sex play.

signs of pregnancy   
The most common signs of pregnancy include frequent urination, headaches, inexplicable fatigue, a missed period, nausea, and sore or enlarged breasts. The most common symptom is a missed period.  But many women, especially young women, normally have irregular periods. These irregularities may include missed periods and other changes in the menstrual cycle. Such irregularities can change from month to month. Although pregnancy is the most common reason for missing a period, irregularity is also caused by illness, travel, worry, or stress.

sildenafil  
A medication used to treat erectile dysfunction. One brand name is Viagra.

situational homosexuality   
Same-sex sex play among individuals who are not gay but have no heterosexual alternative — for example, people in same-sex boarding schools, communities, prisons, or summer camps, or same-sex crews on ships or other vehicles for long voyages.

sixty-nine / 69   
Simultaneous, mutual oral sex play.

Skene’s glands   
Two glands that gush fluid during female ejaculation. They are located on opposite sides of the opening to a woman’s urethra. Also called paraurethral glands or female prostate glands.

slut
An insulting term for a woman who has more than one sex partner.  Increasingly used to describe men who have more than one sex partner.  See "double standard."

smegma
A sticky, white, unpleasant-smelling substance produced under the foreskin at the glans of the penis and clitoris. It is formed by secretions from the Tyson’s glands, bacteria, and body oils.

social hygiene movement   
The movement that emerged from the social purity movement in the early 1900s to fight the spread of sexually transmitted infections.

social purity movement   
The successful movement in the U.S. of the late 1800s and early 1900s that opposed the legalization of prostitution and supported raising the age of consent for sexual intercourse.

social stigma
Severe disapproval for behavior that is not within cultural norms.

sodomy    ­
Oral sex, anal intercourse, or other genital contact that is not vaginal intercourse. (Outdated.)

solitary vice   
Masturbation. (Outdated slang.)

somatotropin    
The human growth hormone secreted by the pituitary gland.

sonogram   
A picture of the fetus in the uterus produced by the visualizing technology called ultrasonography.

spectatoring    
The habit of thinking about, comparing, grading, and monitoring one’s own sexual performance while having sex.

speculum    
A plastic or metal instrument used to separate the walls of the vagina so the health care provider can examine the vagina and cervix.

speculum exam    
­The physical examination of the walls of the vagina and cervix that is accomplished by using a speculum.

sperm    ­
The reproductive cells in men, produced in the seminiferous tubules of the testes.

spermarche    
­The time when sperm is first produced by the testes of a boy.

spermatogenesis    
­The process of producing sperm. Occurs in the seminiferous tubules of the testes.

spermicides    ­
Chemicals used to immobilize sperm.

spina bifida
A birth defect that exposes the spinal cord, causing severe disorders of the nervous system.

spirochete   
­The organism that causes syphilis.

spontaneous abortion    
Miscarriage, early pregnancy loss.

spontaneous erection   
The hardening of the penis without sexual fantasy or other stimulus. Usually occurs often during early adolescence.

spooning   
Slang for a certain way of cuddling. Both people lay on their sides with one person lying in front of the other — stomach to back. Lying in this position resembles two spoons stacked together.

spotting   
Usually, light bleeding between menstrual periods, which may only be seen on toilet tissue after wiping. Normal spotting is associated, for example, with ovulation, the use of some hormonal methods of birth control, the onset of menstruation, and perimenopause. Though not always abnormal, spotting during pregnancy or after vaginal intercourse should be discussed with one’s health care provider. It can be a sign of endometriosis, uterine fibroids, vaginal adhesions or polyps, or cancer.

spouse    
A partner in marriage.

squeeze technique
A method for postponing early ejaculation. See "stop-start technique."

SRS (sex reassignment surgery)
Interventions intended to alter the sex organs and/or secondary sex characteristics to conform to one’s gender identity. For MTFs, SRS usually includes vaginoplasty and/or orchiectomy. Breast augmentation / implants may or may not be included. For FTMs, several surgical procedures are involved, including chest reconstruction surgery, hysterectomy / oophorectomy, and different types of genital reconstruction surgery (GRS). Many FTMs undergo chest surgery, but not GRS. Some have chest surgery and a hysterectomy, but not GRS. Some have all three procedures (which may include more than three surgeries because GRS can often involve several surgical procedures). Both MTFs and FTMs may be unable to afford any surgery at all, yet live successfully as women or men in society through ongoing hormone treatment. The requirements for changing the legal documentation of one’s gender vary from state to state, and often depend on the amount and type of surgery or hormone therapy one has had. A few states will not allow a change in legal documentation no matter how much surgery or treatment one has had.

stalking   
Instilling fear by obsessively pursuing a desired, past, or current sex partner.

Standard Days Method    
A fertility awareness-based method for predicting a woman’s fertility by tracking her cycle on a string of CycleBeads. Can be used for contraception by women whose cycles are no shorter than 26 days or longer than 32 days.

statutory rape    ­
Legally, sexual contact between an adult and anyone who is below the age of consent, whether or not the contact is voluntary.

STD (sexually transmitted disease)    ­
A sexually transmitted infection that has developed symptoms.  Also called "sexually transmitted infection."

stealth
Concealing one's transgender background from others. For example, a stealth transwoman is an individual who lives as a woman without telling people that she was categorized as a boy at birth.

stereotype    ­
A widely accepted but overly simplified judgment or bias regarding a person or group.

sterility   
Infertility, the inability to become pregnant or to cause a pregnancy.

sterilization    ­
Surgical methods of birth control that are intended to be permanent —blocking of the fallopian tubes for women or the vasa deferentia for men.

STI (sexually transmitted infection)    
An infection that is usually passed from one person to another during sexual or intimate contact. Also called STD.

Marie Carmichael Stopes (1880–1958)   
Opened the first British birth control clinic in 1921. One of her books, Married Love, was declared obscene by the U.S. Customs in 1921 because it described the cycles of women’s sexual desire.

stop-start technique    
A treatment for too-early ejaculation in which the penis is repeatedly stimulated just short of ejaculatory inevitability and allowed to soften before being stimulated again.

straight   
Heterosexual.

stranger rape    ­
Forced sexual intercourse by an assailant unknown to the victim.

strap-on   
A dildo that can be attached to a person to use for vaginal or anal intercourse or oral sex play.

subincision   
Ritual cutting along the underside of the penis, which exposes the urethra.

superincision   
An unusual form of circumcision in which the top of the foreskin is cut open but not removed.

suttee   
The once forced, now illegal but continuing, suicide of Hindu widows by throwing themselves on the funeral pyres of their deceased husbands.

swinging    
Exchanging each other’s sex partners for sex play.

syphilis   ­
A sexually transmitted infection that can lead to disfigurement, neurological disorders, and death.

 

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– T –

taboo
A behavior that is outside the moral limits of cultural norms.

tampon
A firm roll of absorbent cotton or other fiber that is worn inside the vagina to absorb menstrual flow.

tantric sex
A ritualized form of sex play based in Hindu and Buddhist traditions that is performed by gradually increasing spiritual concentration and sexual stimuli until a full, mind-body orgasm is reached.

temperature method    
A fertility awareness-based method for predicting fertility in which women chart when ovulation occurs by taking their temperature every morning before getting out of bed. Can be used for contraception or for planning pregnancy.

tenting  
The lifting of the uterus during sexual excitement that creates more space in the inner vagina.

tertiary syphilis   
The third phase of the infection during which multiple organ damage and failure occur.

testes    
­Two ball-like glands inside the scrotum that produce hormones, including testosterone. Each testis also encloses several hundred small lobes, which contain the tiny, threadlike seminiferous tubules that produce sperm.  Also called "testicles," the testes are sensitive to the touch.

testicles    
­Two ball-like glands inside the scrotum that produce hormones, including testosterone. Each testicle also encloses several hundred small lobes, which contain the tiny, threadlike seminiferous tubules that produce sperm.  Also called "testes," the testicles are sensitive to the touch.

testosterone    ­
An androgen that is produced in the testes of men and in smaller amounts in the ovaries of women.

thalidomide   
A sedative prescribed in Europe from 1953 to the early 1960s that was taken off the market because it caused severe birth defects, especially of the arms and legs.

thelarche    
The time when a girl’s breasts begin to develop.

therapeutic abortion   
The termination of a pregnancy because of fetal abnormality or to protect a woman’s physical or mental health or her life.

third trimester    
The last three months of pregnancy.

threatened miscarriage  
A condition in which a woman bleeds, with or without mild cramps, but the cervix hasn’t begun to open. Half of threatened miscarriages end in pregnancy loss. In the other half, the bleeding stops, and the pregnancy goes on normally.

thrush   
An overgrowth of yeast in the mouth. Most common among women and men whose immune systems are weakened.

tocophobia   
Fear of childbirth.

top surgery
See "chest surgery / chest reconstruction surgery."

toxic shock syndrome    
A rare but very dangerous overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina. Symptoms include vomiting, high fever, diarrhea, and a sunburn-type rash.

trans   
Short for transsexual or transgender.

transgender 
Gender expression and gender identity that differ from conventional expectations based on biological sex. Often used as an umbrella term to describe the community of androgyne, cross-dressing, transgender, transsexual, or transvestite people. As an umbrella term, “transgender” is often imprecise and may not adequately describe the particulars of specific expressions and identities. For example, the expressions and identity of a post-operative FTM transsexual will probably be very different from that of a female-identified drag king who performs on weekends, but both are often lumped together under the term “transgender.”

transgenderist   
Often synonymous with bigendered. Also used to describe people who live full-time in their gender identity without a desire for gender reconstructive surgery. A transgenderist may or may not decide to undergo electrolysis, cosmetic facial or body contouring surgeries, or hormone treatment.

transition    
In sexuality, the process of changing from one sex to the other, with or without medical intervention. For most, transition is a gradual set of changes over time. It may be difficult to determine exactly when a transition begins and when it ends. Some feel that their transitions began the day they started hormone treatment. Some feel it began when they told their loved ones about their identities. Some feel it began when they changed their names legally. Some feel they are “in transition” for a few years until their hormonal changes settle in. Some feel that their transitions end when they are legally recognized. Some feel their transition is complete when they have completed genital reconstruction surgery.

transman    
An identity adopted by some female-to-male transsexuals to acknowledge that they are men while affirming their history as women.

transphobia    
Fear and hatred of people who are transgender, transsexual, or transvestite.

transsexual    
People whose gender identities do not match the sex that was assigned at birth and who desire and/or seek medical treatment to bring their bodies into alignment with their gender identities.

transvestite    
A person who cross-dresses for sexual pleasure. (Often offensive. Use “cross-dresser” to describe cross-dressing for other reasons.)

transwoman    
An identity adopted by some male-to-female transsexuals to acknowledge that they are women while affirming their history as men.

tribadism   
Sex play between two women who lie face-to-face and rub their clitorises against one another.

trimester    
One-third of the nine months of pregnancy.

triphasic combination pill   
An oral contraceptive with varying doses of estrogen and progestin during a 28-day cycle.

triple screen / triple test   
A prenatal blood test at around 16 weeks of pregnancy to detect Down syndrome, brain and spine defects, and other defects. (Further tests will be offered if this blood test reveals an increased risk of birth defects.) Also called “multiple marker screening.”

tubal ligation   
Surgical blocking of the fallopian tubes by tying them off. A form of tubal sterilization.

tubal pregnancy   
An ectopic pregnancy in one of the fallopian tubes.

tubal sterilization­
Surgical blocking of the fallopian tubes that is intended to provide permanent birth control.

tubectomy   
The surgical removal of a fallopian tube.

tumescence    
Erection and enlargement of the sex organs, especially the clitoris and penis, during sexual arousal.

Turner syndrome
A rare condition in which an individual has normal external female sex organs but an undeveloped internal reproductive system because of abnormal chromosomes.

Two-Day Method   
A cervical mucus method of birth control in which a woman observes whether or not she has had cervical mucus two days in a row.  A fertility awareness-based method of behavioral contraception.

two-spirited    
In some Native American cultures, refers to people who have the spirits of both women and men. See "berdache" and "transgender."

typical use
The effectiveness of a particular contraceptive method for women and men who do not always use it consistently or correctly. See "perfect use."

Tyson’s glands   
The organs that secrete a fluid that combines with bacteria and body oils to form smegma. Several are located under the foreskin and clitoral hood. Others are located under the corona of the glans of the penis and on either side of the frenulum. Also called preputial glands.

 

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– U –

ultrasound  
A medical test that creates an image by bouncing sound waves off the internal organs.

uncircumcised    ­
Description of a penis that has a foreskin.

undescended testicle    
A testicle that does not hang away from the body but remains in the abdomen of a boy or man. The testicles of a male fetus are enclosed in the abdomen. They descend to hang away from the body just before birth. In about five out of 100 male births, one or both of the testicles do not descend.

ureters    
The two tubes that lead from the kidneys to the bladder.

urethra    ­
The tube from which women and men urinate. The urethra empties the bladder and carries urine to the urethral opening. In men, the urethra runs through the penis and also carries ejaculate and pre-ejaculate during sex play and nocturnal emission.

urinary tract infection (UTI)    
A bacterial infection of the bladder (also called "cystitis"), the ureters, or the urethra.

use-effectiveness
The reliability of a contraceptive method as it is usually used —when it is not always used consistently or correctly.

uterine orgasm    
The climax or peak of sexual arousal for women that is brought about by stimulating the vagina without stimulating the clitoris. Also called "vaginal orgasm."

uterine perforation   
When the wall of the uterus is punctured by a surgical instrument during a procedure or by an intrauterine device during insertion.

uterus    
The pear-shaped, muscular reproductive organ from which women menstruate and where normal pregnancy develops. Also called the “womb.”

UTI (urinary tract infection)   
A bacterial infection of the bladder (also called "cystitis"), the ureters, or the urethra.

 

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– V –

vacuum aspiration abortion   
An in-clinic procedure in which the uterus is emptied with gentle suction.

vagina  
The stretchable passage that connects a woman’s outer sex organs, the vulva, with the cervix and uterus. The vagina has three functions: to allow menstrual flow to leave the body, to allow sexual penetration to occur (either by hand, sex toy, or penis), and to allow a fetus to pass through during vaginal delivery

vaginal adhesion
Usually in post-menopausal women, a firm, fibrous growth that descends from the upper vagina to obstruct the opening of the vagina.

vaginal atrophy   
Thinning and irritation of the folds of the walls of the vagina caused by the normal reduction in the secretion of estrogen during perimenopause and after menopause.

vaginal contraceptive film / VCF
A thin, two-inch square sheet of chemicals that is inserted deep into the vagina, and melts into a thick liquid that blocks the entrance to the uterus with a spermicide. It immobilizes sperm and prevents it from joining with an egg. An over-the-counter, reversible barrier method of birth control. Most effective when used with a condom.

vaginal dilators   
A series of increasingly wider plastic cylinders that are used to enlarge the vagina or to treat vaginismus by helping a woman increase her capacity for vaginal penetration.

vaginal intercourse    
Sex play in which the penis enters the vagina.

vaginal lubrication   
During sexual arousal, the secretion of a slippery fluid from the blood vessels that “perspires” through the rugae of the walls of the vagina into the vaginal canal to facilitate penetration.

vaginal orgasm   
The climax or peak of sexual arousal for women that is brought about by stimulating the vagina without stimulating the clitoris. Also called "uterine orgasm."

vaginismus
Painful intercourse for a woman that occurs when her fear and anxiety about vaginal intercourse cause the muscles around her vagina to go into spasm when her partner tries to insert a penis or dildo.

vaginitis  
­An irritation of the vagina or vulva.

vaginoplasty    
In genital reconstruction surgery, the surgical creation of a vagina. Typically, in MTFs, the skin of the foreskin and penis is inverted to form a vagina. A clitoris can be formed from part of the glans of the penis. In cases of shortage of skin, or when a vaginoplasty has failed, a vaginal lining can be created from skin grafts from the thighs or hips, or a section of colon may be used. These tissues may not provide the same sensitivities as the penile inversion method, but the appearance of the vaginal opening is identical.

values    
­Ideas about what is right, worthwhile, or moral.

varicocele    ­
An enlargement of one or more of the veins that carry blood away from the testis. It can reduce blood flow and increase the temperature of the testicle, thereby causing infertility. Similar to varicose veins that occur in the leg.

vas deferens    
A long, narrow tube that carries sperm from each epididymis to the seminal vesicles during ejaculation. The plural of vas deferens is vasa deferentia.

vasectomy    
Surgical blocking of the vasa deferentia in men that is intended to provide permanent birth control.

vasocongestion   
An increase in the amount of blood in certain body tissues (breasts, clitoris, inner labia, nipples, penis) that is caused by sexual arousal.  Also causes sex flushes and lubrication of the vagina.

VD (venereal disease)    
Sexually transmitted infection. (Outdated.)

venereal disease (VD)   
Sexually transmitted infection.  (Outdated.)

venereologist    
One who studies sexually transmitted infections.

viability  ­
The ability of a fetus to survive outside a woman’s body.

vibrator
An electrically powered sex toy, often in the shape of a penis, that applies vibrations to sex organs or other erogenous zones for sexual stimulation. Developed by doctors to cure hysteria. See "hysteria."

victorians    ­
People who lived during and after the reign of Britain’s Queen Victoria (1837-1901), especially those who shared her fears about human sexuality.

virginity    
­The status of never having had sexual intercourse.

vocal surgery    
Estrogen therapy leaves MTF voices unchanged. Some MTFs choose surgery to alter their voices. This procedure may impair the voice permanently, so vocal surgery should be considered with caution.

voluntary sterilization   ­
Surgically implemented contraception that is intended to be permanent and that is freely chosen.

voyeurs    ­
Women or men who only become aroused by secretly watching another person undress or engage in sexual behavior.

vulva   ­
A woman’s external sex organs, including the clitoris, labia (majora and minora), opening to the vagina (introitus), opening to the urethra, and two Bartholin’s glands. 

 

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– W –

wandering uterus   
A mythical emotional disorder first described in ancient Athens by Hippocrates, who is considered the “father of medicine.” Hippocrates taught that, unless a woman was pregnant often enough, her uterus would wander around inside her body looking for a fetus to inhabit it. As the uterus rose inside her, she would become hysterical. If she did not have sex with a man and become pregnant, the uterus would rise into her throat and strangle her. See "hysteria."

wet dreams
Erotic imaging during sleep that causes ejaculation in men and lubrication in women.  See "nocturnal emission."

withdrawal    
Pulling the penis out of the vagina before ejaculation in order to avoid pregnancy. A reversible, behavioral method of birth control.

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797)   
Author of the first feminist manifesto, A Vindication of the Rights of Women. She was also the mother of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein.

women’s lib   
An abbreviation meant to trivialize “women’s liberation,” the feminist movement of the late 1960s.

 

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– X –

X chromosome  
The sex-differentiating chromosome that occurs twice in females and once in males. See "sex chromosomes."

 

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– Y –

Y chromosome
The sex-differentiating chromosome that occurs once in males and does not occur in females. See "sex chromosomes."

yeast infection
Usually, a type of vaginitis caused by an overgrowth of the yeast, candida albicans. Yeast infections may also occur in the penis or scrotum. When they occur orally, they are referred to as “thrush.”

yoni
Hindu name for the vulva / vagina. Hindus worship statues of the yoni made of wood, metal, or stone. Women wear symbols of the yoni (triangles, fish, double-pointed ovals, eggs, and various fruits) as sexual amulets to promote fertility and sexual potency.

 

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– Z –

ZIFT (zygote intrafallopian transfer)
A procedure in which the egg and sperm are taken out of the woman’s and man’s bodies, joined in the laboratory, and then put into one of her fallopian tubes.

zygote
The single-celled organism that results from the joining of the egg and sperm.

zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT)
A procedure in which the egg and sperm are taken out of the woman’s and man’s bodies, joined in the laboratory, and then put into one of her fallopian tubes.

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