Glossary

We provide up-to-date, clear, medically accurate information that helps you better understand your sexual health.

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

A

Abortifacient
A drug, herb, or device that can cause an abortion (end a pregnancy).
Abortion
Ending a pregnancy.
Abortion pill
Describes the process of medication abortion, which includes the use of two medications, mifepristone and misoprostol, to safely end a pregnancy.
Abstinence
Not having sex with anyone.
Abstinence-only programs
A form of “sex education” that teaches abstinence (not having sex) as the only morally correct option for unmarried people. They don’t include information about protection from STDs or pregnancy. See "abstinence-only-until-marriage programs."
Ace
Short for asexual, meaning the sexual orientation, or spectrum of identities, associated with experiencing no sexual attraction towards anyone.
Acquaintance rape
Sexual assault by someone the victim knows.
Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)
The most advanced stage of HIV.
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, like pubic hair, begin to develop.
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 someone.
Agender
Not identifying with any gender.
AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome)
The most advanced stage of HIV.
AIS (androgen insensitivity syndrome)
A biological intersex condition that makes a fetus with XY chromosomes unable to develop male sex organs, causing female genitals at birth and throughout life. Usually raised as girls, individuals with AIS do not have reproductive organs, do not menstruate, are infertile, and can have vaginas that are too shallow for penis-in-vagina sex.
Alfred Kinsey (1894–1956)
Influential American sex researcher of the 20th century. His research was unique and groundbreaking. In extensive interviews, he and his team of researchers took thousands of case histories to learn about people’s sexual identities and experiences. 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’ve learned a great deal.
Ally
Someone who’s on the same side as you. 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.”
Amenorrhea
Not having a period (menstruating).
Amniocentesis
A prenatal test that examines the fluid that surrounds and protects the fetus. If done, it’s 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 sex
Sex in which the penis or a sex toy goes in the anus.
Androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS)
A biological intersex condition that causes a fetus with XY chromosomes to have a vulva at birth rather than a penis and scrotum Often raised as girls, individuals with AIS don’t have reproductive organs, don’t menstruate, are infertile, and can have vaginas that are too shallow for penis-in-vagina sex.
Androgens
Hormones that stimulate male genital development in the womb and secondary male sex characteristics during puberty. Large amounts are produced in testicles and small amounts are produced in ovaries. The most common androgen is testosterone.
Androgynous
Appearing to have both, neither, or in between traditionally male and female physical characteristics.
Andropause
A gradual decline in sex drive as people with penises age, due to decreasing levels of testosterone. Similar to menopause.
Androphobia
Fear of men.
Anesthesia
Medicine that protects against pain during medical procedures. Topical anesthesia numbs the skin. Local anesthesia numbs a small area of the body, like the cervix. General anesthesia makes you be asleep and numb so you don’t feel or remember anything. Conscious sedation numbs the body while allowing a person to remain awake, but deeply relaxed.
Anilingus
Oral sex with a partner’s anus. Also known by the slang term “rimming.”
Anorexia
An eating disorder in which people don’t eat or eat dangerously little.
Anorgasmia
Inability to have an orgasm or difficulty in having an orgasm.
Anti-choice
Opposed to the belief that people have the right to make their own choices about whether and when to have a child.
Antibiotics
Medicines that are used to cure infections caused by bacteria.
Antibody
A protein developed by the immune system in response to a toxin in the body.
Antiretroviral
A medicine that fights viruses. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is a treatment for HIV patients that can help them stay healthy, and lower their chances of giving HIV to someone else.
Anus
The opening from the rectum (butt) from which solid waste (poop) leaves the body.
Aphrodisiac
A substance that increases sexual desire.
Areola
The dark area surrounding the nipple.
ART (antiretroviral therapy)
A combination of medicines that works to keep people living with HIV healthy by lowering the amount of the virus in their bodies.
Artificial insemination
See the preferred term, “donor insemination.”
Asexuality
Sexual orientation or identity associated with experiencing no sexual attraction for anyone.
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.”
Asymptomatic
Having no signs or symptoms. Many STDs are asymptomatic in their early stages.
Atrophic vaginitis
Vaginal irritation without any discharge caused by lowered levels of estrogen. Sometimes caused by menopause and more rarely, by breastfeeding.
Autoerotic
Being turned on by yourself or something you think of in your own mind.
Autoerotic asphyxiation
Strangling or choking yourself for sexual arousal. It can be very dangerous. Hundreds of young people die of autoerotic asphyxiation every year.

B

Backup birth control
Any birth control method — like condoms or withdrawal — that’s used while waiting for hormonal birth control methods to become effective (or to become effective again after a mistake or problem). Some people also refer to emergency contraception as backup birth control.
Bacterial vaginosis (bv)
Inflammation of the vulva/vagina (vaginitis) caused by a change in the balance of vaginal bacteria. It’s not an STD. Things like douching or having sex with a new partner can lead to BV.
Balanitis
An inflammation of the glans and foreskin of the penis that can be caused by infections (including STDs), harsh soaps, poor hygiene, etc. It’s most common in uncircumcised penises.
Barrier methods of birth control
Birth control that blocks sperm from passing through the cervix (the barrier between the vagina and uterus). These include the condom, female condom, diaphragm, cervical cap, spermicide, and sponge.
Bartholin’s glands
Two glands that provide lubrication (wetness) to the vagina during sexual excitement (arousal, being turned on). Located in the inner labia on each side of the opening to the vagina.
Basal body temperature method
A birth control method that involves tracking your body temperature over time to predict ovulation. Can be used to prevent pregnancy or to plan a pregnancy.
Bdsm
A term for a variety of sexual practices including bondage, discipline, domination/submission, and sadism/masochism.
Benign
Not dangerous.
Bi erasure / invisibility
The tendency to ignore the existence or legitimacy of bisexuality.
Bigender
Having two genders. Identifying as both a man and a woman, for example.
Bilateral mastectomy
The surgical removal of both breasts. Performed to treat/prevent breast cancer or for gender affirmation. See "chest surgery" or “top surgery.”
Biopsy
When a doctor or nurse takes a small sample of tissue to examine in a lab and make a diagnosis.
Biphobia
Fear, hatred, or mistrust of bisexuals.
Birth canal
The passage from the uterus through the cervix and vagina through which a baby is born.
Birth center
A special health facility for people giving birth and their families.
Birth Control
Something that prevents pregnancy.
Birth defect
A physical abnormality or health issue present at birth. May be considered outdated or offensive. “Congenital disorder” is the preferred term.
Bisexual
Being sexually attracted to both men and women. Sometimes used to describe people who are sexually attracted to people of all genders, including non-binary genders.
Bladder
The organ that collects and stores urine (pee). The bladder is emptied through the urethra.
Blastocyst
The developing hollow ball of cells that grows from a fertilized egg, before it implants in the uterus.
Blue balls
Slang for an uncomfortable — but not dangerous — feeling in the penis/testicles that may occur when you don’t ejaculate after being very turned on.
Body image
Attitudes and feelings that a person has about their body and appearance.
Boner
Slang for an erect (hard) penis.
Bottom surgery
A general term for a variety of genital surgeries that transgender individuals may choose to get to align their physical body with their gender identity. See “gender-affirming surgery” or “gender-alignment surgery.”
Breastfeeding
Feeding a baby with human milk from the breast. Can also be used as a birth control method for the first 6 months after birth, if done correctly.
Breasts
The two glands on the chest. Considered sex organs because they’re often sexually sensitive and may inspire sexual desire. Like mammary glands in other mammals, they produce milk during and after pregnancy.
Bulbourethral glands
The glands beneath the prostate gland that are attached to the urethra. They produce pre-ejaculate (pre-cum), preparing for ejaculation by temporarily stopping the ability to urinate (pee) and making it easier for semen to move. Also called “Cowper’s glands.”
Butch
Slang for dressing like or taking on roles that are traditionally “masculine,” especially in regard to lesbians or gender-nonconforming individuals. Some people may call themselves butch, while others find the term offensive.
Butt plug
A sex toy that goes in the anus. It’s designed to stay in place with a flared base.
Bv (bacterial vaginosis)
Inflammation of the vulva/vagina (vaginitis) caused by a change in the balance of vaginal bacteria. It’s not an STD. Things like douching or having sex with a new partner can lead to BV.

C

C-section
Giving birth when a doctor surgically removes the baby from the uterus. Short for cesarian section.
Calendar method
A fertility awareness-based method for predicting fertility in which users chart their menstrual cycles on a calendar. Can be used to plan a pregnancy or as birth control if cycles are tracked over many months.
Cancer
A disease in which abnormal cells grow out of control in a part of the body.
Candida
A type of yeast that causes vaginal yeast infections when it becomes overgrown. Yeast infections may also occur in the penis or scrotum, or the mouth/throat. When they happen in the mouth or throat, they’re called “thrush.”
Cap
Short for a cervical cap, a birth control method. A cervical cap is a cup made from soft silicone and shaped like a sailor's hat. It goes inside the vagina to cover the cervix. Used with spermicide, the cervical cap is a reusable barrier method of birth control that’s available by prescription. The FemCap is the only cervical cap available in the U.S.
Castration
Removal of the testicles. See "chemical castration."
Casual sex
Sex between people who aren’t in a relationship with each other.
Celibacy
Not having sex.
Censorship
When something is forbidden because it’s thought to be offensive or dangerous.
Cervical cap
A cervical cap is a cup made from soft silicone and shaped like a sailor's hat. It goes inside the vagina and covers the cervix. Used with spermicide, the cervical cap is a reusable barrier method of birth control that’s available by prescription. The FemCap is the only cervical cap available in the U.S.
Cervical mucus
The secretion that comes from the divider between the uterus and vagina. The amount of cervical mucus and what it looks like changes throughout the menstrual cycle, especially around the time of ovulation. It can naturally help sperm move, or help stop sperm from moving if you’re using hormonal birth control.
Cervical mucus method
A fertility awareness-based method for predicting fertility by tracking changes in the appearance and quantity of cervical mucus. Can be used for planning a pregnancy or as birth control if tracked over many months.
Cervicitis
An irritation of the cervix. May include abnormal discharge from the cervix that can look and feel like vaginal discharge.
Cervix
The narrow, lower part of the uterus, with a small opening connecting the uterus to the vagina.
Cesarian section
Giving birth when a doctor surgically removes the baby from the uterus. Called “c-section” for short.
Chancre
A sore on the skin or mucus membrane that’s caused by syphilis during the first phase of infection.
Chancroid
A sexually transmitted bacteria that causes open genital sores, called buboes. Chancroid is very rare today, especially in the U.S.
Chastity belt
A device designed to prevent people 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. Others were designed to prevent masturbation.
Chemical castration
Injecting progestin into someone with a penis/scrotum to decrease sexual desire and arousal. In some countries, sex offenders can be sentenced to chemical castration.
Chest binding
Wrapping breast tissue in order to flatten it and create a more masculine-appearing chest.
Chest surgery / chest reconstruction surgery
Surgical reconstruction to create a more female- or more male-appearing chest. Sometimes referred to as “top surgery.”
Child pornography
Images of children designed to be sexually arousing. Making or distributing child pornography is a serious crime.
Chlamydia
A very common STD that’s caused by a bacteria and can be cured with antibiotics. If left untreated, chlamydia can cause infertility and arthritis.
Chorionic villus sampling (CVS)
A prenatal test that examines the tissue that attaches a fetus to the wall of the uterus. If a doctor or nurse recommends it, CVS is usually performed between 10–12 weeks of pregnancy to detect certain genetic or biological disorders.
Circumcision
A surgical procedure to remove the foreskin of the penis or part of the clitoris. See ”female circumcision.”
Cis man
Short for cisgender man. A man who identifies as the gender he was assigned at birth — in this case, male. A man who isn’t transgender.
Cis woman
Short for cisgender woman. A woman who identifies as the gender she was assigned at birth — in this case, female. A woman who isn’t transgender.
Cisgender
Those who identify as the gender they were assigned at birth. For example, a baby born with a vulva is categorized a girl. If she also identifies as a girl or woman throughout her life, she’s considered cisgender. In other words, cisgender describes someone who is not transgender.
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.”
Clit
Short for clitoris.
Clitoral hood
A small flap of skin formed by the inner labia that covers and protects the clitoris.
Clitoral reduction
A surgery to shorten the clitoris. Sometimes provided as part of gender affirming surgery. If it’s done without the patient’s consent, it’s a form of female genital mutilation.
Clitoridectomy
Removal of the external clitoris. See "female genital mutilation."
Clitoris
Sex organ whose only known purpose is sexual pleasure. The clitoris swells with blood during sexual excitement. The outer part of the clitoris is located at the top/front of the vulva, right next to urethra (hole you pee out of). The inner part of the clitoris, which is much larger, includes a shaft and two crura (roots or legs) of tissue that extend up to five inches into the body on both sides of the vagina to attach to the pubic bone.
Closet
“Being in the closet,” or “being closeted,” means not sharing or not being able to share your LGBTQ identity with yourself or others.
CMV (cytomegalovirus)
An infection that can be passed through sexual contact, childbirth, or breastfeeding. In healthy adults, CMV usually doesn’t cause any symptoms. In babies or adults with a compromised immune system, it can cause symptoms including pneumonia, seizures, etc.
Coercion
Forcing someone to do something they don’t want to do, often with threats or emotional manipulation.
Coitophobia
Fear of vaginal sex.
Coitus
Sex in which the penis enters the vagina. Also called “vaginal sex” or ”vaginal intercourse.”
Colostrum
Breast milk produced towards the end of pregnancy and for a few days right after childbirth. It’s low in fat but high in cells that help infants fight infections.
Colposcope
A tool with a bright light and magnifying lens that’s used to look at the cervix for a colposcopy. Colposcopes aren’t inserted into the body.
Combination pill
A birth control pill that contains 2 hormones: estrogen and progestin.
Combined hormone contraceptives
Birth control methods — the pill, the patch, the ring — that contain 2 hormones: estrogen and progestin.
Combined oral contraceptives
Birth control pills that contain 2 hormones: estrogen and progestin.
Coming out
The process of accepting and being open about one’s identity, such as being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning. Short for “coming out of the closet.”
Complete miscarriage
A miscarriage (when a pregnancy ends on its own) in which all the pregnancy tissue is passed without medical treatment.
Comprehensive sex education
A medically accurate, age appropriate curriculum or intervention that includes information about abstinence, birth control, STD prevention, healthy relationships, sexual orientation/gender identity, accessing health care services, and helps build skills around communication and healthy decision making.
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 around the turn of the 20th century.
Conception
The beginning of pregnancy. The moment when the pre-embryo attaches to the lining of the uterus and pregnancy begins.
Condom
Thin, stretchy pouches worn on the penis during sex. Mostly made from latex or plastics (like polyurethane and polyisoprene). Sometimes made from lambskin. Condoms are an over-the-counter barrier method of birth control that also provide protection from STDs with one exception — lambskin condoms don’t protect against STDs.
Congenital syphilis
Syphilis that’s passed from parent to fetus during pregnancy, leading to bone disorders, loss of sight or hearing, deformities, stillbirth, or death of a newborn.
Contraception/contraceptive
Any behavior, device, medication, or procedure used to prevent pregnancy. Also known as birth control.
Contraceptive creams and jellies
Substances containing spermicide, which block sperm and prevent it from joining with an egg. These are over-the-counter, one time use barrier methods of birth control. They work best if used with a cervical cap, diaphragm, or condom.
Contraceptive film
A thin, two-inch square sheet of spermicide that’s inserted deep into the vagina, where it melts into a thick liquid that blocks the entrance to the uterus. It blocks sperm and prevents it from joining with an egg. An over-the-counter one time use barrier method of birth control. Most effective when used with a condom.
Contraceptive foam
A substance that’s inserted deep into the vagina. Contraceptive foam blocks the entrance to the uterus with bubbles that contain a spermicide to block sperm, preventing it from joining with an egg. An over-the-counter, one time use barrier method of birth control. Most effective when used with a condom.
Contraceptive suppository
A solid capsule containing spermicide that’s­ inserted deep into the vagina, and melts into a liquid to block sperm, preventing it from joining with an egg. An over-the-counter, one time use barrier method of birth control. Most effective when used with a condom.
Contraction
The on-again, off-again tightening of the uterus during childbirth, which causes intense cramping.
Copulation
Another way of saying vaginal sex, or sometimes sexual activity in general.
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 temporarily form on an ovary and produce progesterone following the release of an egg each month.
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.
Couvade syndrome
Pregnancy symptoms experienced by the partner of a pregnant person. Also called “sympathetic pregnancy.”
Cowper’s glands
Produce pre-ejaculate (AKA pre-cum), a clear fluid 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 the temperature gets colder or when the front or inner thigh is touched.
Cremaster reflex
The automatic response of the cremaster muscle, which elevates the testicles when exposed to cold or stimulation.
Cross-dresser
A person — typically a straight-identified, cisgender man — who sometimes wears clothing associated with the opposite gender for a variety of reasons.
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 — like warts and other growths — by freezing them.
Cryptorchidism
A condition in which one or both testicles do not descend into the scrotum within 3 months of birth.
Cum
Slang for "ejaculate," the sperm-containing fluid that comes out of the penis usually during an orgasm. Also another way of saying “to have an orgasm.”
Cunnilingus
Oral sex using the mouth to stimulate the clitoris, vulva, and vagina.
Curette
A small, metal loop used to scrape tissue. Used in dilation and curettage.
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 recommended by a doctor or nurse, it’s usually done between 10–12 weeks of pregnancy to detect certain genetic or biological conditions.
Cybersex
Sexual encounters that take place online, using 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 a “urinary tract infection” or “UTI.”
Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
An infection that can be passed through sexual contact, childbirth, or breastfeeding. In healthy adults, CMV usually doesn’t cause any symptoms. In babies or adults with a compromised immune system, it can cause symptoms including pneumonia, seizures, etc.

D

D & c (dilation and curettage)
The use of a curette — a metal medical instrument with a narrow loop — to gently scrape away the uterine lining, and the use of suction to remove tissue from the uterus. Can be used for abortion care or for treatment of a miscarriage.
D & e (dilation and evacuation)
The use of suction and medical tools to remove tissue from the uterus during an abortion.
Date rape
Forced sexual contact from someone the victim is knows or is dating. Also sometimes called “acquaintance rape.”
Dental dam
A thin, square piece of latex that helps prevent the spread of STDs when placed over the vulva or anus during oral sex.
Depo-provera
The brand name of the birth control shot. The shot is a hormone that’s injected into the butt or arm every 3 months to prevent pregnancy.
Depotmedroxyprogesterone acetate (dmpa)
A type of the hormone progestin, which is found in Depo-Provera (the birth control shot).
Desire phase
The first stage of the sexual response cycle.
Diaphragm
A birth control device made of soft silicone and shaped like a shallow cup. The diaphragm t covers the cervix to prevent pregnancy. Used with spermicide, the diaphragm is a reversible barrier method of birth control available only by prescription.
Dilation and curettage (d & c)
The use of a curette — a metal medical instrument with a narrow loop — to gently scrape away the uterine lining, and the use of suction to remove tissue from the uterus. Can be used for abortion care or for treatment of a miscarriage.
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 natural fiber that are used to stretch open the cervix.
Dildo
A penis-shaped sex toy used to stimulate the vagina or anus.
Dmpa
A type of the hormone progestin, which is in Depo-Provera (the birth control shot). The D stands for depot, the solution in which the hormone is suspended. MPA stands for the hormone medroxyprogesterone acetate.
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
A committed, long-term relationship of two unmarried people who live together.
Donor insemination
Putting semen in the vagina or uterus without vaginal intercourse in order 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, medication, or cleanser, which goes into the vagina.
Doula
A person who gives emotional support during pregnancy, labor, and childbirth and for some time after.
Down syndrome
A range of conditions caused by a fetus having an extra copy of chromosome 21 (trisomy 21).
Drag
Exaggerated cross-dressing for entertainment.
Drag king
A performer who exaggerates male behaviors and dress for entertainment at bars, clubs, or events. Some drag kings might identify as transgender, although many don’t.
Drag queen
A performer who exaggerates female behaviors and dress for entertainment at bars, clubs, or events. Some drag queens might identify as transgender, although many don’t.
Dry days
Days during the menstrual cycle when little cervical mucus is produced.
Dry humping
Body rubbing with clothes on.
Dry orgasm
Orgasm from a penis without ejaculation (when semen comes out of the penis).
Dysmenorrhea
Pain or discomfort during menstruation.
Dyspareunia
Painful vaginal sex.
Dysplasia
Abnormal cell growth that can be an early sign of cancer.

E

Eclampsia
A life-threatening medical condition that can happen during the second half of pregnancy. Symptoms include bluish skin, dizziness, mental confusion, pains in the stomach, problems with eyesight, twitching muscles, and vomiting. Eclampsia can be prevented by good prenatal care.
Ectopic pregnancy
A life-threatening pregnancy that develops outside the uterus, often in a fallopian tube. See “tubal pregnancy.”
Egg
The reproductive cell stored in the ovaries and released during ovulation. Pregnancy happens when sperm enters an egg, grows into a ball of cells, and implants into the uterus.
Eisenstadt v. baird
The 1972 U.S. Supreme Court decision that made it legal for 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.
Ejaculatory inevitability
The moment during sex or masturbation when it becomes impossible to stop ejaculation. It happens when the prostate begins to contract and pulse out seminal fluid. Also called “point of no return.”
Embryo
The organism that develops from a pre-embryo during the second month of pregnancy. This stage of the pregnancy lasts about 5 weeks. Embryos then develop into fetuses.
Emergency contraception
A safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. Emergency contraception pills made from hormones and copper IUDs are the two methods of emergency contraception.
Endometriosis
A condition in which endometrial tissue (the tissue that lines the uterus) grows outside the uterus, causing pain, especially before and during menstruation.
Endometrium
The lining of the uterus, which grows every month in order to nourish a fertilized egg. The lining is shed during menstruation (your period) if a fertilized egg doesn’t implant (pregnancy).
Endorphin
A hormone that keeps pain away.
Enovid
The brand name of the first birth control pill.
Epididymis
The tube that leads from the testes to the vas deferens. Sperm are stored in the epididymis before ejaculation. It’s tightly coiled on top of and behind the testes.
Epididymitis
An inflammation of the epididymis.
Epidural
An injection of painkillers used during childbirth.
Episiotomy
A surgical cut into the perineum (the tissue between the bottom of the vulva and the anus) to help childbirth and reduce damage to vaginal and perineal tissue.
Equal rights amendment (ERA)
A proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution which has never been adopted. It was originally pushed forward 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 three-quarters of the states.
ERA (equal rights amendment)
A proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution which has never been adopted. It was originally pushed forward 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 three-quarters of the states.
Erectile dysfunction
The inability to get or keep a hard penis.
Erectile tissue
Spongy tissue in the penis/clitoris that stiffens when filled with blood.
Erection
A “hard” penis — when it’s becomes full of blood and stiffens. See "vasocongestion."
Erogenous zone
Any area of the body that’s sensitive to sensual touch, or feels sexual.
Erotic
Sexually arousing.
Erotica
Literature or art that is meant to be sexually arousing.
Erotophobia
Fear of the erotic.
Escort
Someone who takes someone somewhere. At reproductive health centers, escorts are volunteers who help people get safely inside during anti-choice demonstrations. Escort can also sometimes mean sex worker.
Estrogen
A hormone made in the ovaries, and in much smaller amounts in the adrenal glands at the top of your kidneys, and sometimes even fat tissue. Estrogen plays a part in puberty, the menstrual cycle, and pregnancy. Many people take extra estrogen after menopause or as part of transgender care.
Eugenics
A racist and classist movement to control who should and shouldn’t have children.
Eunuch
A person whose testicles, and less often, penis, have been removed.
Excitement
The body’s physical response to desire and to stimulation. The second stage of the sexual response cycle.
Exhibitionists
People who expose their sex organs to other people in public places.
External sex and reproductive organs
The sex organs and structures that you can see. These include the vulva, penis, and scrotum.
Extramarital sex
Sex by a married person with someone other than their spouse.

F

Fallopian tube
One of two narrow tubes that carry an egg from the ovary to the uterus during ovulation.
False negative
A test result that incorrectly says that the condition tested for is not present.
False positive
A test result that incorrectly says that the condition tested for is present.
Family planning
Making plans and taking actions, like using birth control, to have the number of children you want, when you want them.
Fams (fertility awareness-based methods)
A name for several ways to track ovulation — the release of an egg — in order to prevent pregnancy. Some people call FAMs "natural family planning.”
Fantasy
A thought, idea, or daydream that causes sexual excitement.
Fasd (fetal alcohol spectrum disorders)
Health conditions that are caused by alcohol use during pregnancy. They include damage to the brain, heart, and nervous system as well as physical malformation and intellectual disability. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND), and Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD) are all fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
Federal abortion ban
The federal law passed in 2003 and upheld in 2007 that bans certain kinds of abortion procedures as early as 12 to 15 weeks in pregnancy. The federal ban includes no exception for the patient’s health and forces doctors to stop using procedures they believe are safest and best for their patients.
Fellatio
Oral sex on a penis. Also called a “blow job.”
Female
One of two possible legal/medical gender categories, assigned at birth. Also describes when someone has XX chromosomes.
Female circumcision
The practice of removing part or all of the clitoral hood, clitoris, or vulva as part of a cultural or religious ritual. In some cases, the vulva is sewn together to preserve virginity. See “female genital mutilation.”
Female condom
A polyurethane pouch that goes inside the vagina or anus for pregnancy and/or STD prevention. Female condoms are sometimes called internal condoms or referred to by their brand name, FC2 Female Condom®.
Female ejaculation
The release of fluid out of the urethra during intense sexual excitement or orgasm. The fluid comes from the Skene’s glands, which are located in the vulva near the opening of the urethra. Sometimes called “squirting.”
Female genital mutilation (fgm)
The practice of removing part or all of the clitoral hood, clitoris, or vulva as part of a cultural or religious ritual. In some cases, the vulva is sewn together to preserve virginity. See “female circumcision.”
Female prostate glands
Term used by some scientists to describe the Skene’s glands in a woman’s vulva, which may secrete a fluid similar to the fluid produced by the prostate gland.
Female-to-male trans (ftm) (f2m)
A trans person whose sex assignment at birth was female but whose gender identity is male. May prefer the identity trans man, or simply man. These identities can also refer to someone who was surgically assigned female at birth, in the case of intersex people, but whose gender identity is male.
Femcap (FemCap)
The brand of cervical cap available in the US; a silicone cup shaped like a sailor’s cap that fits inside the vagina to cover the cervix. Used with spermicide, the cervical cap is a reusable barrier method of birth control that’s available 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 people of all genders should have equitable economic, political, sexual, and social rights.
Femme
Slang for dressing like or taking on roles that are traditionally “feminine,” especially in regard to lesbians or feminine-identified people.
Fertility
The ability to have children or cause a pregnancy.
Fertility awareness-based methods (fams)
A name for several ways to track ovulation — the release of an egg — in order to prevent pregnancy. Some people call FAMs "natural family planning.”
Fertility cycle
Another way of saying the menstrual cycle. The monthly pattern of ovulation, the shedding of the lining of the uterus (menstruation), 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.
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs)
Health conditions that are caused by alcohol use during pregnancy. They include damage to the brain, heart, and nervous system as well as physical malformation and intellectual disability. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND), and Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD) are all fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
Fetus
Develops from the embryo at 10 weeks of pregnancy and receives nourishment through the placenta.
Fibroid
A benign tumor that grows on the walls of the uterus.
First trimester
The first 3 months of pregnancy.
Fisting
Putting several fingers or a hand into the vagina or anus of a sex partner.
Flashing
Exposing one’s breasts or sex organs. See "exhibitionists."
Follicle
A sac in the ovary that holds a maturing egg.
Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)
Made by the pituitary gland, this hormone stimulates the growth of an egg/the development of sperm in men.
Fondling
Touching someone in a sexual way.
Fordyce spots
Small yellowish or white bumps or spots on the inside of the cheeks or lips, on the glans or shaft of the penis, or on the vulva. 50 to 100 may appear in one area. They’re completely harmless, aren’t sexually transmitted, and aren’t infectious.
Foreplay
Kissing, rubbing, stroking, and/or touching that leads to sex. Foreplay can prolong and/or increase sexual excitement and pleasure.
Foreskin
A tube of skin that covers and protects the glans (head) of the penis, and rolls back when the penis becomes erect. A circumcised penis has had the foreskin removed.
Fornication
Sex between unmarried people that’s considered wrong by a cultural or religious group.
Frenulum
On the vulva, it’s the highly sensitive tissue where the inner labia join below the glans of the clitoris. On the penis, it’s the highly sensitive, triangular piece of skin just below the glans (head).
Frottage
Sexual body rubbing. Also called “dry humping.”
Fsh (follicle stimulating hormone)
Made by the pituitary gland, this hormone stimulates the growth of an egg/the development of sperm in men.
Ftm (f2m)
A trans person whose sex assignment at birth was female but whose gender identity is male. May prefer the identity trans man, or simply man. These identities can also refer to someone who was surgically assigned female at birth, in the case of intersex people, but whose gender identity is male.

G

G spot (grafenburg spot)
An area inside the vagina that’s highly sensitive to touch, along the upper wall of the vagina. Stimulation of the G spot can lead to intense sexual arousal and orgasm for some people.
Gamete
A cell that fuses with another cell during fertilization. In humans, eggs and sperm are gametes.
Gamete intrafallopian tube transfer (GIFT)
A type of assisted reproductive procedure, in which an egg is taken from a person’s ovary, mixed with semen, and then put back in one of their fallopian tubes.
Gang rape
A sexual assault perpetrated by 2 or more people.
Gay
When someone is only attracted to people of the same gender.
Gay bashing
Physical or verbal violence against 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 from the late 1960s to the mid 1980s.
Gender
A social and legal status of male or female. A set of expectations from society about behaviors and characteristics. Each culture has standards about the way that people should behave based on whether they’re male or female.
Gender affirming surgery
Surgery on sex organs or secondary sex characteristics to match one’s gender identity.
Gender assignment
The medical and legal description of one’s sex, determined at birth.
Gender binary
The idea that there are only 2 categories of gender (male and female) that are mutually exclusive and different from each other.
Gender dysphoria
A diagnosis, often used by psychologists and doctors, to describe the distress, unhappiness, and anxiety that transgender people may feel about the mismatch between their bodies and their gender identity. A person may need to be formally diagnosed with gender dysphoria in order to receive medical treatment to help them transition. Psychologists used to call this “gender identity disorder.” However, the mismatch between a person’s body and gender identity isn’t in itself a mental illness.
Gender fluidity
The flexibility of gender expressions and identities that may change over time or even from day to day. A gender fluid person may feel male on some days, female on others, both male and female, or neither. A gender fluid person might also identify as genderqueer.
Gender identity
An individual’s inner feelings and outer expressions of their gender.
Gender identity disorder (GID)
An outdated psychiatric diagnosis (see “gender dysphoria”).
Gender nonconforming or non-binary
When a person’s gender expression doesn’t fit inside traditional male or female categories (sometimes called the gender binary). These labels can include someone who identifies as both male and female, neither male nor female, or some other gender altogether. It’s not the same as being transgender and should only be used if someone self-identifies as gender nonconforming or non-binary.
Gender normative
Someone or something that conforms to social standards on appropriate feminine and masculine behavior.
Gender norms
Social standards on appropriate feminine and masculine behavior.
Gender roles
Social standards on appropriate feminine and masculine behavior.
Gender scripting
The socialization process by which one is conditioned over their lifetime to adopt certain attitudes, behaviors, and preferences considered appropriate for one’s gender, either feminine or masculine.
Gender stereotype
Exaggerated expectations of the way boys/men or girls/women should behave.
Genderqueer
A term for people who don’t identify as a man or a woman or whose identity lies outside the traditional gender binary of male and female. Some people use genderqueer, gender non-conforming, and non-binary interchangeably, but others don’t. Genderqueer has a political history, so many use the term to identify their gender as non-normative in some way. For example, someone could identify as both cisgender female and genderqueer.
Genes
Microscopic chains in your cells that carry information about you that’s unique to you, but includes pieces from your biological family - everything from eye color, to height, to body type, to personality.
Genital herpes
A common STD in the area of the anus, cervix, penis, vagina, or vulva. Very often there are no symptoms, while the most common symptom is a cluster of blistery sores. Since it’s a virus, there is no cure, but there is treatment available.
Genital reconstruction surgery (GRS)
Surgery on the genitals. Sometimes done for intersex or transgender people to align their genitals with their gender identity (also known as “gender affirmation surgery”). Can also be done after genital injury, circumcision, or mutilation.
Genital warts
Soft, flesh-colored growths on or near the penis/vulva, caused by some types of HPV (human papilloma virus). They are usually painless, but may itch.
Genitals
External sex and reproductive organs, like the the vulva, penis, and scrotum.
Genophobia
Fear of sex.
Gestation
The period of time when a fetus is developing in the womb.
Gestational age
The length of a pregnancy. Measured from the first day of the last menstrual period.
GID (gender identity disorder)
An outdated psychiatric diagnosis (see “gender dysphoria”).
GIFT (gamete intrafallopian tube transfer)
A type of assisted reproductive procedure, in which an egg is taken from a person’s ovary, mixed with semen, and then put back in one of their fallopian tubes.
Gigolo
An old fashioned word for a male sex worker.
Glans
The soft, highly sensitive tip of the clitoris or penis. Also called the “head” of the penis.
Gonadotropins
Hormones released by the pituitary gland. They trigger puberty by stimulating the ovaries or testes.
Gonads
The organs that produce reproductive cells — the ovaries and testes.
Gonorrhea
A bacterial STD that’s easy to treat, but if left untreated can lead to infertility, arthritis, and heart problems. Often has no symptoms.
GRS (genital reconstruction surgery)
Surgery on the genitals. Sometimes done for intersex or transgender people to align their genitals with their gender identity (also known as “gender affirmation surgery”). Can also be done after genital injury, circumcision, or mutilation.
Gräfenburg spot (G spot)
An area inside the vagina that’s highly sensitive to touch, along the upper wall of the vagina. Stimulation of the G spot can lead to intense sexual arousal and orgasm for some people.
Guiche
A slang word for the perineum, the skin between the vulva and anus or scrotum and anus. May also refer to piercing that area with a metal ring to increase sexual pleasure.
Gymnophobia
Fear of nudity.
Gynecologist
A doctor who specializes in health care for the vulva, vagina, uterus, ovaries, and breasts.
Gynecology
Health care specializing in the vulva, vagina, uterus, ovaries, and breasts.
Gynecomastia
The swelling of breast tissue in boys/men caused by a change in hormone balance. Common during puberty.
Gynophobia
Fear of women.

H

Hand job
Slang for someone using their hand to rub/stimulate someone else’s penis.
HBV (hepatitis b virus)
A viral infection that can be sexually transmitted. It can lead to dangerous liver problems in some people.
Health care provider
A licensed doctor, nurse, nurse practitioner, nurse-midwife, or physician assistant.
Health insurance
A plan or program that helps pay for the medical expenses of their members, like medicine, doctor visits, and surgery.
Heavy petting
Touching a partner’s genitals in a sexual way.
Hedonism
The belief that pleasure is the most valuable thing to pursue.
Hepatitis b virus (HBV)
A viral infection that can be sexually transmitted. It can lead to dangerous liver problems in some people.
Hermaphrodite
An outdated and offensive word. A better term is “intersex.”
Herpes
A common STD caused by two different but similar viruses: herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). Both kinds can make blistery sores show up on and around the genitals or mouth.
Heteronormativity
The cultural assumption that everyone is straight (heterosexual) until they tell you otherwise.
Heterosexism
The belief that heterosexuality is better than other sexual orientations.
Heterosexual
Being attracted to people of the other gender.
High-risk pregnancy
A pregnancy that is more likely to have complications for the pregnant person or their fetus.
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)
A chronic virus that breaks down the immune system. Can lead to AIDS if not treated.
Homophobia
Fear or hatred of people who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual.
Homosexual
Being attracted to people of the same gender.
Hormonal contraceptives
Birth control methods that use hormones to prevent pregnancy. These include the implant, the hormonal IUD, the pill, the patch, the ring, and the shot.
Hormones
Chemicals that cause changes in our bodies and brains. They naturally exist and can also be made in a lab.
Horny
Slang for wanting to have sex or for being sexually aroused.
Hot flashes / hot flushes
A sudden, sometimes intense feeling of heat in the face or upper body that happens during perimenopause and menopause.
HPV (human papilloma virus)
The most common STD. Some types of HPV may cause genital warts. Others may cause cancer of the anus, cervix, penis, throat, or vulva. Most of the time HPV is harmless and goes away on its own.
HSV-1 (herpes simplex virus-1)
One type of the herpes virus. HSV-1 typically infects the mouth, causing cold sores. More rarely, HSV-1 can infect the genitals. HSV-1 is extremely common and may not always be transmitted sexually, as skin-to-skin contact is all that’s needed to pass it on.
HSV-2 (herpes simplex virus-2)
One type of the herpes virus. HSV-2 typically infects the genitals, causing clusters of sores. More rarely, HSV-2 can infect the mouth. It’s generally passed by sexual skin-to-skin contact.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
A chronic virus that breaks down the immune system. Can lead to AIDS if not treated.
Human papilloma virus (HPV)
The most common STD. Some types of HPV may cause genital warts. Others may cause cancer of the anus, cervix, penis, throat, or vulva. Most of the time HPV is harmless and goes away on its own.
Hyde amendment
A 1977 law, first sponsored by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL), that forbids the use of federal funds to pay for abortion services.
Hymen
A thin, fleshy piece of tissue that stretches across part of the opening to the vagina.
Hyperfemininity
The exaggeration of gender-stereotyped feminine behavior.
Hypermasculinity
The exaggeration of gender-stereotyped masculine behavior.
Hypersexual
Having more libido or a higher sex drive than most people.
Hyposexual
Having less libido (sexual desire) than most people.
Hypothalamus
A part of the brain that controls hormones, including hormones related to sexual desire and mood.
Hysterectomy
Surgery to remove the uterus.
Hysteroscope
A long, thin tool that lets a nurse or doctor see inside the uterus.
Hysteroscopic tubal sterilization
A non-incision method of permanent birth control. A doctor puts tiny coils into the fallopian tubes, causing scar tissue to grow and block the tubes. Known by the brand name Essure.

I

Immune system
The body’s natural protection against infection and disease.
Implanon
The brand name of an older birth control implant. The newer version of Implanon is called Nexplanon. The implant is a small rod, about the size of a matchstick, that prevents pregnancy for up to 4 years. A doctor or nurse inserts the implant under the skin of the upper arm. It releases the hormone progestin to prevent pregnancy.
Implant
A small rod, about the size of a matchstick, that prevents pregnancy for up to 4 years. A doctor or nurse inserts the implant under the skin of the upper arm. It releases the hormone progestin to prevent pregnancy.
Implantation
When a pre-embryo attaches to the lining of the uterus. This is when pregnancy begins. Usually starts about 6 days after fertilization (when egg and sperm meet) and takes 3 to 4 days to complete.
Implantation bleeding
Light vaginal bleeding that sometimes happens when a pre-embryo attaches to the lining of the uterus and pregnancy begins.
Impotence
The inability to have an erection (get hard). “Erectile dysfunction” is now the preferred term.
In vitro fertilization (IVF)
Any method of assisted reproduction in which fertilization takes place outside the body (usually in a lab) in an effort to get someone pregnant.
In-clinic abortion
A procedure done in a health center, doctor’s office, or hospital that ends a pregnancy.
Incest
Sexual activity between members of the same family.
Incomplete abortion
A kind of miscarriage or abortion in which some pregnancy tissue passes out of the uterus but some stays inside. Sometimes treatment is needed to remove the remaining tissue.
Incontinence
Being unable to control urination or bowel movements.
Indecent exposure
Illegal, public display of genitals or breasts. Also called “flashing.”
Induced abortion
The intentional termination of pregnancy.
Induced menopause
Menopause that happens as a result of ovaries being removed or damaged.
Inevitable miscarriage
Miscarriage that’s medically certain to happen in the near future.
Infant mortality rate
Number of deaths of infants under one year of age per 1,000 live births.
Infatuation
Intense, usually short-lived, emotional or sexual attraction to another person.
Infertility
The inability to become pregnant or to cause a pregnancy.
Infibulation
The most severe form of female genital mutilation. It includes removing the outside clitoris and labia, and sewing the opening of the vagina closed.
Infidelity
Failing to keep a promise to be monogamous, usually in the context of a marriage.
Inhibited sexual arousal
The inability to become physically sexually aroused, despite one’s desire. May affect vaginal lubrication or the ability to have an erection. Not the same thing as asexuality.
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 vagina, cervix, uterus, or fallopian tubes to cause a pregnancy.
Intact penis
A penis with a foreskin, also called uncircumcised.
Intercourse
Sexual activity in which the penis goes into the vagina (vaginal intercourse) or the anus (anal intercourse).
Internal sex and reproductive organs
The organs inside the body that are responsible for reproduction. Internal reproductive organs that respond to sexual stimulation (like the vagina) are also called sex organs.
Internalized homophobia
Fear of being homosexual or negative feelings towards oneself for being homosexual.
Intersex
A general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit the typical definitions of female or male. Sometimes a female or male gender is assigned to an intersex person at birth through surgery, if external genitals are not obviously male or female. Intersex babies are always assigned a legal gender, but sometimes when they grow up, they don’t identify with the gender selected for them.
Intimacy
The closeness you feel when you share your private and personal self with someone else.
Intimate partner violence (IPV)
A pattern of emotional, verbal, physical, or sexual abuse in the context of an intimate relationship. Also called "domestic violence," "partner abuse," "relationship abuse," and "dating violence."
Intrauterine contraceptive (IUC)
Another way of saying IUD. A tiny device that’s placed in the uterus to prevent pregnancy. It’s safe, long-term, reversible, and one of the most effective birth control methods available. One IUD, the ParaGard, use copper to prevent pregnancy. Others use hormones to prevent pregnancy.
Intrauterine device (IUD)
A tiny device that’s placed in the uterus to prevent pregnancy. It’s safe, long-term, reversible, and one of the most effective birth control methods available. One IUD, the ParaGard, use copper to prevent pregnancy. Others use hormones to prevent pregnancy.
Intrauterine system (IUS)
Another way of saying IUD. A tiny device that’s placed in the uterus to prevent pregnancy. It’s safe, long-term, reversible, and one of the most effective birth control methods available. One IUD, the ParaGard, use copper to prevent pregnancy. Others use hormones to prevent pregnancy.
IPV (intimate partner violence)
A pattern of emotional, verbal, physical, or sexual abuse in the context of an intimate relationship. Also called "domestic violence," "partner abuse," "relationship abuse," and "dating violence."
IUC (intrauterine contraceptive)
Another way of saying IUD. A tiny device that’s placed in the uterus to prevent pregnancy. It’s safe, long-term, reversible, and one of the most effective birth control methods available. One IUD, the ParaGard, use copper to prevent pregnancy. Others use hormones to prevent pregnancy.
IUD (intrauterine device)
A tiny device that’s placed in the uterus to prevent pregnancy. It’s safe, long-term, reversible, and one of the most effective birth control methods available. One IUD, the ParaGard, use copper to prevent pregnancy. Others use hormones to prevent pregnancy.
IUS (intrauterine system)
Another way of saying IUD. A tiny device that’s placed in the uterus to prevent pregnancy. It’s safe, long-term, reversible, and one of the most effective birth control methods available. One IUD, the ParaGard, use copper to prevent pregnancy. Others use hormones to prevent pregnancy.
IVF (in vitro fertilization)
Any method of assisted reproduction in which fertilization takes place outside the body (usually in a lab) in an effort to get someone pregnant.

J

Jaundice
Yellowing of eyes, skin, and mucous membranes due to diseases of the liver. Can also happen in newborn infants if the liver isn’t fully functional yet. In infants treatment often isn’t needed, but treatment is available.
Jealousy
Feelings of anxiety about a partner or crush’s attention, love, or commitment. Fear that a partner has feelings for someone else.
Jock itch
A very common fungal skin infection on the scrotum, penis, or groin area. Caused by wearing tight clothing, sweating a lot, or not drying the genitals carefully after bathing. Jock itch can cause a reddish, scaly rash that can become inflamed, itchy, and painful.

K

Kegel exercises
The tightening and releasing of the muscles that stop urination in order to prevent and improve urinary incontinence, improve sexual sensation, and aid recovery of vaginal muscle tone after childbirth. Because they exercise internal muscles, kegels can be done anywhere, anytime.
Kink / kinky
An uncommon sexual behavior or preference.
Kinsey scale
A scale used to demonstrate the spectrum of sexual orientations. Designed by Alfred Kinsey and his associates in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The seven points on the scale show the range that people reported in Kinsey's surveys, from “exclusively heterosexual” to “exclusively homosexual.”
Klinefelter’s syndrome
An intersex condition where someone is born with one Y and two X chromosomes (XXY). Sometimes diagnosed during puberty, sometimes not until adulthood, depending on symptoms. Symptoms can include a small penis, abnormal body proportions, and infertility.

L

Labia
The lips of the vulva.
Labia majora
The outer lips of the vulva.
Labia minora
The inner lips of the vulva.
Labor
The process of childbirth, including everything from the contractions of the uterus and dilation of the cervix to delivery of the infant and finally the placenta.
Lactational amenorrhea method (LAM)
Using exclusive breastfeeding about every 4 hours as a method of birth control. Works for up to 6 months after childbirth, or until you get your period (whichever comes first).
Lactobacillus
A healthy bacteria found in the vagina. Helps prevent vaginitis by limiting the growth of candida, a yeast.
LAM (lactational amenorrhea method)
Using exclusive breastfeeding about every 4 hours as a method of birth control. Works for up to 6 months after childbirth, or until you get your period (whichever comes first).
Laparoscope
A tool used in medical procedures, like tubal sterilizations, to see inside the belly or pelvis. It’s a thin rod with a light and a camera that’s inserted through a small cut in the belly.
Laparoscopy
A safe and non-invasive procedure. Uses a laparoscope (thin rod that goes through a small incision in the belly) to examine or do a biopsy of the uterus, ovaries, or fallopian tubes. Can also be used for certain types of tubal sterilization.
Laparotomy
A method of tubal sterilization that involves major surgery, requiring a two- to five-inch belly incision through which the fallopian tubes are located and blocked.
LEEP
Stands for Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure. A treatment that prevents cervical cancer. A small electrical wire loop is used to remove abnormal cells from the cervix. LEEP may be performed after abnormal cells are found during a Pap test, colposcopy, or biopsy.
Lesbian
A woman who’s sexually or romantically attracted to other women.
Lesbophobia
Fear of lesbians.
Lesophobia
Fear of strong women.
Leukorrhea
A white or yellow colored vaginal discharge that happens during puberty, pregnancy, and other times when hormone levels are changing.
Levonorgestrel
A synthetic progestin similar to the hormone progesterone, which the body makes to regulate the menstrual cycle. Used in hormonal birth control, including most brands of emergency contraception.
LGBTQ
Stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (or, alternatively, “queer.”)
LH (luteinizing hormone)
One type of gonadatropin, a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland. A quick rise in this hormone in the body, known as the “LH surge,” triggers ovulation in females. In males, LH regulates testosterone.
Libido
Feeling of sexual desire.
Limbic system
The area of the brain and nerve system that controls emotions, drives, and desires.
Limerence
An obsessive infatuation; lovesickness.
Lobes
Groups of tissue (about 15-20 in each breast) inside female breasts. Where breast milk is made.
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 pets, for nature, or for something religious/spiritual.
Low birth weight
Weighing less than 5.5 pounds (5 lbs 8 oz) when born. About 1 out of 12 babies are born with low birth weight. Low birth weight babies are at higher risk of many health problems.
Lube / lubricant
A water-based, silicone-based, or oil-based product used to increase slipperiness and reduce friction during sex.
Lumpectomy
When part of the breast is removed because it contains cancer or other abnormal tissue.
Lust
Sexual desire for someone.
Luteinizing hormone (LH)
One type of gonadatropin, a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland. A quick rise in this hormone in the body, known as the “LH surge,” triggers ovulation in females. In males, LH regulates testosterone.

M

Male menopause
Andropause, the gradual decline in sexual vigor as men age, due to decreasing levels of testosterone.
Male-to-female trans (MTF) (M2F)
A trans person who was assigned male at birth, but whose gender identity is female. May prefer the identity trans woman, or simply woman. Can also refer to someone who was surgically assigned male at birth, in the case of intersex people, but whose gender identity is female.
Mammary glands
The organs that produce breast milk.
Mammogram
Breast cancer screening that takes X-rays of the breasts to detect cancer before they can be felt.
Manual vacuum aspiration (MVA)
An early abortion procedure in which a small, hand-held suction device or suction machine gently takes the pregnancy tissue out of the uterus.
Margaret Sanger (1883-1966)
Founder of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She established the first birth control clinic in the U.S. in 1916. In 1948, she helped found the International Planned Parenthood Federation.
Marital rape
Forced sex within marriage.
Marriage
The socially and legally recognized union of a couple as spouses.
Masculine
Characteristics and ways of appearing and behaving that society associates with being a boy or a man.
Mastectomy
The surgical removal of a breast.
Mastitis
An inflammation of the breast usually caused by an infection.
Masturbation
Touching one’s own body/genitals for sexual pleasure.
Maternal mortality
Death during or shortly after pregnancy.
Medication abortion / medical abortion
The use of a combination of drugs to end a pregnancy. Also called the “abortion pill.”
Menarche
The first time a person gets their period.
Menopause
When menstruation stops because of hormonal changes. Usually happens between the ages of 45 and 55, but sometimes menopause happens earlier due to certain medical conditions.
Menorrhagia
Menstrual bleeding that’s heavier or longer lasting than usual.
Menses
The blood and discharge that comes out of the uterus and through the vagina during menstruation.
Menstrual cup
A latex or silicone receptacle that fits in the vagina to collect menstrual flow.
Menstrual cycle
The time from the first day of one period to the first day of the next period. During the menstrual cycle, the lining of the uterus grows, an egg is released by the ovaries, and the uterine lining sheds.
Menstrual flow
Blood and discharge that are passed out of the uterus through the vagina during the beginning of the menstrual cycle.
Menstrual synchrony
When 2 or more people have their periods at the same time.
Menstruation
The flow of blood, fluid, and tissue out of the uterus and through the vagina that usually lasts from 3 to 7 days. Often called a period.
Merkin
A wig for the pubic area.
Metastasize
To spread from one part of the body to another, as in when cancer spreads.
Method effectiveness
How well a particular type of birth control prevents pregnancy.
Micropenis
A penis that’s small enough to be considered abnormal.
Midwife
A person trained to assist in childbirth.
Mifepristone
One of two drugs (the other is misoprostol) used for a medication abortion. Commonly known as “the abortion pill.” The brand name in the U.S is Mifeprex.
Mini-laparotomy
A surgical procedure that can used for tubal sterilization. It 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
When an embryo or fetus dies before the 20th week of pregnancy.
Misogyny
Dislike, contempt for, or hatred of women.
Misoprostol
A medication that can be used to complete a medication abortion that’s been induced with mifepristone. This process is commonly known as the abortion pill. Although less effective than mifepristone, misoprostol is used alone for abortion in some countries.
Missed abortion / missed miscarriage
When a pregnancy ends, but the tissue remains in the uterus. Sometimes this can lead to a person continuing to experience pregnancy symptoms for a time. Treatment is sometimes needed to remove the tissue from the uterus.
Missionary position
The position for vaginal sex in which the man lies on top of the woman, face-to-face.
Mittelschmerz
Lower belly pain that some people experience during ovulation.
Molar pregnancy
When a fertilized egg grows into a benign tumor instead of an embryo/placenta.
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.
Monogamy
When 2 people decide to have sex only with each other and no one else.
Mons veneris
The fleshy, triangular mound above the vulva that’s covered with pubic hair in adults. It cushions the pubic bone.
Mooning
Exposing one’s butt to other people.
Morning sickness
Nausea and vomiting that happens during the first trimester of pregnancy.
Morning wood
Slang for having an erect penis when waking up. People who have penises can have several erections at night as part of their sleep cycle. Very often, when they wake up, they’re still erect. Also called “nocturnal penile tumescence.”
Morning-after pill
Emergency contraception that can be used within 120 hours (5 days) of unprotected vaginal sex to decrease the chance of pregnancy.
Morula
A ball of cells that develops from a fertilized egg, and eventually grows into an embryo.
MTF (M2F) (male-to-female trans)
A trans person who was assigned male at birth, but whose gender identity is female. May prefer the identity trans woman, or simply woman. Can also refer to someone who was surgically assigned male at birth, in the case of intersex people, but whose gender identity is female.
Mucus method
A fertility awareness-based method for predicting fertility by tracking changes in the appearance and quantity of cervical mucus. Can be used for planning a pregnancy or as birth control if tracked over many months.
Multiparous
Having given birth more than once.
Multiple marker screening
A prenatal blood test that happens between 15-20 weeks of pregnancy to look for indications of conditions like Down syndrome, brain and spine defects, and others. Also called a triple test or quad test.
Multiple orgasms
The occurrence of more than 1 orgasm within one sexual experience.
Mutual masturbation
When people masturbate in each other’s presence.
Ménage à trois
Three people in a sexual encounter. Also called a threesome or threeway.
Ménage á trois
Three people in a sexual encounter. Also called a threesome or threeway.

N

Natural childbirth
Using little or no medication during labor and delivery. Reducing pain by addressing fear and tension, exercising and training abdominal and uterine muscles beforehand, and using relaxed breathing during labor.
Natural family planning
Using fertility awareness-based methods of contraception (See “fertility awareness-based methods”).
Necrofilia
When a person needs is sexually aroused by dead bodies.
Necrophilia
When a person needs is sexually aroused by dead bodies.
Negative result
A test finding that shows that the condition tested for is not present.
Neonatal
Regarding a newborn infant.
Neurula
The stage of pregnancy when a neural tube develops, marking the beginning of an embryo.
Nipple
The dark tissue in the center of the areola of each breast in someone of any gender. Nipples can stand erect when stimulated by touch or cold. The nipples can also release milk in people who are breastfeeding.
Nocturnal emission
Commonly known as a “wet dream;” ejaculation while sleeping, which most often occurs during puberty.
Nocturnal orgasm
A sexual climax during sleep.
Nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT)
Spontaneous erection of the penis during sleep. NPT usually happens several times per night as part of the sleep cycle.
Non-op / non-operative
Trans people who haven’t had, and may not desire, gender affirming surgery. Does not imply anything about hormone treatment.
Nonoxynol-9
A chemical that immobilizes sperm. Used in spermicide.
Norgestrel
A kind of progestin used in some hormonal contraceptives.
Norplant
A method of birth control that’s no longer available in the U.S. Norplant consisted of six small, soft capsules containing hormones. Norplant was inserted under the skin of the upper arm.
NPT (nocturnal penile tumescence)
Spontaneous erection of the penis during sleep. NPT usually happens several times per night as part of the sleep cycle.
Nuchal translucency test
A test for Down syndrome and other conditions using ultrasound to measure the fold of skin on the neck of a fetus.
Nulliparous
Never having given birth.
Nurse practitioner
A registered nurse who has been trained to provide primary health care, including many services also performed by doctors.
Nurse-midwife
A registered nurse who has been trained to facilitate childbirth.
NuvaRing
The brand name of the hormonal birth control ring available in the U.S. The NuvaRing is placed inside the vagina, and needs to be replaced each month.

O

Obscenity
Sexually arousing imagery that’s deemed offensive to the public.
Obstetrician
A doctor who’s specially trained to provide care during pregnancy and childbirth.
One-night stand
Slang for having sex with someone right after meeting them and never seeing them again.
Oocyte
A not fully developed egg cell.
Oophorectomy
The surgical removal of an ovary.
Open relationship / open marriage
When 2 people in an intimate relationship or marriage agree that they can have other sexual or romantic partners. See: polyamory.
Oral contraceptive
Another name for the birth control pill.
Oral herpes
An infection of the mouth with herpes simplex virus 1 or herpes simplex virus 2. Symptoms are commonly known as cold sores.
Oral sex
Sex involving the mouth and genitals, including cunnilingus, anilingus, and fellatio.
Orchiectomy
Surgical removal of 1 or both testicles.
Orchitis
Inflammation of a testicle.
Orgasm
The peak of sexual arousal, when all the muscles that were tightened during sexual arousal relax, usually causing a very pleasurable feeling.
Orgy
Sex among 3 or more people.
Out
Short for “out of the closet.” Being open about your sexual orientation or gender identity.
Outer lips
The labia that surround the inner lips of the vulva. Also called the "labia majora."
Outercourse
Sexual activity that doesn’t include vaginal or anal sex.
Outing
Revealing someone else’s sexual orientation or gender identity that they may not have shared or want to be shared.
Ovarian cyst
A growth on an ovary. Usually benign (not cancerous). May cause belly pain or irregular periods, and sometimes requires treatment. Most often goes away on its own.
Ovaries
The 2 organs that store and release eggs. Ovaries also produce hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.
Over-the-counter
Available without a prescription from a nurse or doctor.
Oviduct
Also known as the fallopian tube, it carries an egg from the ovary to the uterus.
Ovulation
When an ovary releases an egg.

P

Pansexual
Having sexual or romantic attraction to people of all genders.
Pap smear
A term commonly used to describe a Pap test, which looks for abnormal, precancerous, or cancerous growths on the cervix.
Pap test
A test to look for abnormal, precancerous, or cancerous growths on the cervix. Sometimes called a Pap smear.
Paragard
A brand of IUD that contains copper and can prevent pregnancy for up to 12 years.
Paraphilia
A sex practice that a person needs for sexual arousal, but isn’t considered socially normal or acceptable.
Parental consent
A requirement that 1 or both parents give permission for a minor (someone under the age of 18) to do something. Many states have mandatory parental consent laws regarding abortion services for minors. Most states don’t require parental consent for services like birth control or STD testing.
Parous
Having given birth.
Parturition
Childbirth.
Passing
Being perceived as the gender with which one identifies, regardless of sex assignment at birth. Can also refer to someone being assumed to be cisgender, or being assumed to be heterosexual. Many trans people object to the term “passing” because it suggests that someone is not genuinely what they are passing as.
Pearl necklace
Slang for ejaculate (cum) spilled onto a person’s neck or chest.
Pearly pink papules / pearly penile papules
Tiny flesh-colored bumps that ring the edge of the head of the penis. 1 in 3 people with penises have papules. Although they may be sensitive to touch, they’re not harmful and aren’t sexually transmitted. They can be removed with laser treatment.
Pelvic exam
A physical exam of the vulva, vagina, cervix, uterus, and ovaries. May include a Pap or HPV test, but not always.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
An infection in the uterus, fallopian tubes, and/or ovaries that can lead to infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and chronic pain. It’s often caused by untreated STDs like gonorrhea and chlamydia.
Pelvic tuberculosis
A very rare, chronic infection of the fallopian tubes, ovaries, vagina, or vulva resulting from systemic tuberculosis. Can cause infertility.
Penis
A reproductive and sex organ that’s made of spongy tissue. The spongy tissue fills with blood during sexual excitement, a process known as erection (getting hard). Urine and semen pass through the penis.
PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis)
Medicine that helps prevent HIV (or other infections) if started within a few days after being exposed.
Perfect use
How effective a birth control method would be if always used exactly the right way. See "typical use."
Performance anxiety
Fear of being unable to please a sex partner.
Perimenopause
The period of time leading up to menopause during which some symptoms of menopause may start.
Perinatal
Around the time of childbirth.
Perineum
The area of skin between the anus and the vulva or scrotum.
Period
Menstruation. The monthly flow of blood and tissue from the uterus and out the vagina.
Petting
Old fashioned slang for outercourse.
Peyronie’s disease
A rare condition that’s caused by fibrous growths or scar tissue inside the penis. Symptoms including a severe curve to the penis and painful erections.
Phallic
Shaped like a penis.
Phallophobia
Fear of the penis.
Phalloplasty
In genital reconstructive surgery, the creation of a penis from the person’s existing genital tissue.
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, usually diagnosed in young children.
Phone sex
Sexually arousing phone conversations in which people fantasize about having sex with each other and masturbate.
Physician assistant
A health care provider who’s trained to provide basic medical services, usually under the supervision of a physician.
PID (pelvic inflammatory disease)
An infection in the uterus, fallopian tubes, and/or ovaries that can lead to infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and chronic pain. It’s often caused by untreated STDs like gonorrhea and chlamydia.
Pill, the
Short for the birth control pill.
Pimp
The abusive, 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
The organ that makes hormones that regulate growth and development, including puberty and sexual maturation. Located underneath the brain.
Placenta
The organ formed on the wall of the uterus that provides oxygen and other nourishment to a fetus during pregnancy, and through which waste products are eliminated from a fetus.
Plan B
A brand of emergency contraception pill made from levonorgestrel, the same kind of hormone found in birth control pills. Available over the counter to anyone of any age or gender in the US.
Plateau
The stage of sexual arousal in which a sexually excited person 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, bloating, and irritability.
Point of no return
The moment during sexual excitement when a person with a penis can’t stop their ejaculation. It occurs when the prostate begins to contract and pulse out seminal fluid. Also known as ejaculatory inevitability.
Polyamory
Having sexual or romantic relationships with more than 1 person at a time with the consent of all people involved.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
A hormone imbalance where the ovaries release too much androgen (a hormone). Common symptoms include missed or irregular periods, benign ovarian cysts, infertility, acne, excessive hair growth, and weight gain.
Polygamy
Having more than 1 spouse.
Polyps
Small, usually harmless growths that are common in many parts of the body, including the uterus and cervix.
Pornography (porn)
Video, photos or words that are made for sexual excitement.
Positive result
A test finding that indicates that the condition tested for is present.
Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)
Medicine that helps prevent HIV (or other infections) if started within a few days after being exposed.
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
Following childbirth.
Postpartum depression
Depression that happens after giving birth.
Postpartum psychosis
Severe postpartum depression that may include withdrawal from reality, delusions, and hallucinations.
Pre-cum
Slang for pre-ejaculate, ­the liquid that oozes out of the penis during sexual excitement before ejaculation. Sometimes, for some people, it has a small amount of sperm in it.
Pre-eclampsia
An condition during pregnancy that includes fluid buildup, high blood pressure, and protein deposits in the urine of a pregnant person. 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. Sometimes, for some people, it has a small amount of sperm in it. 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 7 days. It continues to develop until it forms an embryo, 9 to 11 days later. Up to 50 percent of all pre-embryos end up passing out of the uterus without ever becoming an embryo.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)
A medicine taken daily to reduce the risk of getting HIV.
Pregnancy
When someone is carrying a developing fetus in their uterus. It begins with the implantation of the pre-embryo and progresses through the embryonic and fetal stages until birth, unless it’s ended by miscarriage or abortion. It lasts about 40 weeks from implantation to birth.
Premarital sex
Sex between people who aren’t married.
Premature delivery
Early childbirth, before the 37th week of pregnancy.
Premature ejaculation
When a person with a penis ejaculates before they want to, or has little control over how quickly they ejaculate during sex.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
A severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) that causes depression and anxiety during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle (after ovulation).
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Emotional and physical symptoms that appear a few days before and during menstruation, including depression, fatigue, bloating, and irritability.
Prenatal vitamin
Vitamins made specifically to support a healthy pregnancy. The most important prenatal vitamins are folic acid and iron.
PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis)
A medicine taken daily to reduce the risk of getting HIV.
Prepuce
Foreskin.
Priapism
An unwanted and long-lasting erection. Caused by too much blood flow into the corpus cavernosa, often from medications.
Primary sex characteristics
Body parts that are related to reproduction or sexual functioning (like the penis, scrotum, vulva, vagina, uterus, and ovaries). It also includes the ability to produce eggs or sperm.
Primary syphilis
The first stage of a syphilis infection, during which an open sore called a chancre develops.
Pro-choice
Supporting the right to a safe, legal abortion.
Procreative sex
Having vaginal sex for the purpose of having a child.
Progesterone
A hormone produced in the ovaries that helps regulate puberty, menstruation, and pregnancy.
Progestin
A synthetic progesterone found in all hormonal birth control methods.
Prolapsed uterus
A condition in which the uterus sags or slips out of its normal position into the vagina. Caused by weakened pelvic muscles. Most common after menopause in people who have given birth.
Promiscuous
Having casual sex frequently with different people.
Prophylactic
A device or treatment used to prevent infection, like a condom.
Prostate
A gland that produces a fluid which helps sperm move. The prostate can be very sensitive to the touch, and many people enjoy stimulating the prostate for sexual pleasure.
Prostatitis
An enlargement and inflammation of the prostate gland that can cause problems peeing and pain in the groin. Sometimes goes away on its own, and sometimes antibiotics or other medications can treat it.
Prostitute
Someone who gets paid to provide sex. Often considered offensive and outdated. The preferred term is “sex worker.”
Prostitution
The act of providing sex for pay. Often considered offensive and outdated. The preferred term is “sex work.”
Puberty
The time between childhood and adulthood when people mature physically and sexually. Puberty is marked by changes such as breast development and menstruation or hair growth and ejaculation.
Pubic hair
Hair that grows around the sex organs. 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.
Pulling out / pull-out method
Pulling the penis out of the vagina before ejaculation in order to avoid pregnancy. Also called “withdrawal.”

Q

Queef
The sound made when air is released from the vagina. Air is often pushed into the vagina during vaginal sex or penetration with tampons, fingers, or sex toys.
Queer
A word that can refer to a variety of sexual identities and gender identities that are anything other than straight and cisgender. In the past queer was used as a slur, and may still be offensive to some. However, many people use the word with pride to identify themselves.
Questioning
Being unsure about your sexual orientation or gender identity.
Quickening
The moment during pregnancy when a pregnant person first notices the fetus moving in their uterus.

R

Rape
Sexual intercourse without consent.
Rectovaginal exam
A physical exam 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 brief time after ejaculation during which getting another erection is impossible.
Reproductive cell
Unique cells — egg and sperm — that can join to make reproduction possible.
Reproductive organs
The fallopian tubes, ovaries, uterus, vagina, penis, and testes. Organs that relate to reproduction.
Resolution
The period after orgasm in which the body returns to a non-stimulated state.
Retrograde ejaculation
When ejaculate goes into the bladder instead of out the urethra/penis.
Rh factor
The presence of certain proteins on the surface of red blood cells. People with Rh factor are “Rh positive,” and people without it are “Rh negative.” Commonly known as a positive or negative blood type. Pregnant people and their fetuses may be tested for Rh factor, because if the pregnant person is negative and the fetus is positive, it can be dangerous.
Rhythm method
Also known as the calendar method; a fertility awareness-based method of birth control.
Right-to-life
An expression that people who oppose safe and legal abortion use to describe their position.
Roe v. Wade
The 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
Role-play
Acting out a sexual fantasy with a partner.
Romantic attraction
A desire for an intimate (but not necessarily sexual) connection with another person.
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.)

S

S&M (sadomasochism)
The consensual use of domination and/or pain for sexual stimulation in sex. The “sadist” dominates/inflicts pain. The “masochist” is submissive/receives pain.
Sadomasochism (S&M)
The consensual use of domination and/or pain for sexual stimulation in sex. The “sadist” dominates/inflicts pain. The “masochist” is submissive/receives pain.
Safe word
A previously agreed upon word or phrase that means a partner is no longer enjoying an activity during and it must stop.
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 act is completely safe from the possibility of passing a sexually transmitted infection.
Sanitary pad
An absorbent reusable or disposable lining made of cotton or similar fibers that’s worn against the vulva to absorb menstrual flow.
Scabies
An itchy skin condition caused by tiny parasites. It's passed through skin-to-skin contact, usually during sex. Scabies isn't dangerous and can be cured.
Scrotum
A sac of skin, divided into 2 parts, that holds the testicles.
Second trimester
The second 3 months of pregnancy.
Secondary sex characteristics
Features of the body that are caused by hormones. They develop during puberty, or can be brought on by hormone replacement therapy (HRT). For people with vaginas, these include breast development and widened hips. For people with penises, they include facial hair development and voice deepening. And everyone develops pubic hair and underarm hair.
Secondary syphilis
The second stage of the infection, during which a rash and fever develop.
Self-esteem
Feeling worthwhile.
Semen
Fluid containing sperm that’s ejaculated from the penis during orgasm. Semen is composed of fluid from the seminal vesicles, fluid from the prostate, and sperm from the testes.
Seminal fluid
A liquid that nourishes and helps sperm to move. Made in the seminal vesicles.
Seminal vesicle
One of 2 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 produce sperm and the androgens (a kind of hormone).
Septic abortion
An abortion or miscarriage that leads to infection. Usually associated with illegal and unsafe abortion, aggressive medical treatment is often required to save the life of the patient.
Sex
A label assigned at birth of female, male, or sometimes intersex. Also, the act of vaginal, anal, or manual (using hands) intercourse, or oral-genital stimulation, with a partner.
Sex addiction
A compulsion to have frequent sex that gets in the way of daily life, such as work, school, and spending time with family and friends.
Sex assignment
The designation of biological sex — female, male, or intersex — usually made by a doctor at the birth of a child. The sex that appears on a person’s birth certificate.
Sex cell
A reproductive cell - egg or sperm.
Sex change operation
Outdated and offensive term for “gender affirming surgery.”
Sex chromosomes
The cell structures that carry hereditary information that typically differentiate female from male in humans and other mammals. XX chromosomes are typically associated with females. XY chromosomes are typically associated with males.
Sex drive
The 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 belly, breasts/chest, face, hands, and soles of the feet.
Sex selection
The attempt to control the sex of your future children.
Sex therapy
Treatment to resolve a sexual problem or dysfunction, such as premature ejaculation, inability to have orgasm, or a low level of sexual desire.
Sex worker
A person who’s paid for providing sex or sexually arousing activities, including phone or camera sex, erotic massage, lap dancing, or striptease.
Sex-negative
Believing that sex and sexuality are bad or dangerous.
Sex-positive
Accepting sex and sexuality as a natural, good part of life.
Sexism
Systemic and individual discrimination against women.
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 sex/sexuality.
Sexting
Sending sexual text messages or images.
Sexual abuse
Sexual activity that’s harmful, exploitative, or not consensual.
Sexual arousal
Erotic excitement.
Sexual assault
The use of force or coercion, physical or psychological, to make a person engage in sexual activity.
Sexual dysfunction
A psychological or physical disorder that affects sexual anatomy, behavior, health, or well-being.
Sexual harassment
Unwanted sexual advances from someone. Includes 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 life. (Sexual health is not only the absence of sexual dysfunction or disease.)
Sexual identity
Your understanding of your own sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, and sexual expression/preferences.
Sexual intercourse
Usually, sex that includes penetration of the vagina with a penis. Can also describe penetration of the anus with a penis.
Sexual minority
An individual or group whose gender identity, sexual behavior, sexual orientation, or sexual preference is thought to be outside socially accepted norms. Generally any group/identity that is outside of heterosexual, cisgender, or monogamous.
Sexual norms
Social standards based on a society’s attitudes, customs, and expectations regarding sex and sexuality. In other words, things that are considered sexually “normal.”
Sexual orientation
Identities that describe what gender(s) a person is romantically and/or sexually attracted to. There are many sexual orientations. Some common sexual orientations include gay, lesbian, straight, and bisexual.
Sexual preference
People, activities, or other things that you like, sexually.
Sexual response cycle
A long researched and commonly used framework of human response to sexual stimulation, originally mapped by Masters & Johnson. The 5 stages of the cycle are desire, excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution.
Sexual revolution
Used to describe 2 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 & gay liberation movements, which were entwined with the civil rights movement.
Sexuality
Sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, sexual preference, and the way these things interact with emotional, physical, social, and spiritual life. Sexuality is shaped by your family and the social norms of your community.
Sexually transmitted disease (STD)
Infections that are passed from one person to another during vaginal, anal, or oral sex, or sexual skin-to-skin contact. More accurately called sexually transmitted infection.
Sexually transmitted infection (STI)
Infections that are passed from one person to another during vaginal, anal, or oral sex, or sexual skin-to-skin contact. Commonly known as sexually transmitted disease.
Shaft
A structure of erectile tissue and nerves that’s shaped like a column and forms the body of the penis and clitoris.
Sheer glyde dam
A thin, square piece of latex that helps prevent STDs from being passed during oral sex on a vulva or anus.
Sixty-nine / 69
Simultaneous, mutual oral sex.
Skene’s glands
2 glands on either side of the opening to the urethra that release fluid during female ejaculation. Also called paraurethral glands or female prostate glands.
Slut
An insulting term for a woman who has “too many” sex partners, though different people have different ideas about what is considered too many. Some people have reclaimed the term “slut” and use it to describe themselves as people who are proud of their sexual freedom.
Smegma
A sticky, white, unpleasant-smelling substance produced under the foreskin at the glans of the penis and clitoris. It’s formed by dead skin cells, oils, and genital fluid secretions/sweat.
Sodomy
An outdated term for oral sex, anal sex, or other genital contact that isn’t vaginal sex.
Sonogram
An image produced by an ultrasound that shows the inside of the body. Used to view the fetus during pregnancy.
Speculum
A plastic or metal instrument used to separate the walls of the vagina so a doctor or nurse can examine the vagina and cervix.
Sperm
A reproductive cell that combines with an egg to cause a pregnancy. Made in the testes.
Spermarche
When sperm is first produced by the testes.
Spermatogenesis
The process of producing sperm. Occurs in the testes.
Spermicides
Chemical birth control that immobilizes sperm to prevent pregnancy. Found on some condoms, and also in birth control sponges, foams, creams, films, suppositories, and gels.
Spina bifida
A birth defect that exposes the spinal cord, causing severe disorders of the nervous system. Taking folic acid before and during pregnancy can help prevent it.
Spontaneous abortion
Miscarriage, pregnancy loss.
Spontaneous erection
The hardening of the penis without sexual stimulus. Common during puberty.
Spotting
Light bleeding that happens not during a menstrual period.
Spouse
A partner in marriage.
Squirting
Ejaculation from people with vulvas, sometimes called “female ejaculation.” The fluid comes from the Skene’s glands, which are located in the vulva near the opening of the urethra. Squirting happens in about 1 out of 10 women.
Stalking
Following or tracking someone in person or online without their consent.
Standard days method
A kind of fertility awareness-based method of birth control. The standard days method works by tracking fertility using a calendar, an app, or a string of beads called CycleBeads.
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)
An infection that’s passed from one person to another during vaginal, anal, or oral sex, or sexual skin-to-skin contact. More accurately called sexually transmitted infection.
Stereotype
A widely accepted 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 vas deferens for men.
STI (sexually transmitted infection)
An Infection that’s passed from one person to another during vaginal, anal, or oral sex, or sexual skin-to-skin contact. Commonly known as sexually transmitted disease.
Stigma
Severe disapproval/judgment for a behavior that’s reinforced by society/culture.
Straight
Being attracted to people of the other gender. Heterosexual.
Stranger rape
Forced sex by someone unknown to the victim. Extremely rare.
Strap-on
A dildo that can be attached to a person to use for vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
Swinging
When couples switch partners for sex.
Syphilis
A bacterial sexually transmitted infection that is easily cured with antibiotics, but can cause permanent damage if left untreated.

T

Taboo
A behavior that’s outside the cultural norms. Something society or culture says you shouldn’t do or talk about.
Tampon
A firm, disposable roll of absorbent cotton or other fiber that goes inside the vagina to absorb menstrual blood.
Temperature method
A fertility awareness-based method for predicting fertility. It involves charting when ovulation occurs by tracking basal body temperature changes every morning before getting out of bed. Can be used for birth control or for planning pregnancy.
Tenting
The lifting of the uterus during sexual excitement, which creates more space in the vagina.
Tertiary syphilis
The third phase of the infection during which 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."
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."
Testosterone
An androgen hormone produced in the testes and in smaller amounts in the ovaries. Generally associated with masculine secondary sex characteristics. Can be taken synthetically as gender affirming treatment for trans men.
Thelarche
The time during puberty when breasts begin to develop.
Therapeutic abortion
Ending a pregnancy because of a fetal abnormality or to protect the pregnant person’s physical or mental health or life.
Third trimester
The last 3 months of pregnancy.
Threatened miscarriage
A condition in which a pregnant person 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
A yeast infection in the mouth or throat. Caused by an overgrowth of a yeast that lives naturally in the body, called candida albicans.
Tocophobia
Fear of childbirth.
Top surgery
Surgical reconstruction to create a more female- or more male-appearing chest. Top surgery may involve breast reduction or breast implants.
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. A possible result of leaving an object (including tampons and birth control sponges) in the vagina for too long.
Trans
Short for transgender. A general term used to describe someone whose gender expression/gender identity are different than the sex they were assigned at birth. Some people put an asterisk on the end of trans* to expand the word to include all people with non-conforming gender identities and expressions.
Transgender
A general term used to describe someone whose gender expression/gender identity are different than the sex they were assigned at birth.
Transgender man (trans man, female-to-male, FTM, F2M)
A person whose sex assignment at birth was female but whose gender identity is male. Can also refer to someone who was surgically assigned female at birth, in the case of intersex people, but whose gender identity is male. Many trans men identify simply as men.
Transgender woman (trans woman, male-to-female, MTF, M2F)
A person whose sex assignment at birth was male but whose gender identity is female. Can also refer to someone who was surgically assigned male at birth, in the case of intersex people, but whose gender identity is female. Many trans women identify simply as women.
Transition
The process of a person changing to present as the gender they identify as. Transitioning means different things to different people. It may involve any of the following: coming out to one’s family, changing the pronouns and words used to describe one’s gender, dressing differently, changing one’s name, or beginning gender affirming health care.
Transphobia
Fear and hatred of people who are, or are perceived to be, trans-identified or gender non-conforming.
Transsexual
An outdated and often offensive term for someone whose gender identity doesn’t match the sex assigned at birth, and who desire and/or seek to transition to bring their body into alignment with their gender identity. Some people find this term offensive, others do not. Only refer to someone as transsexual if they tell you that’s how they identify.
Transvestite
An outdated term for a cross-dresser. Considered offensive by many.
Tribadism
Sex that involves 2 people rubbing their vulvas/clitorises together.
Trimester
One-third of the 9 months of pregnancy.
Triphasic combination pill
A type of birth control pill that has 3 different doses of estrogen and progestin during a 28-day cycle. Typically each week has a new dose for 3 weeks, followed by a week of placebo (no hormones).
Triple screen / triple test
A prenatal blood test that’s given at around 16 weeks of pregnancy to detect Down syndrome, brain and spine defects, and other conditions. (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 sterilization - permanent birth control.
Tubal pregnancy
An ectopic pregnancy in the fallopian tube. Can be very dangerous, requiring medical treatment.
Tubal sterilization
Surgical blocking of the fallopian tubes for 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 intersex condition in which someone is born with one X chromosome (X_ instead of XX or XY). While most people with turner syndrome have a fully formed vulva, they typically have underdeveloped reproductive organs, leading to infertility.
Two-day method
A fertility-awareness based method of birth control in which a person observes whether or not they’ve secreted cervical mucus 2 days in a row.
Two-spirit
An umbrella term for gender identities common in American Indian/First Nations/Native American cultures. Refers to people who have both masculine and feminine parts of their identity, and are treated as a third gender within those cultures.
Typical use
The effectiveness of a particular birth control method in the population, taking into account when people don’t always use their method consistently or correctly. Since this looks at real world use, it’s a more accurate way to describe how many people get pregnant using a method.
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.

U

Ultrasound
A medical test that creates an image of internal organs by bouncing sound waves off the internal organs. Frequently used to find or monitor a pregnancy, but has a variety of medical uses.
Uncircumcised
When the foreskin hasn’t been removed from the penis.
Undescended testicle
A testicle that doesn’t hang away from the body but remains in the abdomen. In about 5 out of 100 assigned-male births, 1 or both of the testicles don’t descend.
Ureters
The 2 tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder.
Urethra
A tube that empties the bladder and carries urine to the urethral opening (the hole you pee out of). The urethra also carries ejaculate and pre-ejaculate in people with penises.
Urinary tract infection (UTI)
A bacterial infection of the bladder, the ureters, or the urethra. It is not sexually transmitted. The most common symptom is a frequent urge to pee and pain while peeing. Curable with antibiotics.
Uterine perforation
When a doctor or nurse accidentally punctures the wall of the uterus with a surgical instrument during a procedure or with an IUD during insertion.
Uterus
The pear-shaped, reproductive organ from which people menstruate and where a pregnancy develops. Also called “womb.”
UTI (urinary tract infection)
A bacterial infection of the bladder, the ureters, or the urethra. It is not sexually transmitted. The most common symptom is a frequent urge to pee and pain while peeing. Curable with antibiotics.

V

Vacuum aspiration abortion
A surgical procedure in which a pregnancy is removed from the uterus with a gentle suction device.
Vagina
The stretchy passage that connects the vulva with the cervix and uterus. It’s where menstrual comes out of the body, a baby comes out of the body through childbirth, and/or one place sexual penetration (by a penis, finger, sex toy, etc.) can happen. During menstruation, it’s where tampons or menstrual cups are placed.
Vaginal atrophy
Thinning and irritation of the folds of the walls of the vagina. Caused by low estrogen production, which happens during perimenopause and menopause.
Vaginal contraceptive film / vcf
An over-the-counter, reversible barrier method of birth control. A thin, small, square sheet of spermicide that goes into the vagina, and melts into a thick liquid that blocks the entrance to the uterus. It stops sperm from moving and prevents it from joining with an egg. 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 to increase capacity for vaginal penetration.
Vaginal lubrication
When the vagina gets wetter and more slippery, which makes it easier for things to go inside it. This happens naturally with vaginal secretions, and can be done with synthetic lube. Sometimes happens during sexual arousal, but not always.
Vaginal orgasm
The climax or peak of sexual arousal that’s brought about by stimulating the vagina without stimulating the clitoris.
Vaginal sex
Sex in which a penis enters a vagina. Also called “vaginal intercourse” or “penis-in-vagina sex.”
Vaginismus
Painful muscle spasms in the vagina as a response to pressure/contact. Sometimes has no known cause, and sometimes happens after psychological or physical trauma.
Vaginitis
An irritation of the vagina or vulva.
Vaginoplasty
The surgical creation of a vagina.
Varicocele
An enlargement of one or more of the veins in the scrotum. It can cause lower sperm motility and infertility, but doesn’t always. Sometimes treatment is needed, and sometimes it doesn’t cause any symptoms or problems so treatment is not needed.
Vas deferens
A long, narrow tube that carries sperm from each epididymis to the seminal vesicles during ejaculation. This is the tube that’s cut for a vasectomy, stopping sperm from leaving the body.
Vasectomy
Surgical blocking of the vasa deferentia (each vas deferens) for permanent birth control.
Vasocongestion
An increase in the amount of blood, which leads to swelling, in certain body tissues (breasts, clitoris, inner labia, nipples, penis) that happens during sexual arousal. Also causes lubrication of the vagina.
Viability
The ability of a fetus to survive outside the uterus.
Vibrator
An electrically powered sex toy that applies vibrations to parts of the body for sexual pleasure.
Virginity
Having never had sex. May mean different things to different people. For example, many people think you “lose your virginity” when you have vaginal sex. Others think that you lose your virginity if you have other kinds of sexual activity, like oral sex or anal sex.
Vocal surgery
Surgery to change the pitch of a person’s voice, often to create a more feminine sounding voice for trans women.
Voyeurism
Sexual practice that involves watching another person undress or engage in sexual behavior.
Vulva
The external sex organs that include the clitoris, labia (majora and minora), opening to the vagina (introitus), opening to the urethra, and two Bartholin’s glands.

W

Wet dreams
Erotic dreams that can lead to ejaculation or vaginal lubrication. Common during puberty. See "nocturnal emission."
Withdrawal
Pulling the penis out of the vagina before ejaculation in order to avoid pregnancy. Also called “pulling out” or the “pull-out method.”

X

Xe (xe, xem, xyr, xyrs, xemself)
A gender-neutral pronoun (or set of pronouns) some people use for themselves to replace “he,” “she,” or “they.”
Xx chromosomes
The pair of sex-differentiating chromosomes that leads to someone being born with a vagina, vulva, uterus, and ovaries. Babies with xx chromosomes are usually assigned female at birth.
Xy chromosomes
The pair of sex-differentiating chromosomes that leads to someone being born with a penis and scrotum. Babies with xy chromosomes are usually assigned male at birth.

Y

Yeast infection
A type of vaginitis caused by an overgrowth of a yeast that naturally lives in the vagina/on the body, called candida albicans. Yeast infections may also occur in the penis or mouth. A yeast infection in the mouth or throat is called “thrush.”

Z

Ze (ze, zir, zirs, zirself)
A gender-neutral pronoun (or set of pronouns) some people use for themselves to replace “he,” “she,” or “they.”
Zygote
The single-celled organism that results from the joining of the egg and sperm (fertilization).