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Glossary of Terms

Updated on 10/4/2010 02:22:30 PM

Information obtained from and


7/11 — Slang term for a brief, fast act of intercourse.

Abortion — A medical procedure that ends a pregnancy. There are two types of abortions: surgical and medical. Surgical abortions are the most common in the United States and utilize a procedure called vacuum aspiration. Medical abortions, also called drug-induced abortions, involve taking medication that cause a miscarriage.

Abstinence — Not engaging in sexual activities. To be effective in preventing pregnancy or STDs, abstinence is not engaging in anal, vaginal or oral sex. Which sexual activities this refers to are defined by each person.

Acquaintance Rape — When a person uses force or threat of force to have intercourse (vaginal, anal or oral) with someone he or she knows.  Also known as date rape. 

Adhesion — A condition when the foreskin of a man's penis becomes stuck to the head of the penis. Adhesions often make it painful for uncircumcised men to roll back the foreskin. This is usually preventable by pulling back the foreskin and washing the head of penis regularly. When they are formed, adhesions are easily treated by a health care professional.

AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) — Is caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). AIDS is a collection of infections that results from a weakened immune system.

Anal Intercourse — When a penis or other object is inserted into the anus of another person for sexual pleasure.

Androgynous — Person who deliberately adopts characteristics of both genders or strives to attain a gender neutral or non-gendered status.

Anonymous HIV Test — Refers to a way that results from an HIV test are reported to a health department. "Anonymous" test reporting means that your results are reported to the health department by using a code, not your real name.

Anus — Opening from the rectum in which waste leaves the body.

Areola — The darker area of the skin surrounding the nipples on both male and female breasts.

Asymptomatic Infection — Having a disease but not showing any signs/symptoms of it.

Bacterial vaginosis — Bacterial Vaginosis, called BV, is the most common vaginal infection in women and is sometimes accompanied by discharge, odor, pain or burning. Bacterial vaginosis develops when there is an imbalance in the bacteria normally found in the vagina, sometimes triggered by sexual intercourse. It can cause serious complications during pregnancy and is cured by taking antimicrobials.

Barrier Method — A contraceptive method that prevents pregnancy by acting as a physical barrier between sperm and egg. Examples include condoms, diaphragms, cervical caps, and female condom.

Birth Control — A way to prevent pregnancy; another term for contraception.

Birth Control Pills — A hormonal method of birth control that prevents ovulation. They are 95-99% effective at preventing pregnancy when taken every day at about the same time. They must be prescribed by a health care provider. Birth control pills do not prevent sexually transmitted infections. Also called "the pill" or oral contraceptives.

Bisexual — A person who is attracted to both males and females.

Canker Sore — Open sores located near around the mouth and lips; NOT the same as herpes sores.

Carrier — A person who has a germ or virus and can transmit it to another person through several means including unprotected sex.

Celibacy — Abstinence from sexual intercourse, especially for reason of religious vows.

Celibate — Choosing to not to have any kind of sex; abstaining.

Cervical Cap — A small, plastic or rubber cup that covers the cervix to prevent sperm from entering the uterus. Also known as a barrier method, it is used with spermicide. It is 80-91% effective at preventing pregnancy and must be prescribed by a health care provider.  It does not prevent sexually transmitted infections.

Cervix — The lower part of the uterus with an opening to the vagina that lets blood pass during a period, lets sperm enter the uterus, and expands to allow a baby to pass during childbirth.

Cesarean Section (C-Section) — A surgical procedure that removes a baby from a woman's uterus by cutting open her abdomen. 

Chancre — A sore in the location of the syphilis infection.

Chlamydia — A sexually transmitted infection caused by bacteria that often has no symptoms.  When symptoms occur, they can include burning during urination, discharge and bleeding during intercourse for girls. For guys, pain during urination and a watery discharge are common symptoms.  Chlamydia is the most common bacterial STD in the United States.  Because chlamydia is a bacterial infection, it can be treated with antibiotics.

Circumcision — The surgical removal of the foreskin from the male penis. This is usually done for religious or cosmetic reasons.

Clitoris — A small, highly sensitive female organ located above the opening of the vagina whose only function is to provide sexual pleasure.

Coitus Interruptus — Oral, vaginal or anal intercourse that stops before ejaculation inside the receptive partner. It is not effective as a means of preventing pregnancy or the transmission of STDs. Also known as pulling out or withdrawal.

Communicable — Something that can be spread from one carrier to another.

Conception — The process of an egg and a sperm joining together. Also called fertilization.

Condom — Typically refers to the latex or polyurethane sheath rolled over a male's penis to prevent including semen and pre-cum from entering another's body. For more information about condom shopping, click here.

"Condom" can also mean the female condom, which is a polyurethane pouch that has two flexible rings on either end. One ring is inserted into the vagina and the other ring stays outside the vagina. For more information about female condoms, click here.

Confidential Testing — When no one except for you and the doctor can see the results of a test without your permission.

Contraception — Methods to stop pregnancy from occurring.

Crabs — A parasite that lives in a person’s pubic hair causing intense itching. Can be sexually transmitted and cured with anti-lice medicated shampoo and body wash such as Kwell, which can be purchased in a drug store. 

Date Rape — “Date rape” is when you’re raped by a friend, someone you’re dating or a romantic partner. It’s also called “acquaintance rape.” So, if you tell your friend or partner you don’t want to have sex and they force you, that’s date rape, even if you’ve had sex with that person before.

Date rape often happens at parties, raves, and other places where teens get together. Sometimes, rapists slip “date rate” drugs into people’s drinks. These drugs can knock you out or make you unable to move or resist, making it easier for someone to rape you. It’s illegal to give these drugs to someone.

Deficiency — A lack of something.

Dental Dam — A thin square of latex material used during dental procedures.  It can be used to cover a female’s genitals during oral sex to reduce the risk of spreading sexually transmitted infections.

Depo-Provera — A hormone that is injected into a female’s arm or buttock every 12 weeks that requires a prescription.  It works by preventing ovulation and by thickening cervical mucus to keep sperm from the egg and is  99.7% effective.  It does not protect against sexually transmitted infections. Also known as "the shot."

Diagnose — Telling a person that they are infected with a disease or illness.

Diaphragm — A dome-shaped rubber cup used in conjunction with spermicidal gel/cream that covers the opening to the cervix to prevent sperm from entering the uterus. It is 80-94% effective at preventing pregnancy. It does not protect against sexually transmitted infections.

Discharge — A fluid that comes out of the vagina, penis, or anus and may be an indication of a STD or other infection.

Ectopic Pregnancy — Pregnancy that occurs outside of the uterus and usually in the fallopian tubes.

Ejaculation — When sperm exits the male’s penis during orgasm.

Embryo — A zygote or fertilized egg that once it reaches a certain size, buries itself inside the uterus.

Emergency Contraception — A way to prevent pregnancy after unprotected intercourse. Emergency contraception comes in the form of pills (commonly known as the "morning-after pill," even though you can take it up to five days after). The pills are sold under the name Plan B. ECPs can be up to 75-89% effective if taken within 72 hours.

EC can be purchased at pharmacies without a prescription if you are over 18 years old. If you are under 18 years old, a prescription is necessary. To find a clinic to get a prescription near you, click here or call the Emergency Contraception Hotline at 1-888-NOT-2-LATE (668-2528).

Endometrium — The lining of the uterus that grows and sheds during the menstrual cycle.

Erection — When the penis gets stiff and hard from sexual excitement and stands away from the body.

Epididymis — A coiled tube through which sperm leaves the testes.

Estrogen — A hormone produced by the ovaries which helps to regulate the menstrual cycle. 

Fallopian Tubes — Two tubes that come out from each side of the uterus in which the egg travels from the ovary to the uterus.

Female Condom — A polyurethane pouch that has two flexible rings on either end.  One ring is inserted into the vagina and the other ring stays outside the vagina.  The rings help to hold the condom in place.  Female condoms are typically 79% effective in preventing pregnancy and can prevent some sexually transmitted infections.  With perfect use, they can be 95% effective.   They can be purchased without a prescription and can be used during anal intercourse as well.  Female condoms should not be used at the same time as male condoms.

Fertile — The time during the month that a woman can become pregnant, usually 14-16 days after the first day of her menstrual cycle.

Fertilization — The joining of a man’s sperm cell and a woman’s egg cell.

Fetus — An embryo eight weeks after fertilization; an unborn baby.

Fluid — Any kind of liquid, inside or outside the body.

Foreskin — Loose skin that covers the tip of the penis on uncircumcised men.

French Kissing — A kiss in which both people open their mouths and one person puts their tongue into the other person’s mouth.

Gender — Involves more than a biological component of male or female, gender also includes the biological, social, and cultural norms and gender identity.

Genitals — The sex organs on the outside of the body; “private parts.”

Genital Warts — A sexually transmitted infection caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) that causes small, painless bumps around and in the genitals, anus and/or mouth.

Glans — The tip of a male’s penis.

Gonorrhea — A sexually transmitted infection caused by bacteria often with no symptoms. If symptoms are present they may include a discharge and sudden urges to urinate. Can be treated with antibiotics.

Groin — The pelvic area on a person.

Hepatitis B — A sexually transmitted infection caused by a virus that can result in serious liver damage, even death. Infection occurs through contact with infected blood, semen, vaginal fluids or saliva. Symptoms include nausa, vomiting, headache, fever, dark urine and jaundice.   It is the only sexually transmitted infection that has a vaccine to prevent infection.

Hepatitis C — An infection caused by a virus. Infection occurs through contact with another person’s infected blood, most often from sharing needles with someone who has Hepatitis C.  There are usually not any symptoms with Hepatitis C.  It is diagnosed through a blood test and can cause liver damage. 

Herpes — A sexually transmitted infection caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus.

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) — The virus that usually leads to AIDS; passed by humans to other humans and weakens the immune system.

Heterosexual — A person who is attracted to a person of the opposite sex.

Homosexual — A person who is attracted to a person of the same sex.

Hormones — Chemicals and substances that a body makes to help other organs do their job.

HPV — The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted infection that may cause small, painless bumps around the genitals, anus and/or mouth. The virus cannot be cured. Some strains of the HPV virus are linked to an increased risk of cervical cancer among women, which is why it is very important to get regular Pap smears.  Early detection can result in the prevention of cervical cancer. 

Hymen — A thin piece of skin partially covering the opening of the vagina, sometimes intact with women who have not had sexual intercourse.

Hysterectomy — The surgical removal of the female uterus and sometimes the ovaries.

Immune — To be protected/safe from something.

Immune System — A group of cells that kills germs and keeps the body healthy.

Infected — When someone has a germ.

IUD (Intra Uterine Device) — A contraceptive device inserted in the uterus which prevents the fertilization of an egg.

Judicial Bypass — If a minor wants an abortion and lives in a state that requires parental consent before she can get one, she can go before a judge.  The judge will then decide whether or not it is in the young woman's best interests to obtain an abortion without her parents knowing because of physical or emotional abuse or incest.  This process is called a judicial bypass.

Labia — The inner and outer folds of flesh that cover the opening of the vagina.

Latex Barriers — Condoms or squares of latex (dental dam or cut open condom) used as barrier during sexual intercourse (oral, vaginal, and anal sex) between two people.

Lubricant — A jelly-like substance that reduces friction during sexual activities. Examples include Astro Glide, K-Y Jelly, and Slippery Stuff.  All are water-based and safe to use with condoms. There are 2 kinds: water-based and oil-based. You can only use water-based lubricants with latex condoms.

Lust — A strong sexual desire for someone without love being involved.

Making Out — Kissing, touching, and fondling; excluding sex.

Male Condom — Latex or polyurethane sheath rolled over a male's penis to prevent including semen and pre-cum from entering another's body.

Masturbation — Touching one’s own sex organs for pleasure.

Menarche — The first time menstruation happens for a girl.

Menstrual Cycle — The monthly process in the female body, which involves the release of an egg, the preparation of the body for a pregnancy, and the release of the lining of the uterus if no pregnancy occurs.

Menstruation — When a woman has her period.

Mifepristone — A steroid hormone used to end a pregnancy during the first seven weeks.  Prescription only.  

Monogamy — Having a sexual relationship with only one other person.

NGU (Non-Gonococcal Urethritis) — Is a sexually transmitted infection caused by bacteria that usually causes inflammation of the urethra and cervix, a discharge from the penis or vagina and a burning sensation during urination. Antibiotics can cure it.

Nipple — The tip end of a female or male breast.

Nonoxynol — A kind of spermicide that is used for birth control, especially in vaginal foams and lubricated condoms.

Oil Based Lubricant — A lubricant made from something that has oil as the main ingredient. Should not be used with latex condoms.

Oral Sex — When a person places their mouth on another person’s genitals for sexual pleasure.

Organs — Parts of a person’s body which each have a special job to keep the person alive.

Orgasm — A strong and intense feeling that happens in a person’s genitals when having sex.

Ortho Evra — A birth control patch that is worn on a woman’s buttocks, lower back or upper arm that releases hormones to prevent pregnancy.  It is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy when used correctly. The patch is worn for a week at a time, for three consecutive weeks, and then replaced with a new one.  The fourth week is "patch free" (during a woman's period).  It does not protect against sexually transmitted infections and must be prescribed by a health care provider. 

Outercourse — Sexual behaviors that do not involve the insertion of fingers, penis, tongue or sex toys into mouth, anus or vagina of another person.  Can include kissing and other kinds of touching.

Ovaries — Where the eggs are stored in a female’s reproductive organs.

Ovulation — The release of an ovum (egg) from one of a female’s two ovaries each month.

Pap Smear — An exam given to a female to see if the cervix is healthy.

Patch — A birth control patch that is worn over a woman’s lower back or upper arm that releases hormones to prevent pregnancy.

Pelvic Exam — A medical examination of the female’s internal reproductive organs (ovaries, uterus and cervix) and external genitals (inner and outer labia and vaginal area). This exam should done every year beginning when a girl  is 18 or before she becomes sexually active.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
An infection in a woman’s reproductive system sometimes caused from an undiagnosed STD; can cause infertility.

Penetration — The insertion of a body part or object into a bodily opening such as the vagina, anus, and/or mouth.

PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease) — An infection in a woman’s reproductive system sometimes caused from an undiagnosed STD; can cause infertility.

Placenta — A structure that develops during pregnancy that provides nourishment and protection to a developing fetus.

Platonic — A relationship that doesn't include romance or sex.

Pre Cum — Pre-ejaculatory fluid that is released from the Cowper’s Gland when a male gets an erection.

Pre-Seminal Fluid — A few drops of semen which contains thousands of sperm that leak out of the penis before a man ejaculates; can cause pregnancy to occur.

Prejudice — Pre-judging a group of people or an idea without adequate evidence or information, then forming an attitude about that group or idea.

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) — A set of symptoms that many women experience during certain parts of the menstrual cycle such as mood swings, cramping, stomach upset and lower back pain.

Pro-Choice — Supports a woman's right to decide whether or not to have an abortion.

Pro-Life — Opposed to abortion.

Puberty — When a young person changes into a young man or woman.

Pubic Area — Area between the legs where male and female genitals are located.

Pubic Hair — Hair that grows on and around the genitals.

Pulling Out — This is an unreliable method of birth control that occurs when a guy pulls his penis out of his partner’s vagina just before ejaculation. It is not recommended, but it’s better than not using any method of birth control. This method does not protect against sexually transmitted infection. Also known as withdrawal or coitus interruptus.

Rape — Using force or threat of force to engage in sexual intercourse with another person.  It is illegal, even if you know the person. 

Reproduction — Process involved in making a baby.

Reproductive Organs — Parts of the body that help make babies.

Rhythm Method — The rhythm method is a form of birth control that calculates when a woman is infertile during her monthly cycle so that she can abstain from sex during this period of time. Those who want to have a baby can also use this method to have sex during the time that they are most likely to get pregnant. The effectiveness rates for teens are very low since young women's cycles are not yet regular, so each month her fertility cycle may vary up to 7 days. Also called natural family planning, periodic abstinence, or fertility awareness.

Ring (NuvaRing) — A soft, flexible and transparent ring that prevents pregnancy when inserted in the back of the vagina by releasing a combination or hormones progestin and estrogen.

Risk — Taking a chance.

Saliva — Fluid in a person’s mouth-spit.

Sanitary Napkin — A pad of cotton with tape on the back that a woman can stick to her underwear during her period to soak up the blood that is released from her vagina.

Scabies — A sexually transmitted infection that is caused by a mite (kind of insect) that burrows under the skin causing intense itching and the formation of pus.  Scabies can be cured by using medicated shampoo and body wash such as Kwell, which can be purchased at a drug store.

Scrotum — A soft sac of wrinkled skin that covers, holds, and protects a man’s testicles.

Semen — A clear/whitish liquid containing sperm that comes out of a man’s penis when he ejaculates.

Sexual Abuse — Sexual touching or behaviors that are unwanted.  It is illegal even if you know the person. 

Sexual Assault — Using force or threat of force to engage in a sexual behavior with activity person. It is illegal, even if you know the person.

Sexual Contact — Being with someone in a close, physical way.

Sexual Intercourse — Any type of activity that involves the sharing of body fluids or the penetration of the mouth, vagina, or anus between 2 or more people. Includes vaginal, oral or anal sex.

Sexuality — Everything that makes a person a sexual and attractive human. Includes gender, sexual desires, feelings, and contact.

Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) — An infection passed from one person to another through sexual contact.

Smegma — A smelly, white, cheesy substance that accumulates around the genitals of both males and females. 

Sore — An opening in the body that germs could get into.

Speculum — A plastic or metal device that is used to hold the walls of the vagina open during a pelvic exam or other medical procedure so that the cervix can be seen.

Sperm — The male reproductive cells that are found in semen and produced in a man’s testicles.

Spermicide — A chemical that kills sperm. The most common spermicide is nonoxynol-9.  It comes in a variety of forms including gel, cream, foam, suppositories and film which can be purchased in most drug or grocery stores without a prescription.  Typically, it is used in conjuction with another method like a diaphragm or condoms.  You can also purchase condoms lubricated with spermicide. 

Sponge — A birth control device inserted into the vagina before sex to kill sperm and prevent pregnancy.

Sterilization — A permanent type of contraception.

Symptoms — A sign or signal of a disease.

Syndrome — A group of illnesses and diseases.

Syphilis — A sexually transmitted infection caused by bacteria and results in chancres or painless sores in the genital area; can be cured by antibiotics.

Tampon — A tube made of cotton with a string at the end that can be inserted into the vagina to soak up blood during one’s menstrual period.

Testicles — Two small egg-shaped organs protected by the scrotum that produce sperm.

Testosterone — Hormone made by the testes that is responsible for male secondary sexual characteristics like facial and body hair.

Transgender — A term that describes people who do not fit into one gender category.  It is an umbrella term that may include crossdressers/transvestites, transsexuals, or others who do not fit into one gender category.

Transsexual — A person who wishes to change his/her sex.  May have sex reassignment surgery (sex change operation) or use various hormones.

Transmission — The way any kind of disease is spread.

Transvestite — A person who dresses in the clothing typically associated with the other gender.  Also known as crossdresser.

Tribadism — A sexual practice where two women rub their external genitalia against one another for clitoral stimulation.

Trichomoniasis — A sexually related infection that is caused by an organism that lives in the lining of the vaginal walls and causes an odorous, foamy, irritating discharge. Trichomoniasis, or Trich, can be passed between sexual partners and can be cured with antibiotics. 

Tubal Ligation — A surgical procedure in which a female’s fallopian tubes are cut to prevent ova (eggs) from entering the uterus. A woman will continue to menstruate after having a tubal ligation.  It is a permanent procedure and is sometimes called "getting tubes tied."   

Urethra — Small tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body.

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) — An infection caused by bacteria entering the urethra or bladder. Symptoms include an intense desire to urinate frequently and a burning sensation when urinating. It can be cured by antibiotics and is also known as a bladder infection.

Urine — Liquid waste which comes out of the urethra during urination.

Uterus — An empty hollow organ found inside the lower pelvic area of the female where the fetus grows.

Vagina — The canal that forms the passageway from the uterus to the outside of a woman's body. This is where menstrual blood, vaginal fluids and babies leave the body and where a penis could be inserted during sexual intercourse between a man and a woman.

Vaginal Contraceptive Film (VCF) — A spermicide that is a paper-thin sheet of film that is placed on or near the cervix and dissolves with body heat.

Vasocongestion — The filling of tissues and organs with blood. Happens to the penis, labia and clitoris during sexual arousal, causing erections or swelling in these areas.

Vaginal Sex — When a man puts his penis inside the woman’s vagina.

Virgin — A person who has never had sex.

Virus — The smallest and simplest form of a germ.

Vulva — The genital organs outside the female’s body, including the labia, the clitoris, opening of the urethra, and the opening of the vagina.

Water-Based Lubricant — Lubricant in which the main ingredient is water.

Wet Dreams — When a man or a boy ejaculates while sleeping and having dreams about sex.

Withdrawal — Taking out the penis from the vagina, mouth, or anus before ejaculation. This is an unreliable method of contraception or STD prevention.

Womb — Uterus.

Yeast Infection — An infection in a woman’s vagina when small amounts of yeast already existing there spread out of control. This is not considered an STD, Some causes of a yeast infection may include stress, illness, medication, clothing that is too tight, and a diet high in sugar, change in menstrual cycle, birth control.

Zygote — Formed when a man’s sperm fertilizes a woman’s egg.