Sex Dictionary: A-C


Premature termination of pregnancy, either natural and spontaneous, or induced. Deliberately induced abortion is most commonly by means of a short surgical operation, or by medical means, through the administration of certain drugs and/or prostaglandins. The most common causes of natural abortion include accident and infection.


Refraining from sexual activity for personal, moral or religious reasons. Abstinence can also be practised as a contraceptive measure. See Celibacy.


The stage of development between childhood and adulthood, beginning with puberty. In the course of adolescence, the young person becomes physically and sexually mature. It is also a time of significant psychological and emotional development, affecting personal and sexual identity.


Sexual intercourse where one or both of the partners involved is married to, or in a similarly committed relationship with, another person.


The stage of development when an individual has reached maturity and full physiological development.


Term used to refer to intimacies and sexual interactions that take place after the climax of sexual activity. See Foreplay.

Age of consent

The age at which individuals can legally engage in sexual contact with other people. This varies from one jurisdiction to another.

AID (Artificial Insemination by Donor)

Also called Donor Insemination, the procedure by which the semen of an anonymous donor is inserted mechanically into a woman’s vagina close to the cervix in order to achieve pregnancy.

AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)

The syndrome that can represent the last phase of HIV infection, sometimes known as ‘full-blown AIDS’. It occurs when the immune system has broken down to the point where cancers and opportunistic infections can take hold. The disease is not fully understood but it appears that up to ten years or more may pass from initial infection to the development of AIDS and, in some cases, AIDS may not develop at all. See HIV, Kaposi’s sarcoma.


Absence of periods. The term primary amenorrhoea is used when menstruation has not started by the age of sixteen; secondary amenorrhoea is when periods stop for six months or longer. Causes of secondary amenorrhoea include pregnancy and rapid weight loss.


Rod inserted horizontally through the glans of the penis as a form of genital piercing. If functions as body decoration and may heighten sexual arousal for the man’s partner. See Piercing.

Anal intercourse

Sexual intercourse in which a man’s penis is inserted into his partner’s anus.

Anal stimulators

Devices used to stimulate the anus, such as Thai beads, butt plugs or anal vibrators.


Person that has both make and female sexual characteristics. Also known as a hermaphrodite.


Applying the mouth or tongue to a partner’s anus to give it erotic stimulation. Also known as rimming. See Rimming, Dental dam.


The orifice at the base of the rectum. The anal area is an erogenous zone for many people. The anus itself may be used for penetrative intercourse, between heterosexual or male homosexual couples, in which the penis is inserted into the partner’s anus.


Rod inserted vertically into the glans of the penis as a form of genital piercing. It functions as body decoration and may heighten sexual arousal both for the man and his partner. See Piercing.


Anything (substance, smell, words, music etc) believed to increase sexual desire or performance. The word is derived form the ancient Greek word aphrodisios, meaning belonging to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love.

Arab straps

Straps that are fastened around the penis. Like other similar devices – cock and ball straps, cock rings, Gates of Hell – they are usually made of rubber or leather and help produce and maintain a man’s erection by trapping blood in the penis. Sometimes they are used therapeutically in cases of erection failure. Some people also find their appearance arousing and they may also provide physical stimulation for the wearer’s partner.

ARC (AIDS-Related Complex)

HIV-related illness: the stage before ‘full-blown’ AIDS. See AIDS.


Area of pigmented skin surrounding the human nipple that swells a little during sexual arousal.


The armpits are erogenous zones for many people, particularly women. Axillary intercourse, in which a man’s penis is gripped in his partner’s armpit while he thrusts, is a common form of non-penetrative intercourse. The strong body odours produced in this area also give it a fetishistic appeal for many.


Physiological and mental changes that occur to the body in response to sexual stimuli and which prepare it for sexual interaction or intercourse.


Term for masturbation.

Axillary sex

See Armpit.

AZT (Azidothymidine)

The first drug admitted by western governments for use in the treatment of HIV and AIDS.

Bacterial vaginosis

Infection caused by overgrowth of bacteria that occur naturally within the vagina. Symptoms may include a watery, grey vaginal discharge with a ‘fishy’ odour.


Inflammation of the glans of the penis or clitoris, usually caused by an infection. Irritation may also occur.

Barrier contraception

Contraceptive methods that act as a physcial barrier to prevent the male sperm from coming into contact with the female ovum. Barrier methods, especially the condom and other methods used in conjunction with spermicides, can give some protection against sexually transmitted diseases. See Cervical cap, Condom, Diaphragm.

Bartholin’s gland

A gland located near the vaginal opening. During sexual arousal it produces secretions which provide some lubrication. Some have believed it responsible for reported cases of female ejaculation at orgasm but this is more likely to be the Skene glands. See Ejaculation.


Sometimes used as meeting places for sexual encounters for gay men, and sometimes lesbians, since Roman times.


See Love balls


Sexual activity with animals involving intercourse, masturbation or oral stimulation. Pleasure may also be derived from watching animals engage in sexual activity, or a fetishistic attachment to animal skins or furs.


The practice of having more than one spouse. While illegal in some jurisdictions, it is traditional in others.

Birth control

Limitation and/or planning of pregnancies by means of contraception.


Sexual attraction to and/or activity with people of both sexes.


A small sphere of cells that enters the uterus from the fallopian tube and develops a cavity within itself as it implants in the lining of the uterus. The inner cell mass of the blastocyst develops into the embryo, an early stage in human prenatal development.

Blue movie

A pornographic film or video. The term is derived from the blue pencil originally used to censor material considered unsuitable for general viewing.

Body hairdressing

The style in which the body hair is fashioned. Many women shave their underarms and legs. Some men shave their chest hair. Hair around the genital area can be dyed, plaited, shaved into shapes and patterns, or removed completely.

Body language

Movements and gestures of the body that convey signals or messages, often at an unconscious level, to other individuals.

Body rubbing

See Tribadism.


A sexual practice in which pleasure is gained by one partner being physically restrained by being tied up or bound. It can be a way of defining active and passive sexual roles and is also sometimes part of dominant or sadomasochistic sexual practices.


As well as the human posterior or rump, the term is used for the passive partner during anal sex and dominant/submissive sex play, particularly where sadomasochistic practices are involved.


The fleshy female mammary glands that provide milk for offspring. In humans they are associated with sexual signals and are also an erogenous zone producing strong sexual arousal in some women.


A common term for anal intercourse. See Anal intercourse.


A type of lesbian identity involving a rejection of conventional femininity for the adoption of masculine characteristics. See Femme.


Fleshy muscular tissue, which constitutes the human rump. The buttocks are a source of attractiveness and/or an erogenous zone for many people.


Solid tapering blocks, usually made of latex or rubber, for use in the anus and rectum. Most are between 15 to 18 cm long and about 25 cm in girth. They may be used to dilate the sphincter, or muscles surrounding the anus, prior to anal sex or as anal stimulators.

Calendar method

A method for working out which days a woman is most likely to be ovulating by keeping an exact record of the timing of her menstrual cycle. See Natural methods.


An expression used in reference to male homosexual subculture. It is characterised by exaggeratedly effeminate styles of speech, dress or movement.


The practice of a spouse watching his or her partner having sex with another person.

Candida albicans

An infection, sometimes known as thrush, caused by a type of yeast. It is a common organism, occurring naturally in the gut and on the skin, that can cause symptoms if there is an excessive growth. These may include irritation and soreness around the genital area and a thick, white, yeasty discharge from the vagina or penis. It can be spread by sexual contact and sexual partners can re-infect one another.


The removal of the testicles, scrotum, penis, clitoris or ovaries.

Casual sex

Short-term sexual relations. It usually involves an emphasis on the physical rather than the emotional side of sex.


A boy kept for the purposes of homosexual intercourse.


A commitmennt to refrain from sexual activity or intercourse, for personal, moral or religious reasons.

Cervical cap

A barrier method of contraception, consisting of a circular dome of thin rubber which is placed over the cervix and is held in place by suction.

Cervical mucus method

A method for working out which days a woman is most likely to be ovulating by observing the regular changes in vaginal discharge, which becomes more copious, slippery and clear near the time of ovulation. Also known as the mucus method. See Natural methods.


The neck of the uterus, which extends into the top of the vagina. If forms the passageway between the vagina and uterus. See Vagina, Uterus.


A bacterial infection that usually occurs only in tropical or sub-tropical regions. The symptoms include ulcers and sometimes abscesses that appear around the genitals.

Change of life

A term for the menopause or climacteric, the period in a woman’s life during which the menstrual cycle ceases. See Climacteric, Menopause.


Abstaining from sexual intercourse, especially before marriage.

Child sex abuse

Sexual activity involving children, against their will or without their understanding, usually by an older person.


The stage of development from birth to the onset of puberty.


Sexually transmitted disease caused by a bacterial infection. Initially symptoms may include some pain and discharge, or there may be no symptoms at all. However, if untreated, the infection can cause pelvic inflammatory disease in women and urethritis in men.


Units found in every living cell of the body, responsible for the transmission of hereditary characteristics. Chromosomes are arranged in pairs consisting of two identical parts, except in the case of the pair that determine gender. This consists of two ‘X’ chromosomes for a female and an ‘X’ and a ‘Y’ for a male. Any other combinations of X and Y chromosomes can result in gender anomalies, as in Klinefelter’s Syndrome where an XXY combination produces a person with male outward appearance but underdeveloped testes and penis, who will be infertile. See Genes.


The deliberate scarring of the body, originally practised in certain African tribes as signs of fertility, accomplishment or bravery, and in other cultures for other reasons, such as body decoration, sexual arousal and ritualistic purposes.


For males, the removal of the foreskin of the penis, often perfomed for religious reasons or, increasingly, for reasons of hygiene. For females, it involves an incision into, or complete removal of, the clitoris and sometimes infibulation (sewing together) of the outer labia.


The period of time during which there is a gradual decline in the production of sex hormones. In women it is marked by the end of menstruation, when the ovaries cease to be active, which usually occurs between the ages of forty-five and fifty-six. In men it is less pronounced but generally the production of testosterone begins to decline from about the age of forty, with a corresponding drop in sex drive. See Menopause.


The height of arousal during sexual activity, usually the point at which orgasm is reached. It is characterised by involuntary muscle spasms and waves of intense pleasure through the body. See Orgasm

Clitoral stimulator

A rubber, latex or plastic ring, sometimes with a variety of knobs, bumbs and soft projections, that is placed around the base of the penis and rubs against the clitoris during intercourse. It may also provide extra sensation to the vaginal opening and vaginal wall.


The surgical removal of the clitoris in female circumcision. In certain cultural groups – including some African societies and Islamic groups – it is a male-imposed practice, performed as a social or initiation rite, to reduce the woman’s enjoyment of sex in order to discourage the woman from adultery. It may also be performed to keep orgasm as a male prerogative. In western societies it has been used as a means of discouraging juvenile sexual activity. In some cases, it may be performed for medical reasons.


Female erectile organ, situated above the vaginal opening where the inner labia meet. It develops from the same tissue in the embryo as the penis in the male and, while small, it is highly sensitive. It contains muscular tissue and many nerve endings, as well as erectile tissue arranged in two columns, the corpora cavernosa. In the course of sexual arousal it thickens and may lengthen as it becomes engorged in blood, and the glans or head emerges from beneath the prepuce or hood formed by the inner labia, making it more exposed and sensitive. Just before orgasm, it withdraws beneath the prepuce but remains sensitive. The sole function of the clitoris is sexual arousal and pleasure, where it plays a key role in the stimulation leading up to a woman’s orgasm.

Cock and ball straps

Straps that are fastened around the base of the testicles and penis, usually made of rubber or leather. See Arab straps.

Cock ring

Ring fastened around the base of the penis to help produce and maintain a man’s erection. It should be an easily removable device made from rubber or leather, never metal or hard plastic. See Arab straps.


Sexual intercourse. The term is most commonly used to refer to the penetration of the vagina with the penis, but is also used to describe other kinds of intercourse (see below).

Coitus analis

Latin term for anal intercourse.

Coitus in axilla

Sexual intercourse in which the man’s penis is inserted into the armpit of his partner. See Armpit.

Coitus inter femora

Sexual intercourse in which a man’s penis is gripped between his partner’s thighs, without penetrating the vagina or anus.

Coitus interruptus

Also known as withdrawal, it involves withdrawing the penis during intercourse, before ejaculation occurs.

Combined pill

A contraceptive pill that contains both oestrogen and progestogen. It is usually taken for twenty-one consecutive days with a seven-day break before recommencing the cycle.


Verb meaning to reach orgasm. It is also used as a noun meaning semen, when it is also commonly spelt cum.

Come out

An abbreviation of the expression ‘to come out of the closet’, meaning openly to declare homosexual or bisexual orientation.

Computer sex

Sexually explicit material – text, pictures, videos – exchanged by means of computer networks and the internet. Bulletin boards may be set up and communities develop.


Fertilization of the ovum by a sperm, resulting in the start of a new life. The union of the two cells usually occurs in the fallopian tubes. About a day later the fertilised cell starts to divide, and the growing ball of cells passes down the fallopian tubes to the uterus, where it continues to develop.


In polygamous societies this is a secondary wife, usually of lower social rank. In other societies it simply means a woman who cohabits with a man.


The male condom is a thin latex sheath, which is placed over an erect penis before intercourse. It functions chiefly as a barrier form of contraception, by preventing sperm from being released into the vagina, and as a means of preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Coloured, textured, flavoured and even padded condoms are also available for use as sex aids/toys. The female condom, made of polyurethane, is a tube closed at one end with a flexible ring at each end, one of which is inserted into the vagina, behind the pubic bone, while the other lies flat against the vulva. It has the same function as the male condom. See Sex aids, Sex toys.


Any means of preventing conception from occuring as a result of sexual intercourse. The range of options include natural, mechanical and hormonal methods.


The use of sexually arousing language during sex. Also known as ‘talking dirty’.


Sexual arousal from practices involving faeces and/or the process of defecation. See Scat


Sexual intercourse or coitus.

Cowper’s gland

Gland located below the prostate gland in the male, possessing ducts which lead into the urethra. It produces a mucus substance that is important in lubricating the penis and that neutralises any acidity caused by urine, which could kill sperm. This substance also forms part of the seminal fluid.


See Pubic lice.


One of the two sets of muscles that support the testes and are attached to the testes themselves. See Dartos.


Dressing in the clothing, under clothing and sometimes make-up associated with the opposite sex. See Transvestism.


The area between the legs, where the torso ends and the legs begin. The term is often used to refer specifically to the genital area.


Any rear-entry sex position taken during intercourse, in which the man penetrates squarely from behind – that is, without either partner having one leg between the other’s. See Cuissade.


To actively seek a sexual partner. The term is most commonly used with reference to looking for a homosexual partner.


A half-rear entry position during sexual intercourse in which the woman has one of her legs between those of her partner.


Oral sex in which the mouth or tongue is used to stimulate the vulva and clitoris of a woman.


The activity of cutting the body with razors or knives, which may form part of sadomasochistic practices.


Inflammation of the bladder. Causes include certain bacterial and non-bacterial infections, allergic reactions to toiletries and friction during intercourse. Symptoms typically include a burning sensation when passing urine, a need to pass urine more often, and cloudy urine or blood in the urine.

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