Sex Dictionary: M-P

Maidenhead

A term sometimes used to refer to the hymen, or to female virginity.

Make love

Euphemism for having sexual intercourse and/or engaging in other forms of sexual activity, sometimes used to differentiate sex with emotional involvement from mechanical sex.

Masochism

A form or sexual behaviour in which a person derives sexual pleasure from feeling pain, or having humiliation or domination inflicted on them. The word is derived from Sacher-Masoch (1836-1886), who wrote several books celebrating his own sexual fantasies involving physical abuse. See Sadism, Sadomasochism.

Massage

Rubbing, stroking or kneading a person’s body, sometimes with oil, sometimes for sensual or sexual pleasure or to relieve stress, pain or stiffness.

Masturbation

Sexual stimulation of one’s own or another’s sexual organs, usually with the hands, but also with other parts of the body or with objects.

Mechanical methods of contraception

Means of preventing conception while allowing full penile-vaginal intercourse to occur, by using a device which functions as a barrier, preventing sperm and ovum from meeting. Mechanical methods include the condom, the diaphragm and the IUS and IUD. See Natural and Hormonal methods of contraception.

Ménage à trois

Three people engaging in sexual activity together, often involving a couple and an outside lover. See Troilism.

Menarche

The first occurrence of menstruation in a woman’s life, usually in the course of puberty.

Menopause

Precisely, the last occurrence of menstruation in a woman’s life. However, the term is more commonly used to refer to the whole of the climacteric. See Climacteric.

Menstrual cycle

The hormonal cycle, lasting approximately twenty-eight days, by which the female reproductive system is maintained. It ensures that each month an ovum is matured and released (ovulation) and the lining of the uterus is prepared for the possibility of pregnancy. If conception does not occur, this lining is shed in menstruation, so that a new lining can be prepared during the following cycle.

Menstruation

Sometimes called a ‘period’. See Menstrual cycle.

Mini-pill

See Progestogen-only pill.

Missionary position

A position during sexual intercourse where the man is on top of the woman and lying between her legs.

Monogamy

The state or practice of having only one sexual partner over a specific period of time.

Mons pubis

Fatty cushion-like tissue that covers the upper part of the pubic bone in females. In males it is a layer of fatty tissue found over the junction of the pubic bones. Also known as the mons veneris.

Mons veneris

See Mons pubis.

Morning-after-pill

Inaccurate term for the emergency contraceptive pill. It is in fact effective up to seventy-two hours after intercourse.

Mucus

Slippery, protective secretion produced from the mucous membranes and glands. Mucus produced in the genital area can provide extra lubrication during intercourse.

Mucus method

See Cervical mucus method.

Multiple orgasm

Several orgasms experienced in rapid succession, without any refractory period between each one. Usually, only women are physically capable of having multiple orgasms, but, by practising and developing ejaculatory control, some men may also be able to have more than one orgasmic peak in quick succession. In most cases, not all will involve ejaculation. See Refractory period.

Natural methods of contraception

Avoiding conception by making sure that the man does not ejaculate inside the woman’s vagina when she is at her most fertile. This includes coitus interruptus, but also various methods – sometimes known as rhythm methods – of judging when ovulation is most likely to occur, such as the calendar method, the cervical mucus method and the temperature method.

Necrophilia

Sexual attraction to and/or sexual activity with dead bodies.

Nipple

The tip of the breast. It is an important erogenous zone and becomes erect during sexual arousal. In women it contains the outlet of the milk ducts.

Nocturnal emission

Involuntary ejaculation during sleep, in particular during a sexually arousing dream, also known as a wet dream. Nocturnal emissions occur in some eighty percent of young males.

NGU or non-gonococcal urethritis

Inflammation of a man’s urethra, caused by a number of different types of bacteria other than the gonococcus (the bacterium which causes gonorrhoea). It is usually passed on through sexual contact. Characteristic symptoms include discharge from the penis and pain or difficulty in urinating. If untreated, the inflammation can spread to the prostate and sometimes to the testes.

Nonoxynol-9

The chemical present in most spermicides. In laboratory conditions, it has been shown to destroy HIV. However it is not reliable in destroying HIV during sexual practices and should not be used for anal sex as it irritates the lining of the rectum, making STI transmission more likely.

NSU or non-specific urethritis

Essentially the same as non-gonococcal urethritis. See NGU.

Nymphomania

A neurotic condition experienced by women who feel a compulsion to have sex with as many men as possible.

Oestrogen

A steroid hormone produced in the ovaries and other glands in the female. The counterpart to testosterone, it is often considered an exclusively ‘female’ hormone, but is in fact produced in both males and females. It is also produced by the placenta during pregnancy. Oestrogen stimulates changes in a woman’s reproductive organs during her monthly cycle and promotes female primary and secondary sexual characteristics at all stages of development. See Testosterone.

Onanism

Any sexual activity that does not put sperm to procreative use, for example in masturbation. It is derived from Onan, Judah’s son (Book of Genesis), who ‘sinned’ by ejaculating onto the ground.

Opportunistic infections

A general term for infections or diseases that take hold when the immune system has been damaged by HIV. See HIV, ARC.

Oral contraception

Hormonal pills taken by mouth for contraceptive purposes. See Pill (contraceptive).

Oral sex

The use of the mouth, lips and tongue to arouse and stimulate the genitals of another. It includes fellatio and cunnilingus and is also known as oral-genital sex.

Oral-genital sex

See Oral sex.

Orchitis

Inflammation of one or both of the testicles.

Orgasm

The climax of sexual excitement, usually involving rhythmic contractions of the pelvis and genital muscles, which produces highly pleasurable sensations throughout the body. In the male it is usually accompanied by ejaculation as well. These contractions occur at intervals of 0.8 seconds in both male and female and usually last less that one minute. Blood pressure, pulse and breathing rates all increase.

Outer labia

See Labia majora.

Outing

The term given to the practice of publicly exposing people’s homosexuality against their will.

Ovaries

The two female sex glands or gonads, located on either side of the uterus, that produce the female sexual hormones oestrogen and progesterone and the reproductive cells, the ova. Each ovary stores as many as half a million ova. In the mature female, one ovum is matured and released into the fallopian tube every month, alternating between the two ovaries, in the process of ovulation. The ovaries are equivalent to the testes in the male.

Ovulation

The cyclic release of an ovum from an ovary into one of the fallopian tubes. See Menstrual cycle.

Ovum

The female reproductive cell. Usually, in a mature female, one ovum is produced each month in one of the ovaries. See ovaries.

Paedophilia

Sexual attraction to, or sexual activity with, children.

Pederasty

1. The act of penetration in anal sex. 2. Homosexual activity between men and young boys.

Peeping Tom

A person who derives sexual satisfaction from watching others undress or engage in sexual activity. Also known as a voyeur.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

Inflammation of the uterine lining and fallopian tubes in the female. Causes include bacterial infections including chlamydia and gonorrhoea, and long term use of IUDs. Symptoms include chronic pain and fever. If untreated, it can lead to infertility. See Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea.

Penetration

The insertion of a man’s erect penis into the vagina or anus of his partner in sexual intercourse.

Penile implants

Flexible or inflatable rods inserted by surgical operation into the penis to replace the cavernous tissue and thus create a mechanical form of achieving and maintaining an erection.

Penile injections

Used to treat erectile problems by self-injecting a drug into the cavernous tissue of the penis to create an erection.

Penis

The primary male sex organ. The penis is akin to the clitoris in the female, developing from the same tissue in the embryo. It is made up of erectile and muscular tissue, supplied with many sensory nerves. The erectile tissue lies in three columns, two on the back forming the corpora cavernosa, and one on the front forming the corpus spongiosum and extending to form the glans or head. This tissue is arranged in a honeycomb structure. In the course of sexual arousal the muscle fibres that make up the honeycomb relax to allow blood to fill the structures, causing the penis to become erect. The urethra – through which urine is passed out of the body from the bladder and semen is passed on ejaculation – passes along the length of the penis through the corpus spongiosum, to its opening in the tip of the glans. The penis is covered with loosely-attached, fatless skin, which folds back on itself at the tip to make up the prepuce or foreskin in an uncircumcised male. At the back of the glans is a highly sensitive bridge of skin, the frenulum.

Penis corsets

Lace-up coverings for the penis, made of leather or rubber, used to help achieve and maintain an erection or for show. See Arab straps.

Perineum

In men, the area between the scrotum and the anus; in women, the area between the vagina and the anus.

Period

See Menstruation.

Pervert

A person who enjoys certain sexual activities that other people consider offensive.

Pessary

(1) A medical tablet that is inserted into the vagina, where it dissolves and releases medication. Some spermicides are in pessary form. (2) The ring pessary is a device inserted into the vagina for women who have a prolapse of the vaginal walls and who do not want, or cannot have, an operation to repair the vagina.

Petting

Old-fashioned term for sexual activities such as caressing parts of the body, either as a prelude to, or instead of, intercourse.

Phallus

(1) A word for the erect penis. (2) Image of the male sexual organ, especially one associated with symbols of reproductive power.

Pheromones

Chemical substances emitted by the body into the air, some of which are reputed to stimulate sexual attraction or desire in members of the opposite sex.

Phimosis

Abnormal tightness of the foreskin that prevents it from being pulled back over the tip of the penis. The condition can often be corrected by gentle stretching, but in more severe cases circumcision may be necessary.

PID

See Pelvic Inflammatory Disease.

Piercing

Sexual body piercing typically involves piercing of the nipples or parts of the genitals such as the foreskin, scrotum, clitoris or labia. See Ampallang, Apadravya, Prince Albert.

Pill (contraceptive)

A pill, taken daily, which contains synthetic hormones, usually oestrogen and/or progestogen. It works by modifying the level of these hormones within the female body in order to prevent pregnancy from occurring. See Combined pill, Progestogen-only pill, Every Day pill. A male equivalent has yet to become available. See Hormonal methods of contraception.

Pimp

Person who inducts and manages sex workers (formerly referred to as prostitutes). See Sex worker, Prostitution.

Platonic love

Term used to describe love and admiration for another/others that does not involve sexual feelings or activity. The word is derived from a passage written by Plato in the Symposium.

Polyandry

The practice of having more than one husband at the same time.

Polygamy

The practice of having more than one wife or husband at the same time.

Polygyny

The practice of having more than one wife at the same time.

Pornography

Any material, such as writing, books, films and photographs designed to produce sexual arousal. Unlike eroticism, the term pornography has come to be associated with material that is violent or exploitative.

Posthitis

Inflammation of the foreskin.

Pre-come or Pre-cum

Fluids produced by certain glands, passed out of the penis prior to ejaculation. It consists mainly of lubricating secretions but may contain some sperm. See Cowper’s Gland and Littre’s Gland.

Premarital sex

Sexual intercourse that takes place before either of the partners is married.

Premature ejaculation

A sexual dysfunction where a man involuntarily ejaculates early in the course of sexual activity.

Prepuce

Retractable fold of thin, hairless skin that covers the glans of the penis in the male (also known as the foreskin) and the clitoris in the female. It is sometimes removed in the traditional practice of circumcision. See Circumcision.

Priapism

Prolonged, painful erection of the penis due to obstruction of the blood vessels in the penis.

Primary sexual characteristics

Related to the sexual organs directly involved in sexual activity and reproduction, namely the ovaries and vagina in the female and testes and penis in the male. These develop in the embryo and mature at puberty.

Prince Albert

A ring for genital piercing which is passed through the glans of the penis into the urethra, just above the frenum. See Ampallang, Piercing.

Proctitis

Inflammation of the rectum.

Progestogen

An artificial form of the natural hormone progesterone.

Progestogen-only pill (POP)

A contraceptive pill that contains only progestogen. These pills are not widely used.

Progesterone

A natural female hormone that is secreted chiefly from the ovaries. It prepares the uterus to receive and sustain a fertilized ovum.

Promiscuous

Pejorative description of a person who has several different sexual partners over a relatively short period of time.

Prostate gland

The male gland that surrounds the neck of the bladder and the urethra. It produces one of the major constituents of semen and has also been identified as the male G-spot. Stimulating it (using a finger inserted in the anus) can bring some men to orgasm.

Prostitution

The practice of engaging in sexual activities in exchange for money or favours. A person who engages in such activity is known as a prostitute or, more commonly, a sex worker. See Pimp, Sex worker.

Puberty

The stage of development at the beginning of adolescence when the sexual organs mature and secondary sexual characteristics emerge. This usually occurs from the age of ten in girls and from eleven in boys. See Adolescence, Secondary sexual characteristics.

Pubic bone

Bone located at the front of the pelvis.

Pubic hair

Hair that grows in the region just above and around the external genital organs.

Pubic lice

Small wingless, parasitic insects that infest the hair in the pubic area and occasionally on other parts of the body. They feed on blood by biting into the skin. This may cause irritation. They are usually passed through close bodily contact. Also known as crabs.

Pudendum or Pudenda

A collective term used to describe the external genitals, especially those of a woman.

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