The Sextionary

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This word means not doing something. It is most commonly used to describe not engaging in sexual behaviors. Each person decides which sexual behaviors they include in their definition of abstinence. A person who practices sexual abstinence may say that they are “abstinent,” and what qualifies as being abstinent from sexual behaviors can vary from person to person.

Abstinence-Only Education

A form of sexuality education that teaches only about abstinence. No information is provided about condoms or other forms of birth control or safer sex practices. Unlike abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, there is not a timeframe or relationship status attached to when a person may choose to no longer be abstinent.


(Noun) Someone who calls attention to a social problem and asks people with authority (lawmakers, school board members, etc.) to address that problem.
(Verb) To call attention to a social problem and to work actively toward a positive change that addresses that problem.


AIDS ( Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). AIDS is the diagnosis given when a person has a collection of symptoms and infections that result from an immune system that has been weakened by HIV.


Someone who is not a member of a group that tends to be discriminated against (such as people who identify as LGBTQ) but who works to support members of that group.

Anonymous Testing

A type of reporting used when providing HIV test results to the health department. Anonymous testing means that test results are reported to the health department by using a code, not a person’s real name.


Medications that are prescribed by a health care provider to treat and cure infections caused by bacteria or fungi.

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A tiny organism that causes an infection in the body. Many sexually transmitted diseases (e.g., chlamydia) are transmitted through bacteria, and can be cured with antibiotics.

Bacterial vaginosis

Also known as “BV”, this is the most common vaginal infection in women. It 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, and can sometimes be triggered by sexual behaviors. It can cause serious complications during pregnancy if it is not cured beforehand.

Birth Control

A collection of methods that are used to prevent pregnancy. Also known as contraception.


A person who is attracted to males and females.

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A sexually transmitted disease 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 STD in the United States and is the leading cause of preventable infertility and ectopic pregnancy since it can cause scarring and damage to the female reproductive system if it is not treated early. Because chlamydia is a bacterial infection, it can be cured with antibiotics.


A term that describes a person whose gender identity matches their biological sex.


A latex or polyurethane sheath rolled over a male’s penis to prevent semen and pre-cum from entering another person’s body. When used consistently and correctly, male condoms/external condoms are 98-percent effective. Some people use the word “condom” to refer to 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 just outside of the vaginal opening. When used consistently and correctly, a female condom/internal condom is 95-percent effective.


A slang term for “pubic lice.”An STD that is caused by a parasite. Pubic lice live in pubic hair and lay their eggs. They can cause intense itching, especially at night. Public lice can be sexually transmitted but can also be transmitted if people share towels or other linens. They are cured with anti-lice medicated shampoo and body wash, such as Kwell, which can be purchased in a drug store.

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Dental Dam

A thin square of latex used to cover the vulva during oral sex or the anus during analingus to reduce the risk of spread of sexually transmitted diseases. It is called a “dental dam” because it was created for use in dental procedures.

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Family Planning Clinic

A place that provides sexual and reproductive health care including, but not limited to, Pap tests, pelvic and breast exams, pregnancy testing and options counseling, birth control, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, and more. Some clinics have special services for teens and still others provide services specifically for teen and adult guys.

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A vaccine for all genders ages nine to 26 that helps prevent four strains of human papillomavirus (HPV). These four types of HPV account for 70 percent of cervical cancer cases, and cause 90 percent of cases of genital warts. HPV can lead to cancer of the genitals for guys too, but it’s very rare. Guys can get genital warts on or around their genitals (including the anus).The vaccine protects them from contracting the virus and therefore stops the spread of certain strains of HPV to their partners.The Gardasil vaccine is given in three injections over six months. It’s most effective BEFORE a person starts having sex, but has benefits even if that person has had sex in the past. Gardasil may not fully protect everyone and does not prevent all types of cervical cancer, so it is important for girls and women to continue to see their gynecologist or health care provider to get regular cervical cancer screenings, called Pap tests. Guys should also check with their health care provider if they notice any unusual lumps or growths on their genitals.


Being sexually and romantically attracted to people of one’s same sex. It can refer to men or women, although many gay women will use the term “lesbian.” Also known as homosexual, which some gay people feel is a derogatory word because homosexuality used to be a diagnosable mental illness.

Gay-Straight Alliance

A Gay–Straight Alliance (GSA) is a student run organization. There are more than 4,000 across the United States. GSAs work to improve the climate for all students in a school regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. For information on starting a GSA in your school check out the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) Web site.


This refers to the social and cultural norms related to what it means to be masculine or feminine and one’s gender identity. A person’s gender identity may or may not be related to their biological sex. This term is often used interchangeably with sex. However, sex is biological and refers to being female or male.

Gender Expression

How someone chooses to outwardly express gender identity through clothing, dress, haircut, voice and other physical characteristics.

Gender Identity

A person’s inner feelings and understanding about being a man, a woman, neither or a combination. Sometimes, these feelings will match one’s sex organs, called being cisgender. Or a person may be transgender, meaning their inner sense and understanding of their gender does not match their sex organs.

Gender Neutral

When the gender of a person or something that can be used by people is not specified or could apply to people of any gender. For example, the terms “spouse” and “partner” are gender-neutral alternatives to the gender-specific words “husband” and “wife.” Public restrooms that do not have the label “men’s room” or “women’s room” are gender neutral and can be used by a person of any gender.


A way of describing one’s gender that does not include the current terms of man, woman or transgender. Similar to how some people have taken back the negativity of the term queer because they don’t feel the categories of sexual orientation describe accurately who they are, someone who identifies as “genderqueer” may not feel like the terms man, woman or transgender accurately reflect how they feel.

Genital Warts

A sexually transmitted disease caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) that causes small, painless, flesh-colored bumps that often look like small cauliflowers around and in the genitals, anus and/or mouth.


A sexually transmitted disease that is bacterial. Symptoms in guys include a pus-like discharge from the penis and an increased need to urinate. In girls and women, there may be discharge from the vagina. Many people will not have any symptoms. Gonorrhea can be treated and cured with antibiotics. Also referred to as “the clap” or “the drip.”

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Hepatitis B

A sexually transmitted disease 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 nausea, vomiting, headache, fever, dark urine and jaundice. Hepatitis B has a vaccine to prevent infection.

Hepatitis C

A sexually transmitted disease caused by a virus that can cause liver damage. Infection occurs through contact with another person’s infected blood, most often from sharing needles with someone who already has Hepatitis C. There are usually no symptoms associated with Hepatitis C. It is diagnosed through a blood test.


A sexually transmitted disease that is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). It can also be transmitted non-sexually (such as through kissing) and causes small, blister-like sores (cold sores) around the mouth or genitals. Herpes type 1 is typically associated with sores around the mouth, while Herpes type 2 is typically associated with sores around the genitals or anus. Genital herpes cannot be cured, but the symptoms can be treated using antiviral medications.


Being sexually and romantically attracted to someone of a different sex.


The human immunodeficiency virus is the virus that causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS ). The virus weakens a person’s immune system so that the person can’t fight off everyday infections. HIV is transmitted from exposure to an infected person’s blood, semen, vaginal fluids or breast milk.

HIV Testing

A blood test or oral swab test to detect antibodies to HIV testing should occur 3-6 months after exposure to HIV in order to be accurate.


An irrational fear, hatred or prejudice toward people who are or who are perceived to be gay, lesbian or bisexual.


An historically derogatory term that refers to being sexually and romantically attracted to a person of the same sex. Also known as gay, lesbian or queer.


The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted disease that may cause small, painless flesh-colored bumps around the genitals, anus and/or mouth. The virus cannot be cured. Some strains of HPV can cause cervical cancer in women, which is why it is very important for them to get regular Pap tests. Early detection can prevent cervical cancer. HPV has also been linked to penile and anal cancer in men in some rare cases.

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Internal Condom
(Also known as 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 79-percent effective with typical use in preventing pregnancy, and 95-percent effective with perfect use. They also offer protection against some sexually transmitted diseases. They can be purchased without a prescription and, when the inner ring is removed, can be used during anal intercourse as well. Female condoms should not be used at the same time as male condoms.


A person born with a combination of genitals and/or chromosomes that are different from an XY male with a penis and testicles or an XX female with a vulva, vagina and ovaries. Intersex people may have XO, XXY, XYY or any other combination of chromosomes and anatomy. The outdated word for intersex people is “hermaphrodite;” today that term is considered demeaning.

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A woman who is sexually and romantically attracted to other women.


The acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (or questioning). Also known as GLBTQ.

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A tiny organism that causes scabies and pubic lice, which can be cured easily by medication.

Parental Consent

A law that requires young people under the age of 18 to get permission from one or both parents or another adult guardian before getting an abortion. Not all states require parental consent. The process for obtaining consent in some states requires a young woman to get “written consent,” such as a letter with a signature or a phone call between the required family member and the physician performing the abortion. For the most up-to-date information on the law in your state, call the National Abortion Federation hotline at 1-800-772-9100.

Pubic Lice

A parasite that lives in a person’s pubic hair causing intense itching. They can be sexually transmitted and cured with anti-lice medicated shampoo and body wash, which can be purchased in a drug store. Also known as crabs.

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A name some people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender(LGBT) use as an affirmation of their sexual orientation or gender identity as different and wonderful, as in “I’m queer and proud.” By using an historically negative word, some LGBT people are trying to erase the negativity associated with it. It is important to note that not all LGBT people use the term queer, and it should not be used by people who are heterosexual or cisgender to describe LGBT people.


Someone who is not sure what their sexual orientation or gender identity is and is going through the process of figuring out how they feel.

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Safer Sex

Being responsible about shared sexual behaviors by doing things that reduce your chances of getting or spreading a sexually transmitted disease and/or becoming (or getting a girl) pregnant. Usually, this means educating oneself about STDs and pregnancy, using latex barriers like condoms and dental dams, limiting the number of partners a person has, and getting tested for STDs on a regular basis. Because nothing is 100 percent safe, aside from continuous abstinence, the term is “safer” rather than “safe” sex.

Sexual Orientation

A term to describe the gender or genders of the people to whom one is attracted physically and romantically. Typical words people use to describe sexual orientation are bisexual, gay, lesbian, heterosexual and in some cases queer.


Sexuality is a broad term that refers to far more than sexual behaviors and body parts. It also refers to how people feel about themselves and being with others, how they see their gender and sexual identities, and how they interact with other people.


STD stands for sexually transmitted disease. Sexually transmitted diseases can also be called sexually transmitted infections (STIs). STDs are spread through sexual behavior or contact. Some STDs can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact or body fluids such as blood, pre-cum, semen, vaginal fluids or breast milk. STDs generally infect the genital area (penis, scrotum, vulva and vaginal opening), anus or mouth, although they can spread to other parts of the body if left untreated.


STI stands for sexually transmitted infection. Sexually transmitted infections can also be called sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).


A sexually transmitted disease that is caused by bacteria and results in chancres or painless sores in the genital area. It can be transmitted when an infected person comes into contact with another uninfected person’s vagina, penis, anus or mouth. Syphilis can be cured with antibiotics, but if left untreated, can cause brain damage and even death.


A slang term for being sexually and romantically attracted to members of a different sex, also known as heterosexual. The word straight can have negative connotations, as it implies that people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual are “crooked” or otherwise have something wrong with them.

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A term that describes a person whose gender identity does not match that person’s biological sex. This may include someone who was born biologically female who feels biologically male, vice versa, or something else altogether. Transgender people may alter their bodies using hormones, surgery, both, or neither.


A sexually transmitted disease 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 (including between male and female partners) and can be cured with antibiotics.

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Vaginal Discharge

The small amount of fluid that is released every day from a vagina. On a typical day, its purpose is to clean the vagina. The amount and consistency of fluid released varies throughout the month. When a girl or woman is getting close to ovulation, the discharge will be thin and stringy, almost like an egg white; other days it may be cloudy or yellowish. If the discharge is ever greenish or greyish or has a foul or musty smell, it may mean that a girl or woman has an infection and she should make an appointment with a healthcare provider right away.


A tiny organism that can cause infections. Some sexually transmitted diseases are caused by viruses. With these, the symptoms of the diseases can be treated but the viruses themselves can’t be cured. These include hepatitis-B, herpes, HPV and HIV.

Definitions courtesy of Sex, Etc.