It can be really confusing and even a bit embarrassing to hear a term and not understand what it means. We’ve all been there were you’re left smiling and nodding, hoping no one notices that you’re confused.
And so it is when it comes to growing up and hearing sex terms and slang that you don’t really understand what’s being referenced.
It’s important that you have all the facts about sex so you know what you are aren’t comfortable with.
Here’s the A to Z of Sex terms you need to know…
The A to Z of Sex
age of consent – the age when the law says it’s legal for you to have sex. This differs from country-to-country, but in Ireland and Northern Ireland the age of consent is 17.
anal sex – or anal intercourse is generally the insertion of an erect penis into a person’s anus, or anus and rectum, for sexual pleasure.
Anal sex does carry the risk of Sexually Transmitted Infection and HIV, therefore a barrier method, such as condoms, should be used when engaging in anal sex.
bisexual – the romantic attraction and/or sexual attraction toward both males and females, or to more than one sex or gender.
chlamydia – is a common sexually transmitted disease. It is caused by bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis. It can infect both men and women. Women can get chlamydia in the cervix, rectum, or throat. Men can get chlamydia in the urethra (inside the penis), rectum, or throat. It is passed through unprotected sex (oral, vaginal or anal)
Using condoms correctly and every time you have sex will reduce your risk of getting chlamydia.
cisgender – a person whose gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth. For example, someone who identifies as a woman and was identified as female at birth is a cisgender woman.
clitoris – a small, sensitive, erectile part of the female genitals on the the vulva. This can be stimulated during sex to achieve pleasure and orgasm.
condom – a condom is a barrier method placed over the penis to help prevent pregnancy.
contraception – the word for any method used to prevent pregnancy, such as condoms, The Pill, diaphragm or implant.
You can read our guide to contraception here.
consent – engaging in sexual activity requires communication to make sure you and your partner understand each other and are in agreement. Giving consent and asking for consent is all about setting your own personal boundaries and respecting those of the other person.
It is not okay for a person to pressurise someone else to have sex.
If someone asks you to have sex, you always have the legal right to choose; this includes choices around, if you have sex, when you have sex and what type of sex you want to engage in. This applies whether you have sex with a new or existing partner.
At any point, both you and your partner have the right to change your mind and withdraw consent.
dental dam – is a thin, flexible piece of latex that protects against direct mouth-to-genital or mouth-to-anus contact during oral sex.
diaphragm – is a barrier method that fits inside the vagina. The diaphragm covers cervix (neck of womb), and this stops a sperm from reaching the egg resulting in pregnancy.
Also known as the cap.
discharge – wet stuff that comes out of a penis or vagina.
Discharge from the vagina is normal and will happen from puberty through to the menopause. It is produced by little glands in the vagina and the cervix. It will change during the month and can make sex more pleasurable. If the discharge is a funny colour or smells unpleasant, girls should visit their local Sexual Health clinic, GP or nurse, or Family Planning clinic in case of an infection.
Discharge from the penis is not normal and quite likely indicates an STI. The quicker it is checked out the better.
douching – is the process of inserting a special anal-cleanser, water, or saline into the rectum with a bulb or hose-like apparatus (called an ‘enema’) in order to flush it of poop and other “impurities,” typically in preparation for penetrative anal sex.
ejaculation – occurs when the penis fills with blood, causing it to enlarge and stiffen.
Other words include stiffy, hard-on, boner or woody.
FYI, sperm can also be released before ejaculation – this is often called “pre-come”. This is why a condom should be used the whole way through sexual intercourse.
erection – is a hardening of the penis that occurs when sponge-like tissue inside the penis fills up with blood. Usually, an erection causes the penis to enlarge and stand away from the body.
Although many erections are caused by sexual arousal, such as watching a sexy television show or fantasising, many erections seem to happen for no particular reason.
fingering – using the fingers internally and externally to stimulate the clitoris to orgasm (or anus).
You can do this yourself when masturbating or have a partner do it for you. Fingering can be a nice warm-up before intercourse to get lubrication going. Although popular in foreplay, it can also be a complete sex act by itself.
foreplay – refers to a wide variety of erotic stimulation that doesn’t involve intercourse, but can still be classed as sex. It includes things like “fingering” and oral sex, and helps to increase sexual arousal and prepare the body for intercourse.
g spot – is the area inside the vagina that can give a lot of sexual pleasure.
gonorrhea -is an infection caused by a sexually transmitted bacterium that can infect both males and females. This can be avoided by using condoms.
heterosexual – a person who is sexually attracted to persons of the opposite sex.
hickey – is is a dark red or purple mark on your skin caused by intense suction or kissing.
Also known as a “love bite”.
homosexual – a person who is sexually attracted to people of one’s own sex.
Also know as being gay.
HIV – short for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV can be sexually transmitted and is the virus that damages the immune system and can lead to AIDS.
The only way to protect yourself against HIV is to use a condom every time you have sex as condoms act as a barrier to stop the exchange of fluids during sexual intercourse.
implant – contraceptive implants work in a similar way to contraceptive pills, but instead of being in a pill, the hormone is in a small, plastic rod, which a specially trained doctor, or nurse inserts under the skin on a woman’s arm.
The implant works for three years and is 99 per cent effective at stopping pregnancy.
Johnny – another word for a condom
kissing – when two people put their mouths together for pleasure.
LGBTQ+ – is the umbrella term for Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and other people who do not identify as gendered.
lube – is a liquid or gel used during sex to make the vulva, vagina, or anal area wetter. Lubricant can also be applied to a the penis or a sex toy to make them more slippery.
masturbation – touching or stimulating your own or someone else’s genitals for sexual pleasure. Masturbation is a natural and normal way of exploring your own body.
morning after pill – the emergency contraceptive pill (often called the “morning after pill”) is a pill that you can take after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy. The morning after pill is available directly from a pharmacy without a doctor’s prescription to those over 17 years of age, subject to meeting certain criteria.
The emergency contraception service is available free of charge to medical card holders.
no – you always have the right to say no to any type of sexual activity if you don’t want to do it.
It doesn’t matter at what time you say no, even if you’ve already started having sex you can say “No”. You never, ever “owe” anyone anything.
oral sex – using the mouth and tongue to pleasure and stimulate a boy’s penis or a woman’s vagina.
You can contact STIS from Oral Sex. There are contraceptives available to avoid catching STIs through oral sex, such as Dental Dams and condoms.
Other words or slang for oral sex include “going down on someone” “eating out” “licking out” “giving head” “blow job” “blowie” Fellatio, Cunnilingus.
orgasm -is the peak of sexual arousal, when all the muscles that were tightened during sexual arousal relax, causing a very pleasurable feeling that may involve the whole body.
Sometimes called climaxing or “coming”. It’s also sometimes spelled as “cum”.
pansexual – is sexual, romantic, or emotional attraction towards people regardless of their sex or gender identity. Pansexual people may refer to themselves as gender-blind, asserting that gender and sex are not determining factors in their romantic or sexual attraction to others
the pill – is a tablet that contains hormones to stop a woman ovulating (releasing an egg each month). There are many different brands of pill with different combinations of hormones. Your GP will advise you on the correct hormone combination that suits you.
The Pill does not protect you against sexually transmitted infections.
porn – sexually explicit videos, photographs, writings, or the like, produced to elicit sexual arousal
pubic hair – is body hair that is found in the genital area of adolescent and adult humans. The hair is located on and around the sex organs and sometimes at the top of the inside of the thighs. It is thicker and courser than other hair on the body.
Different cultures and trends tend to have apposing views on pubic hair, especially when it comes to women. It’s your body, so do what you want with it; trim it, shave it, wax it or keep as is. It’s just hair and there’s nothing to be ashamed about when it comes to it.
pull out method – is when the penis is pulled out of the vagina before ejaculation so fewer sperm get inside.
It is not a safe or reliable form of contraception.
Sperm can still be present, known as pre-cum, and pregnancy can and does occur when this “method” is used.
queer – is an umbrella term for sexual and gender minorities who are not heterosexual or are not cisgender. Originally meaning “strange” or “peculiar”, queer came to be used as a slur against those with same-sex desires or relationships in the late 19th century. But it has since been reclaimed by the LGBTQ+ community.
queef – is slang for vaginal flatulence when air is released from the vagina. This can happen during activities like sex or exercise.
respect – respect in sex should always be foremost by both (or all) persons involved.
This changes from person to person, which is why it’s so important to openly and honestly communicate with your partner about what you do and don’t want to do when it comes to sex.
rimming – is the act of orally pleasuring the anus. This can involve licking, sucking, kissing, and any other pleasurable act that involves oral-to-anal contact.
Some of the STIs that can be transmitted via rimming include, herpes, genital warts, gonorrhea, syphilis, hepatitis A and B.
Using a dental dam can help protect you and your partner from STIs
Also known as analingus.
safe sex – refers to the act of having sex while protected against pregnancy and STIs i.e using condoms.
sexting – sexting is sending or receiving sexually explicit messages or images.
Consent is really important when it comes to sexting. You never have to send someone something that you don’t feel comfortable with. And you also have the right to not receive unsolicited pictures.
sex toy – an object or device used for sexual stimulation or to enhance sexual pleasure.
transgender – people have a gender identity or gender expression that differs from the sex that they were assigned at birth.
uterus – is a hollow muscular organ located in the female pelvis between the bladder and rectum. The ovaries produce the eggs that travel through the fallopian tubes. Once the egg has left the ovary it can be fertilised and implant itself in the lining of the uterus.
Also known as a womb.
vagina – the interior muscular tube leading from the external genitals to the cervix of the uterus in women and most female mammals.
virgin – a patriarchal term that describes someone who has never had sexual intercourse.
vulva – often confused and referred to as the vagina, the vulva is the outer part of the female genitals.
The vulva includes the opening of the vagina, (sometimes called the vestibule), the labia majora (outer lips), the labia minora (inner lips), and the clitoris.
wet dream – is the term usually used to describe when a guy ejaculates in his sleep.
x-rated – a term usually used about films where the content is judged to be suitable for adults only as it may be sexually explicit or very violent.
yes – asking for and receiving consent for sex every single time, is so important.
zygote – is the union of the sperm cell and the egg cell. Also known as a fertilised ovum, the zygote begins as a single cell but divides rapidly in the days following fertilisation. After this two-week period of cell division, the zygote eventually becomes an embryo.
And there you have it, the A-Z of Sex terms and slang. Did we miss anything?