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Sexuality Terms Explained or Defined

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 15 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Sex gender sexuality heterosexuality

Discussions of sexuality and sexual orientation can become confusing due to the variety of technical terms, jargon and acronyms that are related to such subjects. If individuals do not understand what is meant by each term, then the chances of effectively communicating on any of the subjects is greatly reduced. To avoid any communication problems in discussions of sexuality, use this glossary to help you define some unfamiliar terms.

  • Abstinence - The state not having sexual relations or intercourse of any kind. May be referred to as "practicing abstinence" or "abstaining from sex". Technically the only type of truly safe sex.
  • Bi - Modern slang for "bisexual".
  • Bisexual - An individual who is sexually attracted to both males and females.
  • Bisexuality - A sexual orientation in which an individual is sexually attracted to both males and females. This attraction may not be equal, so the individual may feel stronger feelings for, or have feelings more often for, one sex instead of the other with no regard to his or her own sex.
  • Celibate - Describes an individual who abstains from sex, possibly for religious or spiritual purposes.
  • Contraception - Methods of avoiding conception (becoming pregnant). May also be known as "birth control" or "family planning". Particular devises, such as birth control pills, patches, intrauterine devices and condoms, are often referred to as "contraceptives".
  • Gay - A term used to describe individuals who are homosexual. Most commonly refers to males.
  • GLBT - Acronym standing for "gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender"
  • Heterosexual - An individual who is sexually attracted to members of the opposite sex.
  • Heterosexuality - A sexual orientation in which an individual is sexually attracted to members of the opposite sex.
  • Homosexual - An individual who is sexually attracted to members of his or her own sex.
  • Homosexuality - A sexual orientation in which an individual who is sexually attracted to members of his or her own sex.
  • Lesbian - A term used to describe women who are homosexual.
  • Protection - Modern slang term to refer to contraceptives. Very often refers to a condom as these latex sheaths protect against both STIs and pregnancy.
  • Queer - A previously insulting term for homosexuals, but has since been reclaimed and is now an accepted term for homosexuals and homosexuality in gay communities. Queer Theory is also an established area of investigation in both gay and lesbian studies as well as feminist and women's studies.
  • Rainbow - Emblem of gay pride, most commonly displayed in a flag format sometimes referred to as a "freedom flag". This emblem is most often displayed with the red stripe at the top followed by stripes of orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. These stripes represent the diversity in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community.
  • Safer Sex - Term used to describe sex in which protection (condoms and/or other contraception) is used to avoid STIs and pregnancy. Sometimes mistakenly described as "safe sex".
  • Sexual Health - An area of health related to sex and reproduction. Mental health issues and both external and internal physical health issues are included in this area.
  • Sexual Orientation - A sexual preference for or attraction to members of an individual's same sex (homosexuality), members of the opposite sex (heterosexuality), or both (bisexuality).
  • Sexuality - Relating to a person's sexual preferences.
  • STI - Sexually Transmitted Infection. Previously described as STDs or Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Common STIs include Chlamydia, Syphilis, HIV and AIDS, Gonorrhoea, Genital Warts, Genital Herpes and more. STIs can be tested for and treated by GPs or at sexual health clinics.
  • Transgender - An individual whose gender does not match his or her biological sex. Commonly used to describe both transvestites (individuals who dress as the other gender) and transsexuals (individuals who have undergone sexual reassignment surgery).

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