~ September 2021 ~ Picture it: You’re hanging with friends and the conversation is getting a little bit ~raunchy~. Everyone starts talking about the big s-e-x and all of a sudden, they start using terms that are, well, kinda unfamiliar. You feel awkward because you’re not really following the conversation—you thought a “facial” was just a spa treatment—and now you’re just sitting there twiddling your thumbs. You stay silent out of fear you’ll reveal your ignorance. You’re totally bummed.
First things first, know that it’s fine to not know the definition of everything that occurs in the sex realm. (Nothing to be embarrassed about, promise!) Secondly, Women’s Health is here to quell all your anxieties about future situations unfolding like the above. What you need is a sex terms glossary of sorts, and luckily for you, you’ve found it. The following is a list of every single sex term (along with a helpful little explainer on each word).
Next time you don’t know that ~provocative verbiage~, you can just discreetly search for this helpful page on your phone instead of quietly freaking out. (You’re welcome!)
Plus, this guide even has some serious expert approval. “A sex glossary is useful for helping folx to reduce shame, expand their knowledge, obtain accurate information, and provides reference to folx’ diverse experiences,” explains Janet Brito, PhD, an AASECT certified sex therapist and supervisor, and founder of the Hawaii Center for Sexual and Relationship Health. “It can be a powerful and sex-positive tool, as it can normalize someone’s life experience.”
Read on for a glossary of 70 sex terms, all of which are sex therapist reviewed, that you should probably know. Use this guide when you’re confused about a words like “shrimping,” “creampie,” “queefing,” and much more.
Anal Sex: Any kind of sexual activity that typically involves penetration of the anus (a.k.a. your butthole).
Anorgasmia: When you have a difficult time reaching orgasm despite receiving the necessary stimulation.
Asexual: A sexual orientation described by the Asexual Visibility and Education Network as “a person who does not experience sexual attraction.” There are many stereotypes about asexual people, including that they cannot experience romance, though that is not true.
Autosexual: Being attracted to or aroused by yourself. Autosexuality is classified as a sexual orientation, and it exists on a spectrum.
Bareback: When you have sex without using protection, like condoms.
Bisexual: A sexual orientation where you are romantically and/or sexually attracted to both your own gender and those of a gender that is not your own.
Blow Job: Also called “going down” on someone, a blow job is when you put your lover’s penis or strap-on in your mouth so that you can suck and lick it for their pleasure. If you’re going down on someone with a vagina, this is called cunnilingus.
Blue Balls: A non-dangerous, non-medical term, blue balls is a term for when a person’s scrotum feels pain because they are experiencing prolonged sexual arousal without the release of an orgasm.
Breath Play: A consensual BDSM-related activity, breath play involves the restriction of oxygen to increase sexual pleasure or stimulate an orgasm. This is a risky behavior that requires extreme caution.
Bulge: The outline of a person’s penis that you can see through their underwear, swimsuit, pants, etc. It’s an image that some people find to be erotic.
Butt Plug: A sex toy that is inserted into the anus —hence the term “plug”— for the wearer’s pleasure. They come in various shapes, typically resembling a tear drop, a penis head, a triangle, etc. The material also varies from plastic, to rubber, to glass, and sometimes they even vibrate.
Cowgirl: When a person situates themself so that they’re sitting on top of their partner, legs at the sides of their hips, moving themselves up and down, side to side, around, and more, on their partner’s penis, sex toy, hand, etc.
Cosplay: A shortened version of the word “costume play,” where people dress up as a character or pop culture icon and then embody that persona for a certain period of time. This doesn’t have to be sexual, necessarily, but it’s often talked about in a sexual context.
Creampie: Hint, it’s not the dessert. A creampie is when semen drips out of the vagina after a person has ejaculated into it during sex.
Clitoris: A small, sensitive sexual organ (part of the vulva) with thousands of nerve endings. Many people with vulvas need their clitoris to be stimulated in order to achieve an orgasm.
Circumcision: A procedure that removes the foreskin of the penis to more prominently reveal the penis head. It is purely an aesthetic, personal, or cultural decision, usually made at birth. The procedure can be done during adulthood for medical reasons as well.
Cunnilingus: A word that means performing oral sex on a person with a vulva. You use your lips and tongue to stimulate the vulva-haver’s genitals, oftentimes their labia majora (outer lips), labia minora (inner lips), and clitoris.
Deep Throating: This occurs during a blow job, and is when a person pushes their partner’s penis all the way into the back of their throat (or as deep as they are capable of going). At times, this technique can result in gagging or vomiting for the giver.
Demisexual: A sexual orientation, demisexual is when you do not experience sexual attraction toward someone unless you feel an emotional connection with them first.
Diaphragm: Sitting at the edge of the cervix, a diaphragm is a contraceptive device that blocks sperm from fertilizing an egg.
Dirty Talk: Just like it sounds, basically. Dirty talk is when you talk about sex, the act of sex, performing sexual acts with or on your partner, etc. You can do dirty talk before you have sex, while you’re doing it, when you’re trying to get aroused, etc.
Doggy-Style: When one person enters another from behind, while the receiver is on their hands and knees. (The position somewhat mimics the way that dogs and other animals have sex, hence the name.)
Edging: A technique where you get as close to orgasm as possible, or delay your orgasm for as long as possible, in order to ultimately reach a stronger, more powerful orgasm once you release it.
Face-Sitting: When you receive oral sex by sitting above your partner’s mouth with your genitals on top of them.
Facial: This is when someone with a penis ejaculates onto the face of their partner.
Fingering: When a person uses their finger to stimulate a person’s vagina, clitoris, vulva, etc. This can be done until the vulva-having person has an orgasm or as a foreplay method.
Foot Fetish: This is a sexual interest where a person has a particular attraction to feet. This can mean they like the look of feet or they enjoy physical stimulation like touching, licking, kissing, sucking, etc., on feet.
Foot Job: This is when a person uses their feet to sexually stimulate a person’s genitals, typically using a lubricant and moving the feet in an up and down motion over the penis. Think of this like a hand job (more on that later), but with feet.
Foreplay: The actions that often, but not always, act as precursors to sex. This can include things like making out or cuddling, as well as fingering or dirty talk. It’s typically considered a large umbrella term, so the definition is fluid.
Golden Shower: While it has many presumed meanings, a golden shower typically refers to when a person pees on their partner or in front of said partner, while also in a sexual context.
Gagging: Typically a form of sexual kink or BDSM dominant and submissive play, gagging is a consensual act, and is where a person is choked by a hand or object during sex.
Hand Job: This is when you use your hand to stimulate a penis-haver, often until they reach orgasm.
Hickey: This is a discoloration or bruise that occurs when you or your partner suck on a fleshy piece of skin (stereotypically on the neck), causing blood vessels to burst. Getting one isn’t harmful or dangerous, though they can be tender to the touch.
Labia: Sitting on both sides of the vaginal opening, labia are called the “vaginal lips.” They protect the genital organs and can also become flooded with blood when aroused, making them sensitive during sex.
Lube: Or “lubricant.” Lubricant is a (typically water- or silicone-based) liquid used during sex that can be put on a person’s genitals to reduce friction and thus, increase overall pleasure.
Masturbation: When a person self-stimulates their own genitals, sometimes finishing in an orgasm.
Mile-High Club: A person joins the fictional “mile-high club” when they have sex on an airplane.
MILF: This is an acronym that stands for “mother I’d like to f*ck.”
Missionary: A sex position where one person lies on their back while the other is on top of them, thrusting or grinding onto or into them.
Motorboating: When you put your face in between two breasts and blow with your mouth or lips, making a the sound of, you guessed it, a motorboat.
Nipple Clamps: Sex toys that are designed to gently clip to your nipples for both visual purposes and nipple stimulation. (The nipples have over 2,000 nerve endings each, making them a powerful tool for reaching orgasm.)
Orbiting: When your ex-partner continues to stay present in your life by liking your social media posts, watching your social media stories, etc., all with the goal of reminding you they’re still around or sexually available.
Orgy: Group sex with multiple partners. For example, it can be in the form of a party where there are lots of people all engaging in various sex acts together.
Pansexual: A sexual orientation where you are emotionally, romantically, or sexually attracted to people of any gender identity. Pansexual comes from the Greek word “pan,” which means “all.”
Pearl Necklace: When a person with a penis has an orgasm and ejaculates onto their partner’s chest area, which supposedly resembles the look of a pearl necklace.
Pegging: When a non-penis-having-person performs penetrative sex with a partner while using a dildo strap-on. (This act is typically associated with heterosexual relationships.)
Period Sex: When you have sex while also menstruating or with a menstruating person.
Pregnant Sex: When you have sex while pregnant or with a pregnant person.
Quickie: Having sex in a fast or speedy manner, usually with no foreplay or aftercare.
Queefing: A noise that can come out of your vagina during sex. (And yep, it can sound like a fart.) It’s when air is released from the vagina suddenly, and the sound is loud enough to notice. There is nothing wrong with queefing, and it is scentless.
Rainbow Kiss: This act typically involves a penis-having person and a vulva-having person, but there are variations to it. A rainbow kiss is when a person with a vulva receives oral sex on their period and a person with a penis receives typical oral sex. Once both parties orgasm, the “rainbow kiss” is when you take period blood and semen into your respective mouths and mix them together during your kiss.
Reverse-Cowgirl: Like regular cowgirl position sex, except the person on top is facing the opposite direction, meaning their partner will see their butt instead of their front.
Rimming: This is a kind of oral sex that involves one partner putting their mouth on another’s anus area.
Rough Sex: While people’s personal definitions of “rough” can vary, this term typically involves sex that incorporates certain forms of BDSM play or aggressive play and dirty talk.
Rusty Trombone: When someone performs both a rim job and a hand job at the same time.
Safe Word: This is a pre-determined word that partners use during sex to signal an end to the activity, no questions asked. In short, it tells your consenting partner that you’ve reached your personal limits and that you’d like to stop in the moment, when you might not have the wherewithal to communicate that in other words.
Sex-repulsed: This refers to someone that finds sex disgusting and revolting. Similar to any other repulsion, someone who experiences being sex-repulsed would not want to watch sex, have sex, talk about, or think about sex.
Shrimping: Sucking on a partner’s toes.
Situationship: This is an umbrella term for relationships that don’t hit the “officially dating” stage and oftentimes fall in the areas between hooking up, friendship, crushing, or hanging out with feelings involved.
Sixty-Nine (69): A sex position where two people give each other oral sex at the same time.
Spooning: Lying down butt-to-back, when one person hugs the other from behind, cuddling and spooning them close into their chest. Partners can also have penetrative sex in the spooning position.
Squirting: When liquid comes out of a person’s vagina. (FYI: Sometimes, it’s watered down pee.) This act is typically associated with orgasm.
Strap-On: A sex toy that includes a harness you wear around the hips and a dildo or vibrator that attaches into the harness. A strap-on is typically worn by non-penis-havers as a way to engage in penetrative sex.
Submarining: This is when an ex-partner reappears in your life and tries to act like nothing occurred since you last interacted.
Tea Bagging: When someone with a penis puts their scrotum (a.k.a. balls) into the face or mouth of another person while standing, hovering, or kneeling over them.
Temperature Play: A consensual form of BDSM play that uses heat or cold temps to heighten the senses. For example, using hot wax or a cold ice cube on a person’s body for arousal.
Thigh Job: When someone uses their thighs to stimulate a person’s genitals. The sex act is similar to a hand job or a foot job, but you use the thighs instead.
Threesome: When three people engage in sexual activity, often including penetration, together at the same time.
Vibrator: This is a sex toy that vibrates and can help bring a person to orgasm. You can use it externally, or you can insert it into the anus or vagina, depending on the toy’s safety instructions.