A lot of these words or terms may sound scary, but they're really not. Learn as much as you can about the "A to Z" of sexual health. It won't just help your scrabble game, it will keep you healthy as well!
Intheknowpeel.ca - sexual health information you can trust.
Abstinence: Choosing not to have any kind sexual activity - this includes vaginal, oral and anal sex.
AIDS: An acronym for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS attacks the immune system so that the body can't fight off infection. There's no cure or vaccine for this STI. AIDS is fatal.
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV): BV is a very common vaginal infection. Small amounts of bacteria in the vagina grow more than normal which results in a strange smelling vaginal discharge. BV is not often found in men.
Birth Control Pill (or "the pill"): The birth control pill is an oral contraceptive that a woman takes to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. It prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg each month and makes the mucus in the cervix (opening of the uterus) thicker so that it's harder for sperm to travel into the cervix.
Chlamydia: This is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and is very common among teenagers and young adults. It's caused by bacteria and is spread by having unprotected sex (vaginal, anal, or oral) with someone who is infected, even though they may not have any symptoms.
Clitoris: A sensitive pea-sized organ that is right above the urethra in women. The clitoris -- or ‘clit' -- gets bigger and more sensitive when it's touched, or when a woman has sexual thoughts or feelings. The clitoris plays an important part in a woman's sexual arousal and orgasm.
Coming out: This term is taken from the phrase "coming out of the closet." It's when a gay man or woman decides to be honest and open about his or her sexuality, and "comes out" to friends and family.
Contraception: Using a form of birth control like condoms or 'the pill' to prevent pregnancy.
Contraceptive Foam: This is a method of birth control used by women. It's put into the vagina before the sex act. The foam contains a spermicide that kills sperm. it covers the folds in the vagina and forms a barrier between the sperm and the egg.
Dental Dam: This is a square piece of thin latex (like a condom) that is used to prevent the spread of STIs when performing oral sex on an anal or vaginal opening. It is stretched across the anal opening or a woman's vagina to prevent the exchange of body fluids like blood, semen or vaginal fluids.
Depo-Provera: This is a form of birth control used by women. Women get an injection of 'Depo' every 12 weeks to prevent pregnancy.
Diaphragm: This is a form of birth control used by women. It's a soft, thin, domed-shaped rubber (latex) cup with a flexible rim that is inserted into the vagina to cover the cervix. It comes in different sizes.
Double standard: An unequal set of standards, rules or expectations that gives one group more rights or privileges than another group. For instance, throughout history, it's been morally okay for a guy to have sex before marriage, but not for a woman. That's a double standard.
Emergency Contraceptive Pill (ECP): This is also known as the 'morning after pill'. ECP is a prescription hormone pill that prevents pregnancy if taken within 72 hours after having unprotected sexual intercourse.
Female circumcision: This is the removal of a girl's clitoral hood, clitoris, and/or labia. In some countries and cultures, it's accepted. In others, like Canada, it's not and is seen as a form of female genital mutilation.
Genital Herpes: This is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that affects about one in five adults. There are two types:
- Type 1 – generally causes sores on or near the mouth (cold sores)
- Type 2 – usually causes sores on the genitals
Gonorrhea: This is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) sometimes referred to as 'the clap.' It's caused by bacteria and is spread by having unprotected sex (vaginal, anal, or oral) with someone who is infected, even though they may not have any symptoms.
Hepatitis B: 'Hep B' is a virus that can cause a serious infection of the liver. Some people who get Hepatitis B don't know they have it because they never feel sick.
Hepatitis C: The Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is one of several viruses that cause hepatitis. It can lead to chronic liver disease like cirrhosis or scarring of the liver, liver cancer and liver failure.
HIV: Human Immunodeficiency Virus – The virus that causes AIDS.
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV): This is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI), also known as genital warts. These warts may grow on your penis, anus, and inside or outside of the vagina.
Hymen: A thin, fleshy tissue that covers the opening of the vagina. It can be broken or stretched during regular physical activity, even before you start having sex. It may tear and bleed a little when you have sex for the first time if it hasn't broken or stretched up until then. Historically, the breaking of a woman or girl's hymen is the moment she "loses her virginity."
Intrauterine Device (IUD): An IUD is a form of birth control used by women. The most common IUD is T-shaped and has thin plastic strings attached to it which hang through the cervix into the vagina. It slows down the sperm to prevent fertilization of the egg, and changes the lining of the uterus so that the egg does not attach to the uterine wall.
Lubricant (or lube): A thick liquid or gel that is used inside or outside of condoms (male and female) and dental dams to make sex more comfortable and enjoyable. If you're having anal sex, make sure to use lots of lubricant. You should also use water-based lubricants only because oil-based lubricants - like Vaseline, mineral oil, baby oil, vegetable oil, massage oil, etc - can break down the latex used in condoms.
Lymphogranuloma Venereum ( LGV): This is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a certain type of Chlamydia. Chlamydia is another STI that is very common and easily spread. While LGV occurs throughout the world, it's been quite rare in Canada – until recently. Since the start of 2004, more than 20 cases of LGV have been found in Canada.
Masturbation: A form of sexual pleasure where a person touches or rubs his or her own genital area -- penis or clitoris. It can be done alone or with someone else. If two people masturbate with each other, it's called mutual masturbation.
‘Morning after' pill: It's clinically known as the Emergency Contraceptive Pill (ECP). Emergency contraception is taken within 72 hours of unprotected sexual intercourse in order to reduce the chances of pregnancy.
Orgasm: A term used to describe the height of sexual arousal for men and women. It's sometimes called a ‘climax.' Men usually ejaculate (cum) during an orgasm and some women release a fluid when they reach orgasm.
Pap Test: A test that is used to detect changes in the cells of a woman's cervix . Changes in a woman's cervix can be an early sign of cancer. It's important to get a Pap Test every year whether or not you're having sex.
Pre-ejaculate: This is the liquid that comes out of the penis during the sexual arousal period before ejaculation. Pre-ejaculate does contain semen and bacteria, so if you're having sex and not wearing a condom, a woman can get pregnant or a partner can get an STI .
Pubic Lice (crabs): Pubic lice, also known as 'Crabs,' are a certain form of lice. They are flat-backed, wingless, and greyish-white or reddish-brown in colour. Crabs are usually found in the pubic area where they attach to the short, coarse pubic hair. You can get crabs when you have sex with a person who has crabs or by sharing bedding, towels or clothing with a person who has it.
Scabies: Scabies is a very itchy rash caused by tiny insects (itch mites) that burrow or dig under the skin. You get scabies by skin-to-skin contact like shaking hands, dancing, sharing clothes, bedding or towels and of course by sexual contact. Scabies can affect anyone and is not just found in unclean situations.
Spermicides: Chemicals used to kill or slow sperm down in order to prevent pregnancy. Birth control methods like the sponge, contraceptive foam and vaginal contraceptive film contain spermicides. The male condom may or may not contain spermicides – check the package.
Sponge: This is a form of birth control used by women. It's a small round sponge made of foam. It's latex- and hormone-free. It's inserted into the vagina before sex and contains spermicides that kill sperm.
Syphilis: Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by bacteria that enters the blood stream through the eyes, mouth, vagina, anus or broken skin. If left untreated, it can cause serious health problems.
Transdermal Contraceptive Patch (the Patch): This is a form of birth control, often called 'the Patch,' that is used by women. It's a 4cm square patch that women wear on their body for one week at a time.
Unprotected sex: Having sex without using some form of birth control and/or protection against STIs .
Withdrawal: This is the act of pulling the penis out of the vagina before ejaculation occurs in order to prevent pregnancy. It's also called 'pulling out.' This method offers no protection against STIs -- including HIV/AIDS . Pre-ejaculate does contain semen and bacteria, so if you're having sex and not wearing a condom, a woman can still get pregnant or your partner can still get an STI.
Yeast infection: This is a very common fungus that lives in small amounts in a woman's vagina. If too much yeast grows, it can cause itching, burning, a white discharge and painful sex. Some men can also have symptoms, but it's rare.