A to Z of Sex

Last updated:

By Steve Page

Age of Consent

The age at which it is legal to have sex. In the UK the age of consent is 16 years old for everyone. The law is there to protect young people rather than prosecute them, so if you are under 16, it’s highly unlikely to get into trouble as long as both partners consent (are happy) to have sex unless there is a large age difference between partners.


AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

HIV is not the same as AIDS.

AIDS is a medical condition. A person is diagnosed with AIDS when their immune system is too weak to fight off infections.

The term AIDS was first used by doctors when the exact nature of HIV was not fully understood. However, the term is no longer used.

Anal Sex

Penetration of the anus (bum hole/arse), is sometimes called buggery or sodomy. Anal sex can include penetration with a penis, finger or sex toy, rimming (stimulating the anus with the tongue) and fisting (putting a hand into the arse).

Sexually transmitted infections can be passed on and caught through anal sex

Bacterial Vaginosis

Often called BV, bacterial vaginosis is a bacterial infection and not a sexually transmitted infection.


Men or women who are attracted to either gender.

Casual Sex

Sex outside of a romantic relationship, generally sex with no emotional ties, can also be a one night stand.


Very common sexually transmitted infection (STI) caught by men and women through vaginal, anal and oral sex as well as sexual intimacy.

Many people don’t get symptoms, men may get pain when urinating (pee) and some women can experience irregular bleeding and unusual discharge.

In women, if Chlamydia goes undetected for a long time it can cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) which can lead to pelvic pain, blocked fallopian tubes and infertility.


Condoms are a barrier method to stop infection spreading and a method of contraception, which means they prevent the sperm meeting an egg. There are male and female condoms.

Male condoms go over the erect penis. They should be used before any close genital contact.

  • Sex toys
  • Oral sex
  • Penetrative sex between men
  • Penetrative sex between men and women.

Female condoms are put into the vagina and line it when in place. The closed end of the condom is inserted high into the vagina and the outer open ring sits just outside the vagina.

Dental dam

Dental dams are thin squares of latex rubber or silicone and are used for protection during oral sex. They are held over the vagina or anus allowing oral sex to occur without skin contact or transmitting bodily fluid which greatly reduces the chances of contracting a sexually transmitted infection.


A dildo is a sex toy usually shaped like a penis without batteries which is used for vaginal and anal stimulation. A sex toy shaped like a penis with batteries is a vibrator.


It is normal for all women to have vaginal discharge as it keeps the vagina moist and clean by getting rid of dead cells and bacteria. Discharge is different for all women; it can have a faint smell, be thick and white or clear and stringy – all of these are normal and it can often change throughout the month especially when women ovulate. Most women know what normal discharge is for them. However if it smells unpleasant, makes you itch, or looks an unusual colour or texture, this can be sign of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or a vaginal infection.

It is not normal for men to have penile discharge, if you are a male with discharge it is important to seek advice as it is likely you have a sexually transmitted infection.



Men ejaculate semen which contains sperm from the tip of the penis when they orgasm. Some women also ejaculate sexual fluids at orgasm. An average ejaculation contains 200-300 million sperm. It only takes one to make someone pregnant!


Hard on/Boner/Stiffy

This is when a mans penis gets bigger and hard when he is sexually excited.


It relates to both men and women and describes the ability of someone to have children. In women it relates to the ability to have children and in men it relates to the ability to make a woman pregnant. If you are unable to have children or make a woman pregnant you are described as infertile.


Is a form of masturbation where men and women use their fingers to sexually stimulate the vagina and/or anus.


Is where men and women use their fist to penetrate the vagina and/or anus.


Is a term used to describe any sexual contact leading up to sexual penetration.


A very sexually sensitive area, believed to be on the inner vaginal front wall for a women and in the prostate gland in the anus for a man.



This is a term that describes someone who is attracted to someone of the same sex as themselves.


Are the male and female sex organs such as the penis and the vagina.


Is a common and easily treatable sexually transmitted infection. Most women have no symptoms however in men symptoms can be an unusual discharge and pain when urinating.

GUM Clinic

GUM stands for Genito Urinary Medicine and the clinics offer free confidential testing and are usually attached to a hospital. They are often referred to as Hospital based Sexual Health Clinics.



Term applied to people who are attracted to people of the opposite sex.


HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. See What is HIV?

HIV gradually destroys an infected person’s immune system. The immune system is what protects a person from infections and diseases. Someone with HIV may eventually have problems with certain diseases and cancers that would not normally affect a healthy individual.

No drugs completely cure the HIV infection however with early diagnosis treatment can keep the HIV virus under control and the immune system healthy. People on HIV treatment can live a long and healthy, active life.


This is where a man cannot get or keep an erection.


A female attracted to other women.


Libido is a persons sex-drive.


A slippery liquid you can put on the penis, vagina, anus or fingers to reduce friction and increase pleasure during sex. Women when sexually aroused produce a natural vaginal lubricant.


Wanking/playing with yourself

A sexual pleasure you can give yourself or a partner by stimulating the genitals to achieve an orgasm.

It can involve stroking and rubbing the clitoris in a woman and the penis in a man.

Everyone does it differently and sex toys may be used.

Masturbation is extremely normal and it is not bad for your health.

Men that sleep with men

Is a term given to men that have sex or have had sex with another man or other men but are not or do not see themselves as gay or bi-sexual.

Mutual Masturbation

This is where people masturbate each other.

It is ideal to be aware that you may contract a sexually transmitted infection from the fluid from another person if it gets into your genital area, eyes or mouth.

Oral Sex

Male oral sex is also known as Blow Job, giving head, going down on and sucking off.

Female oral sex is also known as going down on and licking out.

Oral sex is when you stimulate your partners genital area with your mouth, lips or tongue. This could involve sucking or licking their penis (cock/dick), vagina (fanny), clitoris (clit) or anus (bum).

You can catch or pass on some sexually transmitted infections through oral sex.


An orgasm is an intense sensation of sexual pleasure that both men and women can have.


Pelvic Inflammatory Disease is when the fallopian tubes in a woman are damaged causing partial or complete blockage. This can then lead to problems with fertility and increased risk of ectopic pregnancy.

It is caused by an infection in the vagina or cervix. It can be a bacterial infection or a sexually transmitted bacterial infection like Chlamydia. If someone has chlamydia or gonorrhoea and it’s left untreated, it can lead to PID. Symptoms of PID can include unusual discharge, bleeding between periods, sickness and pain during sex.

Pre Cum

This is also known as pre-come or pre-ejaculation. When a man gets an erection his penis releases a tiny amount of clear fluid called pre-cum. This liquid can contain thousands of sperm and can get a girl pregnant even if the man does not ejaculate (cum). Pre-cum can also contain bacteria which can cause infection.

Pubic Lice


Pubic lice can be passed on from close body contact with someone who has them or from sharing clothing, bedding or towels. They are found in pubic hair, underarm hair, leg hair, chests, beards and eyebrows but, unlike head lice, they don’t live in the hair on top of your head.

They make you itch and you may find black powdery droppings in your underwear or tiny brown eggs in your pubic hair or other hair on your body. A doctor can prescribe a special lotion or shampoo to treat pubic lice.


For the criminal offence of rape to have been committed the victim must have been penetrated without consent in the vagina, anus or mouth with a penis, or continued to be penetrated with a penis in any of these areas after consent was withdrawn.

If rape is committed in the above ways with something other than a penis then the offence is assault by penetration.

Both men and women can be, and are, victims of rape.


Stimulation of the anus or bum hole with the tongue.

Sexual Intercourse

People have different ideas of what constitutes sex. Sexual intercourse used to be defined as when a man penetrates a woman’s vagina with his penis but more often it is generally accepted as being when the vagina or anus is penetrated by a man or woman.


The word sexuality is used to define your sexual preferences or whether you are straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or other. A young person’s sexuality is important to their sense of identity.



Semen is the fluid which contains sperm. When a sperm comes into contact with an egg it may fertilise the egg and the woman may become pregnant.

Sperm can live inside a woman for up to 7 days.


This stands for sexually transmitted infection, which are infections passed on during sexual activity.


Syphilis is a bacterial sexually transmitted infection (STI). It develops in three stages and symptoms can include sores where the bacteria entered the body, usually the genitals, and a non-itchy rash that can develop over the entire body.

Syphilis is easily treated with antibiotics but, if it is left untreated after many years it can cause serious damage to the heart, brain, eyes and nervous system. In some cases, it can lead to death.



The testicles are located in the scrotum or ball bag. Testicles produce sperm and are very sensitive. Men should check their testicles regularly for any lumps or change in shape or feel.


The word vagina is commonly used to refer to the female genital area generally. It is actually the canal leading from the vulva (the outside part of the genital area) to the cervix (the neck of the womb).