Sex Dictionary

April 21st, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

This is a Dictionary of  all the terms used in the field of sexology, sexuality and sex education.

Dictionary of Sexology

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A

aberration. (lat. the action or condition of erring on the wrong side) Originally a term used in medieval theology to describe heresy, i.e. “false religious belief”. Later applied by doctors to “false sexual behavior”. However, since objective criteria do not exist in the realm of human behavior, the term is simply a value judgement and as such unscientific (see also “deviation” and “perversion”)

abnormal behavior. This term denotes sexual behavior of which the speaker disapproves. The norm implied here, however, is his own value system, not some objective criterion. There are no objective norms for human behavior to be found in nature. There are only man-made moral norms more or less widely accepted in society.

abortifacient. (lat. something that produces an abortion) A liquid, herbal mixture, chemical, drug or other agent which induces or is believed to induce an abortion.

abortion. (lat.) The term is applicable to both the unintentional and the intentional premature termination of a pregnancy. The unintentional termination of a pregnancy is called abortion if it occurs within the first 4 months; after that time it is usually called miscarriage. However, this distinction is not always strictly observed, and sometimes the terms “abortion” and “miscarriage” are used interchangeably. The popular use of the term “abortion” normally restricts itself to the intentional termination by means of drugs or surgery of an unwanted pregnancy, an issue with numerous social, medical, legal, and moral implications.

abstinence. (lat.) Avoidance of certain substances (such as foods or drugs) or of certain activities (such as masturbation or sexual intercourse). Sexual abstinence can be the result of a voluntary decision, when for certain reasons a person decides that sexual activity is inappropriate at a given time or place. Abstinence can also be forced and involuntary (for example, in prison, army barracks, or hospital). Finally, sexual abstinence can stem from a conscious or unconscious fear of sex.

acceleration (lat. speeding up) of physical development. As compared to the last century, the physical and emotional development of teenagers has accelerated considerably. Today most 14-year-olds are taller than their ancestors of the same age were a 100 or even 50 years ago. It is also no longer unusual that boys and girls experience their first ejaculation or first menstruation at the age of 10. Generally, the sexual development of young people today presents a much less uniform picture than it did in the past.

Adam’s apple. Colloquial term for the male larynx, which usually protrudes from the front of the neck. One of the secondary male sexual characteristics.

addiction, sexual. This term was created in analogy to “drug addiction”. It is used to describe sexual behavior that is overly intensive or extensive, therefore “proof of an addiction”. However, this semantic maneuver is all too convenient. It paints too many different things with the same brush and, by the same token, blocks the insight into the manifold real causes of habitual, compulsive, unsatisfactory, foolish, egotistical, self-destructive, inconsiderate and aggressive sexual behavior. Furthermore, some especially vigorous sexual behavior may be condemned as “addictive” by envious individuals with lesser sexual needs. The belief in the existence of a “sex addiction” also leads to questionable assumptions about the necessity, form, duration, and goal of therapeutic interventions.

adolescence. The period between the beginning of puberty and adulthood. The phenomenon of adolescence as we know it today is the result of certain social and historical developments. “Pre-civilized” cultures do not know an adolescence in the modern sense of the word, but use so-called puberty or initiation rites by which they confer the status of adults on their children as soon as these have reached a certain age (usually between 12 and 14 years). This means that, in these cultures, the period of transition from childhood to adulthood is very short. The same was true for our own culture in ancient times. The traditional customs from that period live on in contemporary religious ceremonies, such as the bar mitzwah and the Catholic and Protestant confirmations. However, with the development and growing complexity of civilization, the transitional period between puberty and adulthood has gradually become longer until, as in many contemporary societies, it now extends well over 10 years and more. It is not impossible that, in the future, the period of adolescence will last even longer. As is obvious from this short sketch, adolescence is less a biological than a cultural phenomenon.

adultery. Sexual intercourse between partners of whom at least one is married to someone else. According to certain religious views, all sexual relationships outside of marriage are considered adulterous, including not only premarital intercourse and self-pleasuring (masturbation), but even sexual desires, dreams, and fantasies of married partners which are not directed towards their own spouses. However, it seems more sensible to restrict the use of the word “adultery” to cases where certain acts or attitudes actually threaten an existing marriage. Such a threat case result not only from irresponsible sexual behavior, but also from other forms of neglect, egotism, jealousy, and unfairness.

agape. (gr. love or charity) Non-sexual love, i.e. a selfless love for one’s neighbor. The greatest of the Christian virtues.

algolagnia. (gr. enjoyment of pain) Misleading term for masochism, which is not so much the enjoyment of pain as the enjoyment of being submissive to a dominant sexual partner. An aspect of this submission may very well be the enjoyment of pain.

alimony. Traditionally, the payments that a husband has to make to his former wife after a divorce. Also the allowance payable in the case of a legal separation. Alimony was once the exclusive privilege of women. However, in recent years, there have been cases where courts have ordered women to pay alimony to their former husbands. This is a sign of the growing equality of the sexes.

ambisexual (adjective and noun. from Latin “ambo”: both, andsexus”: sex). Literally translated, the term means that the person in question is erotically attracted to members of both sexes. An ambisexual is a man who falls in love with women as well as with other men, or a woman who falls in love with men as well as with other women.

ambisexuality. This term is used for the sexual disposition of people who are neither exclusively heterosexual nor exclusively homosexual in their desires or responses. In popular language, the terms “ambisexual” and “ambisexuality” are often replaced by the terms “bisexual” and “bisexuality,” a usage that can lead to confusion.

amenorrhea. (gr.) Lack of menstrual bleeding in females after puberty.

amor lesbicus. (lat.) Lesbian love. Sexual love between women.

anal intercourse. Sexual intercourse by inserting the penis into the rectum (anus). Since the rectum is normally one of the erogenous zones, many people enjoy anal intercourse. However, some others may vehemently reject it, considering it disgusting or dirty. In the final analysis, its appropriateness depends entirely on the judgment and understanding of the partners involved. However, in many states of the USA it is illegal, even between husband and wife.

androgynous. (adj. from gr. andros = man and gyne = woman) Having both male and female characteristics.

andrology. (gr. from andros = man) Branch of medicine specializing in problems of the male sexual and reproductive organs. Corresponding to “gynecology” (from gyne = woman), the branch of medicine specializing in problems of the female sexual and reproductive organs.

anejaculation. (gr. lack of ejaculation) A medical term referring to a male orgasm without ejaculation. This can happen in the following cases: 1. The male has not yet reached puberty and thus does not yet produce semen. 2. There have been several previous ejaculations within a short time and the supply of semen is temporarily exhausted. 3. There is, in fact, an ejaculation, but not to the outside, but into the bladder (“retrograde ejaculation”, see there). 4. (very rare:) There is some malformation of the prostate or some clogging of vessels, in which case a urologist should be consulted who will search for the exact cause.

anilinctus (sometimes also falsely “anilingus”) Licking of the rectal opening. The rectum is usually one of the erogenous zones, and some men and women therefore engage in anilinctus, either as a foreplay to anal intercourse, or for its own sake as one of many possible forms of intimate physical contact. There are people who have strong personal reservations against anilinctus, just as against cunnilinctus and fellatio. However, the ultimate evaluation of these sexual practices depends entirely on the attitude of the sexual partners involved. It must be pointed out, however, that, unless caution is exercised and the most scrupulous cleanliness is observed, anilinctus can lead to the transmission of intestinal parasites, bacteria, and viruses, resulting in serious illnesses.

anorgasmia. (gr.) Lack of orgasm.

anorgasmic. (adj. gr.) without orgasm. The term is usually applied to women who either (1.) cannot reach orgasm during coitus or (2.) cannot reach it through any sexual activity at all. (The first case is not uncommon, the second is rare.)

anorexia nervosa. (gr. u. lat.) An eating disorder in females usually occurring during puberty. An unreasonable and unjustified fear of being or becoming fat prompts a refusal to eat enough, leading to a dramatic weight loss and very serious health problems, even to death.

anovulation. (gr. and lat.) Lack of ovulation.

aphrodisiac (after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love). A substance intended to increase sexual desire and potency. No foods, drinks, or chemicals can increase the capacity for love, or restore it where it has been impaired, or create it where it has failed to develop. However, it is possible to influence a person’s physical reactions. There are, for instance, special diets that can build general physical strength and endurance. There are also certain natural substances and artificial drugs (like sildenafil) that can increase blood circulation in the sex organs. This, in turn, may facilitate an erection. Alcohol can reduce or remove emotional inhibitions. Certain drugs can heighten a person’s sensory perception or alter the state of his consciousness. Such effects may indeed help some people to establish sexual contact or to deepen their sexual experiences, but there is nothing automatic about such responses. Equally uncertain is the effect of additional hormones. Temporary abstinence can occasionally build up sexual energies and, for a time, result in increased sexual activity. The most obvious and effective aphrodisiac is an attractive sexual partner. His or her body, talk, gestures – in short, the partner’s individuality and love – are the strongest stimulants for sexual desire. They are also the basis for a continuing, rewarding relationship. The entire range of behavior that sexual partners develop towards each other contains innumerable stimuli which act as aphrodisiacs, and which give each sexual relationship its particular character. Some people have also coined the term “anaphrodisiac,” meaning a substance that reduces or even eliminates sexual desire. Over the years, a number of such substances have been developed by the pharmaceutical industry, and they are being used for the treatment of certain violent sex offenders.

areola mammae. The ring around the breast nipples, darker than the rest of the skin.

artificial birth control. Opposite of “natural birth control” (see there). The speaker usually means “contraception”, not birth control (see there). In any case, the distinction between artificial and natural is, in this case, based on religious beliefs and value judgements, not on objective criteria. Scientifically, the terms are meaningless, because, objectively speaking, any means of contraception is as natural or artificial as any other. Even the so-called “natural” means of contraception involve careful observation and calculation as well as the use of “artificial” tools such as calendar and/or thermometer. All forms of contraception use the knowledge of certain laws of nature to prevent certain other laws of nature from taking effect.

artificial insemination. A simple procedure in which a doctor injects male semen into a woman’s uterus by means of a fine tube. Artificial insemination is sometimes performed in cases where a married woman fails to conceive because of certain malfunctions of her sexual organs or the subfertility (insufficient fertility) of her husband or male partner. Artificial insemination may also be considered by couples in certain cases of involuntary separation, since sperm can be preserved and stored in so-called “sperm banks.” The sperm used in artificial insemination, which is gained by self-masturbation, is usually that of the husband. However, if he is sterile, the sperm of an anonymous donor is used. In recent years, female couples who wanted children have also used artificial insemination by anonymous donors or even by male friends known to them.

asceticism. Renunciation of pleasure in favor of some special goal. In a sense, we are all ascetics. Every life offers more possibilities than can be explored. Everyone has to restrict himself and constantly has to give up something in order to get something else. There is an inescapable, permanent, and occasionally frustrating necessity to make selections. In short, our lives are made up of innumerable individual choices according to some basic set of priorities. In everyday language, however, the term “asceticism” is often used for the renunciation of comfort and luxury, or for abstinence from sexual pleasure.

asexual. (adj.) Non-sexual; without sex. Generally speaking, the term should not be applied to a person, since every man and woman is a sexual being. However, there are some individuals who, in their entire lives, never show any interest in sexual activity. In these very few cases, the term could be a suitable characterization of their personalities. The word “asexual” also provides a useful description of kinds of behavior which do not have or which seek to avoid any overt sexual implications. For example, there is an asexual way of describing human reproduction by concentrating on the biological facts without reference to the feelings of the man and the woman involved. There are also asexual relationships between men and women, such as professional cooperation at work. In fact, the ability of both sexes to engage in asexual relationships for the sake of some objective social goal is important for a healthy society.

asexual (noun). An individual who has no interest in sexual intercourse of any kind and does not feel sexually attracted to others. In recent years, there has been a movement to organize such individuals as a sexual minority. Its activists claim “asexuality” as a distinct sexual orientation or a separate gender identity, but this is disputed by others. In any case, many asexuals feel ignored, misunderstood, and, to a certain degree, even opressed, since the world around them does not take them seriously. By trying to find strength in numbers, they hope to escape the pressure to conform. How large such a potential minority might turn out to be is anybody’s guess. One study has estimated ca. 1% of the population, but it will take much more research before such a figure can be confirmed In any case, asexuality is, like much else in human sexuality, a matter of degree. Some self-described asexuals may have some limited sexual interests after all. As it is now, the term covers very different things, from sexual aversion and absent or low sexual desire to inhibition and partial or complete repression. Some individuals may simply be delayed in their physical development. Indeed, age may be an important factor. For this reason alone it is difficult to arrive at precise figures.

asexuality, the condition of being asexual (see there).

autoeroticism. (gr. self-love) A term sometimes used for self-pleasuring (masturbation).

autofellatio. (gr. and lat.) Self-sucking of the penis. Requires unusual physical dexterity. Only ca. 1 in 100 males can do it.

automutilation. (gr. and lat.) Self-mutilation. In a sexological context, the term is usually applied to a person’s self-mutilation of the sex organs or erogenous zones which provides him or her with some sort of sexual excitement or satisfaction.

aversion therapy. A highly questionable form of therapy in which “undesirable” sexual desires or responses are linked to unpleasant stimuli (such as electric shocks, or induced vomiting). This treatment assumes that the unpleasant or painful experiences will, with sufficient repetition, become associated with the sexual responses and thus help to suppress them. The “success” of the treatment has always been dubious at best. Moreover, in the past, aversion therapy has been used in cases in which it was clearly unethical and unjustified (homosexuality, transvestism).

azoospermia. (gr.) Lack of mature sperm cells in the ejaculate (semen). One of the causes can be a blockage in the spermatic duct. Another, less common, cause can be a lack of sperm production (“spermatogenesis”, see there).

B

basal temperature. Body temperature taken early in the morning while still resting. This temperature varies with the course of the menstrual cycle, a variation that is used to determine a woman’s fertile and infertile days in the “rhythm method” of contraception (see “rhythm method”).

bastard. A child born out of wedlock (formerly also called an “illegitimate child”). The word “bastard” was once a neutral term which could be used in normal, polite conversation. In the meantime, however, it has degenerated into a highly derogatory and offensive term, which is now often used without regard for its original meaning. On the other hand, depending on the context, the word “bastard” can also become almost a term of endearment (“the poor bastard”).

bestiality. Sexual contact with animals.

bigamist. A person who is married to two people at the same time.

bigamy. Marriage to two spouses at the same time (one husband having two wives or one wife having two husbands.)

birth control. This broad term should be used only in cases where births are to be prevented by any means available, including abortion. Unfortunately, it is often used interchangeably with “contraception”, but this is wrong. Contraception prevents only conceptions, i.e. pregnancies, and it is therefore a much more restrictive and precise term.

bisexual. (lat. adjective and noun) A term with several different meanings: 1 Humans, like other mammals, are a bisexual species, i.e. they are a species with two sexes – male and female. 2. The human body is, in some ways, bisexual, i.e. each sex shows certain characteristics of the other (the male breast also has nipples, although it produces no milk; some females have strongly developed prostatic glands, i.e. the paraurethral glands; the sex organs of males and females develop from the same embryonic cell mass and have a number of homologous structures). 3. A person who is erotically attracted to both sexes (noun) or the description of a sexual orientation toward both sexes (adj.). The third meaning is better conveyed by the less confusing term “ambisexual”, see there).

bisexuality. (lat.) Sexual orientation toward both sexes, erotic attraction to both males and females. Better: “ambisexuality”, see there).

brothel. A house or large apartment where people can rent sexual partners for money and where the sexual contact takes place right on the premises.

C

carezza. (also “karezza” or “coitus reservatus“) A form of sexual intercourse during which the man and the woman remain motionless for a long time, as soon as the penis has entered the vagina. Some women are said to experience several orgasms this way, while men do not try to reach, and generally do not have an orgasm. Instead, they derive satisfaction from the prolonged duration of the sexual union. Since there is no ejaculation of sperm, carezza has sometimes been recommended as a method of contraception. However, it cannot be considered reliable, since it obviously demands a great deal of self-control from both partners. Already known in ancient India, carezza was introduced to the modern Western world by the Oneida community, a 19th century American experimental commune and spiritual group whose members put great emphasis on the union of souls.

castration. Removal. or loss of the sex glands (the testicles in men; the ovaries in women). A castration results in infertility and causes a number of other physiological and psychological changes because of a drastic reduction sex hormones. However, it is possible to make up for this loss to a certain extent by hormone injections, although fertility cannot be restored. The surgical removal of the sex glands is sometimes necessitated by injury or disease. Castration should not be confused with sterilization (see there). It is not always certain that a castration in adulthood ends a man’s sexual capacity, although in most cases it will significantly reduce it over time. However, while it may greatly weaken his sexual urges, it will not redirect his sexual orientation or change his sexual interests.

castrato. (ital.) A type of opera singer common in the 18th century. Musically gifted boys with beautiful voices were castrated before puberty, i.e. before their voice changed and then given a rigorous musical training. Some of them became famous opera stars in adulthood, combining very high, female-type voices with a male strength of tone. The greatest composers of the time (Handel, Hasse, and Mozart) wrote operas for them. The most famous castrato, Farinelli, even held a politically influential position at the Spanish royal court. Today, if the operas in question are performed at all, the castrato roles are assigned to female altos or mezzo sopranos or to male countertenors. Neither can recapture the sound of the music as it was originally conceived and performed.

celibacy. The state of being unmarried for professional or institutional reasons. The term is most often used in connection with the fact that Roman Catholic priests and members of most religious orders take a vow to remain unmarried and to lead a life of “chastity”, i.e. sexual abstinence.

cervical cap. A mechanical means of contraception similar to a diaphragm, but smaller and more difficult to apply. The cervical cap can be inserted only by a doctor, which greatly complicates its use. On the other hand, once capping the cervix, it has the advantage of being able to remain in place for up to a month at a time.

cervix. The neck of the uterus.

chastity. In everyday usage today, chastity simply means sexual abstinence. However, this is a modern, limited view which has given the term overtones of prudery. In a wider sense, chastity is an attitude of sexual responsibility resulting in concern and respect for one’s sexual partners, treating them as individuals in their own right, not as sexual objects to be used at one’s own convenience. A chaste person is considerate and sensitive to the sexual needs, hopes, and fears of others.

child abuse, sexual. An unfortunate term that seems to imply that there could be a “good” sexual “use” of a child. However, neither children nor adults should ever be used sexually. What is most often meant is something else: illegal sexual contact between adults and children.

circumcision. Surgical removal of foreskin from penis. Traditionally, Jews, Muslims, and many African peoples have circumcised boys in compliance with their religious laws and traditions. Among other religious groups or nations, circumcision of boys or adult men has also occasionally occurred for medical reasons when the foreskin proved too tight, inflamed, or infected. In the United States today, circumcision has become general practice, with the result that almost all American boys are routinely circumcised at an early age, usually at birth. However, in recent years, the issue has become controversial, as more and more objections to the practice are being raised, not only by doctors, but also by parents, who prefer their sons remaining uncircumcised. Occasionally, on also encounters the term “female circumcision”. This is a misnomer for clitoridectomy, i.e. cutting out of the clitoris, a much more radical operation than a mere circumcision.

climacteric. (gr. ladder rung) Menopause. Change of life in women, resulting from the gradual extinction of the reproductive capacities. The climacteric, which extends over a period of several years, usually begins towards the end of their fourth decade. It brings the gradual cessation of the menstrual flow and, finally, infertility. There may also be a number of other physiological and psychological changes. The sexual (as distinct from the reproductive) powers are not necessarily affected by the climacteric. According to some medical opinion, there is also a climacteric in men, which supposedly begins at the end of their fifth decade. However, there is no doubt that the resulting changes, if indeed they occur, are less pronounced in males.

climax. In sexology: Orgasm.

clitoris. (gr. that which is closed in) The female pleasure organ. The glans (head) of the clitoris, which is partly covered by a prepuce (foreskin) is considered one of the external female sex organs. It is situated at the upper frontal part of the vulva where the labia minora (inner lips) meet. The actual shaft of the clitoris extends further inside the body and then divides into two legs (forming a shape similar to the letter Y) , so that the clitoris as a whole is really an internal sex organ, more or less equal in size with the penis.

clitoridectomy. (gr.) Cutting out of the clitoris.

cohabitation. (lat. dwelling together) Misleading, if it is meant to refer to vaginal intercourse (coitus).

coition. (lat. going together) Coitus.

coitus. (lat. going together) Vaginal intercourse. Sexual intercourse by inserting the penis into the vagina.

coitus interruptus (lat. interrupted coitus) Withdrawal of penis from the vagina before ejaculation as a method of contraception. The term is misleading, because this ejaculation outside the vagina does not interrupt, but end the coitus. It would therefore be more precise to call it coitus abruptus. After all, it does not continue after this “interruption”. Of course, it is also quite possible to interrupt a coitus, i.e. to withdraw the penis temporarily from the vagina and then to continue the coitus after this interruption. However, the term “coitus interruptus” is not usually applied to this practice.

coitus reservatus. Medical term for karezza (see there).

commune. A commune is a modern form of the extended family and usually consists of several married and single adults and their children who pool their financial resources and share a house or an apartment. In some cases, the individual members retain their own rooms and their personal privacy. In other cases, they may develop a closer relationship, which may even include some form of group sex. In recent years, the shortcomings of the nuclear family have led many young people to experiment with communal living arrangements. However, not many experiments in communal living have been successful in the long run, since thus far few people have been able to develop the necessary democratic lifestyle.

conception. Beginning of pregnancy. A conception is the result of three sequential processes: 1. Fertilization of an egg, 2. segmentation and initial growth of the fertilized egg, and 3. implantation of the fertilized and segmented egg in the uterus. If any of these processes goes awry, there is no conception and no pregnancy.

concubine. In certain traditional polygamous societies, concubines were wives of minor rank and part of the household. In other societies they were simply acknowledged mistresses, usually living apart from the man’s family. Today, the term refers most often to a woman who lives with a married man in a relationship of “free love” and who therefore does not enjoy the social and legal privileges extended to a wife.

condom. A condom is made of thin rubber (latex) and is shaped like the finger of a glove. As it fits tightly over the penis, it prevents the sperm from entering the vagina. It also offers protection against infection with a sexually transmissible disease. Careful application can increase its effectiveness. There are also special condoms which increase the size of the penis, or which have a rough or irregular surface in order to provide greater vaginal stimulation (so-called “French ticklers”). So called “natural” condoms made of sheep gut do not offer effective protection against infections.

continence. A word sometimes used for sexual abstinence, but also for the ability to hold urine or feces. The loss of the latter ability is called incontinence.

contraception. Literally, the prevention of a conception. The term is used for methods or policies aimed at the avoidance of unwanted pregnancies. It is a more precise term than “birth control”.

contraceptive. Condom. Sometimes the term is also used to refer to other methods of contraception, such as IUDs, diaphragms, pills, etc.

conversion therapy. The term refers to the missionary work of psychiatrists who try to convert homosexuals to the “true faith” of heterosexuality. This is moralism masquerading as science, because the silent assumption that anyone should need this conversion is nothing but a religious value judgement or, to be more precise, a prejudice. Not surprisingly, the reverse has never been tried (psychiatrists have never tried to convert heterosexuals to homosexuality). History offers some illuminating examples of conversions, from the forced conversion of Jews to Christianity in 16th-century Spain to the voluntary conversion of Martin Luther from catholicism to protestantism. The converted Jews (sp. conversos) were generally suspected of lying and of secretly remaining true to Judaism. Martin Luther and other protestants were first declared outlaws and heretics, but, after long religious wars, they eventually could practice their new faith under any sovereign who shared it (in the latter case, it was the catholics who had to convert or leave the country according to the rule “cujus regio, ejus religio”, i.e. the religion of the sovereign determined the religion of his subjects). Today’s parallels are striking: The new heterosexuals converted by therapy are suspected of lying and of secretly remaining true to their previous homosexuality; the voluntary converts to homosexuality often lead “make-believe” heterosexual lives or move to states or countries without “sodomy laws” (for example from Jamaica to Martinique or from Malaysia to Germany). The whole issue of religious and sexual conversion is a depressing example of never-ending human folly. Science should not contribute to it. In recent times, some psychiatrists have replaced the term “conversion therapy” with the equally unacceptable term “reparative therapy” (see there).

copulation. Physical union of penis and vagina. Vaginal intercourse. (See “coitus”.)

crime against nature. An obsolete legal term referring to certain kinds of sexual behavior (usually oral and anal intercourse). To a modern lay person this usage may appear strange and peculiar, since the words themselves seem to suggest something else. Indeed, it would appear that the term would be more appropriate for water- and air pollution or other destructive acts that ruin man’s natural environment and upset the ecology. However, this particular legal term dates back to the Middle Ages, and the word “nature” has here a very different, rather mystical meaning which is inaccessible to modern science and even ordinary common sense. (See “unnatural sex”.)

cuckold. Derogatory term for a husband whose wife has a lover. A traditional literary and theatrical motive. Many classical comedies show the artful cunning of wives who deceive their unloved husbands, thus making them objects of ridicule. The dramatic stereotype of the aging cuckold was an expression of the popular opinion that impotent and insensitive husbands had no right to the fidelity of their wives. This opinion belongs to a time when marriages were arranged by the couple’s families, most often without regard for the bride’s own interests and wishes.

cunnilinctus. (Often falsely “cunnilingus”. Lat. from cunnus: vulva and linguere: to lick)) Licking or sucking of the female sex organs. As with fellatio, this is a common form of sexual activity.

D

defloration. (lat. taking the flower away) Rupture of the hymen as a result of vaginal penetration. The first coitus which ends a girl’s or a woman’s virginity. Traditionally, the only appropriate occasion for a woman’s first sexual intercourse was her wedding night, when her husband expected to find her hymen intact as proof of her premarital sexual abstinence. However, there have been cultures in which a girl’s hymen was incised by a priest as part of the initiation rites. A secularized version of this custom survived until about 200 years ago in certain parts of Europe, where the feudal lords reserved the right to deflower the brides of their serfs. (See jus primae noctis.)

deviance. A sociological term meaning behavior that is not in conformity with the rules, norms, or values of a particular society. Originally, the word “deviance” implied a going astray from some “right” path of life, but today it is merely a formal term. Its concrete meaning depends on the particular norms of the society under consideration, and these can differ considerably from one place and historical period to another.

deviant. A person whose behavior differs from the socially accepted norm and is therefore considered a candidate for religious, legal, or medical interventions designed to bring him back to conformity. A sexual deviant is somebody whose sexual behavior deviates in this sense from the sexual standards of his society. As these standards vary, so does deviance. What is considered deviance at one time and place may be accepted behavior at another time and place.

deviation, sexual. (lat. the action of leaving or the condition of having left the right path) Originally a term used in medieval theology to describe heresy, i.e. “false religious belief”. Later applied by doctors to “false sexual behavior”. However, since objective criteria do not exist in the realm of human behavior, the term is simply a value judgement and as such unscientific (see also “aberration” and “perversion”)

diaphragm. (gr. separating wall) A contraceptive device. The diaphragm is a small bowl-shaped device made of soft rubber which is placed inside the vagina covering the cervix. As a result, the sperm entering the vagina during coitus is mechanically blocked from reaching the uterus. In order to increase its effectiveness, the diaphragm is normally used together with a spermicidal jelly (see “spermicides”). The diaphragm is available only on prescription, since it has to be properly fitted by a doctor, who also has to instruct the woman in its use. Given the proper instruction, the woman can later insert the diaphragm herself. The diaphragm is inserted before each coitus, and must not be taken out until 8-12 hours after the last ejaculation. However, it should never remain in its place for more than one day. After removal, it is cleaned with soap and water and can be used again.

dildo. (from ital. diletto: delight) An artificial penis made of plastic, rubber, wood or other material. There are also penis-shaped electric vibrators on the market which are used by some women and men for the purpose of self-pleasuring (masturbation).

disorder, sexual. An older, now obsolete psychiatric term for “abnormal” sexual interests. Like the terms “aberration”, “deviation”, and “perversion” (see there), the term “disorder” presupposes an inborn “orderly” human sexuality that can be corrupted and thus stray from the correct path intended by nature. This presupposition is based on a particular interpretation of the philosophical doctrine of “natural law”. The doctrine is no longer tenable in the light of modern science. Therefore, psychiatry is now trying to be more objective and to arrive at less prejudicial and more precise terms for problematic sexual inclinations and behviors.

droit du seigneur. (fr. “Right of the Lord) The right of a feudal lord to deflower the brides of his serfs.(See jus primae noctis.)

dysfunction, sexual. A modern term used as a diagnosis by sex therapists when an individual’s sexual response is significantly impaired. The impairment can be an occasional, frequent or permanent problem. Obviously, one is dealing here with a “soft” definition that is open to interpretation. After all, what degree of impairment is “significant” and to whom? Therapists distinguish between several female and male sexual dysfunctions. However, they are basically quite similar in both sexes and fall into two main categories: 1. Problems of tumescence (lack of vaginal lubrication, lack of penile erection) and 2. Problems of orgasm (unsatisfactory timing of orgasm, no orgasm). In females, a 3rd dysfunction may be found – the involuntary vaginal spasm (vaginismus). Most often, sexual dysfunctions are defined in relation to the ability to perform or enjoy coitus (vaginal intercourse). Thus, a sexual dysfunction is basically seen as a problem arising between partners of different sex. The term has rarely been applied to same-sex couples and to sexual self-stimulation, but this may be changing. However, in these cases, the problem acquires a slightly different character, and so does its solution.

dyspareunia. (gr. the condition of not fitting together) The term is used by some doctors for pain during vaginal intercourse (coitus).However, since such pain can have a multitude of causes, the term is just as useless diagnostically as “reddening of the skin” or “cough”. It is always necessary to name the exact nature and cause of the pain.

E

ectopic pregnancy. (gr. out-of-place pregnancy, also called “extrauterine pregnancy”) A pregnancy during which the fertilized ovum, instead of moving on into the uterus, attaches itself somewhere else, for example to the wall of one of the Fallopian tubes (“tubal pregnancy” or “Fallopian pregnancy”). This leads to the eventual bursting of the tube and to internal hemorrhage, requiring immediate surgery. The remaining second Fallopian tube preserves the woman’s ability to have other children.

ecstasy. (gr. being outside oneself) 1. A state of extreme pleasurable excitement. In a state of ecstasy, a person loses his self-control and expresses his deepest emotions through unconscious and involuntary sounds and gestures. At the same time, his sensual perception is partially impaired. Sexual excitement and orgasm are typical examples of ecstasy. 2. Colloquial term for a drug often consumed in the disco scene.

effeminacy (noun), effeminate (adj). Exaggerated female traits or behaviors in males. Girlishness in boys. An effeminate male (slang: “sissy”) is often ridiculed, bullied, or otherwise socially ostracized by other males who feel threatened in their own masculinity. Effeminate males of any age are also often suspected of a homosexual orientation, although there is not necessarily a connection. For example, the especially effeminate male transvestites are usually sexually attracted to women. Very often, they are married and have children, i.e. their sexual orientation is heterosexual.

ejaculatio praecox. (lat. ejaculation coming too early or “prematurely”) The term is completely misleading, because it confuses ejaculation with orgasm. It is the orgasm, not the ejaculation, that is felt to occur “too early”. An ejaculation can, but does not have to, accompany a male orgasm. Not every male orgasm is accompanied by an ejaculation (examples: before puberty, after a prostactectomy etc.) However, after an orgasm the penis usually loses his erection, and it is this loss of erection that causes the concern. In other words, the real problem has nothing to do with an ejaculation of semen, but with an “untimely” softening of the penis after orgasm. It is therefore more appropriately called “unsatifactory timing of orgasm”. (See also “premature ejaculation”)

ejaculation. The sudden emission of semen from the penis during orgasm. An ejaculation may occur spontaneously, as for instance in the form of an orgasm during sleep (“wet dream”), or it may be brought about deliberately during masturbation or sexual intercourse. Boys experience their first ejaculation during puberty, usually between the ages of 11 and 13. The semen discharged in an ejaculation consists of a blend of several secretions which are produced by the prostate and seminal vesicles (almost all of it) and the testicles (a very small portion of it). One ejaculation may contain several hundred million spermatozoa. However, the quantity of sperm cells contained in the semen decreases with the man’s age and with repeated ejaculations within a short period of time. This biological fact has led some men to the erroneous belief that they can avoid making a woman pregnant by masturbating before engaging in coitus. They thus hope to have exhausted their sperm supply long enough to allow for intercourse without release of additional sperm. Apart from the fact that, under these circumstances, sexual intercourse can become difficult and frustrating, this supposed method of contraception is so unreliable as to be virtually useless.

ejaculate, female. See “female ejaculate”.

ejaculation, female. See “female ejaculation”.

ejaculatory dysfunction. The term almost always means some problem of orgasm. There are only two real male ejaculatory dysfunctions, which, by the way, are very rare – a complete lack of ejaculation and retrograde ejaculation, i.e. ejaculation of semen not to the outside, but into the bladder.

ejaculatory incompetence. Misleading term which confuses ejaculation with orgasm. The speaker usually means a male’s inability to reach orgasm, an entirely different matter.

ejaculatory overcontrol. The speaker usually means a male’s inability to achieve orgasm at all or within a “reasonable” time frame. The ejaculation of semen has nothing to do with it and will be absent in any case before puberty. However, the problem may occur even in boys before their first ejaculation.

embryo. Medical term for the developing baby during its first stages of life inside the mother’s womb. Within three months, the embryo grows to a length of about 4 inches. After the third month of pregnancy, the unborn baby is called a fetus.

endogamy. (gr.) Marriage within the social group, tribe, or clan

endometrium. (gr.) Interior mucous membrane of the uterus.

endometriosis. (gr.) Growth of endometrium outside the uterus, for example inside the Fallopian tubes or in the abdominal cavity. Can cause pain and other problems.

English vice. (Also: “English culture”) Erotic spanking. The term is most often used for the passive, masochistic enjoyment of spanking or whipping.

enuresis. (gr.) Involuntary urination. “Bedwetting”.

eonism. (after the Chevalier d’ Éon 1728 –1810). An old-fashioned term for male transvestism. D’Éon, a French diplomat, lived a substantial part of his long life as a woman. He displayed his legendary fencing prowess in both gender roles.

episiotomy. (gr.) Surgical cut into the edge of the vulva in order to prevent tearing during birth.

ephebophilia. (gr.) Love for male adolescents. Sexual attraction to males who are in or just barely beyond their puberty.

epispadia. (gr.) Malformation of the penis, with the urethra opening not at its tip, but on its upper side.

erectile dysfunction. Weak or absent erection in situations where it is wanted. A male’s inability to have an erection or a full erection of the penis when trying to have sexual intercourse. Often treatable by behavioral therapy and/or medication or microsurgery, depending on the individual case.

erection. Swelling, stiffening, and rising of the penis, usually caused by sexual excitement. The stiffening results from the fact that the hollow erectile tissue inside of the penis becomes filled with blood. Boys normally experience erections consciously for the first time during puberty, although it is not unusual that even children have erections. (In these cases, there is, of course, no potential discharge of semen.) An erection is usually caused by erotic thoughts or sights, or by the touching of the erogenous zones. It can, however, also result from a variety of other causes.

erogenous zones. (gr. love-producing zones) Certain parts of the body can, when touched by a sexual partner, cause or increase sexual excitement. These so-called erogenous zones are usually the following: the external genital organs, breasts, nipples, mouth, rectum, and certain areas of the skin (face, neck, inside of thighs). It depends very much on the individual and on the situation whether any or all of these erogenous zones develop their particular sensitivity. Only time and experience can make a person aware of his erogenous zones. Their response is never automatic. They stimulate sexual excitement only in situations of mutual sexual consent, and do not respond at all in cases of rape. On the other hand, new pleasurable sexual encounters can lead to the discovery of new erogenous zones and of their various responses to certain stimuli such as kisses, caresses, licking, rubbing, slapping, or tickling. Potentially, every part of the human body can be an erogenous zone. Just as each individual is different from others, so are his reactions. For this reason, everyone has to find out by himself which parts of his own (or his partner’s) body react as erogenous zones.

EROS. (Latin: Amor or Cupid) The god of love, in paintings and sculpture often portrayed as a winged youth or even as a little boy with bow and arrow. According to Greek mythology, Eros symbolized life and creativity. To be in love meant to be possessed by a divine force (“The God is in the lover, not the beloved.”). This force caused people to long for beauty and excellence, not only in the physical world, but also in the realm of the spiritual. Man could love not only his sexual partner, his family, or his friends, but also his country, national heroes, or artistic ideals. Although we still use the word “love” in all of these cases today, we see a great difference between such love and sexual desire. To us moderns, only the latter seems “erotic.” On the other hand, there are people who insist that there is a difference between the “erotic” and the “merely sexual.” According to this usage, the term “sexual” refers exclusively to the “baser” biological needs, while the word “erotic” implies “higher” spiritual desires. (See “Platonic love”.) Our everyday language has thus far failed to adopt this distinction. In fact, the word “erotic” is sometimes found to be more base and objectionable than “sexual.” However, the exact meaning and effect of these and similar words depend very much on the context and on the cultural background of the speaker or listener.

erotic. (adj.) “Sexually stimulating” or simply “related to love or sexual intercourse.”

erotica. (gr. noun pl.) Materials (books, pictures, films, videos, or records) dealing with sexual matters.

eroticism. A term with several meanings: 1. A strong “sex appeal.” 2. A cultivation or refinement of sex. 3. A preoccupation with sexual matters.

erotomania. (gr. love craze) The word, formerly often used by disapproving psychiatrists, refers to a person’s frequent wish to have sexual intercourse or to change sexual partners. A learned term of denigration without scientific value. (See also “nymphomania” and “promiscuity”)

erotophobia. (gr.) Fear of love. Anxiety and negative feelings toward sexual matters in general or certain sexual behaviors in particular.

estrus. The cyclically recurring phase – tied to her ovulation – in which a female animal is sexually receptive and fertile (also known as being in heat). In many animals this phase occurs only once a year and is very short. In the higher mammals (primates), estrus occurs more frequently. However, in human females there is no estrus as such. Between puberty and menopause, a woman has a fertile period of several days every month, but she may be sexually receptive every day even beyond menopause.

ethology. (gr.) Comparative study of animal behavior in its natural settings (as opposed to laboratory settings). The results are often used to understand the behavior of the human animal better as well.

ethnology, sexual. The comparative study of sexual behavior in various peoples, tribes, or ethnic groups. The pioneer of this field of study was Friedrich Salomon Krauss (1859-1938), who studied sexual customs in the Balkans and edited a respective multi-volume standard work “Anthropophyteia”.

eugenics. (from gr. “well born”)The study of forces under social control which enhance or impair the inborn qualities of future generations.” Since heredity is governed by certain biological laws, it is possible to influence the result of the breeding process by selective mating. This is constantly being done in animal breeding. However, basically the same laws also apply to human procreation. While there is no compulsion for men or women to choose their marriage partners according to these laws, prospective parents can take advantage of modern genetic knowledge in order to avoid needless suffering. For instance, a person afflicted with a hereditary disease, such as hemophilia, Huntington’s chorea, or certain other diseases, may decide against having children of his own. On the other hand, the idea of eugenics has, in the past, led to objectionable policies, first in the US and later in Nazi Germany, where “mentally incompetent” or otherwise “socially undesirable” persons were forced to undergo sterilizations. Such policies, that were widely copied in still other countries, have discredited the eugenics movement. However, the issue of “improving” human offspring has not disappeared, but prompted new discussions in view of the recent, continued progress of genetic research.

eunuch. (gr.) A man whose testicles have been surgically removed. This operation is called castration. Although also applicable to men castrated in adulthood, the word “eunuch” is most often used in reference to certain harem guards that were once common in China and some Islamic countries. As a rule, these were castrated before puberty, and thus their bodies failed to develop such typically male characteristics as a beard and a deep voice. Their sexual capacities also remained underdeveloped. Most importantly, however, they were infertile and unable to impregnate the women they guarded. This made them “safe” in the eyes of their masters. The practice of castrating young boys was also well known in 18th-century Europe, but for another reason. The so-called “castrati” (male altos) were then in great demand for religious compositions performed in church as well as operas, and some of them became very rich and famous. The leading parts in the operas of George Frederick Handel, for example, were written for castrati. Since today this type of voice can no longer be provided, the operas are either rearranged for modern voices or left unperformed.

exhibitionism. (lat. showing off) The urge to show one’s nude body or sex organs in public. Specifically: The compulsive behavior of some men who display their erect penis suddenly to unsuspecting and surprised females. In many countries this behavior is punishable as a sex offense, especially if the females file a complaint. However, there are degrees and various kinds of exhibitionism. Some men, for example like to “show off” before willing females, masturbating in front of an open window, because they know that curious women are watching them from across the street. Similarly, there are men and women who post nude pictures of themselves or their sex organs in the internet or exchange such pictures with strangers via e-mail. Still others arrange to be watched by paying internet customers during all kinds of sexual activity. Exhibitionistic tendencies can also be found in some porno stars, female and male strip-tease dancers, or nude go-go girls and boys.

exhibitionist. A man who compulsively shows his erect penis in public, usually to unsuspecting and surprised females. In many countries the man is considered a sex offender and punished, in some countries only if there is a complaint. The psychological harm done by an exhibitionist is frequently exaggerated by over-concerned parents and public officials. There is a fear that little girls might experience a shock at the sudden sight of a penis. However, such shocks do not occur where children are given early and proper sex education.

extended family. A family consisting of more than a man, a woman, and their children. There are two types of extended family:

1. A household including several generations of one family (parents, children, grandchildren) plus various married and unmarried relatives (aunts, uncles, cousins) plus a number of domestic servants. In such a household, power is distributed unequally according to age, sex, and relation to the “head of the family.” For thousands of years this was the normal type of family. Its structure corresponded to the needs of a basically agrarian society. However, since the beginning of the industrial revolution, the extended family has gradually been replaced by the nuclear family.

2. A communal household of several adults and their children, intended to overcome the disadvantages of a nuclear family. Today there are various models for such communal living: – The kibbutzim in Israel, where people share the means of production and are equally trained to join in their defense. – Socialist communes, in which people share everything, and which often impose a great deal of conformity on their members. – New communal living arrangements (also often called “communes”) in Western Europe and in the United States, where a number of married and unmarried adults and their children pool their material resources (or part of them) without surrendering their personal independence. The advantages of the modern extended family are:

– Living costs are lower, because more people share the cost for food, rent, and appliances. – There is a more democratic division of labor; privileges can be abolished. – There is more intellectual and cultural stimulation. – The individual enjoys a greater amount of emotional and economic security. – The individual has more time for professional, social, and political activities. – There are no “unwed mothers,” and no “illegitimate” children. Such modern extended families are still rare, and where they exist, they are still in a state of experiment. So far, only a few mature persons have been able to adopt the truly democratic life-style that these experiments require for their success. The final shape and structure of the modern extended family cannot now be predicted, although it is clear that it does not necessarily have to mean group sex and socialized property. However, there is reason to believe that the extended family has a future in one form or another.

extramarital intercourse. Intercourse outside of marriage. The term is usually applied to married people who have sexual intercourse with a partner other than their spouse. The term is inappropriate in connection with single, widowed, or divorced persons.

exogamy. (gr.) Marriage outside the group, clan, or social unit.

F

Fallopian pregnancy. (Also called “tubal pregnancy” or “ectopic pregnancy”) A pregnancy during which the fertilized ovum, instead of moving on into the uterus, attaches itself to the wall of one of the Fallopian tubes. This leads to the eventual bursting of the tube and to internal hemorrhage, requiring immediate surgery. The remaining second Fallopian tube preserves the woman’s ability to have other children.

Fallopian tubes. (named after Gabriele Fallopio, the 16th-century anatomist who discovered them) Oviducts. Two tubes connecting the ovaries with the uterus. After ovulation, the ovum moves through the Fallopian tubes into the uterus, a passage that takes between 8 to 14 days. The fertilization of the ovum usually occurs inside the Fallopian tubes.

family. (lat. from “famulus“: house slave) Originally, the term referred to a group of slaves belonging to one man, then, by extension, to all persons ruled by one man or descended from one man, and finally to all persons living in a man’s household, such as servants, wives, children, parents, grandparents, other close and distant relatives, friends, and permanent guests. These various meanings were still alive in Europe until ca. 500 years ago. Indeed, well through the Renaissance the world “family” was used to mean either a body of servants, or the retinue of a nobleman, or a group of people related by blood, or a group of people living together. Today, the term is most often used to describe a social unit consisting of a married couple and their children. This modern definition corresponds to the social reality in most industrial nations, where the former extended family has been replaced by the nuclear family. The extended family traditionally united several generations under one roof. The house, the land, and the family business passed on from father to son to grandson and provided the main element of stability. As a result, the choice of individual marriage partners was mainly determined by this basic consideration. The survival of the family and the increase of its property were the primary goals to which every member was expected to contribute. More children meant more contributors to the family’s wealth and power. Sons were particularly welcome as additional workers and defenders of the clan. They also insured the welfare of their parents during old age. Sex was a means to provide family continuity; potentially, all sexual acts served the purpose of procreation. Today, a wedding usually marks the beginning of something entirely different. A marriage may very well express the intent to found a new family; however, this family in the modern sense does not come into existence until after the birth of the first child, and it dissolves again when the adult children leave the house of their parents. In other words, marriage in the past took place within the larger framework of the family, while today the family is a passing aspect of marriage. Formerly, the family outlasted the marriage; now the marriage outlasts the family. This fundamental change in the family structure has also meant changes in human sexual behavior. Sexual intercourse now mostly serves to strengthen the personal relationship between marriage partners, and it leads to procreation only if and when they decide to have children.

family planning. This term is often falsely used as a synonym for “contraception”. However, many women and men who use contraception have no intention of planning a family, whatever “family” means. This is especially true if they are and want to remain unmarried. The term can correctly be used only when couple living together is planning the number of children, i.e. the eventual size of their family.

fecundity. (lat.) The potential in a certain population of producing offspring. In demographics, the number of potential births as opposed to actual births (fertility).

fellatio. (lat. sucking) Licking or sucking of the penis, which can lead to orgasm. Fellatio, like cunnilinctus (licking of the vulva), is a common form of sexual activity. However, it is illegal, even between husband and wife, in some states of the US (see “crime against nature”).

female ejaculation. The expulsion of liquid during orgasm from the paraurethral glands. These glands in the female lie next to the urethra and open into it. They correspond to the prostate gland in the male. However, in most females they are underdeveloped and do not produce any liquid. Therefore, a female ejaculation is relatively rare. Still, in some females, the paraurethral glands are well developed and produce enough “prostatic” liquid to be expelled during orgasm.

female ejaculate. The liquid expelled by some females from the paraurethral glands during orgasm.

femaleness. The quality of belonging to the female sex. Not to be confused with “femininity” (see there): A female may very well be masculine in appearance and behavior.

femidom also femidon. “Female condom”. A combination of condom and diaphragm, i.e. a contraceptive tube made of latex which is introduced into the vagina. Its outer ring remains outside the vulva, and its inner ring covers the cervix. It thus provides protection from both unwanted pregnancy and infection with a sexually transmissible disease.

femininity. Quality of character, physical appearance, or behavior considered to be typical of females. The expression of the social role assigned to females. In all human societies the biological difference between female and male is used as the basis for different social and sexual roles. Although such roles may vary from one time and culture to another, they are, in each case, declared to be “natural” and unchangeable. In our own culture, femininity is usually equated with pretty looks, passivity, and sentimentality. As a result, the active social and sexual contributions of women are often underestimated or even denied. There is also a whole industry devoted to the cultivation of femininity by means of make-up, perfumes, hair-dyes, dresses, and jewelry. However, the proper use of such “feminine” accessories is meant to create nothing more than “sex appeal,” a quiet attractiveness that leaves the sexual initiative to the male.

feminism. The attitude, philosophy, or social movement which demands equal rights for women.

feminist. A female or male person who fights for the emancipation of women in order to achieve the equality of the sexes.

femme. (fr. “woman”) Slang for the passive, feminine partner in a lesbian relationship if the other partner is “butch”, i.e. acting out a masculine role. The stereotype of a butch-femme lesbian couple had some credibility in the past, when many female couples conformed to social prejudices, but today is rarely found in reality.

fertility. (lat.) 1. The ability to produce offspring. More specifically: in men, fertility is the ability to cause pregnancy in a fertile woman; fertility in women is the ability to become pregnant by a fertile man. Male and female fertility begins with puberty and, in women, comes to an end with the climacteric (menopause). 2. In demographics: The result and living proof of fecundity, i.e. the number of actual births as opposed to potential births (fecundity).

fetish. Generally: An object of religious significance in some traditional, “natural” societies, especially in Africa. Very often, the fetish has magical powers, since it incorporates or represents some good or evil spirit.

fetish, sexual. Some body part or excretion, some inanimate object or material, that serves certain persons (fetishists) as a source of sexual excitement.

fetishism, sexual. The tendency, inclination, habit or urge to be sexually aroused by body parts (for example: hair, breasts, buttocks, feet, amputation stumps) or body excretions (sweat, spit, urine, feces), or inanimate objects or materials (shoes, fur, underwear, leather, latex, etc.). Also the fascination with these things (sexual fetishes). The spectrum of possible fetishes is very wide. Practically anything can become a sexual fetish. However, fetishism is largely a matter of degree, since nearly everyone has some fetishistic tendencies (treasuring a lock of hair, a love letter, or piece of clothing of the beloved or being especially stimulated by some physical features). The line to fetishism proper is crossed when the fetish becomes more important for the sexual response, indeed for sexual functioning, than the person to whom it belongs.

fetishist, sexual. A person whose sexual response depends on being aroused by a sexual fetish (body part or excretion or an inanimate object or material).

fetus. (lat. offspring) Medical term for the unborn baby after the third month of pregnancy.

flirt. (from French “fleurette“: amorous flattery) A psychological game in which one partner displays a certain erotic interest in the other who, in turn, responds with hints of approval or leaves his admirer deliberately in doubt. Flirting is a pleasant form of erotic encounter, an intermediate stage between a polite acquaintance and a sexual relationship. Flirting is based on mutual attraction and keeps potential sexual partners in a pleasant state of suspense without allowing for intimacies. It is a playful way of indirect courtship without personal obligations.

foreplay. A term used by certain people for the description of caresses that lead to coitus. This usage indirectly declares coitus to be the “main event”, degrading everything else to preliminaries. However, all gestures and physical movements that establish contact between sexual partners belong to the total experience of sexual intercourse. It is shortsighted to divide sexual activity into acts, chapters, or escalating phases that have to build up to some sort of dramatic climax. Such a mechanistic view of sex can lead to severe misunderstandings and may ruin the chance for a truly intimate relationship. Sexual partners should never fear to break with prescribed behavioral patterns, but should rather explore their mutual desires, respond to each other’s wishes, and follow their own instincts as the best method of achieving sexual satisfaction.

foreskin. prepuce (lat.praeputium) 1. In males: Movable part of skin at the tip of the penis, usually covering the glans. In the case of an erection, the glans protrudes from the foreskin and becomes fully exposed. In some very rare cases the foreskin proves too tight. Such a condition is called a phimosis, and it may require minor surgery called circumcision. It is always necessary to wash the penis regularly, including the glans. In so doing, uncircumcised boys and men have to push back the foreskin, because residues of urine, perspiration, and some glandular secretions (smegma) may be trapped underneath. In some religions (for example Judaism and Islam) and in some cultures (for example the modern USA) it is customary to remove the foreskin of boys either shortly after birth or at the onset of puberty (see circumscision) 2. In females: The clitoris also has a prepuce which may cover its head. However, with mounting excitement, the glans of the clitoris will not protrude but retract under its prepuce (hood). In some cultures (for example some countries in Africa and the Near East)it is customary to perform an operation on young girls that is misleadingly called “female circumcision”. However, in fact it consists of a removal not just of the prepuce, but of the clitoris itself (clitoridectomy) often accompanied by other deliberate injuries designed to impair female sexual functioning. The operation is therefore better described as genital mutilation (see there).

fornication. An old-fashioned term of disapproval referring to sexual intercourse between unmarried partners.

four-letter words. A euphemism for certain slang expressions referring to sexual or scatological matters. In English, most of these words have only four letters. An enlightening joke asks the following: “Give me a four-letter word meaning intercourse! Answer: Talk.” Indeed, talk is an important element in sexual relationships, and where this element is missing, a couple’s sex life will remain stunted and become unsatisfactory in the long run.

fraternal twins. Twins resulting from the simultaneous fertilization and subsequent implantation of two eggs in the uterus. Fraternal (dizygotic) twins doe not resemble each other more than other brothers and sisters.

freemartin. A sterile (infertile) female calf who, before birth, was exposed to androgens by her male twin with whom she shared a fused placenta.

French culture. Oral intercourse. The term is often used in the context of prostitution or in personal sex ads referring to the sucking of the penis (fellatio).

French kiss. An open-mouth kiss which brings I the tongues of both I partners into direct contact. The adjective “French” in this and other English terms for sexual objects or practices originally indicated disapproval and a tendency to characterize them as outlandish and abnormal. The French, who have always had a reputation for having a certain “savoir vivre,” or, in other words, for being able to enjoy life to the full, were often credited with all those things that created feelings of guilt and embarrassment in other nations, although they were no less prevalent there than in France. Thus, at one time, a condom was called a “French letter” in England and a sexually transmitted disease was called “French disease” (The French themselves called it “la maladie anglaise”: the English disease.)

French postcards. Old-fashioned English term for erotic photographs.

French tickler. Colloquial English term for a condom with a rough or irregular surface, intended to increase vaginal stimulation.

frigidity. (lat.coldness) This vague, denigrating term was formerly used to refer to a lack of orgasm in women or their lack of sexual excitement or generally the absence of female sexual interest. No thought was given to the possible causes, but some female inadequacy was simply assumed. Very often, the problem lay with the partner, however. Since scientific discourse today requires precision, the term is no longer acceptable.

G

gay. Slang for homosexual.

gay liberation. A social movement devoted to the emancipation of homosexuals. The beginnings of this movement are in Germany, where, in the 1860s, the lawyer Karl-Heinrich Ulrichs published a series of pamphlets demanding the abolition of laws against sexual contact between men. Pursuing the same goal, the Berlin physician Magnus Hirschfeld and others founded the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, the world’s first “gay rights organization” in 1897. However, the Nazi dictatorship prevented any reform in Germany. After some modest attempts in the 1920s, the movement was reborn in the US in the 1950’s and 1960’s were the “Mattachine Society” (gay men), the “Daughter’s of Bilitis” (lesbian women) and similar groups began to fight for their sexual rights. Finally, in 1969, the violent resistance to a routine police raid of a gay bar (Stonewall Inn) in New York City marked the beginning of a new, militant “gay” activism. As a result, a phase of liberalization set in which helped the American gay movement to reach at least some of its goals. Thus, it became a model for oppressed sexual minorities in many other countries.

gender. (from lat. genus: breed or kind) The socio-psychological side of sex. The gender role/identity determines whether a person acts and self-identifies as a female or male. The term “gender” thus refers to those characteristics of human females and males that are socially constructed, while the term “sex” refers to those that are biologically determined. People are born female or male but are taught by their social surroundings to be girls and boys, women and men. This learning process results in their acceptance of the “proper” gender roles and creates and supports a respective gender identity: Females and males not only learn to play their expected roles, but also to identify with them. Thus, gender in both of its aspects (role and identity) is the result of social learning. Nevertheless, a note of caution: While, in many contexts, science has found it very useful to distinguish between gender and sex, they should not be misconstrued as independent absolutes, because, at some fundamental level, they are connected. In other words: Gender is learned in response to suggestions by the person’s social environment, but, like sex, it also seems to have a biological basis, less obvious perhaps, but nevertheless present. Indeed, there seems to be a limit to what these suggestions can accomplish. To a certain extent even the gender role, but especially the self-identification as female or male does not seem to be shaped by social learning alone. Indeed, some individuals may resist even the most comprehensive and consistent suggestion by their environment. This resistance seems to be rooted in the person’s sex.

gender identity. A person’s self-identification as female or male i.e. the individual’s core conviction of being either female or male. In rare cases a person may have a female gender identity and still reluctantly play a male gender role (and vice versa as, for example, in transsexualism).

gender role. A person’s social role as female or male. In rare cases a person may reluctantly play a female gender role while having a male gender identity (and vice versa, as, for example in transsexualism). More common, if still rare, are cases of men with male gender identities who enjoy playing a female gender role, either occasionally or frequently or even permanently (as, for example, in transvestism).

genital intercourse. Sexual intercourse involving the sex organs of both partners. More specifically: coitus, i.e. vaginal intercourse.

genital mutilation. Deliberate injury to the sex organs, either for reasons of custom (before or during puberty) or for erotic reasons.

1.The surgical removal of the foreskin of the penis (circumcision) is not considered a mutilation by Jews, Moslems and most Christian Americans, who now practice it as a routine matter of hygiene. However, there is also growing minority in the US and Europe who consider the practice unnecessary, harmful, and cruel. There is more agreement on the so-called “female circumcision” practiced in some African and Asian countries. This is, in fact, no circumcision at all, but a clitoridectomy, often accompanied by a cutting of the labia majora and minora and even a sewing up of the vaginal opening. This painful mutilation, often performed under unsanitary conditions, is dangerous to the health of the victim whose sexual responses are usually impaired as a result. The women who perform the operation on young girls have no feelings of guilt, but, on the contrary, believe that they do them a favor. However, the practice is now widely being condemned not only in the industrialized West, but also by many religious leaders of all faiths and by international organizations.

2. Men and women may also deliberately injure their own sex organs for erotic reasons. They may feel that piercing them with metal studs or rings makes them more attractive. This is often associated with some fetishistic tendency. Or they may cut or surgically alter their own or their partner’s sex organs in some way, fulfilling some other, more pronounced fetishistic desire.

genitals. (lat.organs of generation) This term falsely restricts the sex organs to a single function or purpose. Better term: Sex organs. The organs which determine the sex of males and females, enable them to experience pleasure during sexual activity, and make procreation possible. There are external and internal sex organs.

gerontophilia. (gr.) A young person’s preference for old or even very old sexual partners.

gigolo. (fr.) A male for hire, either as an escort, dance partner or even as a sex partner for women.

gonads. (gr.) Sex glands (the ovaries in females, the testicles in males.)

group sex. Sexual intercourse between various partners within a group. Such a group may be a commune, or a circle of married or single friends, or a so-called “swingers’ club.” Sometimes partners for group Sex are solicited through newspaper ads. Participants meet at parties where they exchange their sexual partners or, as in the case of some nude parties, join the other guests in an orgy. Group sex in one form or another has existed at all times, although today many people are much more open about it than their ancestors might have been in the past. Nevertheless, our society generally disapproves of the practice since it runs counter to the official demand for monogamy. On the other hand, sex in company with others and the exchange of sexual partners have always been part of the human sexual imagination as expressed in works of literature and art, or in the daydreams and fantasies of ordinary people. It is also true that in the course of history, not all cultures have demanded secrecy, privacy, or exclusiveness for sexual acts. In certain societies, group sex was and is an accepted fact of everyday life.

G spot. In many (not all!) women a spot behind the anterior wall of the vagina that is especially responsive to sexual stimulation, i.e. manual stimulation or vaginal intercourse in a position that will allow the penis to touch this particular area. Named after the German-American gynecologist Ernst Gräfenberg (1881-1957), who first described it in 1950.

gynecomastia. (gr.) Development of breasts in boys or men. Can be a temporary phenomenon in adolescence. In other cases, it may indicate a more serious underlying cause. In all cases, a medical examination and diagnosis (and, if necessary, treatment) are indicated.

H

hedonism. (from gr. “hedone“: pleasure) A philosophy or a way of life based upon the belief that pleasure is the highest value. Today the hedonistic attitude towards life in general and sex in particular is also known under the popular label “fun morality.” Its proponents believe that sex is fun and, as such, needs no further justification. “Fun morality” can therefore be described as a “morality of indulgence.” However, such indulgence does not necessarily lead to licentiousness and irresponsibility. On the contrary, responsible hedonists try to avoid short-lived, dangerous, or destructive pleasures in favor of lasting personal satisfaction and the development and< refinement of the best human potential.

hermaphrodite. Poetic, but now obsolete medical term for intersex. (Hermaphroditos, the beautiful son of the Greek deities Hermes and Aphrodite was embraced by a nymph so passionately, that her body merged with his.) See “intersex”

hermaphroditism. Better: Intersexuality (see there)

heterosexual. (gr. and lat. “different-sexual”) 1. Noun: A male or female who is predominantly sexually attracted to persons of the other sex. 2. Adjective: The behavior of such a male or female. The use of this term is always somewhat arbitrary, because the speaker determines what “predominantly” means in each case.

heterosexuality. (gr. and lat. “different-sexuality”) The behavior or alleged condition of erotically preferring partners of the other sex.

hirsutism. Excessive hairiness of the body. Can be hereditary or result from hormonal dysfunctions or from medication.

homophobia. (gr.) Unreasonable fear or unjustified strong dislike of homosexuals as a class of people and of homosexuality as a sexual orientation. A form of prejudice often resulting in religious, legal, and social discrimination.

homosexual. (gr. and lat. “same-sexual.) 1.Noun: A male or female who is predominantly sexually attracted to persons of the same sex. 2. Adjective: The behavior of such a male or female. The use of this term is always somewhat arbitrary, because the speaker determines what “predominantly” means in each case.

homosexuality. (gr. and lat. “same-sexuality) )The term means either homosexual behavior or an alleged condition of desiring same-sex erotic contact. However, these are two very different matters that should not be denoted by the same word. Instead, one should avoid this noun altogether and state exactly whether one is referring to a form of conduct or to an (alleged) condition of wanting to engage in such conduct. The hybrid word itself was coined in 1869 by the Austrian-Hungarian writer Karoly Maria Kertbeny (1824-82) in an open letter to the Prussian minister of Justice demanding the abolition of laws against erotic contact between men.

homosocial. (adj. gr. and lat.) Preferring the company of persons of the same sex. Being especially comfortable in a group of people of one’s own sex. Examples: All-male clubs, all-male working environments, all-male athletic activities, all-female cafés. etc.. Many heterosexual men and women are homosocial in large parts of their daily lives.

honeymoon. The period after the wedding when husband and wife begin to adjust to their new roles, and when they devote their full attention to each other. During this delicate period of adjustment, many newly married couples take a honeymoon trip, in order to be undisturbed by their families and their friends. Such a honeymoon trip can also be considered a special vacation before settling down to the realities of everyday life. For many couples today, the honeymoon no longer retains its former meaning and importance, as they often have had intimate personal contact with each other and, in some cases, already have lived together before the wedding for some time.

hooker. Slang term for a female prostitute.

hormones. Substances which are produced by the so-called endocrine glands and which are released into the bloodstream. The normal physical development and health of the body depends on the proper functioning and balance of all hormonal glands. The hormones produced by the sex glands (the testicles in men; the ovaries in women) are called sex hormones. They control the development of the sexual characteristics, the sexual response of males and females and their fertility. Although male and female hormones are present in both sexes, there is a considerable preponderance of male hormones (androgens) in men, and of female hormones (estrogens) in women.

hustler. Slang for a male prostitute. In most cases the term refers to homosexual prostitution. A hustler who engages in heterosexual prostitution is also sometimes called a “stud”.

hygiene. (gr.) The science of health. Preventive medicine. Also a euphemism for the cleaning of the female sex organs, the use of tampons, or of special deodorants.

hymen. (gr. “Hymen“, the god of weddings) A thin membrane stretched across and partly covering the opening of the vagina. Since the hymen is usually ruptured during the first vaginal intercourse (coitus), an intact hymen is often considered proof of a woman’s virginity. However, such proof is inconclusive, because the hymen may be torn not only during coitus, but also by self-exploration or self-pleasuring (masturbation), or as a consequence of certain athletic activities. In some cases, the hymen may even be absent. On the other hand, oral and anal intercourse leave the hymen intact. The high value placed on a woman’s intact hymen is a patriarchal obsession resulting from ignorance of the female sexual anatomy and of human sexual behavior. It is a relic of former times, when women were the property of men.

hysterectomy. (gr.) Surgical removal of the uterus.

hysterical pregnancy. “False” pregnancy. A pregnancy imagined by a woman who is not, in fact, pregnant. In some cases, the imagination is so strong that various outward signs of pregnancy, such as an enlarged abdomen, manifest themselves.

hysterotomy. (gr.) Incision in the uterus, for example in some late-term abortions.

I

iatrogenic (adj. gr. and lat.) Literally: “Caused by a doctor”. There can be good or bad iatrogenic conditions. A bad one may result from either a false medical diagnosis or an inappropriate treatment.

identical twins. Twins resulting from the same fertilized egg (zygote) which later separates into two embryos. They are therefore also called monozygotic twins. Such twins share the same genetic make-up and resemble each other closely.

illegitimate child. Old, denigrating, and now obsolete term for the child of an unmarried mother. The term “illegitimate” referred to the fact that, in our society, the conception and birth of children was, for centuries, socially approved and protected only within marriage. This meant, in practical terms, that an illegitimate birth usually put children at a great disadvantage. However, modern Western societies have made great strides in securing equal right for such children. They can now receive the same support and can inherit on equal terms with children born within marriage.

immissio penis. (lat.) Insertion of the penis into the vagina, the mouth or the anus. A legal term used in establishing disputed details of a sexual encounter that has to be evaluated by a court of law.

incubus. (lat.) A figure of medieval superstition. The devil or a demon in the form of a man who, lying on top of her, offers herself to a woman for sexual intercourse. (See also “succubus”.)

infancy. (from lat. “infans”: unable to talk) Early childhood (from birth to age 2or 3). The first period of life in which the child learns to walk and to talk.

impotence. (lat. powerlessness) The term usually refers to a lack of erection in situations where it is wanted. The reasons for this can be very many, and none of them have anything to do with power or the lack of power (even a potentate can be “impotent”, i.e. even powerful men can have erection problems). The term is too imprecise to be scientifically useful.

impotentia coeundi. (lat.) A man’s inability to insert his penis into a vagina, i.e. his inability to perform coitus.

impotentia procreandi. (lat.) A man’s inability to cause pregnancy in a woman. Male infertility.

incest. Sexual intercourse between close relatives, such as parent and child, or brother and sister. (Sexual contact between brothers or between sisters have usually not been considered incest.) Incestuous relationships are illegal in virtually all countries. The reason normally given is that children born as a result of such relationships might; to an disproportionate extent, be afflicted, with hereditary diseases. However, the incest taboo is older than any knowledge of the laws of heredity. Indeed, it is one of the oldest taboos of mankind, and its violation has almost universally carried severe penalties. Exceptions have been extremely rare and have usually applied only to royal families or persons of high rank. One example is ancient Egypt, where the pharaoh was compelled by law to marry his sister. This practice continued over many centuries without apparent negative consequences up to the days of Cleopatra, who was married to her brother Ptolemy. The original reason behind the incest taboo was probably the need to marry outside one’s own family or clan in order to create the ever-widening social groups necessary for the survival of the human race and the development of civilization.

infertility. (or sterility) The inability to procreate. A couple’s inability to achieve a pregnancy can result from male or female infertility. A man’s infertility may be caused by erectile dysfunction, castration, or sterilization, or it may be due to a lack or insufficient number of fertile sperm cells in his semen. A woman’s infertility, if not also caused by castration or sterilization, can result from a malfunction of her ovaries, or from the after-effects of certain diseases, such as tuberculosis, gonorrhea, or chlamydia. Apart from such obvious causes for infertility, there may be a variety of others that are more subtle and complicated. Sometimes the cause cannot be determined. In some very rare cases, a couple remains childless simply because they never have sexual intercourse during the woman’s fertile period.

intersex. (lat. between sexes) Intersexes are persons born with indeterminate or ambiguous sex organs, and their immediate sexual identification can therefore be in doubt. However, there is a wide spectrum of possible variations from the male or female anatomical “norm”. About 1 in 100 newborns differ in some minor or major way from the standard male or female anatomy, and ca. 1 or 2 in a 1000 children receive surgery at one time in their lives to “normalize” the appearance of the sex organs. While each child has the right to a definite gender role, i.e. the right to be raised as either a girl or a boy, the traditional medical approach to such cases has recently been called into question as hasty and simplistic by intersex organizations who demand that, wherever possible, at least surgery should be delayed until puberty or after, giving the person concerned a well-informed choice in the matter.

intersexuality. The condition of being an intersex, i.e. of having indeterminate or ambiguous sex organs.

inversion. (lat. turning around) Obsolete general term referring to 1. A switching of gender roles (males feeling and behaving like females and vice versa), and 2. Homosexuality, i.e. a switching of sexual orientation from the generally expected pattern (males loving males instead of females as expected; females loving females instead of males as expected). This second usage always implied the first, and male “homosexuals” were therefore also called “inverts”, presupposing that they had “female souls in their male bodies”. As a result, the term always created a lot of confusion, because it equated, as it were, apples and oranges. In real life, people can very well switch gender roles without switching sexual orientations. Extremely effeminate men (for example transvestites) can very well be, and most often are, heterosexual in orientation. On the other hand, men who love men can very well be, and often are, extremely masculine in appearance and behavior. Today, there is justification only for a more precise term which restricts itself the first of the above meanings: “gender role inversion”.

invert. (noun) Obsolete and misleading term for “homosexual”.

IUD. Intra-uterine (contraceptive) device. The intra-uterine device is an old method of contraception already known to the ancient Greeks and Persians. In recent decades, new types of such devices have been developed, and they are now in use in many parts of the world. As the name indicates, the IUD is inserted by a doctor into the uterus, where it prevents pregnancy. At the present time, there is still no satisfactory explanation of how the device works. It is known, however, that it is almost 100% effective, although not suitable for every woman.

J

jock itch. A fungal infection in the groin area (crotch).

jus primae noctis. (Latin: the right of the first night) Until well into the 18th century, the feudal lords in certain parts of Europe claimed the right to deflower the brides of their serfs (i.e. the right to have intercourse with the bride before her wedding). Today this “right” may appear strange and even unbelievable, and, indeed, doubts have been raised whether it was ever really enforced. However, most opera lovers are probably aware of the custom, as it serves as a starting point for the plot of Mozart’s opera “The Marriage of Figaro.” (The enlightened Spanish Count Almaviva has publicly renounced his “right of the first night”, but regrets having done so when he falls in love with the bride of his servant Figaro.) See also droit du seigneur.

K

karezza. (also “carezza” or “coitus reservatus“) A form of sexual intercourse during which the man and the woman remain motionless for a long time, as soon as the penis has entered the vagina. Some women are said to experience several orgasms this way, while men do not try to reach, and generally do not have an orgasm. Instead, they derive satisfaction from the prolonged duration of the sexual union. Since there is no ejaculation of sperm, carezza has sometimes been recommended as a method of contraception. However, it cannot be considered reliable, since it obviously demands a great deal of self-control from both partners. Already known in ancient India, carezza was introduced to the modern Western world by the Oneida community, a 19th century American experimental commune and spiritual group whose members put great emphasis on the union of souls.

Kegel exercises. (named after the American gynecologist Arnold H. Kegel who invented them in the 1950s) Exercises designed to strengthen the pubococcygeus muscle (also known simply as PC muscle). This pelvic floor muscle runs from the pubic bone (os pubis) in the front to the os coccyx in the back, surrounding the vagina (in females) and the anus (in both sexes). Kegel found that, in his women patients, urinary incontinence and a diminished sexual response could often be traced to poor muscle tone in the pelvic area. He therefore designed some exercises to strengthen the PC muscle and, with it, the female sexual response: When urinating, the woman identified the muscle by trying to stop the flow of urine. The muscle used in doing that is the PC. Once she has thus identified the muscle, the woman can strengthen it by contracting and relaxing it for 3 seconds each time, then repeating this sequence 10 times. In addition, she can contract and relax the muscle several times in quick succession. These and similar exercises can be done anytime anywhere, even at the workplace. They are useful not only in preparing for childbirth, but will also restore muscle tone after birth and enhance pleasure during vaginal intercourse (coitus).

Kinsey scale. A seven-point rating scale designed by the American sex researcher Alfred C. Kinsey (1894 – 1956) measuring the balance of heterosexual and homosexual experiences in the life of an individual. Experience here means not only overt behavior, but also psychic reactions that are not acted out. The scale in detail: 0 = exclusively heterosexual, 1 = incidental homosexual, 2 = more than incidental homosexual, 3 = equal heterosexual and homosexual, 4 = more than incidental heterosexual, 5 = incidental heterosexual, 6 = exclusively homosexual. Kinsey himself found that 50% of his American male respondents had to be rated 0, and 4% rated 6. That left 46 % falling somewhere between these two extremes, i.e. a very large percentage of the male population showed both heterosexual and homosexual responses in various degrees at least sometime in their lives. Kinsey’s figures have since been disputed, but never totally disproved, since this would require a repeat of Kinsey’s studies, something that has now become financially unaffordable.

Klein sexual orientation grid. A grid forming 21 individual boxes designed by the American psychiatrist and sex researcher Fritz Klein (1932 – ). The grid measures a person’s sexual orientation according to 7 factors (sexual attraction, sexual behavior, sexual fantasies, emotional preference, social preference, life style, self-identification) and in 3 dimensions (past, present, ideal). The grid owes much to the Kinsey scale, but amplifies it considerably, thus allowing for a great variety of response patterns which, even in a large student class, are almost never exactly duplicated.

Klinefelter syndrome. A chromosomal variation: Males with one extra X chromosome (XXY). They usually have underdeveloped testicles and are infertile. Beard, body hair and other secondary sexual characteristics are only weakly developed or absent.

koro. A special kind of individual panic occurring in parts of Southeast Asia. It manifests itself in a sudden, obsessive, unjustified fear of a male that his penis is shrinking and being reabsorbed in to the abdomen. (In the rarer case of a female being affected, she believes that her breasts are shrinking and being reabsorbed in to the chest cavity.) This fearful obsession is obviously tied to a particular sexual culture, because it occurs nowhere else in the world. The afflicted individual usually turns to relatives for help, and their empathy, concern and care usually lead to a resolution.

L

labia majora. (lat.”the greater lips”) The outer lips of vulva. During puberty, hair (the so-called “pubic hair”) begins to grow on the labia majora.

labia minora. (lat.”the smaller lips”) The inner lips of the vulva, which lie between the labia majora.

lesbian.(adjective and noun) A term sometimes used for a woman with a homosexual orientation and her sexual behavior. In ancient Greece, the island of Lesbos was known as the home of the poetess Sappho, who wrote many love poems in praise of her girl students.

lesbianism A term sometimes used for female homosexuality (i.e. homosexual behavior and/or an alleged condition of desiring such behavior).

libido. (lat. “desire“) 1. In medical language: Sexual desire. 2. In psychoanalysis: A term referring to the fundamental psychic energy whose dynamic expression is love. A person’s libido comprises not only his love for a sexual partner, but also that for himself, his parents, children, friends, or humanity in general. In early childhood, the libido is directed towards the child’s own self. (See “narcissism”.) Later, parts of the libido are gradually transferred to the parents (see “Oedipus complex”) and then also to other persons, objects, and ideas. (See also “sublimation”.)

life cycle, the human. Misleading when applied to an individual. When a person dies, his life does not begin all over again, i.e. the individual human life is not cyclical. Applying cyclical models is perhaps permissible in the case of species, but even then they are problematic because they stand in some contradiction to the theory of evolution. Applying the term “life cycle” to an individual is simply thoughtless.

lingam. (sanskrit) In Indian mythology the symbol of the male principle. Usually represented in sculptural form as the male sex organ. Corresponds to the female symbol yoni.

love. Different people may associate the word “love” with different things, such as high esteem, friendship, desire, tenderness, passion, lust, or sexual intercourse. All of these terms refer to contacts and relationships that correspond to fundamental human needs. The need to be close to someone may be described as a natural expression of human sexuality. However, it has to be remembered that sexual needs can appear in many shapes and forms, and that they may be satisfied in just as many ways. It is for this reason that every analysis or description of love must remain unsatisfactory. Today every kind of sexual attraction between people is called love, and there is a general assumption that it should lead not only to sexual intercourse, but also to marriage. However, this concept of love is relatively new. Until well into the 19th century, even in the Western world love was not usually considered a precondition of marriage. The prosperity and continuity of the then extended family were believed to be more important than the mutual satisfaction of two people. Indeed, as countless old European novels, plays, and operas make clear, love was often seen as a threat to the institution of marriage at a time when most marriages were arranged by the parents or dictated by economic necessities. Therefore, the complete sexual compatibility of husband and wife was not seen as decisive, and was generally not expected. The ancient Greek and Roman idea of love was even more different from our modern concept. In ancient times, people put the emotional emphasis on sexual desire itself, not on its object. Love, for them, was a driving force that originated in the lover. It was directed towards others, but its strength was not dependent on their reactions. Someone was loved, not because he was desirable in himself, but because the love felt for him made him appear desirable. This view was summarized in the Greek saying: “The god of love dwells in the lover, not in the beloved.” It was always the god of love who was worshipped, never another person. Love could be frustrated, if it remained unaccepted, but it could not be disappointed. There was no such thing as the modern “unhappy love.” In contrast to this philosophy, love today is most often seen as an attracting force which originates in the beloved and attracts the lover. The beauty or excellence of the beloved is the cause of love and its only justification. As a consequence, people are usually preoccupied not with the love they themselves feel, but with the object of their love. This love object, the other person, is therefore often idealized to a point where eventual disappointment becomes inevitable. In other words, men and women are more concerned with receiving love than with giving it, and they tend to expect, indeed even demand, too much from each other. The disadvantages resulting from this modern understanding of love can, perhaps, be avoided, if we return to an examination of our fundamental needs as human beings. Sexual love alone cannot satisfy all our needs for human contact. Love, especially in the long run, is more than sexual desire. This realization is best expressed in the Christian concept of agape, a selfless, tolerant love for our fellow men, who share with us our shortcomings and imperfections. Such an attitude is also the best foundation for a happy sexual relationship. As this brief summary indicates, love is subject to various social and historical influences. Our modern concept of love is the result of a long and complicated cultural development, and it may well continue to change in the future. No predictions are possible, but this much can already be learned: For the sake of one’s own happiness, one should not simply follow established patterns, or models presented by popular magazines, movies, records, or television. Instead, one should try to develop truly personal contacts with those one loves.

lubricant. In sexology: A substance which facilitates the insertion of the penis into the vagina or the anus. Sexual excitement usually stimulates vaginal secretions which adequately prepare the female body for coitus. If the vagina does not provide a sufficient amount of secretion, the insertion of the penis can be painful. In such cases, the application of a lubricant is advisable, provided the woman really wants to engage in vaginal intercourse.. A lubricant is also necessary for anal intercourse. The simplest lubricant is saliva, but there are also a number of special, water-soluble lubricants on the market. This is important, since fat-based lubricants like butter, cooking oil, and Vaseline can destroy a condom. Some condoms are pre-lubricated by the manufacturer.

lues. Another name for syphilis, a sexually transmissible disease (see there).

M

machismo. Spanish term referring to a particular brand of masculinity which manifests itself in fanatical sexual pride, jealousy, and an exaggerated concern with male sexual capacity and performance. Machismo is an extreme expression of male supremacy.

male chauvinism. A term intended to describe the attitude of men who claim privileges because of their sex. The word “chauvinism” (after the character of a French super-patriot by the name of Chauvin in an old play) is usually employed to characterize an exaggerated and fanatical patriotism.

maleness. The quality of belonging to the male sex. Not to be confused with “masculinity” (see there).

marriage. A sexual partnership that is officially recognized and privileged as a personal union that is important and beneficial to society. In most cultures and in most of human history this has meant a union of women and men. Usually it also meant that this union was intended to produce and raise children. However, this latter intention was never decisive, since all societies have always allowed post-menopausal women to marry. Even if they could not possibly bear children, they were allowed or even encouraged to marry if they could find a husband to care for them. In human history there have been four forms of marriage, some of which continue to exist in some parts of the world today: 1. Monogamy: One man – one woman. 2. Polygyny: One man – several women. 3. Polyandry: Several men – one woman. 4. Group marriage: Several men – several women. Not all marriage forms have always been intended to last for life. Indeed, there have been recognized temporary marriages in a number of cultures (for example ancient Japan). In some cultures, there have also been same-sex marriages: A recognized formal union of two or several males, or of two or several females. Some European countries have recently revived such customs and have allowed formal same-sex marriages or same-sex “registered partnerships” resembling marriages. In conformity with Western tradition, these are monogamous in the sense that, in each case, there are only two partners.

masculinity. A quality of character, physical appearance, or behavior considered to be typical of males. The expression of the social role assigned to males. The term must be distinguished from “maleness”, i.e. the person’s physical sex. (Male does not equal masculine: A male person can very well be feminine.)

In all human societies the biological difference between male and female is used as the basis for different social and sexual roles. Such roles may vary from one time and culture to another. Nevertheless, in order to insure their acceptance, each society presents them as “natural” and unchangeable. Failure to conform to these roles is therefore usually punished not just as a breach of custom, but as a deviation from “nature.” In our own culture, masculinity is generally believed to manifest itself in rugged looks and extrovert, active, and aggressive behavior. In contrast, a smooth, sensuous physique and a quiet, introvert, passive demeanor are usually associated with femininity. These cultural stereotypes are imprinted early on children’s minds, for instance when they are told that boys are made of “snips and snails and puppy dog tails” and girls of “sugar and spice and everything nice.” Later, in adult society, women are supposed to be sensitive, receptive, and dominated by feelings, while men are considered to be demanding, productive, and largely controlled by reason. In short, our concepts of masculinity and femininity mirror the values of a society in which men dominate and women serve. It is obvious that not every man and every woman can hope to live up to these concepts. In many cases the sexual roles prove to be too confining. However, people who try to break out of them can encounter considerable difficulties, particularly if they themselves remain confused about their social and sexual identities. This confusion is the result of a life-long ideological indoctrination that constantly misrepresents cultural values as biological facts. Thus a man who begins by doubting his own masculinity may end up doubting his maleness. Finding himself considered a “sissy” by others, he may wrongly conclude that he is a man only by mistake, and that he should rather be a woman or, at least, dress and behave like one. (See “transsexualism”, “transvestism”.) Others may, for the same reason, develop a fear of sexual failure and a constant need to “prove their masculinity” by turning into promiscuous brutes. (See “machismo“) Still others believe that a lack of masculinity is identical with a homosexual orientation. In actual fact, however, homosexual interests and masculinity (or the lack of it) are no more related than homosexual interests and left-handedness. There are too many effeminate heterosexuals and too many super-masculine homosexuals to justify such a simplistic jump to conclusions.

masochism. (after the Austrian writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (1836-95), who loved to be sexually dominated by women and wrote about it.) Sexual preference for submission to a female or male dominant partner, a so-called sadist.(See “sadism” and “sadomasochism”)) The submission can include a desire for verbal denigration, humiliation, corporal punishment, tying up, and physical pain. Since the masochists ask for this treatment and determine its limits, they are, in fact, using the sadists for the fulfillment of their sexual desires. Thus they are, contrary to any outward appearance, the truly dominant partners in the relationship, a paradox that provides the “kick” in sadomasochistic encounters.

masochist. 1. Specifically: The submissive person in a sadomasochistic relationship (see “sadomasochism”). 2. Generally: A person who enjoys being humiliated, hurt, or abused.

masturbation. (from lat. “manus“: hand and “turbare“: to disturb) Sexual self-stimulation, manipulation of sex organs leading to orgasm. Although it is not unusual for sexual partners to masturbate each other (mutual masturbation), masturbation occurs most frequently as “solitary sex” without partners. It is the simplest and most common form of sexual activity, always available, and known to both sexes in all age groups. Ancient Greek and Roman physicians considered it necessary for the preservation of health. Many modern sex therapists also recommend it for the treatment of sexual dysfunctions. It is therefore hard to understand today how such a universal and harmless practice as masturbation could ever have been widely condemned. Nevertheless, this was the case in most Western countries from the 17th century until a few decades ago. First the English Puritans began to condemn masturbation in the name of religion, and later ignorant doctors, in the name of science, advanced the most fantastic and nonsensical theories as to the dangers of masturbation, claiming, among other things, that it led to acne, weakness, blindness, tuberculosis, insanity, and even death. In spite of the fact that absolutely no evidence for such claims was ever presented, these superstitions were widely believed and can, in fact, occasionally still be encountered today. The fact of the matter is, however, that masturbation does neither physical nor mental harm. Nor is there such a thing as “excessive” masturbation. The frequency of possible orgasms (whether through masturbation or other forms of sexual activity) varies considerably from one individual to the next. There is no “right” amount of sex that can serve as a standard for everybody. There is also no way in which any outsider can tell whether a boy or girl, a man or a woman, privately masturbates or not.

matriarchy. (gr. “mother rule”) A form of society in which all important decisions are made by women. In the past, certain cultures were dominated by women. However, in the course of history, these matriarchal societies have been replaced by male-dominated cultures (see “patriarchy”). Today there are only very few and very small matriarchal societies left in distant and isolated parts of the world.

membrum virile. (lat. “male member”) Medical term for penis.

ménage à trois. (fr. “household of three”) A steady sexual relationship (resembling a marriage) between three partners, of whom two may be legally married to each other. A ménage à trois usually consists of one man and two women, occasionally of one woman and two men. (However, there are also rare cases of three men or three women living together in sexual partnerships.) Since this kind of private arrangement can be interpreted as a sort of unofficial bigamy (at least in heterosexual partnerships), it is considered immoral by many people. The lack of social approval together with the possible conflicts between the partners themselves put a particular strain on such relationships, and very few of them last long.

menarche (gr. “men“: month and “arche“: beginning”) Medical term for the first menstruation.

menopause. (gr. “months stopping”) The time in a woman’s life when her menstrual bleeding begins to recur less frequently until it finally ceases altogether (usually between the ages of 45 to 50). The menopause ends the woman’s ability to conceive and can also produce other physical and psychological changes. However, these changes do not necessarily affect her sexual capacities.

menstrual cycle. The biological process which takes place in the female body between two menstruations. The cycle begins on the first day of a menstruation and ends on the day before the next menstruation. The length of menstrual cycles is subject to variation, but, on the average, lasts 28 days.

menstruation. (from lat. menses: months) A periodic discharge of blood and other materials from the reproductive organs of a sexually mature female. A menstruation may be accompanied by some physical discomfort, although many women experience hardly any inconvenience at all. In most women, menstruation recurs about every 4 weeks (28 days).Usually, each menstruation or “period” lasts between 2 to 5 days. During this time, women wear sanitary napkins or tampons which absorb the menstrual flow and thus allow for a continuation of normal daily activities. The first menstruation (or menarche) of a girl occurs when she reaches puberty, usually between the ages of 11 to 13. However, neither an early nor a late arrival of the menarche is cause for alarm. A woman’s menstruations cease during her 5th decade. Some women feel increased sexual desire before or during their menstruations. Nevertheless, many men and women avoid sexual intercourse during that time for esthetic and other reasons. However, there is no need to make this a universal rule. During a pregnancy, menstruation ceases. However, the absence of an expected menstruation is not necessarily a symptom of pregnancy. On the other hand, it is not impossible that bleeding can occur even after a conception without terminating the pregnancy. In these and similar cases, where suspicious or unusual irregularities occur, a physician should be consulted.

miscarriage. Spontaneous premature end of an advanced pregnancy resulting in death of fetus. A termination of pregnancy can also be purposely induced. (See “abortion”) A miscarriage after the 24th week of pregnancy is called a stillbirth.

miscegenation. Mixing of the races. Ideological term based on the obsolete assumption that different, clear-cut human races exist that can be, but should not be, “mixed”. In the United States, the term used to be applied especially to marriages between “whites” and “blacks” (however these categories were defined at the time). Several Southern states and South Africa had so-called “miscegenation laws,” which made such marriages illegal. However, in the meantime, these laws have been found to violate basic human rights and have been abolished. The whole idea of “pure” human “races” that should not be mixed is an expression of European and American “white anxieties” and fairly modern in origin. It was unknown in ancient and medieval times, began as a form of self-justification with the ever-expanding Western colonialism, and reached its greatest influence in the 19th and early 20th centuries in the social-political ideology of racism. However, from the standpoint of human biology, the category of race is meaningless. In the latest American census, the concept of race finally revealed its absurdity for everyone to see, when many respondents with “mixed” ancestry did not know how to check the appropriate boxes. The racial categories proved to be arbitrary, illogical and inconsistent.(For example, immigrants from Spain (Hispania, España) were NOT to classify themselves as “Hispanic”, but as “Caucasian”, i.e. originating from the Caucasus mountains in Russia. The alleged race “Hispanic” was reserved for immigrants from Latin American countries which, of course, had previously been settled by people from Spain. In other words: Spaniards immigrating from Latin America and Spaniards immigrating from Spain were declared by the American census to belong to two different races. Question: If immigrants from these two different races then marry each other in the US, is it miscegenation?

monogamy. (gr.) Marriage of one man to one woman. (or, in some European countries, also of two partners of the same sex). Opposite of polygamy.

morning-after-pill. Colloquial term for a large dose of contraceptive hormones (estrogen) taken orally within 3 to 5 days after unprotected vaginal intercourse. This “pill” can still prevent a potential unwanted pregnancy and may be especially indicated in cases of rape or incest.

N

naked. Fully revealed without the protection of clothing. The term has undertones of helplessness and shame. There may also be an element of erotic provocation (see also “nude” and “nudity”).

narcissism. An unconscious or conscious fixation on oneself and a sexual desire for one’s own body. According to an ancient Greek legend, Narcissus was a beautiful youth in love with himself who drowned admiring the reflection of his face in the water.

natural birth control. The speaker usually means “contraception”, not birth control (see there). The term refers to contraceptive methods approved by the Catholic church, such as the “rhythm method” or “cervical mucus observation”. The word “natural” as used here has a moral, not scientific, meaning derived from the theological doctrine of Natural Law. However, from the scientific point of view, any method of contraception is as natural or artificial as any other. (See also “artificial birth control”).

natural childbirth. A term sometimes used for a physical and psychological technique which greatly reduces the pain of giving birth by an adequate preparation and active participation of the expectant mother. The method of “natural childbirth” was first advanced in 1942 by Dr. Grantly Dick-Read, a British obstetrician, who also developed a program of exercises designed to train the expectant mother in controlling her muscles. The final objective of these exercises is to make childbirth a process in which the mother, instead of playing an unpleasant passive role, can actively participate.

necking. Colloquial term used to describe kisses and caresses without complete bodily contact, and avoiding strong sexual excitement. (Contact above the neck, not below.)

nocturnal emission. (lat. “emission during the night”) This misleading term refers to an ejaculation during sleep (“wet dream”). However, a man can also have an orgasm and ejaculate during an afternoon nap. This would then be a “diurnal emission”. Moreover, if the orgasm occurs before puberty, there is no emission of semen. Finally, women can also have orgasms in their sleep. Therefore, it is better to say so and simply speak of “orgasm during sleep”. This term is applicable to both sexes.

normal. This term belongs in the context of statistics. When applied to sexual matters, it usually is supposed to mean “good”. Correspondingly, “abnormal” then means “bad”. However, when it comes to details, the exact meaning of both terms may change from speaker to speaker. As a result, there is usually an argument about the very concept of “normality”, and this argument almost always remains unresolved. In sexology, the term should be avoided altogether, since it never describes facts, but only expresses value judgements..

nuclear family. Family consisting of only two successive generations: parents and children. The smallest nuclear family consists of only two persons: mother and child. But even parents with many children form nothing more than a nuclear family as long as no further relatives (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins) are part of their household. The nuclear family is the result of social developments which have their roots in general technological changes as well as in the demands for greater individual freedom, independence, and privacy. However, the nuclear family has several disadvantages: Since few persons share expensive appliances (kitchen, washer, dryer, refrigerator, TV, computer, car, lawnmower), there is a certain amount of waste that increases the cost of living. The functions of father and mother tend to become totally separated. The father works outside of the house and is unavailable to his children most of the time. The mother, on the other hand, may be tied to her household and the children, and may have to give up most of her cultural, intellectual, and professional ambitions. This further enhances her husband’s privileged position. If, on the other hand, the mother also works outside the home, the children may have no one to look after them most of the time. All of this can result in serious problems, including sexual problems.

nude. Unclothed. Should be distinguished from “naked” (see there).

nudism. A movement which advocates a “natural” way of life with much physical exercise in the open air, and without the restrictions of clothing. For this reason, nudists usually form private clubs and build their own camps, where they spend much of their free time in complete nudity without interference from others. The nudist philosophy rejects many of the traditional laws and social conventions concerning dress. For a nudist, they are expressions of an unhealthy, exaggerated sense of modesty and fear of the body. In contrast, nudists maintain that, in the natural state of nudity, people become more beautiful, more relaxed, and, ultimately, more humane. This philosophy is expounded in nudist magazines, which usually carry pictures of nude men, women, and children whose appearance is supposed to suggest the nudist ideal. It is a moot question whether the nudist philosophy is hypocritical or sincere, sophisticated or simple-minded, reasonable or foolish. Basically, it is a matter of taste rather than rational argument. Some people join a nudist group temporarily, or spend only their vacations at a nudist camp. Nudism is more common in Europe than in the US, and it is practically unheard of in Asia and in Muslim countries.

nudity. The state of being unclothed. The impression of nudity on the observer depends very much on his cultural background and on his education. In general, Europeans are more comfortable with nudity than Americans, Germans are more comfortable with it than are the Irish. Recent years have seen an increase of nudity in advertising, fashions, and entertainment. However, this does not necessarily mean that there has been an equal increase of sexual excitement in the viewer. In fact, some people complain that certain formerly hidden charms now no longer provide the expected stimulation. Generally, the more open display of the nude body today can be considered a symptom of growing emotional maturity and of a more relaxed attitude towards human sexuality.

nymphomania. (gr. “nymph-like craze”) This denigrating term alludes to the love-sick nymphs (pretty girl spirits or fairies) in ancient Greek mythology. Well educated 19th century psychiatrists introduced the term to brand female sexual “promiscuity” as sick , i.e. symptomatic of mental illness. A learned term of opprobrium without scientific value. If and how a woman’s frequently changing sexual partners are a problem for her, depends on many different factors that should be clearly named in each case. (See also “erotomania” and “promiscuity”)

O

obscene. (lat.) Anything that is believed to violate the prevailing standards of sexual propriety.

obscenity. An object or a behavior that violates the prevailing standards of sexual propriety. Apart from considerable theoretical difficulties, the problem of obscenity raises a number of practical questions. To begin with, there is no general agreement as to what the standards of sexual propriety actually are. Different people hold widely divergent views on the subject. But even where there is no doubt about the standards, there is usually a great deal of discussion as to whether they have, in fact, been violated. For instance, it is claimed that a work of art or scholarship can, by definition, never be obscene, no matter how shocking it may appear to some people. This argument often shifts the debate to the question of whether a certain literary text, a sculpture, painting, photograph, book, or film is art or not. However, art is, if anything, even more difficult to define than obscenity. These frustrating disputations are then often settled in court by means of some judicial decision that leaves at least one, and often all the contestants unconvinced. Under the circumstances, it would appear sensible to leave such questions to the individual, as long as he does not actually force his personal taste on others who do not care for it. The demand to be left alone in such cases seems reasonable enough. However, it is questionable whether people who themselves can easily avoid exposure to what they might consider obscene really need the protection of the police.

Oedipus complex. A psychoanalytic term coined by the Viennese physician Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and used in the interpretation of a certain unconscious crisis in a male child’s sexual development. The boy’s experiences and reactions during this so-called Oedipal phase largely are said to determine his later ability to establish intimate contact with others.

Freud’s concept has come under increasing criticism in recent years and, in any case, no longer plays any role in modern sexology. Indeed, outside of psychoanalytic circles the Oedipus complex is now being derided as a simple-minded and even silly fiction, unproven and unprovable and therefore unscientific. The original idea, although intellectually seductive at first, always seemed forced and far-fetched upon closer examination, because it oversimplified a complex ancient myth, reducing it to an alleged sexual subtext and ignoring a variety of crucial non-sexual factors in child development. The term “Oedipus complex” alluded to the legendary Greek king Oedipus who unknowingly killed his father and married his mother. This allusion seemed justified by the following observation: It is the rule for a young child to be actively interested in a person of the other sex. If we examine the behavior of a 4-year-old boy, for example, we discover that he is “in love” with a woman – his mother. She is, for him, the only woman he knows and cares to know. However, this woman already has a husband – the father. The boy is jealous of him and would like to push him aside in order to assume his position. This desire is usually expressed openly and spontaneously, as for instance when the boy climbs into his mother’s bed announcing: “When I grow up, I’ll marry you.” Freud believed that this situation could be compared to that of King Oedipus, although there was one important difference: Oedipus actually did remove his father forever from his mother’s side, and he did marry her. The normal development of a child was to take another course: The boy replaces his desire to marry his mother with the wish to marry a woman like his mother, and his urge to take the place of his father turns into the determination to become a man like his father. The boy can make this transition easily, if the father provides an attractive model to follow, and if he actively encourages his son to become a man. At the same time, it is the mother’s task to help her son realize that she has already chosen and is no longer available as a sexual object. These parental attitudes will lead the boy to seek his sexual gratification elsewhere. (In the case of a girl, the development was said to take the opposite course: she loves her father and is jealous of her mother. The respective psychoanalytic term is “Electra complex,” after Electra, a legendary Greek princess who, after the death of her beloved father, helped kill her mother, who had murdered him.)

onanism. Erroneously used as a synonym for sexual self-pleasuring (masturbation). However, the sin of the biblical Onan (1. Moses, 38, 8-10) was not masturbation, but greed. Obliged to impregnate his brother’s widow in order to produce heirs for her, he wanted to keep the inheritance for himself. Thus, when having intercourse with her, he let “his seed spill upon the ground”, i.e. he withdrew before ejaculating, practicing coitus abruptus (see coitus interruptus).

opposite sex. Misleading term. Males and females are not opposites; they are just different in many aspects and in varying degrees. Indeed, even their sex organs grow from an originally undifferentiated cell mass and have a number of homologous structures. Moreover, the male and female sexual responses are quite similar. It is important in science not to construe differences as opposites. Correct term: “the other sex”.

oral intercourse. Sexual intercourse involving the mouth of one sexual partner and the sex organs of the other. (See “cunnilinctus“, “fellatio“.)

orgasm. (gr. “orgasmos“: lustful excitement) Medical term used to describe the climax of sexual pleasure. The culminating phase of the human sexual response, characterized by a quick succession of muscular contractions, and followed by general physical relaxation. Orgasm is a highly complicated physical process, usually accompanied by involuntary movements, sounds, and gestures, such as convulsions of the body, groans, and sighs. Orgasm can make the sexual partners oblivious to their surroundings and even to each other. In fact, it could be said that during orgasm they deeply feel and forget each other at the same time. In the male after puberty, orgasm is usually accompanied by an ejaculation of semen. Orgasm in females is, in principle, the same physical reaction with the same muscular contractions, although only in very few women are the paraurethral glands developed enough to produce a prostatic fluid that can be ejaculated. There is a belief that the most perfect coitus is one that results in the simultaneous orgasm of both partners. However, this can be a dangerous ideal likely to put unnecessary pressure on the partners. Therefore, it should not be considered the decisive criterion for satisfactory intercourse or a happy sexual relationship.

orgy. A gathering at which people have sexual intercourse with each other. Originally, orgies had a religious function. On certain occasions (fertility rites), sexual intercourse among members of the celebrating group was considered an appropriate offering to the gods. Today the word “orgy” has mostly negative connotations. This is an indication of how much our attitude towards sex has changed in the process of civilization. Even so, orgies still take place in privacy, for example in so-called swinger’s clubs that are devoted to “recreational sex”.

“outercourse” Colloquial expression for non-penetrative sexual intercourse, i.e. for sexual contact during which the penis of one partner does not penetrate any body orifice (mouth, vagina, anus) of the other and thus remains “outside”. Obviously, this form of intercourse cannot transmit (potentially infected) fluids from one body to another. The etymologically incorrect, but amusing term was coined in the 1980s in connection with “safer sex” programs.

outlet, sexual. Concept developed by the American sex researcher Alfred C. Kinsey (1894-1956). He distinguished between six sexual outlets, i.e. sources of orgasm: 1. Masturbation, 2. Sexual dreams, 3. Heterosexual petting, 4. Coitus, 5. Homosexual contact, 6. Sex with animals. These outlets could be counted and the resulting various figures could then be used for statistical comparisons. The statistics gathered by Kinsey and his collaborators on this basis allowed them to publish their two famous reports “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” (1948) and “Sexual Behavior in the Human Female” (1953).

ovaries. (lat. “ova“: eggs) Two almond-sized glandular organs, one on each side of the uterus, which produce the ova or egg cells. (See ovum.) They also produce hormones which influence the development of a woman’s secondary sexual characteristics. In their function, the ovaries correspond to a man’s testicles. The removal or loss of both ovaries results in infertility.

ovulation. The process by which the ripe egg (ovum) is released from the ovaries, after which it travels through one of the Fallopian tubes into the uterus. In a sexually mature woman, ovulation occurs fairly regularly about every 28 days, except during pregnancy and shortly after she has given birth. At the time of ovulation there is a slight rise in body temperature. (See “basal temperature.”)

ovum. (lat.. Plural: ova) Egg. The female reproductive cell produced in the ovaries. An ovum is about 1/200 of an inch in diameter. A woman’s ovaries contain several hundred thousand potential ova, although only a few hundred are actually involved in the reproductive phase of her life. During the period between puberty and menopause, one egg ripens approximately every 28 days. The fertilization of an egg by a sperm cell (see spermatozoa) marks the beginning of a pregnancy. The human ovum was not discovered until the 19th century.

P

pansexualism. (sometimes also “pansexuality”. From gr. “pan“: all) All-embracing sexual love. An attitude or a philosophy which is based on the belief that the human sexual potential can and should be directed towards everybody and everything. At one time, the term “pansexualism” was also used for the theory that all human behavior is somehow sexually motivated. This theory is no longer considered valid. Today the terms “pansexualism” and “pansexuality” are often employed by certain advocates of sexual liberation who want to convey the idea that the present sexual and gender roles of men and women are too confining, and that, therefore, an all-embracing sexuality should accept the entire spectrum of sexual orientations and deliberately ignore all other conventional distinctions.

paraphilia. (gr. “next to” & “love”, i.e. second-class love) Term used by medical, psychological, and legal professionals for sexual behavior of which they disapprove. Indeed, they now prefer this term over the older “perversion”, “aberration” and “deviation” which have fallen into disfavor as too harsh and ideological. However, the new term does not really represent any intellectual progress, since it also assumes and implies the existence of a “real”, “true”,”natural”, and “correct” love (philia) which has sisters of minor rank standing next, behind, or below it, just as the paramedical personnel stands behind or below the “real” doctor. Scientifically speaking, this is an unwarranted assumption. Professionals in any field should clearly and openly state the reasons for their disapproval in each individual case. These reasons will prove convincing in some cases, but in other cases they may very well turn out to be no more than prejudices. (See also “aberration”, “deviation”, “perversion”.)

paternity. (lat. “pater“: father) Fatherhood. The state or condition of being a father.

paternity suit. A legal suit aimed at determining the father of a child born out of wedlock. Such a suit is usually filed in order to secure financial support for the child.

patriarchy. (gr. father rule) A political system or a form of society in which all important decisions are made by men. In a patriarchal society men dominate most spheres of life, such as politics, administration, economy, science, art, and religion. They also enjoy a privileged position sexually. There have been attempts to compensate for the discrimination against women by showing special respect for their roles as young, “innocent” girls, virgins, wives, and mothers (Mother’s Day). Today such attempts are no longer convincing. In fact, many women regard them as insincere and even offensive, while many men have begun to realize that there is no substitute for true sexual equality. Most Western countries have long been and are still today more or less patriarchal. There is usually only one main area where male influence is weak or even absent: the education of small children, which has become the almost exclusive right and obligation of women. In the course of history, there were also cultures dominated by women, and some still exist today in remote corners of the world (see “matriarchy”).

pederasty. (gr. “pais“: boy and “eran“: to love) 1.”Boy love” in ancient Greece. The literal translation is misleading, since the term does not refer to a child, but rather to a “boy” after puberty. The correct meaning is therefore: “Sexual relationship between an man and a male adolescent”. In ancient Greece such relationships were customary and enjoyed general social approval. Pederasty had an educational function, obliging the adult lover (“the inspirer”) to teach his young beloved (“the listener”) good citizenship; the adolescent, in turn, had the obligation to learn from his adult role model. The relationship ended when the adolescent was ready for marriage. 2. Anal intercourse between males. This is a modern usage resulting from a misunderstanding of the original term and ignorance of its historical implications. In this reductionist sense, the term has crept into Western legal jargon and is often used in the context of persecuting sex offenses.

pedophile. (gr. pais: boy or child and philia: love) An adult having a sexual preference for children, i.e. girls or boys before puberty.

pedophilia: Sexual preference of adults for children, i.e. girls or boys before puberty. Not all pedophiles have actual sexual contact with children. For example, the author C. L. Dodgson (1832-98), who, under the name Lewis Carroll, wrote “Alice in Wonderland” was erotically attracted to very young girls. Indeed, with the permission of their parents, he took nude photographs of some of them. However, he never overstepped the boundaries of propriety and never had sexual contact with them. Conversely, not every sexual contact between adults and children is an expression of pedophilia, and not all adults having such contacts are pedophiles. Some may have the contacts out of curiosity, or because the children happen to be available in a particular situation, or because they see them as easy victims of their own destructive impulses, or because they have still other motives. In such cases there is not really a genuine sexual preference and thus no true pedophilia.

peeping Tom. (after the English legend of Lady Godiva, who was forced by her husband to ride though town in the nude. In sympathy to her plight, all citizens locked their windows and refused to look outside. Only “peeping Tom” broke rank and saw her.) Colloquial term for voyeur, i.e. a man who habitually and secretly observes unsuspecting women and men being nude or engaging in sexual activity.

pentrative sexual intercourse Collective term for oral, vaginal, and anal intercourse during which the penis of one partner penetrates the mouth, vagina, or anus of the other.

penilinctus. See fellatio.

penis. (lat. tail) The most obvious male sex organ, consisting of some sponge-like erectile tissue and a bulb-like extremity called glans.

period A term sometimes used for menstruation.

perversion. (lat. Turning around) The term “perversion” (just as “aberration”, deviation,” or “abnormality”) implies the transgression of a certain norm for sexual behavior. The concrete definition of this norm is usually left to the religious, legal, and medical authorities. As seen from their particular points of view, a violation of the norm is either a sin, a crime, or a disease, and the word “perversion” has been used to mean any of these things. However, the various religious, legal, and medical definitions are subject to change and do not necessarily agree with each other. For this reason, the term is not useful in scientific discourse. As far as the general public is concerned, there is a tendency to call every sexual act perverse that is unfamiliar. People who engage in such acts are just as readily called perverts. In everyday language, therefore, the word “perverse” often means nothing more than “strange and disgusting.” (See also in our “Glossary of Inappropriate Terms” under “perversion”.)

pessary. A term sometimes used for the cervical cap or, less frequently, for the diaphragm.

petting. Intimate caresses and close physical contact between male and female sexual partners including the touching of the sex organs, but avoiding coitus. Petting is a special form of sexual intercourse common among young people who try to find a compromise between their private desire for sexual gratification and the public demand for their sexual abstinence.

phallus. (Lat. from Greek: phallos) Penis. Today the term “phallus” is most often used for the artistic representation of a penis in the state of erection. In ancient Greece and Rome, the erect phallus was a symbol of life and fertility. Its image was openly displayed in public. Comedy actors in ancient theaters wore large, grotesque phalluses for comic effect. There were also public statues of phallic deities, such as Hermes and Priapus, which were believed to protect the lives of travelers or to insure a good harvest. The phallus symbol was also worn in the form of jewelry, as a good luck charm. It was not until after the rise of Christianity that people began to take offense at the artistic representation of sex organs. This new prudery resulted in the curious practice of covering the penises (gr. phalloi) of classical Greek and Roman statues with biblical fig leaves.

phimosis. (gr. “phimoein“: to gag) Tightness of the penis foreskin, requiring its surgical removal (see also “circumcision”).

pimp. A man who forces a woman to become a prostitute, or who helps her to procure business and who profits from her prostitution. Very often a pimp takes advantage of girls who find themselves in desperate circumstances. In some cases, prostitutes welcome the protection and experience of a pimp, and do not object to sharing their income with him. This can be the case when frequent police raids or brutal customers pose a danger to sex workers. On the other hand, where they can work openly in an officially recognized profession (as in the Netherlands) there is no need for pimps and little chance that they can make a living.

Planned Parenthood. The International Planned Parenthood Federation is a worldwide organization composed of family planning organizations from many nations which helps provide voluntary contraceptive services in more than 100 countries.

Platonic love. A love of the soul, not of the body, a deep affection for somebody’s personality, without sexual desire. The term was originally used for a certain kind of homosexual love. The ancient Greek philosopher Plato, in his “Symposium,” has the old and ugly Socrates describe his feelings for Alcibiades, a beautiful young man, whose sexual advances he had rejected. Socrates proposes a “higher,” non-physical form of love that aspires, above everything else, to a union of souls.

pollution. (lat. dirtying) Term sometimes used to describe an ejaculation during sleep. A moralistic, negative term that should have no place in science.

polyamory (from gr. poly: many and lat. amor: love). A new term introduced by certain advocates of multiple, simultaneous erotic relationships. According to their definition, polyamory is based on a conscious decision not to limit one’s erotic potential and to engage in several or even many relationships at the same time as long as they are all based on honesty, integrity and mutual caring. The very broad definition thus covers, among other things, not only monogamous “open” marriages, but also group marriages and “intimate networks”

polygamy. (gr.) Marriage between more than two partners. There are 3 basic forms of polygamy: 1.Polygyny (one man – several wives). 2. Polyandry (one wife – several husbands). 3 . Group marriage (several husbands – several wives). In the course of history, the term “polygamy” has most often meant that a man had several wives. (This form of polygamy was practiced, for example, by the 19th-century Mormons in Utah, USA. In some Islamic countries a man can even today have as many as four wives, in some African and East Asian countries an unlimited number.) In some cultures of the past, polygamy also meant that one woman had several husbands. Group marriages have always been rare. Therefore, they have usually not been subsumed under the general term “polygamy”, but have been listed separately in a category of their own.

pornography. (from gr. porne: whore, and graphein: to write) A term used by certain people for pictures, statues, books, or films that depict nudity or sexual activity in a fashion of which they disapprove. This formal definition implies a lack of objective criteria for pornography, and indeed no consensus has ever been reached on the matter. No policeman, lawyer, or judge has ever been able to come up with a generally accepted definition. Neither have artists and critics ever agreed on this point. Nevertheless, there seems to be some sort of understanding among all experts that it is somehow typical for pornography to stimulate sexual excitement in the viewer or reader. However, different viewers and readers are sexually stimulated by different things, and this introduces another element of subjectivity. What is sexually exciting to one person, may leave another one cold. Moreover, the experts totally disagree about the effects of this excitement, if indeed it occurs in this or that individual. Some take it for granted that the effects are harmful; others believe them to be beneficial. It is not surprising, therefore, that definitions of what is pornographic and the restrictions placed upon pornography differ considerably from one time and culture to another. In many countries there is a variety of laws and regulations which, although constantly challenged in court, try to control pornography, even if they can do so only in a capricious and haphazard fashion. However, in view of the fact that the concept of what is pornographic varies from culture to culture, and even from group to group within the same culture, it is unlikely that any final truth is ever going to be discovered in this area. The problem of pornography is basically one of cultural attitudes towards sex. Historically and geographically, such attitudes range from total condemnation to total acceptance.

potency. (from lat. potentia: power) Sexual capacity of the male (i.e. the ability to have erections of the penis and to experience orgasm. A male’s potency is considered the greater, the more often he can have erections and orgasms.). The term is almost never used in reference to females.

pregnancy. The condition of a woman between the conception and birth of her baby. The normal duration of a pregnancy is about 9 months or 280 days. During this period, the developing baby grows from an embryo to a

premarital intercourse. Since the term “premarital” refers to the period between puberty and marriage, it cannot be applied to the behavior of people who remain single throughout their lives. However, it is impossible to know beforehand who will eventually get married, and who will not. Strictly speaking, the term “premarital intercourse” is appropriate only in the case of a person who has definitely decided to marry. It also makes sense when used in retrospect by people who are married, and who look back on their sexual experiences before marriage. But even within these narrow logical limits, the term fails to make one important distinction: it applies indiscriminately not only to couples who are engaged, but also to couples who have no intention of marrying one another, yet who may, at some later date, get married to someone else. It should be clear from these observations that the term “premarital intercourse,” as commonly used, is inappropriate, because it oversimplifies and prejudges the issue of sex between unmarried partners.

premature ejaculation. The term is completely misleading, because it confuses ejaculation with orgasm. It is the orgasm, not the ejaculation, that is felt to occur “too early”. An ejaculation can, but does not have to, accompany a male orgasm. Not every male orgasm is accompanied by an ejaculation (examples: before puberty, after a prostatectomy etc.) However, after an orgasm the penis usually loses his erection, and it is this loss of erection that causes the concern. In other words, the real problem has nothing to do with an ejaculation of semen, but with an “untimely” softening of the penis after orgasm. It is therefore more appropriately called “unsatisfactory timing of orgasm”. (See also “ejaculatio praecox“)

promiscuity. (lat. indiscriminate mixing) This term is supposed to denote the behavior of people who have sexual contact with many, or rather “too many”, partners. However, since there will never be a general agreement about how many are too many within which time frame, the word has no clear meaning and is simply a term of disapproval. (see also “erotomania” and “nymphomania”)

preorgasmic woman. This term falsely implies that a woman who does not have orgasms will sooner or later have them. However, this is not true. Thus, the term creates unrealistic expectations and performance pressures. The same would be true if one were to call the poor milkman Tevye “pre-rich”. Some poor men become rich, but not all.

prepuce. Medical term for foreskin.

presbyophile. presbus (Greek) old man + philia (Greek) love. A synonym for gerontophile; one who is erotically attracted to older persons.

prophylactic. Old-fashioned term for condom.

pudenda. (lat. things to be ashamed of) Obsolete term for the external female sex organs (vulva). However, there is no reason be ashamed of these organs. Curiously enough, the term was never used for the external male sex organs.

prostitute. (lat. prostituere: to offer) Sex worker. Someone who provides sexual services for pay. There are female and male prostitutes.

prostitution. Providing sexual services for pay. Illegal in many countries, permitted in others, and an officially recognized profession in the Netherlands. Prostitution has sometimes been called “the oldest profession in the world,” meaning that it has always existed in the past, and among all nations. Occasionally, prostitution served a religious function, as in the case of so-called “temple prostitution.” At other times, prostitution was a result of the sexual double standard. This standard, while allowing for some male sexual license, demanded total sexual abstinence of all women before and outside of marriage. It usually turned out that the virginity and chastity of “respectable” women could more easily be protected by providing the men with the opportunity to have sexual intercourse with prostitutes. In a way, then, prostitution was considered both evil and useful for society. It was the fight against this type of social hypocrisy (see G. B. Shaw’s play “Mrs. Warren’s Profession”) and the growing emancipation of women which helped to end the double standard in large parts of Europe and the United States.

prudery. Rejection of sexuality. Prudery is a sign of a conscious or unconscious fear of sex. Prudish people have a low opinion of sex in general. They believe it to be over-emphasized by others, and feel threatened by its open discussion. If forced to talk about it, they will usually stress the procreational function of sex at the expense of its pleasurable aspects. The fact that our language does not possess simple, commonly accepted terms for the various sexual activities is a result of general prudery.

puberty. The period of life during which the human body develops the secondary sexual characteristics and becomes capable of reproduction. Puberty normally arrives in the early teens (between the ages of 9-14 for girls and 11-16 for boys). On the average, girls reach puberty about two years earlier than boys. Over the last hundred years, puberty has begun at ever lower ages.

R

reparative therapy. The term refers to psychiatric attempts to “repair” the damaged minds of homosexuals by trying to turn them into “fully functioning” heterosexuals. The term and the practice imply that homosexuality is somehow in need of correction. This is a moralistic value judgement, not an objective, scientific finding. Indeed, the intended objects of this repair work usually consider themselves fully functional just as they are and rightfully demand “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.!” The insistence to do so anyway is nothing but the missionary zeal of moral crusaders (see also “conversion therapy”).

reproductive organs. Ideological term for sex organs. These organs also serve other functions besides reproduction and should not be semantically reduced to a single function.

retarded ejaculation. This term is misleading, since it confuses ejaculation and orgasm. The speaker usually means to refer to a delayed orgasm, i.e. a male orgasm that comes “too late” in the opinion of one or both of the sexual partners. After all, it is only after orgasm that the male is sexually satisfied and his penis loses its erection. This then signals the end of the respective sexual encounter. Whether semen is ejaculated durng this orgasm is usually immaterial, unless the female partner wants to become pregnant quickly. (See also “premature ejaculation”.)

Rh factor. (Short for “Rhesus factor”) An antigen present in the blood of most people. These people are therefore called Rh-positive. The remaining percentage of the population, who do not possess the Rh factor, are called Rh-negative. When an Rh-negative person receives a transfusion of Rh-positive blood, his blood plasma develops antibodies. These antibodies do not cause any harm unless a second transfusion of Rh-positive blood occurs, in which case the patient may experience severe reactions. A careful classification and separation of Rh-positive and Rh-negative blood types can help avoid such complications. Problems can also arise when a woman with Rh-negative blood becomes pregnant by an Rh-positive man. In such a case, her developing baby is likely to be Rh-positive as well. However, when the Rh-positive blood of the fetus passes into the mother’s circulation, her own Rh-negative blood forms antibodies which, in turn, enter the fetal bloodstream. In the case of a first pregnancy, this usually does not cause any harm, but later pregnancies may be adversely affected. Today such conditions can usually be controlled by appropriate medical measures. It is therefore no longer inadvisable for an Rh-negative woman to marry an Rh-positive man.

rhythm method. The so-called rhythm method of contraception consists of temporary sexual abstinence from vaginal intercourse (coitus) during a woman’s fertile period. A woman can become pregnant only as long as an egg is in the Fallopian tubes. This knowledge can, of course, also be used to advantage by couples who want a child, and who can thus select an appropriate time for coitus. However, those who want to avoid a pregnancy only have to avoid coitus during the same period. The fertile days of a woman are those shortly before, during, and after ovulation. It is advisable to begin avoiding coitus a few days before ovulation, because the sperm cells remain alive in the uterus and Fallopian tubes for several days. Abstinence for a while after ovulation is also necessary, because the egg can be fertilized for some time after ovulation. There are basically two ways of determining the fertile days of a woman, namely, the “calendar method” and the “basal temperature method.”

1. The calendar method:

In order to use this method, the woman has to keep a careful record of her menstruations over a longer period of time (at least one year). Each period from the first day of menstruation to the day before the next menstruation counts as a separate menstrual cycle. After determining the various lengths of the individual cycles, one subtracts 17 days from the shortest cycle, and 13 days from the longest cycle. For example: Shortest cycle: 24 days; 24 – 17 = 7. Longest cycle: 31 days; 31 – 13 = 18. Now, if one counts again from each first day of menstruation, the fertile days are those between the 7th and 18th day of each cycle. The other days are infertile, that is, safe.

2. The basal temperature method:

In order to use this method, the woman takes her own body temperature while resting. This is called the basal temperature. It has to be taken at the same time each day, for at least a year, and the findings have to be carefully recorded. Looking at the data for one month, the woman will notice an elevation of basal temperature during certain days. These are her fertile days, since the rise in temperature results from her ovulation. By comparing the records of several months, the woman can then arrive at an estimate as to the periodical reoccurance of her fertile period.

Both the calendar method and the basal temperature method should not be used without professional guidance. Yet even under the supervision of a doctor, they are not very reliable. Particularly among younger women, menstrual cycles tend to be irregular. Ovulation can also occur at unexpected times due to emotional shock or illness. A rise in body temperature resulting from an infection can upset normal calculations. Finally, there is the possibility of ovulation in response to coitus itself. Apart from this lack of reliability, the rhythm method has another important disadvantage: it subjects sexual intercourse to the rule of calendar and thermometer and thus puts an emotional strain upon the sexual partners.

romance. A romantic love affair. The idea of romantic love, which was unknown to the ancient world, is a product of our Christian Western culture. It began to develop during the Middle Ages, when the notions of chivalry and religious devotion were, for the first time, applied to the courtly love that brave knights felt (or professed to feel) for their virtuous and largely inaccessible ladies. Indeed, the very notion of “courtship” has its origin in the conventions of a feudal court. However, the concept of romantic love did not necessarily imply sexual intercourse, and it also remained unrelated to the institution of marriage. It was not until the beginning of the industrial revolution and the period of Romanticism that the idea of romantic love as a condition for marriage became conceivable to a wider public. Thus, more and more people began to consider the selection of marriage partners as a matter of personal choice and, indeed, a personal right. At the same time, the traditional family structure also began to change. The former extended family was gradually replaced with the modern nuclear family, and today there is a widespread belief, particularly among young people, that there is only one “right” woman for every man, that their love should be romantic, and that it should lead to marriage. It should be pointed out, however, that neither happy love relationships nor happy marriages depend on such notions or conditions.

rubber. A colloquial term for condom.

S

sadism, sexual. (after the French writer Donatien Alphonse Francois, Marquis de Sade 1740-1814) 1. In sexology: A sexual preference for the domination of submissive partners. The reverse of “masochism” (see there). 2. In everyday language: Cruelty.

sadist. 1. In sexology: A person who has a sexual preference for the domination of submissive partners. The reverse of “masochist” (see there). 2. In everyday language: A cruel person.

sadomasochism, also S/M. Collective term for the phenomena of sexual sadism and masochism, which not only mirror each other, but often form the basis for the informal and formal organization of interested individuals. Sadists and masochists need each other and thus have, where possible, created a “subculture” of their own. In S/M clubs, for example, it is quite possible that sadists and masochists occasionally switch roles in order to satisfy each other, although most of the time, individual preferences remain fixed. However, recent reports from the S/M scene indicate a growing flexibility in dominant and submissive orientations. The sadomasochistic encounter or “scene” involves domination and submission, and can include a desire for active and passive verbal denigration, humiliation, corporal punishment, tying up, and physical pain. Since the masochists ask for this treatment and determine its limits, they are, in fact, using the sadists for the fulfillment of their sexual desires. Thus they are, contrary to any outward appearance, the truly dominant partners in the relationship, a paradox that provides the “kick” in sadomasochistic encounters. This also explains why, in prostitution, the paying customer usually plays the masochistic, submissive role. He thus merely uses the sadistic, seemingly dominant prostitute for his own sexual purposes. On the other hand, inside the S/M subculture, an increasingly complex picture emerges. According to this view, a sadomasochistic encounter proceeds simultaneously on several levels: 1. The outwardly visible level of the sadist (“top”) dominating the masochist (“bottom”). 2. The contractual level with the masochist setting the limits, thus contradicting the visible evidence. This is the level of a true paradox, because the controlling bottom wants, at the same time, be controlled by the top. The latter, in turn, while respecting the imposed limits, wants, at the same time, to exercise limitless control. In short, we are dealing here with a psychologically oscillating situation. 3. The ritualistic level. At this level, the bottom experiences true powerlessness and the top, within the mutually agreed limits, experiences real power. These experiences can cause and enhance deep feelings of trust and essential partnership, at least in non-commercial encounters.

saliromania. (gr.) Psychiatric term for a sexual behavior that depends on dirt, feces, filth, bad smells, or ugliness for excitement and satisfaction. A form of fetishism.

salpingectomy. Surgical removal of one or both of the Fallopian tubes.

salpingitis. Infection of the Fallopian tubes.

sapphic. 1. In the context of sexual behavior: Older term for lesbian (adj.). 2. In literature: Typical of the poetry of Sappho (“sapphic ode”).

sapphism. Female homosexuality. Lesbianism. Named after the ancient Greek poetess Sappho (ca. 600 B.C.) who lived on the island of Lesbos and wrote love poems to her female disciples.

satyriasis. (named after the satyrs, ancient Greek mythological creatures – half man half goat – who were said to be sexually insatiable) Poetic, but derogatory term for the behavior of men who have “too much” sex. A negative subjective value judgement without any definite content. (See also “erotomania” and “nymphomania”.)

scientific. As used in this dictionary, the term “scientific” characterizes the rational and systematic method of investigating the world in and around us – i.e. the world of tangible things as well as the world of ideas. Accordingly, we can distinguish between the natural and the cultural sciences (humanities). Both employ the scientific method to learn about their objects – data (things that are “given” in nature) and facta (things that have been “done” or “made” by humans). The scientific method studies all of these things “with an open mind” and does not cling to pre-determined outcomes. Indeed, it also requires strict moral neutrality. In their role as scientists, people must avoid all value judgements except one: Knowledge is better than ignorance. Apart from this, they must proceed impartially. After all, they want to describe how things are and not prescribe how they should be. (Moral judgements are, by definition, “unscientific”. For a scientist, they come into play only after the scientific work has been done.) Scientists soberly collect, compare, and analyze whatever they want to understand. They then develop “models”, i.e. preliminary concepts about it and correct these in the light of new discoveries. In other words, the scientific method tries to verify its concepts by trying to falsify them, i.e. it looks for reasons why its current assumptions could be wrong. Therefore “scientific” also means “self-critical”. Science is a never-ending process of “finding out more” by doubting, questioning, and correcting one’s own ideas. Thus, it is fundamentally different from religion and other ideologies, i.e. belief systems which never question their basic assumptions.

scoptophilia. See “voyeurism”.

script, sexual. See “sexual script”.

scrotum. The bag or pouch of skin which contains the testicles and which hangs between the thighs and behind the penis. The skin of the scrotum belongs to the erogenous zones and may be very sensitive to the touch.

self-abuse. Moralistic term of condemnation for sexual self-pleasuring (masturbation). In fact, the use of one’s pleasure organs for pleasure is abuse only in the eyes of certain religions.

semen. A thick, whitish liquid (about one teaspoon full) that is ejaculated from the penis during orgasm. It is produced mainly by the prostate and the seminal vesicles, but can also contain up to 500 million sperm cells. However, these sperm cells are so tiny that they hardly add to the volume of semen. Indeed, if they are missing (perhaps after a vasectomy), the volume of semen remains practically the same.

sensate focus exercises. Exercises for couples in sex therapy, developed by the therapists Masters & Johnson. In order to overcome various sexual dysfunctions, the couple is advised to do some “homework” in private, consisting of non-coital, non-demanding, non-goal oriented mutual pleasuring like stroking, caressing and the slow exploration of the partner’s body.

sex act, also sexual act. These terms are often used as synonyms of “vaginal intercourse” (coitus) as if this were the only “true” sexual interaction. However, this moralistic usage is misleading, because there are many other, equally valid ways of interacting sexually. It is prejudicial to use a term that implicitly denigrates them as secondary or less important.

sex aid. A device, instrument or contraption designed to provide sexual stimulation or enhance sexual pleasure, such as a special condom with a rough or irregular surface, a dildo, penis ring, artificial vagina, inflatable doll, vibrator etc..

sex drive, also sexual drive. The concept of a “drive” is based on the assumption that living creatures are basically inert and must be “driven” to activity by some hypothetical force. However, modern science has abandoned such ideas. It acknowledges that animals are alive and thus, along with all kinds of other activities, also manifest sexual behavior. (After all, humans also speak, sing, laugh, dance, write, and read without any respective drives.)

sex education, also sexuality education. Education about sexual matters in school and high school.

sexological education. Scientifically based education about sexual matters in college, graduate school, and beyond. Instruction in sexology as the “science of sex”. This kind of education, which promotes sexual health, has been recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1975 at least for health professionals. This can mean in practical terms:

  • Colleges, universities, and other institutions of higher learning which train future professional and civic leaders must provide them with an adequate understanding of human sexuality and its vast social implications,
  • Professional people such as doctors, teachers, ministers, lawyers , social workers, and police officers need special programs that discuss sexual behavior in its relation to particular professional issues.
  • Adult sex-education programs must be greatly expanded. Sex education cannot stop after puberty, but has to continue through life. Adults need to keep up with advancing scientific knowledge to make their own sex lives more satisfying and to avoid a sexual “generation gap.” Furthermore, there is an urgent need for an informed public opinion which will support reasonable changes in education and legislation.
  • Finally, the mass media can greatly contribute to a more rational public approach to sex by avoiding sensationalism and the commercial exploitation of sex in favor of more extensive factual information.

These combined efforts may in time lead to the general realization that people of all ages, adults as well as adolescents and children, are sexual beings with sexual needs, and that the repression of these needs can only lead to fear, intolerance, injustice, misery, and disease. On the other hand, the acceptance of sex as a creative force in human life can free people to engage in open dialogue, thus enabling them to develop genuine and satisfying solutions to their personal problems. This kind of mutual sex education by members of all age groups and cultural backgrounds will not only give everyone access to all sexual facts, but can also serve to bring about richer, happier sexual relationships and more meaningful lives.

sexism. An attitude or a philosophy that uses sexual differences as the basis of social discrimination. In practice, this has usually meant discrimination against women.

sexoesthetic invert. The 19th-century English scholar John Addington Symonds was probably the first to use this term in reference to homosexuality. It refers to an orientation that does not express itself in actual sexual contact. Hence, the idea of esthetic homosexuality.

sexual characteristics. Qualities that distinguish the sexes. One distinguishes between primary, secondary, and tertiary sexual characteristics. 1. The primary sexual characteristics are the sex organs. 2. The secondary sexual characteristics, which develop fully at puberty, are for males: facial hair, a protruding larynx (see “Adam’s apple”), a deeper voice, and a stronger muscular development. For females: the breasts, softer hair, broader hips, and a generally weaker muscular development. 3. The tertiary sexual characteristics are certain psychological qualities normally attributed to one sex and discouraged in the other. These qualities are culturally determined and usually summarized in the concepts of masculinity and femininity.

sexual disorder. An older, now obsolete psychiatric term for “abnormal” sexual interests. Like the terms “aberration”, “deviation”, and “perversion” (see there), the term “disorder” presupposes an inborn “orderly” human sexuality that can be corrupted and thus stray from the correct path intended by nature. This presupposition is based on a particular interpretation of the philosophical doctrine of “natural law”. The doctrine is no longer tenable in the light of modern science. Therefore, psychiatry is now trying to be more objective and to arrive at less prejudicial and more precise terms for problematic sexual inclinations and behviors.

sexual dysfunction. A modern term used as a diagnosis by sex therapists when an individual’s sexual response is significantly impaired. The impairment can be an occasional, frequent or permanent problem. Obviously, one is dealing here with a “soft” definition that is open to interpretation. After all, what degree of impairment is “significant” and to whom? Therapists distinguish between several female and male sexual dysfunctions. However, they are basically quite similar in both sexes and fall into two main categories: 1. Problems of tumescence (lack of vaginal lubrication, lack of penile erection) and 2. Problems of orgasm (unsatisfactory timing of orgasm, no orgasm). In females, a 3rd dysfunction may be found – the involuntary vaginal spasm (vaginismus). Most often, sexual dysfunctions are defined in relation to the ability to perform or enjoy coitus (vaginal intercourse). Thus, a sexual dysfunction is basically seen as a problem arising between partners of different sex. The term has rarely been applied to same-sex couples and to sexual self-stimulation, but this may be changing. However, in these cases, the problem acquires a slightly different character, and so does its solution.

sexual ethics. The doctrine of good sexual behavior, also the systematic attempt to know good from bad in the realm of human sexuality. All ethical standards are, of course, based upon certain fundamental beliefs, convictions, or assumptions, and the sexual ethics of any given culture reflect its assumptions about the purpose or “nature” of sex. For example, there have been peoples who were totally unaware of the causal connection between sex and procreation. Obviously, these peoples arrived at different standards for sexual behavior than those who believed that procreation was the only purpose of sex. In our own culture, the latter belief was, for a very long time, shared by most people. The moral demands based on this belief were rarely questioned, because few individuals were ever exposed to other cultures with different value systems. On the contrary, in the closed societies of the past, customs and conventions were stable, and the universal acceptance of the same sexual morality could always be presumed. The common assumptions about the “nature” of sex seemed so obvious and self-evident to everyone that they did not have to be spelled out. In the meantime, however, the explosive growth of the population, the advance of science and technology, and the increasing communication between different cultures have led to a re-examination of traditional beliefs and created a pluralism of values that was formerly unknown. We thus find ourselves today in a new historical situation. In the course of our lives, we encounter a great variety of conflicting opinions about the purpose of sex and are forced to choose between a number of competing value systems. Although these systems differ in many important details, they can, for the purpose of clarification, perhaps be described as representing two basic types: the absolutistic and the relativistic moralities. 1. The absolutistic or “old” morality is dogmatic and based on the belief demanded by the Holy Scriptures. Its highest value is compliance with the will of God. It can therefore also be described as a “morality of commandment.” Those who obey the commandment are righteous; those who disobey thereby commit a sin. This morality assumes that that there is an eternal truth and that it is relevant for all times and for everyone under all circumstances. 2. The relativistic or “new morality,” on the other hand, is rational and based on the knowledge gained by scientific research. Its highest value is human understanding, and it tries to judge each act individually according to time, place, and circumstances. It can therefore also be called “situation ethics.” This is a “morality of consequences,” which evaluates human behavior in the light of its effects on other human beings. (Some people also distinguish a third type of sexual ethics: the hedonistic or “fun” morality, which holds that the highest value in life is pleasure. However, most hedonists will probably agree that pleasure is relative, that certain pleasures have to be avoided because of their unpleasant consequences, and that, eventually, only experience, understanding, and universal cooperation can lead the way to real happiness. In most respects, therefore, the hedonistic approach to moral questions is similar to the relativistic “morality of consequences.”) Within each of the two basic moral systems there is a variety of gradations. For example, even those who share the absolutistic approach of the “old morality” may arrive at quite different conclusions about certain concrete acts, because they disagree on the true “nature” of things or on the exact meaning of God’s will. The adherents of the relativistic “new morality,” on the other hand, may also disagree among themselves because they have different opinions about the consequences of certain acts, or because scientific knowledge in certain areas is still limited. The struggle between the resulting different moralities has created the present moral confusion. However, today the “new morality” in one form or another seems to be gaining ground. It seems better suited to our fast-changing world, as it leaves more room for personal liberty and creativity. This does not necessarily mean that it demands less effort than the “old morality” which reduced all moral problems to the simple question of obedience. On the contrary, by making love and sex entirely a matter of human encounter and cooperation, the “new morality” encourages the individual to assume a greater share of responsibility towards his fellow men.

sexual intercourse. In humans, there are four basic forms of sexual intercourse: 1. Manual intercourse (from lat. manus: hand), here is the hand of one partner in contact with the sex organs of the other.2. Oral intercourse (from lat. os: mouth), here is the mouth of one partner in contact with the sex organs of the other. 3. Vaginal intercourse (from lat. vagina: sheath) here is the vagina in contact with the penis, 4. Anal intercourse (from lat. anus: rectal opening), here is the anus of one partner in contact with the penis. In everyday language, the term “sexual intercourse” is, however, most often used as a synonym of vaginal intercourse. This is shortsighted and can be misleading.

sexual intercourse, pentrative Collective term for oral, vaginal, and anal intercourse during which the penis of one partner penetrates the mouth, vagina, or anus of the other.

sexual orientation. A person’s sexual preference for either female or male partners or for partners of both sexes. Collective term for heterosexuality, homosexuality and ambisexuality.

sexual revolution. The term “sexual revolution” is an attempt to describe the fact that during the last few decades the problems connected with human sexuality have acquired a new meaning. While the actual sexual behavior of most people has changed less than it might seem, the motivations, implications, and consequences of this behavior have changed a great deal. In other words, the same sexual acts now occur under entirely new conditions, and within a different context. This context is, of course, man-made. As man has learned to control nature, he has, at the same time, created a new social environment for himself, a new historical situation with new, unprecedented problems demanding new, unprecedented solutions. It is becoming increasingly obvious that the time-honored models and old approaches no longer work. A symptom of this development is the dispute over the importance and the virtues of sex education. According to the traditional concept of sexuality, sex education was superfluous. There were only a few known biological facts and a few simple, unalterable moral principles which were handed down from one generation to the next without questioning. As there was little change in the external circumstances of life, and as contact with other cultures and different value systems was limited, the experiences of older people remained valid for their children and grandchildren. In the meantime, however, technological progress has changed the world to such an extent that previous human experiences are becoming irrelevant. The young and the old, the married as well as the unmarried, find themselves confronted with a totally new situation. There is, therefore, a continuous public and private discussion of sex, not because it is fashionable, but because it is indispensable. There is a need for new attitudes which can help us cope with present and future developments. In order to form such an attitude towards sex, one has to examine it in all of its aspects. It is for this reason that sexual values can no longer be found in unquestioned traditions, but have to be newly determined on the basis of our continually increasing scientific knowledge. However, because of its very increase, such knowledge is subject to constant revision. It is obvious, therefore, that modern sex education cannot afford to be dogmatic. In discussing sexual problems, it can and must try to present the available facts, but it cannot impose the solutions. There are several areas where new solutions have to be found:

  • The traditional sexual values were patriarchal. Today we need new approaches that can lead us towards true sexual partnership between men and women.
  • Because of the threat of overpopulation, and since new, effective methods of contraception have been found, sex can no longer be restricted to the purpose of procreation. The eventual effects of this development are still largely unpredictable. However, it is already apparent that sexual intercourse as such has gained an importance of its own as a means of personal communication. It can be a mere source of pleasure as well as the appropriate expression of a deep human relationship. Thus the founding of a family is no longer the sole purpose of marriage. Two people may marry, not because they want children, but because they want to share their lives with each other. On the other hand, sexual activity can no longer remain the privilege of the married. Neither does the sexual behavior of adolescents or single adults have to follow the pattern of marital sex.
  • Since, in the past, sexuality was tied to procreation, the only “right” sexual activity was vaginal intercourse. Consequently, every sexual act other than coitus was considered “perverse” or an aberration. Today a sexual relationship tends to involve each partner as a whole person, not just his sex organs. The demand to restrict sexual contact to particular areas of the body is therefore unreasonable and, in itself, “perverse”. Oral and anal intercourse can be appropriate forms of sexual activity. Laws and statutes aimed at preventing such activity are obsolete and need to be changed.
  • In the past, sexuality was believed to be a single, isolated, controllable force which appeared during puberty, and which was to be employed only after the wedding. Before marriage, or outside of it, abstinence was the only accepted behavior. Today we know that sexuality is an integral part of every human life from its beginning, and that our character as adult human beings is the result of a long and complicated sexual development. This new knowledge has important consequences for our moral attitudes.

All of these fundamental changes give people a new sense of freedom. Many traditional rules and regulations are becoming meaningless; their continued enforcement seems irrational and repressive. Sexual repression is the main tool of dictatorships, because it creates a climate of hate and fear which can be exploited for the preservation of power. A democracy, on the other hand, is based on equality, mutual trust, and cooperation. The trend towards such cooperation is world-wide. Changes in the sphere of sex mirror the greater changes that are taking place in human society. Everywhere privileges are being abolished, power has to be shared, and there is a constantly growing demand for democratic participation. However, in a democracy life is not necessarily easier or more comfortable than in a dictatorship. Often it is more complicated and even more frustrating. The old, dictatorial morality repressed sexuality and individual freedom. It gave the appearance of law and order. In this sense, the “sexual revolution” has created new difficulties. It makes greater demands on the individual and forces him to take on new responsibilities. In our society today, both the old and the new morality exist side by side. The resulting moral confusion can be overcome only by increased understanding, tolerance, and patience.

sexual script. Human sexual behavior can be seen as following at least three kinds of sexual scripts: general cultural, interpersonal, and intrapsychic scripts. 1. Cultural script: A model of correct sexual behavior provided by a particular culture, i.e. by its social authorities. Today, different social authorities (parents, teachers, the church, the law, science, media, etc.) provide different sexual scripts which may even contradict each other and which force the individual to choose between them or to blend them together in same fashion compatible with his or her own temperament. 2. Interpersonal script: A model of how sexual partners should interact with each other. A set of rules developed and followed by a couple before, during, and after sexual contact. These rules are usually individual adaptations of general cultural rules and thus may vary from couple to couple. 3. Intrapsychic script: The individual sexual behavior pattern of a particular person, developed in response to the various scripts provided by the social authorities and also in response to his or her experiences with sexual partners.
The theory of sexual scripting sees no need for the assumption of an unchanging universal sex drive. Instead, it sees all social behavior, including sexual behavior, as scripted behavior, i.e. as a learned behavior that follows various scripts. In past traditional societies, the general cultural scripts were few and remained stable for long periods. In the modern, fast-paced world, the sexual scripts are many and ever-changing, making it harder for couples and individual to develop suitable sexual scripts of their own.

sexually transmissible disease (STD). A disease that can be transmitted from one person to another by sexual contact. The term should not be taken too literally, because virtually all infectious diseases can be transmitted this way. Conversely, some STDs can also be transmitted non-sexually, for example from mother to child. Nevertheless, there is general agreement in medical science that a number of infections should be singled out as a special group called STDs. The most important and common of these are AIDS (Human ImmunoDeficiency Virus), syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, hepatitis B, herpes on the sex organs, soft chancre, and HPV (Human Papilloma Virus).

single. A term used for adults who are not part of a married or unmarried steady couple. There was a time when men were not allowed to marry unless they fulfilled certain requirements, such as full qualification in their trade or profession, and the proven ability to support a family. Women, on the other hand, remained unmarried when nobody courted them. Since the unmarried status thus resulted from social customs and regulations, it was considered something necessary and inescapable. The unmarried individual had no choice but to adjust to a single way of life. However, this adjustment was normally helped by the fact that the extended family had room for married couples of several generations as well as for a number of unmarried relatives. Today more people get married (and divorced) than ever before. According to the now prevailing opinion, a single person has quite voluntarily chosen his way of life because he did not want to get or stay married. This presumption is not always correct, however. Nevertheless, in recent years, the single existence has more and more been advertised by various media as an enviable “lifestyle”.

sissy. (from “sister”) A derogatory slang expression referring to a boy or a man who fails to display the expected signs of masculinity. Since the concept of masculinity is subject to change, the concrete meaning and the effect of the word “sissy” depend very much on the cultural context in which it is used.

sixty-nine. Slang term used to describe a form of oral intercourse in which the sexual partners simultaneously lick each other’s genitals. (See cunnilinctus, fellatio.) In doing so, the position of their bodies in relation to each other is similar to that of the inverted numerals in the number 69.

sleeping together, or sleeping with someone. An unfortunate euphemism for vaginal intercourse (coitus). The participants are, of course, usually wide awake. Such deliberately vague terms can lead to serious misunderstandings and misinterpretations. (Example: A man sleeps with his wife seven nights per week, but has intercourse with her only once a week.)

smegma. A secretion from glands under the foreskin of the penis. Clear and odorless at first, it turns cheesy and foul-smelling if allowed to accumulate. Regular washing of the uncircumcised penis is therefore necessary.

sodomy. (after the biblical city of Sodom) Obsolete religious term, still used in some unreformed criminal codes, for anal intercourse. Originally, the term was much broader and encompassed all “unnatural” sexual activity, i.e. also oral intercourse and sexual contact with animals. Obviously, this Christian term of condemnation, being based on very specific beliefs not shared by Buddhism, Shintoism, and many other religions, has no place in science. (See also “unnatural”).

soft chancre. A sexually transmissible disease caused by the bacterium haemophilus ducreyi.

solitary vice. A 19th-century term of disapproval referring to sexual self-pleasuring (masturbation).

spermatic duct. (lat.: vas deferens) The male body contains two spermatic ducts which carry the spermatozoa from the testicles to the urethra, which, in men, serves for the discharge of both urine and semen. The cutting and tying of the spermatic ducts for the purpose of sterilization is called vasectomy.

spermatozoon. (gr.) Male sex cell (pl. spermatozoa). A spermatozoon has a length of about 1/600 of an inch, and it consists of a short oval head and a long tail which, by its movements, allows the cell to travel through the vagina into the uterus. Spermatozoa can remain fertile inside a woman’s body up to several days after ejaculation.

spermicide. (lat. “sperm killer”) Vaginal spermicides are available in different forms, such as jellies, creams, aerosol foams, foaming tablets, and suppositories. They are used for the purpose of contraception , sometimes in combination with a diaphragm or a condom.

squeeze technique. A simple manipulation designed to postpone orgasm in males. At the point of highest sexual excitement, but before the “point of no return” is reached, the glans of the penis just below its rim (corona) is squeezed for a few seconds, ideally by the sexual partner. This stops the excitement for the moment and thus delays orgasm.

statutory rape. A legal term referring to cases where a partner’s consent to engage in sexual intercourse, although clearly expressed, is not lawful. For example, the partner may be too young to consent, or mentally unfit, or drunk or otherwise incapacitated at the time.

sterility. (lat.) Inability to produce offspring. (See “infertility”)

sterilization. The process of making sterile, i.e. infertile. A form of contraception. Men and women who do not want any (more) children may decide to undergo minor surgery resulting in infertility. Such voluntary sterilization is called vasectomy in the case of men, and tubal ligation in the case of women. Both operations are safe and simple, but irreversible. They effectively end fertility, but do not diminish the sexual capacities.

stop-start technique, also stop and go exercises. Technique or exercises designed to delay orgasm in males. The male masturbates (or is masturbated by his partner) to the point of very high excitement, but then stops before reaching the “point of no return”. Repeating this exercise often enough will help the male in learning to delay his orgasm.

streetwalker. Slang term for a female street prostitute.

striptease. Taking off one’s clothes according to certain traditional stage rules in front of a paying audience. Striptease dancers are women and men who professionally remove their clothing in front of an audience according to certain techniques calculated to create suspense and excitement in the spectator. Such performances take place in theatres (burlesque), as well as in bars and nightclubs. Striptease combines elements of show business with sexual stimulation. It offers performers and spectators an opportunity to express tendencies towards exhibitionism and voyeurism that must be suppressed in every-day life.

sublimation. A psychoanalytic term referring to a highly complex process in which erotic energy is channeled into various non-sexual activities. Among laymen, the concept of “sublimation” is often misunderstood and misapplied. There is a popular notion that a man could easily control, suppress, or even eliminate his sexual desires by exhausting his strength in physical work, sports, or increased intellectual effort, or by devoting his whole attention to helping others. This is a total misconception. People who act on this erroneous assumption are bound to be disappointed. The term “sublimation” is out of place where practical educational problems are concerned.

succubus. (lat.) A figure of medieval superstition. The devil or a demon in the form of a woman who, lying under him, offers herself to a man for sexual intercourse. (See also “incubus”.)

surrogate, sexual. This term is meant to refer to females (in rare cases males) who, under the oversight of a sex therapist, offer their sexual services to his or her clients who do not have regular sexual partners (“sex surrogate therapy”). This kind of therapy operates on the assumption that some clients with sexual problems need practice, and that, in order to practice, they need cooperative partners. If they do not have partners of their own, the therapist will provide them. Unfortunately, the term “surrogate” denigrates such a paid volunteer as some substitute for a “real” or rather ideal, imaginary, hitherto unavailable partner. This is quite unfair. No one should be used as a surrogate or substitute for anyone else who would be more “legitimate” if only he existed. Everyone, including a “surrogate” is a real person and real sexual partner in his or her own right. People should not be diminished in their human dignity by semantic tricks. The unfortunate term was, of course, initially coined by therapists in order to avoid the accusation of “pandering” and “pimping” or of furthering “fornication”. However, the usage was always and will remain inherently dishonest. A more objective term would be “temporary sexual partner” or “sexual health care worker”.

swinger. A slang expression meaning a person who regularly seeks sexual encounters as a form of recreation. In a more formal sense, the term is also used for men and women who participate in a so-called swinger scene, usually clubs or resorts, where couples meet other couples for sexual intercourse. This can mean a simple one-time exchange or sharing of partners, or it can mean various forms of group sex over several hours or even days.

syphilis. (lat. lues). A sexually transmissible disease caused by the small organism treponema pallidum. (“Syphilis” was originally the title of 16th-century Latin poem by the Italian scholar Hieronymus Fracastor (1483-1553). This long mythological poem mentions a shepherd named Syphilus who offended the sun god and was punished by him with this disease. The poem not only describes its symptoms, but also gives a somewhat fanciful history of its origin according to the state of knowledge at the time.) Syphilis is almost always contracted through sexual intercourse with an infected partner. Only in extremely rare instances is the disease transmitted through contaminated objects, such as towels or toilet seats. Syphilis can also be transmitted from an infected mother to her unborn child.

T

taboo. Originally, a Polynesian word referring to somebody or something that is forbidden or sacred. In the meantime, the word “taboo” has entered the vocabulary of most modern languages, and today it is usually applied to persons, things, or actions that are considered too dangerous or disturbing to talk or even think about. The violation of a taboo is always punished, either directly and officially by law, or indirectly by a variety of private social sanctions. Every society has its own religious, legal, social, political, and sexual taboos, although their number and character may change in the course of time. However, it is always characteristic of a taboo that no reason or justification for its existence is provided. Indeed, a taboo may very well be defined as an unexplained prohibition. In fact, the demand for an explanation is, in itself, already a violation of the taboo.

taxonomy. (gr.) The art and science of classification, i.e. of dividing things or creatures into classes and groups according to some logical principle.

tearoom. Slang for a public urinal (pissoir) where men may have sexual contact with each other.

testicles. (lat.) Male sex glands. Two ovoid bodies contained in the scrotum which produce sex hormones and male sex cells (spermatozoa). A man’s testicles correspond in their function to a woman’s ovaries.

tomboy. A boyish girl, i.e. a girl that looks and/or dresses and/or behaves like a boy of her age (counterpart of “sissy”. See there)

transsexual. A person whose sexual self-identification as male or female contradicts his or her physical sex. A transsexual is a person with a male body who self-identifies as female, or a person with a female body who self-identifies as a male.

transsexualism. (lat. trans: across) Term coined by the German physician Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935) to describe the condition of some persons who “feel trapped in the body of the wrong sex”. A person who is physically completely male may nevertheless self-identify as female, and a person who is physically completely female may nevertheless self-identify as male. Resenting their bodies as they are, they may want to undergo a “sex change operation” , i.e. a series of cosmetic operations resulting in an approximation to the physical appearance of the other sex. In some countries, the individual in question can then apply for an official change from male to female or vice versa in his or her personal identification papers.

transvestism, also transvestitism. Cross-dressing. Habitually wearing the clothes of the other sex, either occasionally or often or always. Term was coined by the German physician Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935).

transvestite. Term coined by the German physician and sex researcher Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935) to describe a cross-dresser: 1. Generally: A person habitually wearing the clothes of the other sex. People may habitually cross-dress for different reasons, for example as “female impersonators” in “travesty shows ” or as “male actresses” in classical Japanese and Chinese drama or European opera or Christmas pantomimes. In these cases, cross-dressing does not necessarily have any sexual implications. However, this general usage of the term is less common today. In the narrow sense the term now refers to a special case of cross-dressing: 2. A person habitually wearing the clothes of the other sex for some sexual reason. One of the reasons can be a feeling of great emotional comfort while playing the social role of the other sex, another reason can be a feeling of sexual excitement. In this latter case, one usually speaks of fetishistic cross-dressing. However, it is not always possible to make clear distinctions between the different forms of cross-dressing. In reality, there is a wide spectrum of gradations. Transvestites do not want to be of the other sex; they just want to play ist social role. Most transvestites are male, and their sexual orientation is usually heterosexual. Indeed, many of them are married and have children.

tribadism. (gr. tribein: to rub) Old-fashioned term for female homosexuality. The term was quite common until the end of the 19th century, when it was replaced by the then newly coined “lesbianism”. (Actually, this latter term is also quite old, but, until then, had meant “oral intercourse”. “To lesbianize”, therefore had meant “to lick or suck someone’s sex organs”. However, the original meaning of the word is now completely forgotten.)

trichomoniasis. (gr. trichos: hair and monas: unit) Infection of the vagina and/or bladder with the protozoan parasite trichomonas urogenitalis. Sexually transmissible. The symptoms (burning, itching, and a bad-smelling discharge) appear more commonly in women, less often in men.

troilism. Sexual contact among three people. “Threesome”.

tubal ligation. Female sterilization operation, consisting of the tying and cutting of the Fallopian tubes, thus blocking the passage of the ovum (egg) into the womb. This operation results in the woman’s infertility, but does not, in any way, diminish the sexual capacities. A tubal ligation is just as safe and effective as vasectomy, but somewhat more complicated to perform. The result should be considered final.

twins. Two children of one mother who are born as a result of the same pregnancy. There are two kinds of twins: those born from one egg (identical or monozygotic twins) and those born from two eggs (fraternal or dizygotic twins). (See “zygote”.) In the case of identical twins the fertilized egg divides into two separate parts and each of these develops into an embryo. Identical twins are always of the same sex and resemble each other closely. Fraternal twins, on the other hand, may resemble each other no more than other brothers and sisters. Although a woman’s ovaries usually release only one egg (ovum) during a menstrual cycle, occasionally two or more eggs may be released and fertilized by different spermatozoa. In these cases, the birth of fraternal twins, triplets, quadruplets etc. may result.

U

unnatural sex. An old-fashioned term intended to express disapproval of certain sexual practices. Depending on the culture and the historical period in which the term was used, it could refer to anything from simple self-pleasuring (masturbation) to the most unusual forms of fetishism. In other words, the meaning of the term has changed so often that it is impossible to provide an objective, clear, and lasting definition for it. However, this lack of definite meaning has, if anything, made the term even more popular. The underlying psychological mechanism operating here is easily explained: People generally have a tendency to attribute objective value to their subjective tastes and opinions. They are apt to confound their personal concepts of reality with reality itself, and therefore call “natural” everything that they believe to be “right.” This kind of argument seems particularly attractive to people who want to protect their privileges or unreasonable policies. Thus at one time monarchy was declared to be the only “natural” form of government, the institution of slavery was explained as representing the “natural” order of things, and women were considered to be “naturally” inferior to men. Although such pseudo-justifications have long been rejected in most social areas, they somehow still seem to work in the sphere of sex. For example, a person who considers procreation as the only justification for sexual activity is unlikely to be content stating this moral conviction but rather will insist that, quite apart from his personal views, it is the “nature” of sex to result in pregnancy, and that all sexual behavior that cannot lead to that goal is “unnatural.” This then includes masturbation, homosexual acts, coitus abruptus, and all other forms of contraception. On the other hand, there are people who believe that it is the “nature” of sex to create a life-long bond of affection between two persons of different sex. Accordingly, even anal and oral intercourse, although neither can result in pregnancy, are considered “natural” as long as they occur between men and women. However, the same acts occurring between same-sex couples would still be described as “unnatural.” There are still others who maintain that it is the true “nature” of sex to provide pleasure and personal contact between people, regardless of sex or age. Consequently, for them everything is “natural” as long as it is enjoyable. Finally, there are those neutral observers for whom nothing can possibly be “unnatural,” since everything occurs within nature. For them, pain is just as natural as pleasure, disease just as natural as health, and death just as natural as life. In short, the only unnatural thing is one that does not exist, and the only unnatural act is one that cannot be performed. Obviously, it is only this latter, scientific approach that uses the words “natural” and “unnatural” as purely descriptive terms. However, it is equally obvious that, as such, they are practically meaningless. Scientists therefore do not use such terms, but relegate them to the sphere of morals. As this brief summary indicates, the term “unnatural” is a value judgment, not a statement of any fact or actually existing condition, However, since this value judgment appears, as it were, under a false label, disguised as an objective truth, it can easily lead to confusion and is, therefore, unsuitable for any rational discussion. (See also “aberration”, “deviation”, “crime against nature”, “perversion”.)

ureter. (gr.) One of the two ducts through which urine is released from the kidneys to the urinary bladder.

urethra. (gr.) Urinary duct. The duct through which urine is released from the urinary bladder to the outside. In males, the urethra also serves for the ejaculation of semen, and, beginning at the bladder, it runs through the penis, ending at the tip of the glans. In females, the external opening of the urethra lies between the clitoris and the opening of the vagina, and it serves exclusively for the release of urine.

urolagnia, also urophilia. (gr.) The capacity, habit, inclination, or preference of deriving sexual pleasure from urine. A form of fetishism. This may express itself in many different forms, such as the drinking of urine, watching someone urinate, urinating on the partner or being urinated on, etc.

uterus. A hollow muscular organ inside the female body, situated at the upper end of the vagina, between the bladder and the rectum. In size and shape the uterus resembles a small pear which is turned upside-down. The upper part of the uterus is connected with the Fallopian tubes, through which the ovum enters after ovulation. The neck of the uterus, which is called cervix, opens towards the vagina, from which the spermatozoa enter after ejaculation from the penis during coitus. In the case of a conception, the fertilized ovum develops into an embryo and then into a fetus inside the uterus until, at the end of the pregnancy, it is expelled through the vagina during birth.

V

vagina. (lat.: sheath) One of the internal female sex organs. The vagina is a muscular tube which extends from the vulva to the uterus. The external opening of the vagina, which is below that of the urethra, is covered by the inner lips (labia minora) and, in the young female, it may be partly closed by the hymen. The vagina serves three main functions: the release of the menstrual flow, the reception of the penis during coitus, and the delivery of the baby during birth. The walls of the vagina are lubricated by secretions which are slightly acid and which serve as a protection against certain infections. (Vaginal douches are unnecessary and may be harmful.) The vaginal secretions increase during sexual excitement, thus facilitating the insertion of the penis for the purpose of coitus. During coitus, the walls of the vagina, which are very elastic, keep close contact with the penis, and the coital friction may eventually leads to orgasm and to the ejaculation of sperm cells, which subsequently move from the vagina into the uterus. A woman can also learn to control her vaginal muscles. For the delivery of a child, the vagina expands considerably. After the birth, it shrinks back to its normal size.

vaginismus. Involuntary muscular spasm which closes the vagina, making the insertion of a penis impossible. Vaginismus can occur as a result of sexual fear and apprehension or because previous intercourse was painful. Women suffering from vaginismus can usually be helped by professional treatment. Occasionally one can encounter rumors that such vaginal cramps occurred not before, but during coitus, thus trapping the penis and requiring the help of a physician for the separation of sexual partners. Such rumors are usually based on fantasies and exaggerations, although vaginal cramps after insemination can be observed in certain animals, such as cats and dogs.

vasectomy. (lat. vas: vessel and gr. ektome: to cut out) Cutting or surgical closing of the spermatic ducts. Male sterilization operation. The operation consists of the closing of the two small tubes on each side of the scrotum – the “vasa deferentia” – which carry the sperm cells. This closing of the spermatic ducts makes a man infertile, although he retains his sexual capacity. The result should be considered final. Continuing research is improving the surgical techniques for a reversal of the operation, but its success cannot be guaranteed. Vasectomy is a minor operation, and is usually performed in the doctor’s office under local anesthesia. Voluntary sterilization is 100% effective as a method of contraception. (See also “tubal ligation”.)

venereal disease. (Literally: Disease attributed to Venus.) Old-fashioned euphemism for sexually transmissible disease (see there).

vestibular glands. Bartholin’s glands. Two small glands on each side of the vaginal opening. They correspond to the two Cowper’s glands in the male and, like these, also secrete a small amount of lubricating fluid in response to sexual stimulation. However, most of the lubrication necessary for coitus is not provided by these glands, but by the vaginal walls.

victimless crime. An unlawful act committed by consenting adults that is not designed to harm anyone. As a result, there are no victims, and none of the participants has an interest in reporting the act to the police or to help any authority in discovering it. Example: Oral intercourse between husband and wife in a US state where it is punishable as a crime.

virgin. virginity. A young female who has not had vaginal intercourse and her physical condition. Traditionally, patriarchal societies insisted on every female entering marriage sexually “untouched”, i. e .inexperienced. In practical terms, this meant that her hymen had to be “intact”, i.e. it was to be torn only by the new husband beginning coitus during the wedding night or shortly thereafter. As proof of the bride’s virginity, a blood-stained bed sheet was often proudly displayed outside the window. However, in our modern societies this custom and the assumptions behind it have become obsolete. A girl’s hymen may very well be torn many years before marriage, for example by inserting a menstrual tampon, by some vigorous sports exercises, or by inserting a finger or vibrator for self-pleasuring. Moreover, even having an intact hymen does not necessarily prove sexual inexperience. Indeed, the girl may have extensive experience with manual, oral, and anal intercourse, avoiding only coitus. (In the 19th century, such girls used to be called demi vierges, i.e. half virgins.) Therefore, given the sexual behavior of many modern female teenagers, it is quite unclear what the terms “virgin” and “virginity” can now possibly mean. Furthermore, everyone is now aware that the term “virgin” is meaningless when applied to males and has, in fact, never been applied to them except in some joking and metaphoric fashion (self-pleasuring, group masturbation, homosexual contacts, and heavy heterosexual petting being ignored). Thus, the term also carries all the implications of the infamous sexual “double standard” of days gone by. In modern sexology there is no choice but to be objective and to state exactly what one is talking about

virility. (lat. vir: man) Manliness. A term sometimes used instead of either masculinity or male sexual prowess.

virilization. The appearance of secondary male characteristics. Welcome in young males, unwelcome in females, where it may indicate a hormonal problem requiring medical attention.

voyeur. (fr. voir: to see) 1. Generally: A person who enjoys watching people taking their clothes off, masturbating, or having sexual intercourse (see also “peeping Tom”). 2. Specifically: A person, usually a male, who, for his own sexual arousal and satisfaction, depends on such watching of others. This dependency is called voyeurism.

vulva. (lat. covering) General term for the external female sex organs consisting of the outer lips (labia majora), the inner lips (labia minora), the clitoris and the openings of vagina and urethra (the duct through which the urine is released to the outside).

W

wet dream. A slang expression for the orgasm of a sexually mature male during sleep. Occasionally, men may involuntarily experience orgasm and an ejaculation of semen in their sleep.

whore. A female prostitute.

witch’s milk. Colloquial term for a milklike substance temporarily secreted from the breasts of newborns. The phenomenon is caused by some remaining maternal lactating hormones.

withdrawal method. See coitus abruptus.

women’s liberation. A radical social movement devoted to the emancipation of women.

X

X chromosome. (gr. soma: body) The female sex chromosome.

Y

yang. In ancient Chinese philosophy the male principle in nature.

Y chromosome. (gr. soma: body) The male sex chromosome.

yin. In ancient Chinese philosophy the female principle in nature.

yohimbine. A substance derived form the bark of the West African yohimbine tree (pausinystalia yohimba). It is believed to act as an aphrodisiac, but definite scientific proof of this is still lacking.

yoni. (sanskrit) In Indian mythology the symbol of the female principle. Usually represented in sculptural form as the female sex organ. Corresponds to the male symbol lingam.

Z

zoophilia. (gr. love of animals) 1. Human sexual intercourse with animals. 2. A preference for sexual contact with animals.

zygote. A cell resulting from the union of two reproductive cells. In human reproduction: an egg that has been fertilized by a sperm cell.

zystitis. Infection of the urinary bladder.

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