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A

Abstinence 

The practice of restraining oneself from participating or indulging in some or all forms of sexual activity. In traditionalist societies and cultures, abstinence is often educated and promoted as a method of birth control. Although abstinence should be an individual choice, some countries enforce it by law.

Abundance

A practice or mindset that focuses on gratitude and the belief that there are enough sources of joy and success for everyone. The term “abundance mindset” was coined by Stephen Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which counteracts “scarcity mindset” – the focus on not having enough of something.

Abundant Love

An expression used in the polyamory community to express the benefits of having multiple partners, or the belief in loving more than one person at a time. Abundant love can also describe the joy or gratitude one feels as a result of the love they experience in their lives (be it familial, platonic, or romantic). It can also refer to the amount of love one has for themselves (see Self Love).

Ace

A term often used in place of Asexual.

Admiration

The positive, oftentimes, pleasurable feeling of warmth and approval towards someone or something. It may be accompanied by feelings of appreciation, respect, pride, or idolization. 

Aesthetic Attraction 

A non-sexual or romantic attraction to a person’s appearance.

Allosexual

A term used to describe anyone who feels sexual attraction towards another person or people.

Amatonormative

Societal messaging and assumptions that people thrive when in exclusive romantic relationships.

Androgyny

The state of a person whose sex cannot be easily determined by gender expression or physical attributes.

Apathetic 

The adjective describing someone who lacks interest or enthusiasm towards a particular person, activity, or thing..

Aromantic (Aro)

An umbrella term for people who have low levels of, or do not experience romantic attraction or do not desire romantic relationships.

Aromantic Spectrum (Arospec)

The term used to describe the spectrum experience of aromantic individuals (i.e., demiromantic or gray-romantic).

Asexual 

An umbrella term for people who have low levels of to the complete absence of sexual desire. 

It’s important to note that, like other sexual identities, asexuality varies, and is distinct from celibacy.

A-Spot

An erogenous zone known as the anterior fornix. The a-spot, not to be confused with the g-spot, can be found at the innermost point of the front vaginal wall, next to the cervix. Stimulating this area can provide pleasure and may cause lubrication.

24/7 or APE

Also known as “24/7 submission” or “slavery” or Absolute Power Exchange (APE); In BDSM it means the submissive partner gives complete control over to the Dominant partner 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is an intense and continuous relationship, whereby the submissive gives complete control over to the Dominant in all agreed-upon aspects of the submissive’s life.

Agender

A gender identity indicating the individual does not identify as having a particular gender.

Age Play

A type of role-play in which one or more partners pretend to be  a different age. Usually there is a preference, and not all role-playing is sexual. Age play may include toys and costumes, as well as behaviors and actions of the chosen age. For example, one partner may play as a small child or baby and wear diapers, whereby the other partner is their caretaker.

Alpha Sub

Term for the most powerful submissive in a D/s scene, or the submissive at the top of the hierarchy of submissives. This usually occurs in a polyamorous or open D/s relationship whereby the Dominant has multiple submissives.

Anal Beads

A sex toy that consists of a string of anal-safe beads with a space between each bead. The string is inserted into the anus, then gently removed by pulling on the exposed end. The passing of one bead at a time through the anus, providing a recurring sensation of fullness, and the sphincter opening and closing.

Anal Hook

A sex toy, specifically a curved metal object with a ball on the lower end, and a loop on the top end. The main purpose of the anal hook is to insert the ball end into the anus of a consenting partner (usually a submissive partner). A rope is threaded through the loop and then attached to a fixture to keep the submissive in place.

Anal Play

Any sexual stimulation involving the anus.

Anal Sex

Traditionally refers to sexual intercourse involving the anus, whereby the anus is penetrated by a penis or toy; however, since “sex” is technically an umbrella term for sexual behaviors and actions, it may include any sexual stimulation involving the anus.

Analingus

A type of oral sex, whereby the tongue and mouth are used to stimulate the anus.

Androsexual

Having a sexual preference for partners who identify as male.

Animal Play

A type of role-play where one or all partners pretend to be animals.

Asexual

Also known as “ace,” asexuality is low level or lack of sexual attraction or interest in pursuing sexual experiences. Asexual individuals can still experience romantic love; however, there are people who are also a-romantic (no desire for romantic love).

B

Bisexual

A term for individuals who are sexually attracted to two distinct genders or sexes.

Boundaries

Refers to an individual’s comfort level and limits surrounding physical touch and specific sexual activities. Setting boundaries protects all parties from experiencing or causing distress. Some boundaries can be very clear, whereas others are discovered through exploration and the progression of relationships.

Bull

This term refers to a third-party male brought into a cuckold couple. The bull has sex with one partner (traditionally the wife/female partner), while the cuckold partner (traditionally the husband/male partner) watches. The bull is generally more alpha than the cuckold and is used to humiliate the husband as he services his wife. This is the male equivalent to a cuckcake in the cuckquean fetish. The bull may also be referred to as a “cuckold bull,” “swinger bull,” or “alpha male” within the community. For more information on this fetish, see cuckold and cuckquean.

C

Celibacy

This term refers to the act of remaining sexually abstinent either voluntarily or not. Individuals who cannot find a lover are oftentimes referred to as involuntary celibates, or “incels.” Historically, culture has an influence on the celibacy of its people. For example, one may take a vow of celibacy for religious reasons. Unlike abstinence, celibacy is characterized as a long-term refrainment from sex.

Cis-gender Female

A term describing a female whose gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth.

Cis-gender Male

A term describing a male whose gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth.

Clitoris

Scientifically known as the clitoris glans and shaft, and covered by the clitoral hood, this biological female organ holds 8000 nerve-endings. It is the sensitive part of the biological female anatomy, its only purpose being for pleasure. It extends from the vulva (external) inward and is situated around the urethra and vaginal canal. The clitoris is homologous to the biological male sex organ, the penis. Also known as the female pleasure organ.

Codependency

Codependency occurs when one’s ability to function independently becomes difficult, or seemingly impossible. In other words, codependency shows up as an excessive reliance on a partner, friend, or family member. A codependent person may:

  • Have difficulty making their own decisions
  • Have difficulty communicating their needs
  • Experience separation anxiety when away from someone specific
  • Trust others more than themselves
  • Lack self-esteem
  • Experience debilitating fear over the loss of someone specific
  • Feel responsible for the happiness of someone specific
  • Feel one’s happiness is the responsibility of someone specific

The Cold Shoulder

When you give someone “the cold shoulder,” it means you are intentionally ignoring or rejecting them. This behaviour is also known as stonewalling, and can be considered emotionally abusive.

Compatibility

Having relational compatibilities means two or more people have similar or supporting feelings, desires, and goals (i.e., sexual, financial, parenting, etc.). Studies reveal that sharing similar goals and values is conducive to a healthy, long-term relationship.

Crush

A feeling of infatuation, romantic attraction or love for someone you are not in a romantic relationship with. 

Compersion

Often referred to as the “opposite of jealousy,” compersion is feelings of joy prompted by another person’s joy. This term was coined by the polyamory community to define the experience of “empathetic happiness” that occurs as a result of seeing the happiness of their partner(s).

Compromise

Compromise (unlike sacrifice) is when you change or surrender something for the betterment of your relationship(s). Compromise doesn’t necessarily mean you agree with your partner/friend/family member, but rather, everyone makes an effort to understand the differing perspectives. From this, you come to a mutual settlement based on all information. 

Unlike sacrifice, compromise allows all parties to feel heard, and the settlement supports the betterment of the relationship.

Consent

The permission given by all participating parties involved in a physical or sexual situation or specific act. More commonly known as Enthusiastic Consent, it is obtained through ongoing, open communication, which includes the discussion of personal boundaries. Consent can be revoked at any point.

Cuckcake

This term refers to a third-party female brought into a cuckquean couple. The cuckcake has sex with one partner (traditionally the husband/male partner), while the cuckquean partner (traditionally the wife/female partner) watches. This is the female equivalent to a bull in the cuckold fetish. For more information on this fetish, see cuckold and cuckquean.

Cuckold (noun) – Cuckolding (verb)

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A term describing the fetish of a man who takes pleasure in watching his partner (traditionally wife/female partner) engage in sexual relations with another man, known as the bull. This fetish usually takes the shape of Domination/submission, whereby the wife (hotwife) and bull humiliate the cuckold. This is a form of mental masochism, wherein all parties are enthusiastically consenting. This female equivalent is a cuckquean.

Cuckquean (noun) – Cuckqueaning (verb)

A term describing the fetish of a woman who takes pleasure in watching her partner (traditionally husband/male partner) engage in sexual relations with another woman, known as the cuckcake. This male equivalent is a cuckold.

D

Demisexual

A term used for people who only experience sexual attraction once a strong emotional bond is formed with another person.

Diversity

A range of human differences that make up the reality of the world. This may include, race, ethnicity, physical ability, age, gender (or absence thereof), sexual orientation, cultural backgrounds, belief systems, social class, political beliefs, etc.

Dyspareunia

This is a general term for any sexual act that causes physical pain or discomfort.

E

Ejaculate

As a noun, it is the seminal fluid that the body releases from the penis during orgasm; As a verb, it is the ejection of semen from the penis.

Erogenous Zone

An area of the body with a heightened sensitivity that may produce a sexual response when stimulated. Usually, this area has a higher concentration of nerve endings. Erogenous zones may include genitals, lips, nipples, ears, even feet, and armpits.

Erotophobia 

The fear of sex and sexual intimacy.

Ethical Non-Monogamy

An umbrella term for relationship structures that bend the rules of traditional monogamy. It is the practice of pursuing non-exclusive relationships with the consent of everyone involved. This may take the form of open or monogamish relationships to polyamory. Also known as consensual non-monogamy.

F

Forgiveness

The action or process of consciously releasing negative feelings – such as resentment, anger, or hate – toward a person or people who have wronged or harmed you, regardless of whether they deserve it. Forgiveness is the ultimate act of self-love, for it promotes emotional healing and leads to inner peace.

FTM

Acronym for female-to-male; a term referring to trans men who were assigned female sex at birth. It's important to note that this term may be outdated as it reduces trans folk to their medical transitions.

G

Gay

A term that describes men who are specifically attracted to other men.

Gender

Traditionally used as a binary system referring to the social and cultural differences between men and women, rather than the biological ones. Today, it is an umbrella term for a broad spectrum of gender identities, that expand beyond the traditional scope of the male-female binary. See gender identity for more information.

Gender Affirmation

Refers to the surgical procedures that help people transition to their self-identifying gender (i.e., top or bottom surgery).

Use this term in place of “sex change” or “sex/gender reassignment.”

Gender Fluid

A gender identity indicating the individual does not have a fixed gender or fluctuates between multiple genders.

Gender Identity

An individual’s personal perception and/or experience of their own gender. There are several gender identities, including, but not limited to: cis-gender female, cis-gender male, transgender, gender fluid, gender-neutral, non-binary, agender, pangender, genderqueer. An individual’s gender identity may include one or many of these.

Gender Neutral

A term used to refer to an individual that does not have a specified gender. Generally speaking, these individuals use they/them pronouns.

Genderqueer

Often used as an umbrella term for gender identities that fit beyond the scope of traditional gender distinction. An individual may identify as genderqueer if they do not subscribe to conventional gender distinctions (male and female), identify with both, none, or other gender identities. This term challenges the idea that there are only two genders (non-binary).

Gratitude

The practice of thankfulness, even during difficult times. When you experience gratitude, you experience a positive emotion closely related to appreciation, but more profound. Practicing gratitude has been proven to decrease stress, increase joy, and self-esteem, and have long-lasting positive health benefits.

Gray-ace

A term used for people who identify between asexual and allosexual.

Grief

The intense emotion that follows the loss of something or someone important to you. Can appear in stages that include feelings of denial, sorrow, pain, sadness, anger, gratitude, acceptance, and hope. This feeling, although associated heavily with death, may also be felt after a breakup or betrayal, for example.

“Grief is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” – Jamie Anderson

G-Spot

Erogenous zone that can be found approximately two inches deep into the vagina. Also known as the Urethral Sponge. When the G-Spot is stimulated it may provide intense sensations including pleasure, and a feeling like one needs to urinate. This is said to be the spot responsible for female ejaculation (AKA squirting).

H

Heteroflexible

A sexual orientation used to describe a person who participates mostly in heterosexual activities (sexual/romantic) but will sometimes participate in homosexual activities (sexual/romantic). An individual who may find the same sex appealing but is mainly interested in sexual and romantic relationships with the opposite sex.

Heterosexual

A sexual orientation used to describe a person who experiences sexual attraction for people of the opposite sex. This term typically refers to attraction between men and women.

Homosexual

A sexual orientation used to describe a person who experiences sexual attraction for people of the same sex. This typically refers to the attraction between men to men or women to women.

Hotwife

Term used to define the female partner/wife of a cuckold couple. The hotwife has sexual relationships with other men, typically with the consent of her husband/cuckold, and oftentimes in front of her husband/cuckold. Also known as a slutwife. For more information, see cuckold and bull.

I

Incompatibility

Having relational incompatibilities means two or more people have opposing or conflicting feelings, desires, or goals (i.e., sexual, financial, parenting, etc.). Incompatibilities are not always destructive; however, studies have enforced that sharing similar goals and values is conducive to a healthy, long-term relationship.

Interdependence

In relationships, interdependence occurs when partners work together to reach common goals while simultaneously maintaining their unique identities. It’s about interconnectedness rather than codependency.

For example, if a couple has a common goal to buy a house, they could agree on putting a certain amount of their earnings aside each month while leaving a reasonable amount for personal savings and financial decisions (i.e., individual hobbies).Another example of this is differing love languages. If you require affection, and your partner prefers acts of service, performing these love languages for each other supports the fulfilment of both partners, ergo, interdependency.

Intersex

A term used to describe an individual born with ambiguous reproductive features, or reproductive features of both the male and female systems. There is no single definition for intersexed bodies.

Intimacy

A feeling of familiarity and comfort that is not exclusive to romantic relationships. Not all intimacy is physical, in fact, psychologists have defined four types of intimacy: emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical.

K

Kindness

A behavior that requires a level of vulnerability, as it provides space to build meaningful connections. Qualities often associated with kindness are: warmth, friendliness, generosity, consideration. 

“Kindness is the new cool.”

– Syed Balkhi
L

Labia

The inner and outer folds of the vulva. The outer labia, also known as the labia majora, can be found on the outermost portion of the biological female genitalia, below the pubic mound, also known as the mons pubis (where pubic hair grows). The inner labia, or labia minora, can be found surrounding the opening of the pussy.

Lesbian

A term that describes women who are specifically attracted to other women.

Longing

A profound, sometimes intense, desire for something or someone. The experience of longing can be both a painful and pleasurable one but is associated with a yearning for something one is missing.

Love

An abstract concept defined as an intense feeling of deep affection; however, it is also an action, an event, one that can only be defined by our individual experiences.

Love Addiction

A form of codependency in relationships:

“It is important to keep in mind that love addiction is not based on a sexual need or a romantic desire. Instead, it is the deeply rooted belief that [you] are not whole and completed unless [you] are in a relationship. This is often caused by issues with neglect and abandonment as a child, and as it plays out in romantic relationships, it becomes a pattern of behaviour.” – Sherry Gaba LCSW

M

Masochism

The act or tendency of experiencing pleasure or sexual stimulation by having pain inflicted upon oneself. This is what the “M” stands for in BDSM. There are different types of masochists. For example, some prefer physically painful activities, such as spankings, while others prefer emotional or mental pain, such as humiliation.

MTF

Acronym for male-to-female; a term referring to trans women who were assigned male sex at birth. It's important to note that this term may be outdated as it reduces trans folk to their medical transitions.

N

Non-binary

Synonymous to genderqueer; this is an umbrella term for gender identities beyond the scope of conventional male and female gender distinctions. Also known as enby.

No Strings Attached

Action: Doing something for someone without transaction nor the expectation of reciprocity.

Relationship: A non-exclusive relationship where all parties owe no physical or emotional loyalty or obligation to the other.

O

Omnisexual

A term used for people who experience sexual attraction to all gender identities and sexual orientations, but have a preferential lean towards a specific group.

Out of Their League

An expression. If someone says you are out of their league, they are implying you are more desirable than they are. This desirability is traditionally based on physical appearance, but may also include things like ambition, intelligence, or status.

P

Passion

An intense emotion felt for someone or something. Passion is often described as something profound and uncontrollable, sometimes painful; a fixation or obsessive interest or feeling towards something or someone. For example, someone can feel passionate about their lover, a specific topic, or an activity.

Picking your battles

When you “pick your battles,” you are consciously choosing when to assert yourself, selectively, rather than at every occasion of conflict. This is a proactive approach to conflicts versus a reactive approach (not thinking before you respond). 

By “picking your battles,” you use your energy and time intentionally, and focus only on issues that matter to you. Picking your battles also requires you to gauge whether something aligns with your values and if it’s within your power to make a difference. For example:

An intoxicated individual makes an offensive comment, so you try conducting a rational discussion.

Or

An intoxicated individual makes an offensive comment, so you decide to leave, knowing that rational discussion can not take place while they’re in that state.

Polyamory

A form of ethical non-monogamy, polyamory is the practice of having multiple intimate relationships with the full knowledge and consent of all parties involved. In the simplest terms, polyamory is the practice of loving more than one person and offering space for partners to do the same (should they wish). Polyamory focuses on having wholesome, intimate relationships with more than one person at a given time.

Promise

The verbal assurance that something will be fulfilled, and the action of following through on it.

Q

Queer

This is an umbrella term encompassing an intersection of identities and orientations. Individuals who identify as queer fall outside of the conventional distinctions of gender identity and/or sexual orientation.

Queerplatonic or Queerplatonic Relationship (QPR)

A term used to describe a relationship that walks the line between romantic and non-romantic. These relationships tend to harbor intense emotional connections that go beyond what is considered that of a traditional friendship.

R

Relationship

Both an action and a noun, a relationship is determined by the manner in which two or more people connect or engage with each other. Relationships can be romantic, platonic, negative or positive; a choice (i.e., husband) or predetermined (i.e., a sibling).

Relationship Anarchy (RA)

Term coined by Andie Nordgren, a Swedish activist, is a philosophy that pulls anarchist principles and applies them to intimate relationships. RAs do not prioritize their romantic/sexual relationships over platonic ones and are highly critical of the conventional standards that do. RAs use anarchist concepts to deny hierarchy within relationships and reject set expectations. “Love is not a finite resource,” says Nordgren, and relationships are customizable.

Relationship Escalator

A common set of societal expectations for intimate relationships, usually in a heterotypical context, with the goal of achieving permanent monogamy. Expectations may include: purchasing a house together, marriage, having children, and remaining exclusive until death. These expectations are the standard in which most people gauge a developing relationship’s significance and longevity (what Relationship Anarchists reject).

Respect

A precursor to trust, respect – especially mutual respect – is honouring the wellbeing of a person or relationship. In other words, practising respect means practising consideration and ensuring your actions, words, and behaviours support, rather than oppose or undermine, your partner or your relationship(s).

Romantic-repulsed

In the context of aromanticism, a term used to describe feelings of discomfort or disgust towards romance or romantic relationships.

S

Self Love

The practice of taking care of one’s own well-being and happiness, and believing in one’s own value. In psychology, this concept is perceived as a critical pillar for a positive life experience.

Self-esteem

According to Nathaniel Branden – psychotherapist and self-esteem expert – it is a human need made of two fundamental things:

“1. Confidence in our ability to think, confidence in our ability to cope with the basic challenges of life; and

“2. Confidence in our right to be successful and happy, the feeling of being worthy, deserving, entitled to assert our needs and wants, achieve our values, and enjoy the fruits of our efforts.”

“The health of the mind.” – Nathaniel Branden

Self-reflection

The action of examining and evaluating one’s attitudes, thoughts, behaviours, beliefs, motivations, and desires. Through self-reflection we can assess what is going well in our lives versus what needs to change. The practice of self-reflection promotes learning and growth, joy and connection.

“Fear and pain should be treated as signals not to close our eyes, but to open them wider.” – Nathaniel Branden

Sex-adverse

In the context of asexuality, a term used to describe the avoidance of sexual activity.

Sex-indifferent / -neutral

In the context of asexuality, a term used to describe people who have no strong or specific feelings towards sex.

Sex Positive

Refers to individuals who have open and progressive attitudes towards sex, sexuality, and all that falls under its umbrella, regardless of their sexual preferences. Sex-positive individuals are celebratory of their sexuality as well as others; they practice safe sex and see all consensual sexual experiences as healthy forms of self-expression.

Sex Positive Ace

In the context of asexuality, this term describes asexuals who don’t feel sexual attraction, but will still participate in sexual activity for pleasure. For example, masturbation or wanting to pleasure their partner(s).

Sex-repulsed

In the context of asexuality, a term used to describe feelings of discomfort or disgust towards sex.

Sorry 

A feeling of sorrow or regret for one's actions, thoughts, words, etc. As Clementine Ford states, “sorry is a behavior, not a word.” To be sorry means to feel sympathy for the person to whom you apologize , and make a conscious decision to change your harmful behavior.

Solo Polyamory

Refers to individuals who practice polyamory but consider themselves their primary partner. In other words, solo polyamorists have relationships but are not interested in merging their lives with others in a traditional sense: living together, purchasing a home, getting married, or having children.

Squish 

The intense feelings of admiration or platonic desire for connection with another person. It is non-sexual or romantic in nature and may take the form of a “friend crush” or a familial-like love for someone. Can be a noun (“they are my squish”) or a verb (“I’m squishing on them”).

T

Trust

In the context of relationships (both romantic and non-romantic), trust is having  confidence in someone’s honesty, integrity, and loyalty. When you trust someone, it is a sign that you feel safe with them.

U

Unconditional Love

An expression defined by limitless love. It is experienced as love without conditions, transactions, or expectations. It is present when, no matter what happens, your feelings of affection towards someone does not waver. The most common example of unconditional love is the love a parent has for their child.

V

Vulnerability

Being exposed to potential harm, be it physically or emotionally.

You may have heard the expression, “put your heart on the line.” Vulnerability is not fearlessness but acting despite fear. Vulnerability means allowing others to see you entirely, and knowing rejection is possible. It’s recognizing the risk of pain but choosing love and connection anyway! #courage“Vulnerability is not about winning or losing. It’s having the courage to show up even when you can’t control the outcome.” – Brené Brown