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Gender and sex are incredibly nuanced and complicated concepts. The following is a living document that can be used as a reference for reading on Nerve, other publications, and our own everyday interactions. 

Agender

Sometimes referred to as “genderless” or “gender neutral,” this individual does not identify with any gender identity. This may also describe someone who intentionally does not have an identifiable gender presentation.

Androgynous

 A person who does not identify with or present themselves as a man or woman. Person may have both masculine and feminine qualities or identify as gender-bending or genderfuck.

Asexual

According to the Asexual Visibility and Education Network, an asexual is “someone who does not experience sexual attraction.” Someone who is asexual may experience other types of attraction or chemistry, but it is not sexually oriented.

Bareback

A slang term (especially in gay circles) for sex without condoms.

BDSM

A catchall term for a variety of activities standing for Bondage, Dominance/Submission and Sadism/Masochism. “Kink” is often used as a synonym.

BDSM scene

Period of BDSM activity or roleplay. Can also refer to BDSM community/culture as a whole.

Bigender

A person who moves between masculine and feminine gender-typed behavior, sometimes depending on context. Often, someone who identifies as bigender identifies as both female and male and has a female and male persona or a mix of gender expressions. Considered part of the trans community.

Bisexual

A romantic or sexual attraction or behavior towards both male and females or those of other gender identities. Sometimes referred to as “pansexual.”

Bottom

An individual who receives penetration during sexual intercourse. Often those who identify as such are indicating a preference. Prominently used in the gay community.

Cisgender

Someone who identifies as the gender they were assigned at birth. i.e. A person born with male biological characteristics who identifies as a man is considered a cisgender man.

Cisnormative

The assumption that a person’s gender identity is the same as their sex assigned at birth. “Cisnormative” may refer to the lens or perspective through which that assumption is made.

Condomless sex

Term used as of 2014 by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), replacing “unprotected sex.” Often referred to as “bareback” in the vernacular. Could indicate use of other forms of contraception.

Dildo

A sex toy intended for penetration, usually phallic shaped. May vibrate, but usually doesn’t. Can be used for masturbation, with a partner, or in a strap-on harness. Often shaped similarly – if not identically – to a penis.

Dominatrix (or Domme)

Often but not always used to describe a woman paid to dominate/take control/engage in BDSM with a bottom or submissive. Can be used in nonprofessional situations, but that version is less common.

Ejaculate (noun)

Product of an ejaculation. Often referred to by the slang word “cum.”

Ejaculation

Fluid produced by an orgasm. Often referred to as semen being ejaculated from a penis, but can also refer to female ejaculation (aka “squirting”).

Fetish

When a body part or object is required or desired for sexual gratification, such as a foot or shoe fetish. Someone with a complete fetish can only get aroused when that body part or object is involved in their fantasy or sexual activity.

FTM (Female to Male)

A person who was assigned female sex, and now identifies as a man and has a masculine gender identity. May also refer to a person who is transitioning from female to male. He may or may not have undergone surgery or body modification.

Gay

A term that primarily refers to a homosexual person, a person who is attracted to members of the same sex. In some contexts, specifically refers to homosexual men.

Gender identity

How a person identifies their own gender, such as male, female, genderqueer, transgender, etc. A person’s gender identity may or may not correlate with the gender a person was assigned at birth.

Gender Fluid 

A person whose gender identification and presentation are not confined to one gender category. May have fluctuating understanding of their own gender.

Gender Nonconforming 

A person whose presentation and behavior does not conform to society’s cisnormative expectation of how a person of that gender should look and behave.

Gender Questioning

A person who may be questioning their gender identity  and may be considering other ways of gender expression.

Gender Variant

An umbrella term to describe anyone who does not have a cisgender identity. Some may prefer the term gender diverse or gender nonconforming.

Genderqueer

Used by those who identify outside the binary gender (male/female) system. This could mean identifying as no gender, two genders, without a gender (which may be called “agender”) or any other permutation. This option was one of 56 gender added to Facebook’s expanded gender options in February 2014.

Heteronormative

A worldview or lens that assumes heterosexuality is the normal or preferred sexual orientation. The assumption that there is a “standard” sexual orientation.

Heterosexual

A person who exhibits sexual attraction or behavior towards members of the opposite sex. Often referred to as “straight.”

Homosexual

A person who exhibits sexual attraction or behavior towards members of the same sex. Often referred to as “gay” or “lesbian.”

Intersex

According to the Intersex Society of North America, “a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.”

Kink

A term used to refer to a “playful usage of sexual concepts which are overt, accentuated, unambiguously expressive of sexuality.” (Some draw a distinction between “kink” and “fetishism”, defining the former as enhancing partner intimacy, and the latter as replacing it.)

Lesbian

A female homosexual. A female who experiences romantic love or sexual attraction to other females. Term may be used to describe sexual identity or behavior.

LGBTQI

Umbrella term for Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Queer/Questioning/Intersex, sometimes LGBTQIA (Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Queer/Questioning/Intersex/Asexual).

Lube

Shorthand for commercial personal lubricant.

MTF (Male to Female)

Person who is transitioning or has transitioned from male to female. This is a trans individual who was assigned male sex at birth and now identifies as female. She may or may not have undergone surgery, hormones, or other alterations to her body.

Monogamy

Type of relationship where partners have agreed to be sexually exclusive (only have sex with each other).

Munch

Casual get-together of people involved in or curious about BDSM. Usually takes place outside a dungeon or BDSM party, such as at a restaurant (hence the term “munch”).

Neither

Not identifying with any gender label.

Neutrois 

According to Neutrois.com, “a non-binary gender identity that falls under the genderqueer or transgender umbrellas.” May include those who identify as gender neutral, null-gender, neither male or female, genderless, or agender.

Non-binary

Identifying outside of the two-gender (male/female) system or rejecting the binary system.

Other

Choosing not to identify with any gender label. Should not be used as a way of identifying those whose gender we have yet to understand or learn.

Pangender

Take from the Greek for “all,” is a term that is inclusive of all gender diverse people and their self-identification.

Polyamory

Translated as “loving more,” derived from the Greek for more (“poly”) and Latin for love (“amore”). The practice of engaging in (or potentially engaging in) open relationships. Not monogamous. A couple (or triad, etc.) may be polyamorous, and individuals may also identify as polyamorous (or “poly” for shorthand).

Queer

Catchall term used by many under the LGBTQIA umbrella, generally meant to be more expansive and inclusive. Originally a slur, its current usage has reclaimed it as a positive.

Questioning

Refers to someone who is questioning their sexuality, sexual attraction, and/or sexual orientation.

Roleplay

Acting out a sexual fantasy scenario by performing/speaking as characters, such as teacher/student, doctor/nurse, etc. Can include age play (pretending to be much younger or older and/or pretending to be related, such as Daddy/girl play).

Safe word

Safety protocol word used (usually by the submissive or bottom) in BDSM to stop a scene, agreed upon in advance (often “red”). A safe word is usually a word that would not normally be uttered during the course of a scene. The moment the safe word is said, the BDSM play is halted.

Safer sex

Practices that mitigate the chance of contracting an STI, which may include using condoms and/or dental dams, using condoms on sex toys, not sharing sex toys, requiring STI tests of potential sexual partners, etc. Refers to any practice used to increase a person’s safety when it comes to sexual activity.

Scene name

Alternative name used within the BDSM community, often to protect a person’s privacy.

Sex Addict/Sex Addiction

Addicted to sex, someone whose sexual impulses are beyond their control and causing damage to their lives (used in similar ways as alcohol or drug addiction). There is no official sex addiction diagnosis in DSM 5, the latest version of DSM (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychological Association). Some who identify as sex addicts attend 12-step meetings such as Sex Addicts Anonymous.

Sex Worker

A person who works in the sex industry, which can include phone sex, pornography, prostitution, sexual surrogacy, stripping, or any number of similar profesions.

Sexting

Sending sexually explicit text messages and/or images via cell phone.

Sexual surrogate

Trained professional, usually a woman, who, under the guidance of a therapist, engages in touch and/or sexual activity with a client suffering from a sexual disability or disorder for therapeutic purposes.

Sexual orientation

Term that describes who a person is attracted to; i.e., heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, etc.

Straight

Sexually attracted to those of the opposite sex. See “Heterosexual.”

STI

Sexually Transmitted Infection, which can include chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, HIV, HPV, syphilis, and others, which can be contracted via sexual activity. Often used interchangeably with STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease), though not all STIs will turn into diseases. For more information, including locations of testing centers, visit the CDC or Planned Parenthood.

Submission (Sub)

A term used in the BDSM community, describing the act of submitting to a partner, physically and/or mentally.

Switch

Someone who identifies as both (or alternately) a dominant or submissive (or both) or top or bottom (or both) within BDSM.

Top

During sexual activity, a person who penetrates. Often, if one identifies as a top, they are indicating a sexual preference. Prominently used in the gay community.

Trans

Umbrella term used by some who identify outside of the gender binary system, considered more expansive than “transgender.” As a blog post at Q Center puts it, it is “inclusive of identities that do not start with the prefix ‘trans,’ but can be understood as under the trans umbrella. These identities include, but are not limited to, genderqueer, bigender, third gender, genderfuck, gender fluid, genderless, MTF, FTM, Two Spirit, non-binary, androgynous, and masculine of center (MOC).” Sometimes written as Trans*, the asterisk indicates that not all trans people identify with a gender or label. At times, a Trans* may be followed by an accompanying label, such as Trans*Man.

Transgender

According to the American Psychological Association, “an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth.” Transgender people may or may not refer to themselves as trans, a trans man (FTM), or a trans woman (MTF).

Transsexual

Often used to describe a person who has made physical changes to their body. May include someone who transitions or wants to transition to live as a different sex than they were born as. For some, this term indicates that the individual may have undergone sexual reassignment surgery or chest surgery. For others, this term is considered problematic due to its association with the history of pathological disorders. This term is used less commonly today.

Transitioning

The process of transitioning from one gender to another (see FTM, MTF). May involve taking hormones and/or sex reassignment surgery.

Transfeminine

Someone who is assigned a male sex at birth and identifies as feminine, but may not identify as a woman. Often, the term “feminine of center” is used to describe this identity.

Transmasculine

Someone who is assigned a female sex at birth and identifies as masculine, but may not identify as a man. Often, the term “masculine of center” is used to describe this identity.

Two-spirit

Originating from the Zuni tribe of North America, it is used to describe Native Americans who have both masculine and feminine traits and presentations and may identify as a third and fourth gender. An umbrella term for gender variant members of Native American indigenous tribes.

Vanilla

Used by those who self-identify as vanilla as well as those within the BDSM community to refer to those who do not practice BDSM. “Vanilla sex” may refer to sex that does not involved BDSM or power play.

Versatile

A versatile individual engages in both “top” and “bottom” activities.

Yes/No/Maybe list

Type of list used by BDSM practitioners to identify which activities someone likes/wants to try (yes), doesn’t like/doesn’t want to do (no), might want to do (maybe), intended to help explore fantasies and desires and communication between partners.