This glossary includes colloquial and formal sexual terms. The purpose of this is to increase Occupational Therapist’s knowledge on the vocabulary that may appear in sexual literature, used among the healthcare community, and used in conversations with clients.
The individual you speak to may have a different working definition for these terms and it is important to clarify with them what they mean. Stay curious and let’s keeping talking.
General Sexual Terminology
Types of Sexual Activity
Types of Sexual Assistive Technology and Related Equipment
Blow job is a type of oral sex where the mouth, lips, and tongue are used to sexual stimulate a penis.
Fingering is a type of sexual activity where the fingers are used to sexually stimulate a vagina or anus .
Foreplay is a variety of emotional and/or physical actions that are intended for sexual arousal and stimulation. For example, kissing, erotic talking, licking, touching, rubbing and nibbling.
Kink often associated with BDSM, (Bondage, Discipline, Sadism, and Masochism) kink is a general term used to describe a variety of sexual activities that are considered unconventional or unorthodox, such as sexual activity that involves rope play and fetishes.
Lube a term often used to describe a liquid or gel that is applied to a sexual device or genital for increase lubrication while performing a sexual activity.
Masturbation a sexual activity where one sexually simulates their own genitals. It can be performed with or without sexual devices and aids.
Oral sex a sexual activity where the mouth, lips and tongue are used to sexually stimulate a vagina, penis or anus.
Orgasm is a term used to describe the climax of sexual excitement and a reaction to sexual stimulation, where a series of muscle contractions occurs in the genital region, followed by a release of endorphins. This is often associated with ejaculation.
Phone sex is a type of sexual activity where, through a telephone conversation, verbal content is shared with the intention to sexually arouse.
Sex is a term often used to mean sexual activity.
This website uses sex as a synonym for sexual activity. However, when one is reviewing the academic and research literature and communicating within other healthcare community, sex is often defined as “… the biological characteristics that define humans as female or male. While these sets of biological characteristics are not mutually exclusive, as there are individuals who possess both, they tend to differentiate humans as males and females.” (WHO, 2020).
Sex toy is a tool used for masturbation and to enhance sexual stimulation during a desired sexual activity with others.
Sexting is a type of sexual activity where messages, photos or videos are sent or received with the intention to sexually arouse.
Sexual activity “is engaging in activities that result in sexual satisfaction and/or meet relational or reproductive needs” (American Occupational Therapy Association, 2014). It can be an activity that one engages in independently, with a partner, or with multiple individuals simultaneously.
Sexual aid is term often used synonymously with the term sexual device. However, at OTs-Let’s Talk About Sex we like to think of sexual aids as equipment used to help an individual prepare for or perform a desired sexual activity.
Sexual consent “means that all people involved in a sexual activity clearly and freely agree to participate.” (NYC Health, 2020). Review your state laws to learn more about the elements of sexual consent, for example the age of consent and what competence someone must demonstrate in order to be legally able to provide sexual consent.
Sexual device is a tool used for masturbation and to enhance sexual stimulation during a desired sexual activity with others. Also referred to as sex toys.
Sexual function is being able to engage in sexual activity and experience sexual pleasure and satisfaction when desired.” (American Sexual Health Association, 2020).
Sexual health “is a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination, and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled.” (WHO, 2020).
Sexual intercourse is a term often used interchangeably with the terms sexual activity and sex. However, there are discussions on the appropriateness of using this as a general term to describe all sexual acts. This is because some dictionary definitions describe sexual intercourse as a heterosexual activity or a sexual activity involving penetration only.
Sexuality “is a central aspect of being human throughout life, encompassing sex, gender identities and roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy, and reproduction. It is experienced and expressed in thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviours, practices, roles and relationships.” (WHO, 2020).
Sexuality counsellors are certified trained professional who can be a from a variety of disciplines (e.g. nurses, healthcare professionals, school counsellors) who are able to “assist the client to realistically resolve concerns through the introduction of problem solving techniques of communication as well as providing accurate information and relevant suggestions of specific exercises and techniques in sexual expression. Sexuality counseling is generally short term and client centered, focusing on the immediate concern or problem.” (American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists [ASSECT], 2020).
Sexuality educators “teach and train about a range of topics, including but not limited to sexual health; sexual and reproductive anatomy and physiology; family planning, contraception, and pregnancy/childbirth; sexually transmitted infections; gender identity and roles; gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues; sexual function and dysfunction; sexual pleasure; sexual variation; sexuality and disability; sexuality and chronic illness; sexual development across the lifespan; sexual abuse, assault, and coercion; and sexuality across cultures.” (ASSECT, 2020)
Sexuality therapists “are licensed mental health professionals, trained to provide in-depth psychotherapy, who have specialized in treating clients with sexual issues and concerns. In the absence of available licensure, they are certified, registered, or clinical members of a national psychotherapy organization. Sex therapists work with simple sexual concerns also, but in addition, where appropriate, are prepared to provide comprehensive and intensive psychotherapy over an extended period of time in more complex cases.” (ASSECT, 2020).
Vaginal sex is a type of sexual activity that involves the penetration of the vagina.
American Occupational Therapy Association. (2014). Occupational therapy practice framework: Domain and process (3rd ed.). American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68(Suppl. 1), S1–S48. http://dx.doi.org/10.5014/ ajot.2014.682006
American Sexual Health Association. (n.d.). Sexual functioning. ASHA. Retrieved on March 8, 2020, on http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/sexual-health/sexual-functioning/
American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counsellors and Therapists. (n.d.). Certification types: Distinguishing sexuality educators, counsellors, and therapists. ASSECT. Retrieved on March 8, 2020, https://www.aasect.org/certification-types-distinguishing-sexuality-educators-counselors-and-therapists
NYC Health. (n.d.). Sexual consent. NYC health. Retrieved on March 10, 2020, from https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/health/health-topics/sexual-consent.page
World Health Organization. (n.d.). Sexual and reproductive health. Retrieved on March 10, 2020, from WHO.https://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/sexual_health/sh_definitions/en/