Sex can mean different things to different people. Sex can include vaginal, anal, oral, hand jobs or fingering (hand to genitals), and more! Because there isn’t just one type of sex, there are different options for safer sex. These are some terms that you might come across when we talk about safer sex.
Antiretroviral: or ART, can refer to medication taken by people with HIV to reduce the amount of the virus in the body and restore the immune system. There are also antivirals, which can be used to treat viral infections like hepatitis B or hepatitis C.
Asymptomatic: When someone has an infection or illness but does not show or experience symptoms, they are asymptomatic. A lack of symptoms is often the most common symptom of an STI.
Barrier methods: Safe sex methods that involve a physical barrier between people, such as the internal condom, external condom or dental dam. These methods stop skin-to-skin contact and fluid exchange, which prevents STI/BBV transmission.
Consent: Sexual consent is the giving and receiving for permission to engage in sexual activity without threat or coercion. Consent must be freely given, specific and informed. It can be withdrawn at any time and is an ongoing conversation; not just at the beginning. Someone cannot legally consent if they are underage, drunk, drugged, unconscious, asleep, threatened or forced.
Contraception: The use of artificial methods to prevent pregnancy. Different methods of contraceptives are available to suit different bodies, and different needs. Some trans, gender diverse and non-binary people use hormonal contraceptives to stop or control their menstruation.
Contraceptive implant: The hormonal implant is a small rod the size of a matchstick that prevents pregnancy for up to three years. A trained doctor or nurse inserts the implant under the skin of the upper arm. It releases the hormone progestin to prevent pregnancy and is one of the most effective birth control methods available.
Contraceptive injection: The contraceptive injection is a hormonal contraceptive used to prevent pregnancy, but not STIs/BBVs. The injection of the hormone progestin will prevent pregnancy for three months and is also sometimes used in hormone replacement therapy.
Dental Dam: A thin, square piece of latex that helps prevent the spread of STIs/BBVs when placed over the vulva or anus during oral sex. It is a barrier method that prevents skin-to-skin contact and the transfer of fluids.
External Condom: The most common form of barrier method, the condom is a thin sheath of latex (or other materials) that covers the penis during sex (oral, vaginal, anal) to reduce the risk of STIs, BBVs, and pregnancy. Sometimes referred to as the male condom or just the condom.
Gloves: Latex and nitrile gloves can be a useful barrier method for sex to prevent STI/BBV transmission, particularly during manual sex such as fingering.
Hormonal contraceptives: Birth control methods that use hormones such as estrogen and progesterone to prevent pregnancy. These include the implant, the hormonal IUD, the pill and the contraceptive injection. They can also be used to control and manage periods and aid with body dysphoria.
Internal Condom: A soft latex pouch with rubber rings on each end. It is inserted into the vaginal canal to help prevent pregnancy and the spread of STIs and BBVs during penetrative sex. Sometimes referred to as the female condom.
Intrauterine device (IUD): An anchor-shaped device placed inside the uterus which either uses hormones or copper to prevent pregnancy. It is a safe, long-term, reversible and highly effective form of birth control.
Lube / lubricant: Slick products used to increase slipperiness and reduce friction during sex. Water and silicone-based lubes should be used with condoms. Oil-based lube should not be used with condoms as it can weaken and damage latex.
Oral sex: Sex involving the mouth and genitals, including cunnilingus (oral to vaginal), anilingus (oral to anus) and fellatio (oral to penis).
Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP): Medicine used to prevent HIV transmission if taken as soon as possible after exposure to HIV (within 72 hours). It can be accessed at hospitals and some sexual health clinics. Find out more at www.getpep.info.
Pre-cum: The small amount of fluid (sometimes containing sperm) that may come out of the penis during sexual excitement before ejaculation.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP): An antiviral medication taken daily before potential HIV exposure to reduce the risk of getting HIV.
Prostate: A gland that produces seminal fluid, a component in semen which helps sperm move. The prostate can be very sensitive to the touch, and many people enjoy stimulating the prostate for sexual pleasure.
Pulling out / pull-out method: Pulling the penis out of the vagina before ejaculation. Also called withdrawal, it has a lower effectiveness than other forms of contraception.
Rimming: Also known as anilingus, it is the use of mouth to pleasure someone’s anus. Rimming can include licking, tonguing, sucking, kissing or any other oral act.
Sexual fluids: Discharge from the genitals or anus, often associated with sexual activity, including semen, pre-cum, anal mucus, vaginal discharge, arousal fluid or fluids from squirting.
Vaginal discharge: People with vaginas can experience fluid discharge at different points of sexual arousal or menstruation. Normal discharge can be thick or thin, clear, white or yellow when it dries on your underwear. It has a mild, not unpleasant smell. A change in discharge may indicate an infection.
Vaginal lubrication: When the vagina gets wetter and more slippery, which can aid penetration by fingers, toys and penises. This happens naturally with vaginal secretions and can be done with lube. Sometimes happens during sexual arousal, but not always.