A Primer on Basic Sex Terms

A Primer on Basic Sex Terms

Do you know what NSFW means? It took me a while to figure that one out—NSFW means Not Safe for Work.

I imagine there are sex terms you see and don’t know the meaning of as well.  Here’s a very basic primer on sex-related terms you might find on the internet. My disclaimer: There are many definitions and nuances to sex terms; what you find here is a loosely compiled list of definitions. I am not claiming to be the authority or to having done extensive research in making this list. Kinkly.com has one of the most comprehensive sex term lists I’ve ever seen if you want to explore.

BDSM: Bondage, Discipline/Domination, Sadism, Masochism. When you see the letters D/s it refers to the dominant/submissive power dynamic. As for defining BDSM, it means different things to different people-it general it refers to kink or power play. BDSM practices might range from the use of a pretty silky scarf as a blindfold to more involved and orchestrated practices involving spanking, using flogs/paddles and handcuffs, or role-playing, for example.

Kink: Kink refers to sex that’s outside of the norm. Of course we don’t really have a ‘norm’ unless you want to consider the standard missionary position intercourse. Kink might be wanting to wear latex or always having sex with blindfolds. It’s a term that encompasses many sexual preferences.

Sexual Agency: This is a great term that I’m seeing with more frequency lately. Sexual agency refers to the ability to make individual choices about the kind of sex you want, free of coercion. I find it an empowering term.

Consent: We tend to think of consent in connection with the Just Say No campaign used by colleges. It’s the understanding that both parties need to be willing and consenting. I think we can use the word consent to go deeper. To have conversations about exactly what you want to do and why. Saying, “well if you want to” isn’t really the level of consent you want in any aspect of life, certainly not in mutually enjoyable sex.

Top: With the buzz around 50 Shades of Grey you’re probably hearing more words that related to BDSM. Top is one of those. To top refers to an act, or role, in power play where the Dom, or dominant partner, taking the lead.  “She’s the Top to my sub.”

Sub: The one who is subservient or submissive to the dominant in a sexual power play.

Vanilla: The flip side of ‘Kink”–this is the straight up traditional approach to sex–missionary, lights out, conventional, etc. Deemed to be a little boring! You might enjoy, When is Sex Like Ice Cream? Are You the Vanilla Type or Dark Chocolate?

Poly: Someone who identifies as ‘poly’ is referring to their polyamory lifestyle–in short people who have more than one partner, often a ‘primary’ partner and one or two or more lovers/romantic interests. The focus is on romantic love, not just having sex with lots of people!

Maybe these aren’t the words you think you need at this point in life, and then again….maybe you’re going to step out into a new world of sexual pleasure. So if you do, these brief terms might help! Being informed is always a good thing. At the very least, the next time you see the letters NSFW you’ll know not to open the page unless you’re in a safe, discreet spot!

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

4 Comments
  • Lisa Froman
    Posted at 12:36h, 30 August Reply

    Ha, I learned a couple of new terms. Sexual agency…that’s interesting. I didn’t know Top, either. Thanks for the education.

    • Walker
      Posted at 13:54h, 30 August Reply

      Lisa, I love sexual agency…just haven’t found the right time/way to use it!

  • Carol Cassara
    Posted at 12:56h, 30 August Reply

    These are great, easy to understand definitions of terms that can get so complex. Sex is sex, and I love simple in terms of explanations!

    • Walker
      Posted at 13:54h, 30 August Reply

      Thanks Carol. If ‘you’ need them you figure out what they are, but otherwise we’re often left wondering and feeling too awkward to ask for a definition!

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