Modification of Pubic Hair

Cultural Views on Pubic Hair

Since the beginning of the 20th century, societal norms have caused a significant shift in the views toward pubic hair and pubic hair modification. In the early 1990s, people rarely altered their pubic hair. This changed with the Women's Movement in the 1960s and with the publication of media sources like Playboy Magazine. As revealing bathing suits and underwear were made popular, women felt increasing pressure to have their pubic hair groomed or completely removed. Pubic hair has since become a topic of concern for many women, men, and even adolescents. The increasing popularity of oral sex has also sparked an increase of pubic hair grooming.  

Societal pressure may cause many people to feel like their pubic hair needs to be altered. In reality, the appearance and texture of pubic hair differs among all people. For some people, pubic hair is thick and coarse, while for other individuals it may be sparse and/or very fine. The color of pubic hair also tends to vary. Pubic hair and armpit hair can even differ from the hair of the scalp. For most individuals the pubic hair is darker, but in some cases this is not true. For most women, the pubic hair patch is somewhat triangular, with the top zone lying over the mons and extending down towards the anus; for most men, the pubic patch tapers upward to a line of hair pointing up towards the navel (commonly referred to as the “happy trail”).

In general, attitudes toward pubic hair are similar to those regarding underarm hair: cultural and personal norms are reflected by reactions that range from disgust to admiration. Some people feel their pubic hair makes them feel more masculine or feminine, while others may view their pubic hair with contempt. Slang words for pubic hair include the following terms: pubes, bush, curlies, carpet.

What is the Purpose of Pubic Hair?

There is no definite answer as to why human beings have pubic hair, but theories do exist. The prevailing hypothesis relates to pheromones, which are the odors that the body produces that may be sexually stimulating to others.1 The hair that grows in both the genital area and under the armpits wicks away erotic scents that are then evaporated into the air and smelled by others. A more evolutionary-based theory is that a female’s pubic hair keeps her genitals warm, making her more likely to take their clothes off, ensuring a male’s penile erection.2 Another theory is that pubic hair prevents foreign particles from entering the vagina and prevents chaffing. Because this explanation does not address male pubic hair, a third theory suggests that pubic hair serves to absorb odors of the genital region.

Modification of Pubic Hair

Trimming or removing pubic hair has become quite common in many cultures. Removing the hair above the skin is referred to as depilation, whereas removing the entire hair follicle (including the root) is called epilation. The removal/trimming of body hair on a man is sometimes referred to as “manscaping”.

Reasons for why some people modify or remove their pubic hair include the following:

•    Hygiene (especially during menstruation)

•    Aesthetics (looks)

•    Tradition

•    Religious beliefs

•    Sexual practices (i.e., oral sex, penile/vaginal sex, etc.)

•    Comfort Preferences

Removal/Modification Methods

There are a wide variety of methods used to remove or alter pubic hair. The most common short-term method for reducing or removing pubic hair is shaving, while the most common long-term methods include waxing or laser-hair removal. Below are descriptions of the various methods for pubic hair modification.

1. Shaving

A razor (straight razor, safety razor, or electric razor) is used to cut the hair at the level of the skin or relatively close to it. Contrary to popular belief, shaving with a razor does not make hair grow back faster, thicker, or darker. Shaving with a razor creates a flat end to the hair, giving it more sharp edges than naturally pointed hair. Prior to shaving, it is recommended that the first wets the area to be shaved and then applies shaving cream, soap, or body wash. This will help to prevent nicks (cuts), bumps, blisters, ingrown hairs, and general irritation. Shave in the direction of the hair growth (with the grain) to avoid ingrown hairs and irritation. Shaving against the grain of hair can cause nicks, bumps, blisters, etc. The effectiveness of this method may deteriorate when the blades begin to rust (they are not necessarily getting dull!). Try soaking the razor in white distilled vinegar or another preferred cleanser to remove the rust. It may be necessary to shave down lengthy hairs with an electric razor before using a regular razor. 

2. Bikini Waxing

Waxing is a procedure that involves pulling out sections of hair using various types of waxes. To perform a bikini wax, a licensed esthetician or cosmetologist applies warm wax to a female's bikini line (inner thigh area), places cloth strips atop the wax, and then removes them by pulling the material off the skin. Oftentimes a small thatch of hair is left above the vagina, sometimes in the shape of a heart or triangle. Certain websites and magazines offer printout stencils for pubic hair designs.

Since this method can be very painful, pain-reducing gel is often recommended before applying the wax. It is possible that some skin irritation, bleeding, and inflammation of the hair follicles can occur as a result of removing the wax, so do not be alarmed if this occurs. Wax should not be put on skin that is chapped or sunburned or on the face of a person using facial products like Retin-A or Differin (these weaken the skin and could result in skin tearing when the wax is pulled off). If a licensed esthetician or cosmetologist performs the waxing, treatment costs typically range from $25 to $50. Do-it-yourself waxing products can also be purchased and used in the comfort of your own home. Hair needs to be at least 1/8 inch long for waxing to be effective, so do not shave in the days or weeks leading up to your appointment. Results typially last 3-8 weeks.3

3. Brazilian Waxing

The "Brazilian wax" is similar to a bikini wax, but it involves complete removal of hair from the vulva (the external female genitals), perineum, anus, buttocks, and mons, using a wax mixture made from natural beeswax, tall oil, and sometimes botanicals. This wax mixture is stronger and more effective at removing the thicker pubic hairs compared to the synthetic waxes frequently used for leg waxing. While the Brazilian wax has long been associated with women, there are a growing number of men getting the male equivalent of the Brazilian wax. The procedure is performed by licensed cosmetologists or estheticians at numerous spas and salons.4

The Origin of Brazilian Waxing

Though genital waxing has grown in popularity over the past 20 years, the practice is not new. Waxing of the genital areas has been prevalent for centuries in Ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, Arabia, Turkey and Persia. In the past, however, the waxes were sugar-based and made with lemon. The Brazilian wax specifically started on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, where many young women wear gossamer bikinis called fila dental (as in dental floss). The Brazilian wax was introduced to the United States in 1987 when seven Brazilian sisters, Jocely, Jonie, Joyce, Janea, Jussara, Juracy and Judseia Padilha, opened a hair removal salon called J. Sisters International Salon in Manhattan, New York.4

Typical Waxing Procedure

•    Females may or may not be provided with a paper G-string. The client will then be asked to disrobe from the waist down and lie down on a waxing table.

•    Talcum powder is sometimes spread over the area to be waxed, which prevents the hot wax from sticking to the skin.

•    Hot wax is applied with a wax strip and given a short amount of time to harden. The wax strip is then pulled off in the opposite direction of hair growth (against the grain) with a cloth strip.

•    This process is repeated until all of the hair on the vulva, mons, perineum, and anus is removed. The application and removal of the wax is done in sections as the cosmetologist works around the client's body.

•    Once the waxing is complete, tweezers are used to remove any remaining stray hairs that were not removed during the waxing.

•    The remaining strip of pubic hair on the mons verenis (often called a "landing strip") is trimmed or waxed depending on the client's request. If the remaining hair is trimmed, it may be dyed or shaped into various patterns, including triangles, hearts or squares. If the remaining hair is removed, the procedure is called a full Brazilian wax or Hollywood wax.

Men and women who want to take the risk of dyeing their pubic hair should avoid hair covering the genitals and only dye the hair that covers the pubic bone (the mons). The dye can cause irritation if applied to the labia—both inner and outer lips of the vulva. For males, it is important to avoid the penile shaft and the scrotum because they both tend to be sensitive. Many people experience irritation or allergic reactions, including burning of the vaginal area, itching, blisters, redness, or complete loss of hair. It is important to test for sensitivity first by doing a skin patch test 48 hours before attempting to tint hair. The entire Brazilian waxing session performed by a licensed cosmetologist or esthetician at a salon will typically last 15-30 minutes.4

The Results

The results from a Brazilian bikini wax typically last from three to six weeks, depending on the individual's hair regrowth rate. Regrowth of pubic hair is generally minimal during the first two weeks and increases by the third. Heat stimulates hair growth, so regrowth may be quicker in the summer months. With regular waxing, hair regrowth will generally slow down, and the time between waxing sessions will increase.

Pain

It is normal to feel pain during a Brazilian or bikini wax; however, the severity of pain varies greatly among women. The most painful area is usually the mons verenis (the area above the clitoris), whereas the least painful area is behind the genitals and around the anus. The best time to have your pubic hair waxed is a week after menstruation, since the genital area is least sensitive during this time. In contrast, the pain is likely to be greatest immediately before and during menstruation, when the area is most tender. Typically the first Brazilian wax is the most painful. The pain should gradually decrease in subsequent waxing sessions when the hair is thinner and easier to pull out.

4. Tweezing

Tweezing is a laborious method that involves plucking each individual pubic hair. There may be pain, skin irritation, and inflammation of the hair follicle as a result of tweezing. Hairs often grow back as “ingrown” hairs, meaning that they continue to grow underneath the surface of the skin, can create long spirals, and can often lead to infections. Tweezers cost anywhere from $3 to $30. Results last about three to eight weeks.

5. Laser Hair Removal and Intense Pulsed Light

Laser hair removal is FDA approved. Working with small areas of the skin, the laser beam destroys hair follicles and impairs hair regrowth. Redness or pigmentation changes of the skin may result after treatment. Laser treatment works best on people with light skin and dark hair, but may not be effective on deeply-embedded hair follicles. Since this procedure works by targeting the root of the hair, it is recommended that you avoid plucking, waxing, and electrolysis beginning six weeks prior to the procedure so that the root is left intact. Only a doctor or licensed technician should perform laser hair removal. This procedure is very expensive, and multiple treatments are necessary for lasting results. The average cost for one session of laser hair removal is between $200 and $300, but costs may vary depending on the size of the treated area and number of treatments. This procedure can be used for pubic hair removal, but only for hair along the bikini line. Results are long lasting, but some hair may grow back. If hair does grow back, it is typically more sparse and much finer than pretreated hair.5

6. Hair Removal Creams and Lotions

Creams and lotions, also referred to as depilatories, contain chemicals that dissolve the protein structure of hair and cause it to separate from the skin. Some depilatories can increase acne and cause skin irritation or chemical burns if the formula is too strong or the cream is left on too long. These creams and lotions are not intended for use on the labia minora (the inner lips). Depilatories are sold over-the-counter at most drug stores and cost $5- $10. Results last about one week.  

Side Effects of Hair Removal

Please note that hair removal in general may cause irritation of the skin, along with razor burn and/or ingrown hairs. Ingrown hairs form when the hair fails to grow out of the skin and curls over inside the follicles under the skin (just like the "razor bump" hairs curl above the skin). By curling, the hair creates a painful "foreign body" reaction in the hair follicle. The resulting inflammation in the follicle then creates an unsightly "bump,” oftentimes filled with pus. Products such as Tend Skin® may reduce the occurrence of ingrown hairs and/or razor burn.

Methods Not Recommended for Pubic Hair Removal

While there are a wide variety of hair removal methods on the market, it’s important to note that not all methods are appropriate for pubic hair removal. Often, these methods are too strong to be used on such a sensitive area.

1. Epilators

Mechanical epilators are devices that pull out the entire hair follicle. These should not be used on sensitive skin areas such as face, genitals, or armpits because the soft skin of the bikini area may tear. In addition, the hair must be about a quarter inch or longer to work, and the epilator could still miss some hair. Mechanical epilators cost anywhere from $50 to $100. Results last about one week.

2. Electrolysis

Electrolysis is a very laborious method of hair removal because each hair must be treated individually. During electrolysis, a qualified professional inserts a needle under the skin that passes an electric current through the hair follicle to damage it. Because this process is so time-consuming and requires multiple treatments, it can be very expensive. Electrolysis can also be painful and there is a risk of scarring and infection. This procedure should only be performed on the eyebrows, face, thighs, abdomen, breasts, and legs. Results are long lasting, but some hair may grow back.6

 

References

1. Everts, Sarah. "The Truth About Pheromones." Smithsonian. Smithsonian, Mar. 2012. Web. 22 May 2014.

2. Streicher, Lauren. "Bare Necessities: What You Should Know Before Grooming Your Pubic Hair." The Dr. Oz Show. N.p., 10 Feb. 2012. Web. 22 May 2014.

3. Siddons, Sarah. "HowStuffWorks "Bikini Wax vs. Brazilian Wax"" HowStuffWorks. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 May 2014.

4. "Brazilian Rush: Complete Guide to Brazilian Wax." Brazilian Rush. N.p., 31 May 2008. Web. 16 Oct. 2012. <http://brazilianrush.com/>.

5. Levine, Norman, MD. "Laser Hair Removal: Benefits, Side Effects, and Cost." WebMD. WebMD, 26 June 2012. Web. 20 May 2014.

6. Jailiman, Debra, MD. "Electrolysis Hair Removal: Benefits, How Many Treatments You'll Need, and More." WebMD. WebMD, 20 Nov. 2012. Web. 21 May 2014.

 

Last Updated 04 June 2014. 

An androgen that plays an important role in the development of the male external genitalia.

A sex-education program that teaches abstinence and does not mention safer-sex practices, homosexuality, etc.

Rape by a person known to the victim. Also known as date rape.

A disease of the immune system characterized by increased susceptibility to opportunistic infections; caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

A fetishistic attraction to amputees or amputation stumps.

A drug used in the treatment of genital herpes.

The period of psychosexual and social maturation following the onset of puberty during which a young person develops from a child into an adult.

An adult that experiences sexual satisfaction from acting like a baby or toddler.

Another term to describe a store that sells pornography.

Another term for placenta, which is delivered in the final stage of childbirth.

Sexual behavior performed after sexual intercourse or orgasm, or at the end of a sexual encounter.

Absence of menstruation. See primary amenorrhea and secondary amenorrhea.

The sampling of amniotic fluid for purposes of prenatal diagnosis.

The posterior (back) portion of the urethral fold, which gives rise to the anus.

Penetration of the anus by the penis, or any sexual behavior involving the anus.

Any of a class of steroids—the most important being testosterone—that promote male sexual development and that have a variety of other functions in both sexes.

In men, the gradual decline of fertility with age; a hypothetical male equivalent of menopause.

Sexually attracted to men.

Sexual contact between the mouth or tongue of one person and the anus of another.

Slang term: “rimjob”

Difficulty experiencing or inability to experience orgasm. In women, also called female orgasmic disorder.

The opening from which feces are released.

A substance believed to improve sexual performance, enhance sexual pleasure, or stimulate desire or love.

A fetishistic interest in having an amputation.

The circular patch of darker skin that surrounds the nipple.

An assisted reproduction technique that involves the placement of semen in the vagina or uterus with the aid of a syringe or small tube.

Artificial insemination using sperm from a man who is not the woman’s partner.

Describes a person who never experiences sexual attraction.

In vitro fertilization and related technologies.

Someone that has contracted an infectious disease but is not experiencing symptoms.

The idea that relationship styles are influenced by the quality of the early parent–child bond.

Providing sexual stimulation to oneself, or being aroused sexually by oneself.

Self-strangulation for purposes of sexual arousal.

A form of male-to- female transexuality characterized by a man’s sexual arousal at the thought of being or becoming a woman.

A form of behavior therapy that attempts to eliminate unwanted desires or behaviors by associating them with some unpleasant experience, such as a noxious smell.

A condition in which the normal microorganisms of the vagina are replaced by other species, causing discomfort and a foul-smelling discharge.

Inflammation of the glans of the penis.

Any contraceptive technique in which a physical barrier, such as a condom or diaphragm, prevents sperm from reaching the ovum.

A facility, usually in the form of a private club, used for casual sex between men.

A version of post-traumatic stress disorder affecting women who are victims of intimate partner violence.

An all-inclusive term for forms of sexual expression that involve inflicting and receiving physical pain, restraint, or humiliation. Often understood as a compressed acronym for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism.

In gay slang, a burly gay man with plenty of body hair; more generally, a member of a gay male subculture that rejects many of the prevailing standards of gay male attractiveness and behavior.

Treatment of paraphilias or other disorders based on conditioning or other theories of behavioral psychology. Also called behavior modification.

Therapy focused on improving styles of communication between partners in relationships.

Noncancerous enlargement of the prostate gland.

Obsolete term for sexual contact between a person and an animal.

Colloquial term for bisexual.

In law, the crime of marrying someone while already married to another spouse.

Prejudice against bisexuals.

The canal formed by the uterus, cervix, and vagina, through which the fetus passes during the birth process.

A facility specializing in childbirth care.

Sexual attraction to persons of both sexes.

An American slang term describing the temporary swelling of the testicles due to fluid congestion accompanied by testicular pain; occurs when a male is sexually aroused for an extended amount of time without climax

An American slang term describing the temporary swelling of the vulva due to fluid congestion accompanied by discomfort; occurs when a female is sexually aroused for an extended amount of time without climax.

The use of physical restraint for purposes of sexual arousal. Rope, cuffs, bondage tape, and other restraints are often used for this purpose.

A method of childbirth instruction that stresses the partner’s role as birth coach and that teaches a natural childbirth method.

Irregular uterine contractions that occur during the third trimester of pregnancy. Also called false labor.

The first stage of breast development at puberty.

In Cameroon, a traumatic procedure to delay breast development in girls.

In women, the two soft, protruding organs on the upper front of the torso; contains the mammary gland, which can secrete milk after pregnancy.

Slang terms: “boobs,” “tits,” “rack”

A house of prostitution.

Two small glands near the root of the penis that may secrete “pre-cum” at the urethral opening during sexual arousal before ejaculation. Also known as Cowper’s glands.

Masculine-acting, often used to describe certain lesbians.

A fertility awareness method of contraception that takes account of variability in the length of a woman’s menstrual cycles.

An escort-service prostitute, especially one who is relatively upscale in terms of clientele and price.

A fungal infection of the vagina. Also called thrush or a yeast infection.

Removal of the gonads. (In males, may include removal of the penis.) Also known as gonadectomy.

Sexual encounters that do not take place within a lasting sexual relationship.

Living under a vow not to marry or (by implication) to engage in sexual relations.

 

A small rubber or plastic cap that adheres by suction to the cervix, used as a contraceptive.

The lowermost, narrow portion of the uterus that connects with the vagina.

A surgical procedure in which a baby is delivered through an incision in the mother’s abdominal wall and uterus.

 

A primary sore on the skin or a mucous membrane in a person infected with syphilis. (Pronounced SHANK-er.)

 

An adult who has had sexual contact with a prepubescent child.

A sexually transmitted disease caused by infection with the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis.

 

The sampling of tissue from the placenta for purposes of prenatal diagnosis.

 

An alternative, more-inclusive term for chronic prostatitis. See prostatitis.

 

Microscopic, hairlike extensions of cells, often capable of coordinated beating motions.

 

A community support program for released sex offenders.

 

The surgical removal of the foreskin.

 

Detention of a person having a mental disorder that creates a threat to himself or others.

 

A form of behavioral learning in which a novel stimulus is tied to a preexisting reflex.

 

The transition to infertility at the end of a woman’s reproductive life, lasting for several years and culminating in menopause.

 

The assessment or treatment of mental or behavioral problems, as practiced by a psychologist.

 

A loose fold of skin that covers the clitoris.

 

Removal of the entire external portion of the clitoris (glans, shaft, and hood).

 

The erectile organ in females, whose external portion is located at the junction of the labia minora, just in front of the vestibule; it is the most sensitive erogenous zone and often the primary anatomical source of sexual pleasure in women.

 

The common exit of the gastrointestinal and urogenital systems; in humans it is present only in embryonic life.

 

Related to the aspects of the mind that process knowledge or information.

 

The study of the information-processing systems of the mind.

 

Therapy based on changing a person’s beliefs and thought processes.

 

A live-in sexual relationship between two persons who are not married to each other.

 

The apparent negative outcomes of cohabitation before marriage, such as less satisfying marriages and divorce.

 

A variation of the man-above position for coitus that increases clitoral stimulation.

 

Penetration of the vagina by the penis.

 

The milk produced during the first few days after birth; it is relatively low in fat but rich in immunoglobulins.

 

The examination of the cervix with the aid of an operating microscope.

 

Reveal a previously concealed identity, such as being gay.

 

The cognitive component of love: the decision to maintain a relationship.

 

A form of marriage in which the husband and wife are expected to be emotionally intimate and to engage in social activities together.

Sexual behavior perceived subjectively as involuntary and diagnosed as a symptom of a compulsive disorder. Also called obsessive–compulsive sexual disorder.

 

The modification of behavior by learning through association and/or reinforcement.

 

A congenital defect of hormonal metabolism in the adrenal gland, causing the gland to secrete excessive levels of androgens.

 

An oral contraceptive regimen in which all pills (except any dummy pills) contain the same drug dosage.

 

A device inserted in the body that slowly releases a hormonal contraceptive.

 

In childbirth, a periodic tightening of the uterine muscles, felt as a cramp.

 

A group of subjects included in a study for comparison purposes.

 

The revival of sexual arousal caused by the presence of a novel partner.

 

The rim of the glans of the penis.

 

Either of two elongated erectile structures within the clitoris or penis that also extend backward into the pelvic floor.

 

A secretory structure in the ovary derived from an ovarian follicle after ovulation.

 

A single midline erectile structure. In both sexes it fills the glans; in males it extends backward along the underside of the penis, surrounding the urethra.

 

A paraphilia or certain set of paraphilias seen as a disorder of normal courtship behavior.

 

Pregnancy-like symptoms in the male partner of a pregnant women. Also called sympathetic pregnancy.

 

A form of marriage that requires a stronger vow of commitment than a regular marriage and that makes divorce harder to obtain.

 

A sheetlike muscle that wraps around the spermatic cord and the testicle.

 

Wearing the clothing of the other sex, for any of a variety of reasons. One who cross-dresses is sometimes referred to as being “in drag.”

 

The appearance of the fetal scalp at the vaginal opening.

 

Internal extensions of the corpora cavernosa of the clitoris or penis.

 

    A colloquial term for infatuation.

 

Failure of one or both testicles to descend into the scrotum by 3 months of postnatal age.

 

The study of cultural variations across the human race.

 

The study of the interactions between culture and mental processes or behaviors.

 

Sexual contact between the tongue or mouth of one person and the vulva of another.

Slang terms: “eating-out,” “third base,” “oral,” “head”

 

Stalking via the Internet.

 

The cycle in which some abused children grow up to repeat similar forms of abuse on others. Also called victim–perpetrator cycle.

 

Rape between dating or socially acquainted couples; it is particularly common of college campuses. Also called acquaintance rape.

A nonmarital sexual relationship between two persons who do not live together but who see each other on a more-or-less regular basis.

 

Removal of laws that criminalize activities such as prostitution.

 

Kissing, with entry of the tongue into the partner’s mouth.

Slang term: “French kissing,” “making out”

Difficulty achieving or inability to achieve orgasm and/or ejaculation. Also called male orgasmic disorder.

 

Labor that occurs more than 3 weeks after a woman’s due date.

 

Puberty that begins later than normal.

 

Persistent false belief that one’s partner is involved with another person.

 

Stalking motivated by the delusional belief that the victim is in love with, or could be persuaded to fall in love with, the stalker.

 

An injectable form of medroxyprogesterone acetate, used as a contraceptive in women or to decrease the sex drive in male sex offenders.

 

A form of Depo-Provera designed for subcutaneous (under the skin) injection.

 

Synthetic steroids designed to be undetectable in drug testing.

 

An Indian temple prostitute.

An Indian temple prostitute.

A barrier placed over the cervix as a contraceptive.

 

 

In childbirth, the expansion of the cervical canal.

Also called dilatation.

A procedure involving the opening of the cervix and the scraping out of the contents of the uterus with a curette (spoonlike instrument). D&E may be done as an abortion procedure or for other purposes.

A sex toy, often shaped like a penis, used to penetrate the vagina or anus.

Using graphic word imagery and/or explicit language to increase pleasure during sexual activity. It is a common part of foreplay, and can include vivid erotic descriptions or sexual commands.

The situation in which one partner in a relationship has much more interest in sex than the other.

Medical conditions producing abnormal sexual differentiation or intersexuality.

The distancing of oneself from the emotions evoked by some traumatic experience or memory.

The use of humiliation or subservience for purposes of sexual arousal.

A woman who acts the role of the dominating partner in a BDSM setting.

To rinse the vagina out with a fluid.

A collection of birth defects caused by the presence of an extra copy of chromosome 21.

The wearing of exaggeratedly feminine clothing by a man, often for entertainment purposes.

The pain that sometimes accompanies menstruation.

See primary dysmenorrhea and secondary dysmenorrhea

Pain during coitus.

A complication of pregnancy in which an embryo implants somewhere other than the uterus, such as one of the fallopian tubes.

Also known as tubal pregnancy.

Thinning of the cervix in preparation for childbirth.

Release of semen from the penis, usually as a result of orgasm.

Slang terms: “cumming,” “busting,” “finishing”

Either of the two bilateral ducts formed by the junction of the vas deferens and the duct of the seminal vesicle. The ejaculatory ducts empty into the urethra within the prostate.

An abortion performed in circumstances when the woman’s health is not at risk.

A form of emergency contraception that is effective for 5 days after sex.

Use of high-dose contraceptives to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex.

The loading of the components of semen into the posterior (back) urethra immediately before ejaculation.

Fear that one’s partner is becoming emotionally committed to another person.

The ability to share or understand other people’s feelings.

Cancer of the endometrium of the uterus.

The growth of endometrial tissue at abnormal locations such as the oviducts.

The internal lining of the uterus.

The sinking of a fetus’s head into a lower position in the pelvis in preparation for birth.

Also called lightening.

A structure, attached to each testicle, where sperm mature and are stored before entering the vas deferens.

Inflammation of the epididymis.

Anesthesia administered just outside the membrane that surrounds the spinal cord.

A cut extending the opening of the vagina backward into the perineum, performed by an obstetrician to facilitate childbirth or reduce the risk of a perineal tear.

A persistent inability to achieve or maintain an erection sufficient to accomplish a desired sexual behavior such as coitus to orgasm.

Physiological phenomenon in which the penis becomes firmer, larger, and filled with blood, typically in response to sexual excitement. 

Slang terms: “boner,” “pitching a tent,” getting hard”

Sexually themed works, such as books or sculpture, deemed to have literary or artistic merit.

The delusional belief that a sexually desired but unattainable person is actually in love with oneself.

Euphemism for a prostitute who advertises by print, word of mouth, or the Internet.

A service that provides prostitutes, generally contacted by telephone.

A method of tubal sterilization that uses metal coils to block the oviducts.

The principal estrogen, secreted by ovarian follicles.

Any of a class of steroids—the most important being estradiol—that promote the development of female secondary sexual characteristics at puberty and that have many other functions in both sexes.

The study of a cultural group, often by means of extended individual fieldwork.

A man who has been castrated.

The study of the influence of evolution on mental processes or behavior.

The beginning phase of the sexual response cycle.

A paraphilia involving exposure of the genitalia to strangers, sometimes with masturbation.

Also called “flashing.”

A form of psychotherapy for victims of rape or abuse in which they are encouraged to recall the traumatic event in a safe environment.

A regimen of contraceptive pills that allows for fewer or no menstrual periods.

The sexual structures on the outside of the body. The penis, urethra, and scrotum comprise the male external genitalia. Female external genitalia consist of the labia minora, labia majora, and clitoris.

A sexual relationship in which at least one of the partners is already married or partnered with someone else.

A person who has had sexual contact with children outside his immediate family.

An imagined experience, sexual or otherwise.

Sexual contact between the mouth of one person and the penis of another.

Slang terms: “head,” “sucked-off,” “oral”

Any of several forms of ritual cutting or removal of parts of the female genitalia.

A plastic pouch inserted into the vagina as a contraceptive and/or to prevent disease transmission.

Insufficient physiological arousal in women, resulting in unpleasurable or painful sex.

A type of cervical cap that has a raised brim.

The movement to secure equality for women; the study of social and psychological issues from women’s perspectives.

Prejudice against femininity in males.

Feminine-acting, often used to describe certain lesbians or bisexual women.

Contraceptive techniques that rely on avoiding coitus during the woman’s fertile window. Also called rhythm methods or periodic abstinence methods.

A collection of physical and behavioral symptoms in a child who was exposed to high levels of alcohol as a fetus.

Sexual arousal by inanimate objects, materials, or parts of the body.

A noncancerous tumor arising from muscle cells of the uterus.

The fringe at the end of the oviduct, composed of finger-like extensions.

State in which the penis is limp or soft.

A fluid-filled sac that contains an egg (ovum), with its supporting cells, within the ovary.

One of the two major gonadotropins secreted by the pituitary gland; it promotes maturation of ova (or sperm in males).

An alternative term for preovulatory phase.

Any kind of sexual touching of the partner’s body.

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