Vocabulary List

This list aggregates definitions of various social terminology from UC Davis, More Than Two, and Xeromag, and is not a comprehensive dictionary nor always up-to-date on all spectrum labels.  It is meant as an informal reference document only.   All links on this page direct to external (useful) websites.

 

Ability: The quality of being able to do something

Ableism: The pervasive system of discrimination and exclusion that oppresses people who have mental, emotional and physical disabilities.

Abundant Love: The belief or philosophy that it is possible to love more than one person at the same time.

Adelphogamy; also, Fraternal Polyandry, Leviratic polyandry: (Literally, adelphos brother + gamos marriage) A specific form of polyandry, practiced historically and occasionally still practiced in some portions of Tibet and Nepal, in which a set of brothers is married to the same woman.

Adult Buffet: Colloquial A specific type of group sex in which a group of consenting adults gets together for the purpose of sex, and each person in the group is free to have sex with any of the other members of the group he or she chooses. Usage: Originated with the swinging community; uncommon outside it.

AFAB:  Acronym for Assigned Female at Birth

Agamy: (Literally, a no + gamos marriage) 1. A state or condition of not engaging in marriage, or more generally not engaging in marriage or reproduction. 2. Sociology Of or relating to a society with no recognized rules or prescriptions on marriage, or which does not recognize marriage at all.

Ageism:  Any attitude, action, or institutional structure, which subordinates a person or group because of age or any assignment of roles in society purely on the basis of age (Traxler, 1980, p.4).

Allosexism: The system of discrimination and exclusion that oppresses asexual people.

Allosexual: A sexual orientation generally characterized by feeling sexual attraction or a desire for partnered sexuality.

Allyship: The action of working to end oppression through support of, and as an advocate with and for, a group other than one’s own.

AMAB:  Acronym for Assigned Male At Birth

Amatonormativity: the social phenomenon whereby people are pressurised to find, and then couple-off, with a person, who they’re then expected to exclusively turn to in order to meet all of their emotional needs – whilst devaluing, downplaying or turning away from friends and other platonic social relationships. (Term coined by Elizabeth Brake)

Ambigusweetie: Colloquial A partner with whom one’s relationship is ambiguous or not clearly defined, often intentionally; as, We are not primary partners or secondary partners or simply friends, but rather ambigusweeties. Etymology:This term was coined by Chris Dunphy, from “ambiguous sweetie.”

Androgyne: A person with masculine and feminine physical traits.

Aromantic: A romantic orientation generally characterized by not feeling romantic attraction or a desire for romance. Aromantic people can be satisfied by friendship and other non-romantic relationships.

Asexual: A sexual orientation generally characterized by not feeling sexual attraction or a desire for partnered sexuality. Asexuality is distinct from celibacy, which is the deliberate abstention from sexual activity. Some asexual people do have sex. There are many diverse ways of being asexual. Commentary: Asexuality should not be confused with lack of interest in romantic relationships. Asexuals can and do form romantic relationships, though those relationships may include little or no sex.

Bastinado: Any form of pain play involving inflicting pain on the soles of the feet, often by striking, cropping, or whipping them.

BDSM: A composite acronym for “B&D” (bondage & discipline); “D&S” (dominance & submission); and “S&M” (sadomasochism). Used to refer to any consensual activities or lifestyles between adults which include some or all of these things. The term “BDSM” is used in a general sense to describe any situation or practice which includes erotic power exchange, dominance and submission, pain play, bondage, sensation play, or anything related to these

Bear Community: a part of the queer community composed of queer men similar in looks and interests, most of them big, hairy, friendly and affectionate.  The community aims to provide spaces where one feels wanted, desired, and liked.  It nourishes and values an individual’s process of making friends, of learning self-care and self-love through the unity and support of the community.  Bears, Cubs, Otters, Wolves, Chasers, Admirers and other wildlife comprise what has come to be known as the Brotherhood of Bears and/or the Bear community.  See also: Ursula

Bigamy: (Literally, bi two + gamos marriage) 1. A relationship in which one person is married to two spouses, regardless of the sex of those spouses. 2. Legal In most Western countries, the crime of entering in one marriage while still legally married to another person; marriage fraud. Contrast monogamy; See related polygamy, polygyny, polyandry. See related Enoch Arden Act.

Bigender: Having two genders, exhibiting cultural characteristics of masculine and feminine roles

Biphobia: See Monosexism below.  Note: As a staff, we’ve been intentionally moving away from using words like “transphobic,” “homophobic,” and “biphobic” because (1) they inaccurately describe systems of oppression as irrational fears, and (2) for some people, phobias are a very distressing part of their lived experience and co-opting this language is disrespectful to their experiences and perpetuates ableism.

Bipoly: Colloquial Of or related to a person who is both bisexual and polyamorous.

Bi Poly Switch: Colloquial; sometimes humorous Of or related to a person who is bisexual and polyamorous and who is a BDSM «switch», capable of taking on a«dominant» or «submissive» role in sex. Commentary: A popular T-shirt reads “I’m a bi poly switch and I still won’t sleep with you.”

Bisexual: A person whose primary sexual and affectional orientation is toward people of the same and other genders (though not necessarily equally), or towards people regardless of their gender.

BlaQ/BlaQueer: Folks of Black/African descent and/or from the African diaspora who recognize their queerness/LGBTQIA+ identity as a salient identity attached to their Blackness and vice versa. (T. Porter)

Body Fluid Monogamy: The practice of limiting any activity which involves the exchange of bodily fluids, including such activities as unprotected sexual intercourse, to only one partner. See also fluid bonding, condom contract. Usage: Originated in the BDSM community; becoming increasingly uncommon in the BDSM and poly communities.

Body Harness: A harness consisting of a series of straps designed to be worn around the torso, which may optionally include a mechanism for locking the harness into place and may also include rings or other attachments for ropes, cuffs, or chastity belts.

Body Image: refers to how a person feels, acts, and thinks about their body. Attitudes about our own body and bodies in general are shaped by our communities, families, cultures, media, and our own perceptions.

Body Policing: any behavior which (indirectly or directly, intentionally or unintentionally) attempts to correct or control a person’s actions regarding their own physical body, frequently with regards to gender expression or size. (ASC Queer Theory)

Bondage: Any practice involving tying or securing a person, as with ropes, cuffs, chains, or other restraints. Restraint bondage, the most common form of bondage, involves immobilizing a person, by tying or otherwise restraining him or her to an object or by binding his or her limbs together. Stimulation bondage is any form of tying in such a way that the subject is not immobilized and has freedom of motion, but the ropes or ties shift and move against the body, often in sensitive or erogenous areas; certain forms of shibari are stimulation bondage. A person in bondage is said to be bound.

Boston Marriage: Archaic A term used primarily in the 19th century for a household of two unmarried women who were financially and romantically independent. Today, it is generally presumed that many such arrangements were lesbian relationships.

Butch: A gender expression that fits societal definitions of masculinity. Usually used by queer women and trans people, particularly by lesbians. Some consider “butch” to be its own gender identity.

Candaulism: Sexual arousal from watching one’s spouse have sex with or engage in sexual activity with another person. See related BDSM: «voyeurism»

Cellular Family: A family of three or more adults (and optionally children) who live together or near one another, share responsibility for joint finances and/or domestic responsibilities, and consider themselves to be part of a single family. See related group marriage. Etymology: The term was coined by Deborah Anapol.

CHDW: (Acronym) Colloquial Clueless Horny Dom Wannabe. A derisive term for a person who proclaims himself or herself a dominant, but who has little or no real-world experience, and/or behaves with reckless disregard for the needs or safety of the submissive. Pronounced “chudwa.” Usage: Invariably indicates disdain for the person so named. Etymology: Originated on the now-defunct Usenet newsgroup alt.sex.bondage.

Cheating: In a relationship, any activity that violates the rules or agreements of that relationship, whether tacit or explicit. Commentary: In traditional monogamous relationships, any sexual activity with anyone outside that relationship is generally viewed as cheating. In a polyamorous or swinging relationship, sexual activity with people outside the relationship may or may not be seen as cheating, depending on the context of that sexual activity and whether or not it violates the agreements of the people in that relationship. Even in such relationships, most commonly sexual activity without the knowledge and explicit consent of the other members of the relationship is likely to be viewed as cheating.

Choice Family; also Chosen Family: See intentional family.

Cisgender: a gender identity, or performance in a gender role, that society deems to match the person’s assigned sex at birth.  The prefix cis- means “on this side of” or “not across.” A term used to call attention to the privilege of people who are not transgender.

Cissexism/Genderism: The pervasive system of discrimination and exclusion that oppresses people whose gender and/or gender expression falls outside of cis-normative constructs.  This system is founded on the belief that there are, and should be, only two genders & that one’s gender or most aspects of it, are inevitably tied to assigned sex. Within cissexism cisgender people are the dominant/agent group and trans*/ gender non-conforming people are the oppressed/target group.

Closed Marriage: Any marriages where there is no emotional intimacy or sexuality outside the marriage; monogamous marriage. Contrast open marriage. Commentary: This is the most common form of marriage in most Western countries.

Closed Group Marriage: A polyfidelitous relationship in which all the members consider themselves to be married. See related group marriage.

Closed-Group Swinging: A form of swinging in which people will have multiple sexual partners within a specific group (as, for example, two couples who will swap partners), but will not have sex with people outside the group. A closed-group swinging relationship can look very similar to a polyfidelitous relationship from the outside; the primary difference between them often being the focus of the relationship (sexual vs. romantic) rather than the form of the relationship. See also friends-first swinging.

Closed Relationship: Any romantic relationship, such as a conventional monogamous relationship or a polyfidelitous relationship, that specifically excludes the possibility of sexual or romantic connections outside that relationship.

Closed Swinging: A practice in which a group of swingers will exchange partners and then have sex separately, usually in separate rooms; swinging without group sex. Contrast open swinging. Usage: Common in the swinging community; uncommon outside it.

Cluster Marriage: A polyamorous relationship in which two or more married couples cohabitate and exchange partners. See group marriage; See related intentional family, co-spouse, co-husband, co-wife.

Cohabitate: To live together. Cohabitating: the state or practice of living together.

Co-husband: A man in a group marriage who shares a spouse in common with at least one other man in that group marriage. See also co-wife, co-spouse.

Collar: An item worn around the neck, sometimes equipped with a locking device to prevent its removal, and often worn as a symbol of submission. Also, verb To put a collar on, often as part of a ceremony indicating a committed relationship between a dominant and a submissive. See also corset collar, drop collar, posture collar, training collar, wolf collar; see related collaring ceremony. Commentary: Some people outside the BDSM community associate collars with animals or pets, and erroneously believe that a collar is a sign of humiliation or is used to dehumanize a submissive; however, the symbolic value of a collar within the BDSM community is completely different.

Collared: The condition of having engaged in a committed, long-term relationship to a dominant, often by means of a collaring ceremony of some kind.

Collaring Ceremony: A formal ceremony celebrating or symbolizing a commitment between a dominant and a submissive, typically during which a collar is placed around the submissive’s neck. Commentary: There is no single type of collaring ceremony, and not all people in committed relationships in the BDSM community practice collaring ceremonies. A collaring ceremony in the BDSM community has many of the same kinds of social significance as something like a marriage or a wedding; often, the process of collaring is used to indicate a committed long-term relationship, particularly in TPE relationships. A submissive who has participated in such a ceremony is often said to be “collared to” his or her dominant. A collar in this context has symbolic value not unlike that of, say, a wedding ring. Collaring ceremonies may be public or private, and may include whatever elements the people involved find appropriate. Collaring ceremonies may or may not imply a monogamous relationship; one dominant may have more than one collared submissive, but it is extremely uncommon for one submissive to be collared to more than one dominant. A collaring ceremony is sometimes used to mark the formal beginning of a TPE relationship.

Comet: Colloquial An occasional lover who passes through one’s life semi-regularly, but without an expectation of continuity or a romantic relationship.

Coming Out:  “Coming out” describes voluntarily making public one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity. It has also been broadened to include other pieces of potentially stigmatized personal information. Terms also used that correlate with this action are: “Being out” which means not concealing one’s sexual orientation or gender identity, and “Outing, ” a term used for making public the sexual orientation or gender identity of another who would prefer to keep this information secret.

Compersion: A feeling of joy when a partner invests in and takes pleasure from another romantic or sexual relationship. Commentary: Compersion can be thought of as the opposite of “jealousy;” it is a positive emotional reaction to a lover’s other relationship. The term was coined by the Kerista Commune.

Complex Marriage: A doctrine which holds that all the male members of a particular group or community are, upon joining the group, married to all the female members, and all the female members are, upon joining the group, marriedto all the male members. This doctrine was established as part of the Oneida Community.

Condom Contract; also Condom Compact, Condom Commitment:  A formal agreement within a relationship to confine exchange of bodily fluids and barrier-free sexual contact to the people in that relationship, each of whom has previously been screened for sexually transmitted diseases. Condom contracts may specify under what conditions a member of that group may exchange body fluids or have sexual contact without barriers with a new partner, or may specify that such contact is not permissible with any new partner.

Consent: Affirmative permission, assent, or approval. In a BDSM context, “consent” is an affirmative assent to engage in a particular activity, freely given without coercion or distress. Informed consent: Consent freely given with full and prior knowledge of the conditions and potential consequences of the assent. Also, verb To give affirmative permission to engage in an activity. Commentary:Consent is one of the hallmarks of BDSM, distinguishing it from abusive activities which may appear superficially similar. Consent is based on the active, willing participation of everyone involved in a particular activity; for example, if two people are engaged in something like pain play, a key defining characteristic which differentiates this play from physical abuse is that all the people involved know exactly what they’re doing, want to be there, and give specific assent to the activities in question, whereas the victim of abuse does not specifically and affirmatively assent to the abuse. Consent is valid and meaningful only if it is informed, meaning that all the participants have full knowledge of the activities to which they are consenting (including but not limited to the circumstances under which the activity will take place and the possible risks, if any, inherent in the activity); if it is uncoerced, meaning that the participants give the consent freely without threat, force, or intimidation; and if the people involved give that consent from a condition of sound mind, meaning their judgement in not impaired by drugs, disease, or any other condition which might cloud or distort their ability to make reasonable, rational decisions.

Consensual Non-Consent: Any situation in which one person knowingly and voluntarily gives up the ability to prevent another person from doing whatever he or she wants; as, for example, deliberately engaging in activities which the submissive may be physically prevented from resisting and does not have a safe word. Some forms of rape play are consensual non-consent. Commentary:Consensual non-consent is still consent. A person who gives consent in this way is giving affirmative assent to engage in an activity that he or she will not be able to stop in the middle; it can be thought of as consenting to an activity in such a way that the consent may not be revoked.

Co-Primary: A person who is one of two or more primary partners in a polyamorous relationship, as Bob and Joe are my co-primaries. See also primary/secondary; See related secondary, tertiary.

Corporate Marriage: A group marriage whose members register the union as a legal corporation, the terms of which spell out the financial entanglements and obligations of all the members

Co-spouse: A person in a group marriage who shares a spouse in common with another person in that group marriage. See also metamour, co-husband, co-wife.

Covenant Marriage: Legal A marriage which includes a legally-binding clause in the marriage contract specifying that the couple cannot divorce, or cannot divorce easily. Commentary: Only a handful of states in the United States recognize covenant marriage provisions.

Cowboy: Colloquial A monogamous man who engages in a relationship with a polyamorous woman with the intention of separating her from any other partners and bringing her into a monogamous relationship.

Co-wife: A woman in a group marriage who shares a spouse in common with at least one other woman in that group marriage. See also co-husband, co-spouse.

Cross-couple: Of or relating to activities between a member of one couple and a member of another couple; as, for example, cross-couple relationship, a relationship between one person who is part of a couple and a second person who is part of another couple.

Cross Dresser (CD): A word to describe a person who dresses, at least partially, as a member of a gender other than their assigned sex; carries no implications of sexual orientation. Has replaced “Transvestite”

Cuckoldry: The practice by which a dominant takes one or more sexual partners other than his or her submissive, for the purpose of humiliating the submissive. Commentary: Cuckoldry is distinct from the practice of »polyamory« in the sense that it is done in a context where the submissive has no direct control over the dominant’s other partners, and the primary purpose is to humiliate the submissive. Those who are aroused by cuckoldry are most often attracted to the humiliation and powerlessness aspects of it. The majority of the people who practice cuckoldry as a sexual fetish are women, who humiliate their male partners by having sex with other men.

Cuddle Party: Trademark A social gathering of adults which encourages consensual physical affection, such as cuddling, massage, and other forms of physical expression, but which forbids overt sexual activity or sexual stimulation. Commentary: The term “Cuddle Party” has been trademarked by Reid Mihalko, who owns a business organizing such parties in many cities, which are pay-for-attendance events.

Culture: A learned set of values, beliefs, customs, norms, and perceptions shared by a group of people that provide a general design for living and a pattern for interpreting life. “Culture is those deep, common, unstated, learned experiences which members of a given culture share, which they communicate without knowing, and which form the backdrop against which all other events are judged.” (E. Hall.)

Cultural Humility: An approach to engagement across differences that acknowledges systems of oppression and embodies the following key practices: (1) a lifelong commitment to self-evaluation and self-critique, (2) a desire to fix power imbalances where none ought to exist, and (3) aspiring to develop partnerships with people and groups who advocate for others on a systemic level.  (Melanie Tervalon & Jann Murray-García, 1998)

Cupcake Party: Colloquial A gathering, usually involving only women and most often in a private residence, in which a group of people gather to explore their sexuality, discuss sex, experiment with sex toys, and so on. Etymology: The hostess of a cupcake party often provides refreshments, hence the name.

Cyclic Monogamy: 1. Colloquial A relationship in which a person has several partners, and spends a set period of time with each partner, during which time he is sexually involved only with that partner. 2. Sociology Serial monogamy. Commentary: In the case of Def. 1, there have been several recorded cases in which a person, usually a man, has a job or life which requires regular travel, and maintains romantic partners in separate cities. Generally speaking, these partners do not know about one another, and each believes that the relationship is monogamous, though this is not always so; in some cases, some or all of the partners know of the existence of the other partners.

Delta: A triad, relationship, specifically a triad in which each person is sexually and/or emotionally involved with all the other people. Etymology: So named because the Greek letter Delta looks like a triangle. Usage: Seems to be primarily a regional expression in parts of the United States.

Demisexual: Demisexuality is a sexual orientation in which someone feels sexual attraction only to people with whom they have an emotional bond. Most demisexuals feel sexual attraction rarely compared to the general population, and some have little to no interest in sexual activity. Demisexuals are considered to be on the asexual spectrum, meaning they are closely aligned with asexuality

Democratic Family: Colloquial A family, typically a family practicing group marriage, in which all the adult partners are considered equal.

Dipper:  Colloquial A person who enjoys casually getting involved in a pre-existing relationship/dips their toes into something established without wanting to be serious (“I’m a dipper in their duo”).  Also “dipped“, “dips“, or “dipping”.

Disability/(Dis)ability/Dis/ability:  A social construct that identifies any restriction or lack of ability to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered “typical” for a human being given environments that are constructed for and by the dominant or “typical” person.

Discrimination:Inequitable actions carried out by members of a dominant group or its representatives against members of a marginalized or minoritized group.

Domestic Group: Sociology A group of people, often but not always related by birth or marriage, who live together and practice joint control over the household and group property.

Domina: A woman who assumes a role of power or authority in a power exchange relationship. A domina takes psychological control over or has power over another person, and may, for example, give that person orders which are to be obeyed. Contrast submissivesee related topswitch.

Dominant: A man who assumes a role of power or authority in a power exchange relationship. A dominant takes psychological control over or has power over another person, and may, for example, give that person orders which are to be obeyed. Contrast submissivesee related topswitch.

Dominate: To assume or exert control over; to take psychological power over. A person who controls another person or takes control of a scene is said to dominate that person. Dominant is a noun or an adjective; dominate is a verb. Domination, dominance: the act of wielding authority over another.

Dom: A dominant. Usage: Often indicates a masc dominant; however, may be applied to a dominant of any sex.

Dominatrix: A dominant, usually a woman and often a prodomme.

Domme: A spelling that implies a woman dominant.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT): A relationship structure in which a person who is partnered is permitted to have additional sexual or romantic relationships on the condition that his or her partner does not know anything about those additional relationships and does not meet any of those other people. Commentary: Many people in the polyamorouscommunity frown on don’t ask, don’t tell relationships, and choose not to become involved in such relationships. There are many dangers in such relationships, including the idea that a person who claims to be involved in such a relationship may simply be cheating (as the relationship often provides no mechanism by which that person’s partner may be contacted to confirm that the relationship permits other relationships); the fact that many people choose DADT relationships as a way of avoiding and not dealing with emotional issues such as jealousy; and the fact that DADT relationships are built on a foundation of lack of communication within the existing relationship.

Drag King:  A person (often a woman) who appears as a man. Generally in reference to an act or performance.  This has no implications regarding gender identity.

Drag Queen:  A person (often a man) who appears as a woman. Generally in reference to an act or performance. This has no implications regarding gender identity.

Dungeon: Any place specifically set up for BDSM activities, often equipped specifically for BDSM play, as with furniture such as racks, crosses, and the like.

Dungeon Monitor: In a play party, a person charged with ensuring that the participants adhere to safety rules and treat one another with respect.

Dyad: A relationship involving exactly two people. The most accepted form of romantic relationship in most Western countries is a monogamous dyad. Contrast triad, quad; See related serial monogamy.

Elective Affinity: Sociology A social system whereby people choose their own mates or spouses, as opposed to a society which practices arranged marriage.

Emotional Fidelity: A belief or practice that emotional intimacy or love must be kept exclusive to a particular relationship, though sexual activity or other forms of physical intimacy may occur outside that relationship. Commentary:Some swingers practice emotional fidelity.

Emotional Libertarianism: A belief that every individual is entirely responsible for his or her own emotional responses, and that one person’s behavior is never the “cause” of another person’s emotion.

Enby:  alternate spelling of “N.B”, meaning “non-binary”

Endogamy A state or practice whereby individuals are permitted to marry only within a specific group, such as a religious or social group.

Ethical Slut: Colloquial A person who openly chooses to have multiple simultaneous sexual relationships in an ethical and responsible way, and who openly revels in that decision. See related responsible non-monogamy. Commentary: The term comes from the book The Ethical Slut, which advocates reclaiming the word “slut” from its derogatory meaning of a promiscuous woman.

Ethical Slut, The: A book (Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt, Greenery Press, 1998, ISBN 1890159018) which outlines a framework for responsible non-monogamy and champions taking joy in ethical, safe promiscuity. Commentary: The Ethical Slut is not a book about polyamory per se; the primary focus is on creating relationships which are not sexually monogamous and are positive and healthy, but it does not focus exclusively on loving or emotional intimate relationships, and does not create frameworks for managing the emotional or romantic component of such relationships. Nevertheless, it is very popular in the polyamory community, and is very useful to many polyamorous people. The ideas described in The Ethical Slut are pertinent to and valuable in swinging relationships as well.

Ethnicity: A social construct which divides people into smaller social groups based on characteristics such as shared sense of group membership, values, behavioral patterns, language, political and economic interest, history and ancestral geographical base.

Exclusion Jealousy: Psychology A fear, which may be irrational, of being neglected or abandoned by a lover, particularly if that lover takes another partner or expresses sexual or romantic interest in another. Commentary: The term exclusion jealousy was coined by Ronald Mazer in the book The New Intimacy: Open-Ended Marriage and Alternative Lifestyles (Beacon Press, 1973, ISBN 0595001025).

Exclusive Relationship: 1. A monogamous relationship. 2. Any relationship which does not permit its partners to seek other romantic or sexual partners at will; as, for example, a polyfidelitous relationship.

Exogamy: Marriage to a partner outside of one’s particular group, such as a religious or social group.

Expanded Family: See intentional family.

Femme: Historically used in the lesbian community, it is being increasingly used by other LGBTQIA people to describe gender expressions that reclaim/claim and/or disrupt traditional constructs of femininity.

Fetish: 1. Formally, Psychology a non-sexual object whose presence is required for sexual arousal or climax; informally, anything not generally considered sexual which arouses a person, as a foot fetish or a leather fetish. 2. Anything of or relating to BDSM in general; as a fetish convention, a fetish event. 3. Items, practices, or apparel relating to BDSM; as, fetish photography, fetish clothing

Fishing Fleet: Colloquial Originally, the wives of sailors at sea, who would socialize together and look for prospective lovers together. More generally, a group of women who will get together and seek out new sexual partners, typically without their partners’ knowledge, while their partners are unavailable or away.

Fluid Bonding: Of or related to practices which involve the exchange of bodily fluids, such as barrier-free sexual intercourse and BDSM: «blood play». See related condom contract.

Four-Cornered Marriage: A group marriage with exactly four adult members; usually but not always a group marriage with two men and two women. See related quad. Etymology: The term “four-cornered marriage” is often attributed to Robert Heinlein.

Fraternal Polyandry: See adelphogamy.

Free Agent: Colloquial A person who practices polyamory in a way that tends to separate or isolate all of his or her romantic relationships from one another, treating each as a separate entity. A free agent often presents himself or herself as “single” or behaves in ways that are typically associated with the behavior of a single person even when he or she has romantic partners, and often does not consider the potential impact of new relationships upon existing relationships when deciding whether or not to pursue those new relationships.

Free Love: The belief that sexual relationships should be unrestricted and disassociated from ideas of love, commitment, marriage, or obligation. Commentary: Many advocates of free love object to the concept of marriage altogether, as they see it as a way to impose constraints and obligation on sexuality. Etymology: The term free love is generally attributed to John Humphrey Noyes, founder of the Oneida Community, who later abandoned it in favor of complex marriage.

Freemate: A non-married partner in a group relationship. See related metamour, group marriage.

Friction Party: Colloquial; see cuddle party. Commentary: The term “friction party” is not trademarked; the term cuddle party is. Friction parties, unlike cuddle parties, are informal social gatherings that aren’t typically run as a business, may not be open to general admission (that is, they may be private), and may or may not charge for access.

Friends-First Swinging: A form of swinging in which the people involved do not engage in sexual activities with anonymous or random partners, but instead have sex outside an existing relationship only with other people who are already close friends. In this form of swinging, emotionally intimate bonds can and often do form among all the people involved; this kind of swinging can often look very similar to polyamory, the primary difference between them often being the focus of the relationship (sexual vs. romantic) rather than the form of the relationship. See also closed-group swinging. Commentary: Hollywood images of swing clubs and anonymous sex aside, friends-first swinging is arguably one of the most common forms of swinging.

Friends With Benefits (FWB): A relationship in which two (or more) people establish a friendship that includes sex or sexual activity, but without romantic love and typically without the same type or degree of expectations or other practical or emotional entanglements that typically accompany romantic relationships.

Frubble: A pleasant emotion of happiness arising from seeing one’s partner with another partner. Contrast wibble; See also compersion. Usage: Primarily British; less common outside the United Kingdom.

Fuckbuddy: Colloquial; vulgar See friends with benefits.

Furry: (Furries, Furry Fandom) People or a community, who enjoy(s) role playing primarily as anthropomorphic animals, creatures or characters, either through costumes, or/and varying art mediums. The furry community at large is diverse in sexual orientation and gender identity.

Gay:  A sexual and affectional orientation toward people of the same gender.

Gender: A social construct used to classify a person as a man, woman, or some other identity. Fundamentally different from the sex one is assigned at birth.

Gender Expansive: An umbrella term used for individuals who broaden their own culture’s commonly held definitions of gender, including expectations for its expression, identities, roles, and/or other perceived gender norms. Gender expansive individuals include those who identify and transgender, as well as anyone else whose gender in some way is seen to be stretching the surrounding society’s notion of gender.

Gender Expression: How one expresses oneself, in terms of dress and/or behaviors.  Society, and people that make up society characterize these expressions as “masculine,” “feminine,” or “androgynous.”  Individuals may embody their gender in a multitude of ways and have terms beyond these to name their gender expression(s).

Gender Fluid: A person whose gender identification and presentation shifts, whether within or outside of societal, gender-based expectations. Being fluid in motion between two or more genders.

Gender Identity: A sense of one’s self as trans*, genderqueer, woman, man, or some other identity, which may or may not correspond with the sex and gender one is assigned at birth.

Genderism/CissexismThe pervasive system of discrimination and exclusion that oppresses people whose gender and/or gender expression falls outside of cis-normative constructs.  This system is founded on the belief that there are, and should be, only two genders & that one’s gender or most aspects of it, are inevitably tied to assigned sex. Within cissexism cisgender people are the dominant/agent group and trans*/ gender non-conforming people are the oppressed/target group.

Gender Outlaw: A person who refuses to be defined by conventional definitions of male and female.

Gender Non conforming (GNC):  people who do not subscribe to gender expressions or roles expected of them by society.

Gender Queer: A person whose gender identity and/or gender expression falls outside of the dominant societal norm for their assigned sex, is beyond genders, or is some combination of them.

Gender Variant: A person who varies from the expected characteristics of the assigned gender.

Geographical Non-Monogamy: Any relationship or arrangement whose partners permit one another to have other sexual partners while they are physically apart, as for example a relationship in which one person takes a temporary position in another town or is assigned overseas for a time. Usually carries an implicit understanding that when the couple is physically together again, the relationship will become monogamous. See related hundred-mile rule.

Group Marriage: A relationship in which three or more people consider themselves married to one another; in the polyamory community, most often a relationship involving more than one man and more than one woman, who may live together, share finances, raise children together, and otherwise share those responsibilities normally associated with marriage. A group marriage is not recognized by and has no legal standing within most Western countries, but may have symbolic or emotional value to the people involved. Many people who believe in group marriage may create civil contracts and other legally binding business arrangements that specify the type and extent of financial commitments within the marriage, or even form a legal corporation that defines the marriage. See related corporate marriage, cluster marriage, polygamy, polyandry, polygyny, troika.

Handfasting: A Pagan or Wiccan ceremony similar to marriage in the sense that it unites two people in a common bond, but dissimilar to a traditional Western marriage in that it does not necessarily convey sexual exclusivity and may not be intended to be permanent (some handfasting ceremonies last “for a year and a day,” others for “as long as the love shall last”). A handfasting is not legally recognized as a marriage unless the person performing the handfasting is authorized to perform marriages in a particular jurisdiction (requirements for such authorization vary from place to place) and the other legal requirements of marriage are met. Commentary: Handfasting ceremonies are not directly related to polyamory; however, some people, particularly those involved with Wiccan or neo-Pagan spirituality or beliefs, may combine the two. While not all Pagans are polyamorous and not all polyamorous people are Pagan, there is enough overlap between the communities that some polyamorous people practice handfasting as an emotional or spiritual symbol of their relationships and commitment.

Hard Swinger: A swinger who has sexual intercourse or engages in other sexual activity with other swingers outside of his or her existing relationship. Usage: Common in the swinging community, but uncommon in the polyamorouscommunity. Contrast soft swinger.

HBB (Acronym): Colloquial; see hot bi babe.

Heteronormativity: A set of lifestyle norms, practices, and institutions that promote binary alignment of biological sex, gender identity, and gender roles; assume heterosexuality as a fundamental and natural norm; and privilege monogamous, committed relationships and reproductive sex above all other sexual practices.

Heterosexism:  The assumption that all people are or should be heterosexual.  Heterosexism excludes the needs, concerns, and life experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer people while it gives advantages to heterosexual people.  It is often a subtle form of oppression, which reinforces realities of silence and erasure.

Heterosexuality: A sexual orientation in which a person feels physically and emotionally attracted to people of a gender other than their own.

Hinge: Colloquial; see pivot.

Homophobia:  See Heterosexism above. Note: As a staff, we’ve been intentionally moving away from using words like “transphobic,” “homophobic,” and “biphobic” because (1) they inaccurately describe systems of oppression as irrational fears, and (2) for some people, phobias are a very distressing part of their lived experience and co-opting this language is disrespectful to their experiences and perpetuates ableism.

Homosexual/Homosexuality: An outdated term to describe a sexual orientation in which a person feels physically and emotionally attracted to people of the same gender.  Historically, it was a term used to pathologize gay and lesbian people.

Hot Bi Babe (HBB): Colloquial; often derogatory, condescending, or ironic A bisexual person, usually though not always female, who is willing to join an existing couple, often with the presumption that this person will date and become sexually involved with both members of that couple, and not demand anything or do anything which might cause problems or inconvenience to that couple. The term is often used to be dismissive of a couple seen to be only superficially polyamorous, as They’re just looking for a hot bi babe. Such a person may be referred to as a “mythical hot bi babe.” Some members of the polyamory community self-identify as hot bi babes as a form of tongue-in-cheek intentional irony.

Hotwife; also, Hot Wife: Colloquial A married woman who takes male lovers outside the marriage, often in the context of swinging or BDSM: «cuckoldry»

Hundred-Mile Rule: Colloquial An arrangement within a nominally monogamous marriage or relationship, particularly a marriage in which one of the partners travels a great deal or is often away from home for extended periods of time, which says that sexual dalliances that occur during the course of these travels or over a certain distance from the home don’t “really” count and hence aren’t cheating. See related don’t ask, don’t tell.

Informed Consent: See consent. Commentary: Consent is not valid if it is not informed; in order to be valid, a person who gives permission to engage in an activity must know and understand what the activity is, what the circumstances surrounding the activity are, and what the potential consequences are, including any risks involved in that activity.

Intentional Community: A residential community made up of people who share a common set of ideas, principles, or goals, and deliberately set out to create a planned community that reflects those ideas and goals. Intentional communities need not be polyamorous; there are intentional communities built around common religious, philosophical, or economic ideas, for example. Some polyamorous families create intentional communities with the idea of deliberately constructing a community built around non-monogamous relationship structures.

Intentional Family: A family made up of people who have consciously and deliberately chosen to consider one another as a single family, as opposed to family that is the result of birth or marriage (i.e., family in law). See related cluster marriage, polyamory, group marriage. Usage: Most often used to describe a family of three or more adults.

Internalized oppression: The fear and self-hate of one’s own target/subordinate identity/ies, that occurs for many individuals who have learned negative ideas about their target/subordinate identity/ies throughout childhood.  One form of internalized oppression is the acceptance of the myths and stereotypes applied to the oppressed group.

Intersectionality: A term coined by law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in the 1980s to describe the way that multiple systems of oppression interact in the lives of those with multiple marginalized identities.  Intersectionality looks at the relationships between multiple marginalized identities and allows us to analyze social problems more fully, shape more effective interventions, and promote more inclusive advocacy amongst communities.

Intersex: Adjective used describe the experience of naturally (that is, without any medical intervention) developing primary or secondary sex characteristics that do not fit neatly into society’s definitions of male or female. Intersex is an umbrella term and there are around 20 variations of intersex that are included in this umbrella term.  Many visibly Intersex people are mutilated in infancy and early childhood by doctors to make the individual’s sex characteristics conform to society’s idea of what “normal” bodies should look like. Intersex people are relatively common, although society’s denial of their existence has allowed very little room for intersex issues to be discussed publicly. Hermaphrodite is an outdated and inaccurate term that has been used to describe intersex people in the past.

Intimate Network: Colloquial The sum total of a person’s partners, those partners’ partners, and so on. Usage: The term “intimate network” is most often used to describe the set of romantic and sexual relationships and friendships involved in a polyamorous relationship structure that is not closed; that is, the term intimate network is not often used to describe a polyfidelitous relationship or a closed group marriage, though it can be. The term is also sometimes used in a way that includes people who are close friends, but are not necessarily romantically or sexually involved, with a person or that person’s partners.

Key Club: Colloquial; see swing club (Def. 2).

Key Party: A specific type of play party (Def. 1), usually attended by couples, in which each male deposits his keys into a container as he arrives. As the guests leave, each female draws a set of keys at random from the container, then goes home with the male to which they belong that night. Usage: A key party is typically a swinger event.

Kink: (Kinky, Kinkiness) Most commonly referred to as unconventional sexual practices, from which people derive varying forms of pleasure and consensually play-out various forms of desire, fantasies and scenes.

Kitchen Table Polyamory: colloquial A style of polyamory that emphasizes family-style connections even among people in a network who are not dating each other. So named because the people in a network can gather around the kitchen table for breakfast.

Latinx: pronounced “La-TEEN-ex”, is a non-gender specific way of referring to people of Latin American descent. Other commonly known ways of referring to people of Latin American descent are Latinos, Latina, Latin@, Latino. The “x” at the end replaces “o” and “a” which have been gendered suffixes, it moves beyond terms like Latino/a & Latin@, which still reinforce a gender binary.

Leather community: A community, which encompasses those who are into leather, sado-masochism, bondage and domination, uniform, cowboys, rubber, and other fetishes. Although the leather community is often associated with the queer community, it is not a “gay-only” community.

Lesbian: A woman whose primary sexual and affectional orientation is toward people of the same gender.

Lesbian Sheepitude: Colloquial A term used to describe a situation where one person has a romantic or sexual interest in another person, which may be reciprocated, but neither of them indicates this interest or makes the first move. Etymology: The colloquialism comes from the behavior of sheep; a female ewe indicates sexual interest and receptiveness by standing still, so two hypothetical lesbian sheep would indicate their sexual receptivity by each standing still, and no mating would take place. Commentary: This expression is often heard on the UseNet newsgroup alt.polyamory.

Leviratic Marriage: Sociology A system by which when a man dies, his brother marries his widow.

Leviratic Polyandry: Sociology Adelphogamy.

LGBT:  Abbreviation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender.  An umbrella term that is often used to refer to the community as a whole.  Using LGBTQIA+  intentionally includes and raises awareness of Queer, Intersex and Asexual as well as myriad other communities under the rainbow umbrella.

LGBTQIA+ Allyship:  The practice of confronting heterosexism, sexism, genderism, allosexism, and monosexism in oneself and others out of self-interest and a concern for the well being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual people.  Is founded on the belief and believes that dismantling heterosexism, monosexism, trans oppression/trans mysogyny/cissexism and allosexism is a social justice issue.

Life Partner: A partner, usually a romantic and sexual partner, with whom one has the intent of a long-lasted and intertwined committed relationship. Commentary: A life partner need not necessarily be a spouse, though most often a spouse is a life partner. In some cases, someone may consider a partner’s partner to be a life partner even though there is no direct sexual or romantic relationship with that person.

Limerence: A strong desire for, longing for, or preoccupation with another person, accompanied by a sometimes overwhelming desire for reciprocation. Limerence may be accompanied by idealization of the person so desired. Etymology: The term limerence was coined by Dr. Dorothy Tennov, who described it in her book Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love (Scarborough House, 1979, ISBN 0812862864). Commentary: Limerence is distinct from new relationship energy in that it is more akin to what people commonly call a “crush,” and may not be associated with a relationship at all. Some researchers have linked limerence to quantifiable physiological processes in the brain, particularly to depressed levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Some people in the polyamory community use the word limerence as a synonym for new relationship energy, though this usage is not technically correct.

Line Marriage; also, Line Family: A specific form of group marriage in which younger partners are added to the relationship as older partners age; in theory, such a relationship would eventually reach equilibrium, adding new partners as existing partners die. Etymology: The term (and the idea behind it) was coined by science fiction writer Robert Heinlein.

Long-Distance Relationship (LDR): A relationship in which the people involved do not live together, and are separated by great distances; as, for example, partners who live in different cities, in different states, or even in different countries.

Lover-In-Law: Colloquial 1. A partner of one’s partner; metamour. 2. The biological family of one’s partner. Commentary: In the sense of Def. 1, most often applied to a metamour with whom one has a close relationship.

Love Triangle: 1. See triad. 2. In contemporary American vernacular outside of the poly community, a relationship in which two people both love a third; in this usage, the assumption is that each of the two is competing for the undivided affections of the third, and that the third is being placed in a position where he or she is expected to choose one of the two competing partners.

Love Quadrangle: See quad.

Lovestyle: See relationship orientation. Usage: Most common in New Age or tantra communities.

Loving More: A magazine (PEP Publishing; ISSN 1523-5858) and organization dedicated to polyamory. The organization that publishes Loving More also sponsors a series of annual conventions by the same name.

Mariage Á Trois: (Literally, French, marriage of three) A marriage involving exactly three people, in which one person is married to two partners. See related triad, vee. Usage: Most commonly used in situations in which one man is married to two women.

Marriage: A relationship, most commonly between one man and one woman in Western countries, which is sanctioned by the State and/or by a religious institution and which confers upon its members certain social and economic conditions, typically including rights of joint property ownership, rights of inheritance and of decision-making in legal and medical matters, and certain legal rights and responsibilities concerning mutual child rearing. These rights and responsibilities have varied over time and today vary from place to place, but common to all of them is the expectation that people who are married are in a legally recognized, financially entwined, committed relationship that is not trivial to separate. Traditionally, marriages in most Western countries carry with them expectations of sexual and emotional monogamy. See related closed marriage, open marriage, group marriage, polygamy, polygyny, polyandry. Commentary: Increasingly, Western countries are being forced to grapple with the issue of same-sex partnerships being officially recognized as marriages, both because gays and lesbians want the social status conferred by marriage and because gays and lesbians want the legal rights so conferred, particularly with regard to economic matters such as inheritance and joint property ownership, practical matters such as insurance and the right to make medical decisions on behalf of an incapacitated partner, and so on. Many people also feel that these legal rights and responsibilities do not have to be limited to exactly two people, and that partnerships involving more than two people are entitled to equal treatment under the law as well.

Ménage á Trois: (Literally, French, house of three) 1. Sexual activity involving three people. 2. See triad. Commentary: In the sense of Def. 2, usually applied to a triad in which all three people involved live together.

Metamour: (Literally, meta with; about + amor love): The partner of one’s partner, with whom one does not share a direct sexual or loving relationship. See related vee.

Microaggressions: Brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative slights and insults about one’s marginalized  identity/identities. (D.W. Sue)

Misgendering: Attributing a gender to someone that is incorrect/does not align with their gender identity.  Can occur when using pronouns, gendered language (i.e. “Hello ladies!”Hey guys”), or assigning genders to people without knowing how they identify (i.e. “Well, since we’re all women in this room, we understand…”).

MOGAI: An acronym that stands for “marginalized orientations, gender alignments, and intersex.” Is used by some in a similar way to the umbrella acronym: LGBTQIA.

Molecule: A set or subset of polyamorous relationships, such as a triad, vee or quad, or a complete romantic network. See also polycule.

Monoamory; also Monamory: (Literally, mono one + amor love): The state or practice of loving only one person at a time. Contrast polyamory; See also monogamy. Commentary: The word monoamory was coined as a response to the fact that the word monogamy literally means “one marriage;” technically speaking, a monogamous person, according to the word’s roots, should be a person with only one spouse, regardless of the number of other romantic or sexual partners that person has. In practice, it means essentially the same thing as monogamy, though it is sometimes applied to a person who self-identifies as monogamous but is involved in a romantic relationship with a person who self-defines as polyamorous.

Monogamish: Colloquial A relationship that is not necessarily sexually fidelitous, but that differs from polyamory in that the outside sexual relationships are seen as primarily sexual rather than romantic, without necessarily having any expectation of continuity, and are viewed as enhancing the primary couple. See related open marriage. Etymology: The term was coined by columnist Dan Savage to describe committed relationships that still allow some “outside” sexual dalliances.

Monogamy: (Literally, mono one + gamos marriage) Formally, the state or practice of having only one wedded spouse. Informally, the state or practice of having only one wedded spouse at a time, or more generally, having only one sexual partner or only one romantic or intimate relationship at a time. Monogamous: of or related to the practice of monogamy, as in monogamous relationship: a relationship permitting one and only one romantic or sexual partner. Contrast polyamory, polygamy, polygyny, polyandry; See related closed marriage, serial monogamy..

Monosexism: The belief in and systematic privileging of monosexuality as superior, and the systematic oppression of non-monosexuality.

Monosexual: People who have romantic, sexual, or affectional desire for one gender only. Heterosexuality and homosexuality are the most well-known forms of monosexuality.

Most Significant Other (MSO): A person’s primary partner in a hierarchical primary/secondary relationship.

MSM: an abbreviation for men who have sex with men; they may or may not identify as gay.

N: Colloquial A polyamorous relationship involving four people, generally two couples where one member of one couple is also involved sexually and/or romantically with one member of the other couple. See also quad; See related triad, vee.

Neutrois: A non-binary gender identity that falls under the genderqueer or transgender umbrellas. There is no one definition of Neutrois, since each person that self-identifies as such experiences their gender differently. The most common ones are: Neutral-gender, Null-gender, Neither male nor female, Genderless and/or Agender.

New Relationship Energy (NRE): A strong, almost giddy feeling of excitement and infatuation common in the beginning of any new romantic relationship. While similar in some ways to limerence, new relationship energy is distinct in that it often follows the beginning of a relationship (as opposed to desire for a relationship), and can last as long as several years. Contrast old relationship energy. Commentary: Some researchers believe that new relationship energy is the result of the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin, which are released by the brain during the start of a new relationship and after a mother gives birth and are believed to have a role in emotional bonding and in the feelings of happiness and well-being that often accompany the start of a new relationship.

Noetisexual:  being attracted to the way someone’s mind works.  An alternative to Sapiosexual, which concentrates on people’s intelligence and is often considered ableist.

Nonexclusive Monogamy: Of or related to any marriage involving exactly two people, whereby each of the two is permitted to have sex with others outside the relationship but may not marry (or in some cases conduct emotionally intimate relationships) outside the relationship. Contrast group marriage. Commentary: the word monogamy in nonexclusive monogamy is used in the formal sense of “one marriage,” rather than in the general sense of “one sexual partner.”

Non-binary: A gender identity and experience that embraces a full universe of expressions and ways of being that resonate for an individual. It may be an active resistance to binary gender expectations and/or an intentional creation of new unbounded ideas of self within the world. For some people who identify as non-binary there may be overlap with other concepts and identities like gender expansive and gender non-conforming.

Nonmonosexual: people who are attracted to more than one gender.

NRE Junkie: Colloquial; usually derogatory A term sometimes applied, often dismissively, to a person who starts many new relationships in rapid succession but does not seem to maintain relationships for very long. Such a person may appear to seek out the euphoria and intense emotion associated with new relationship energy over the maintenance of a long-term relationship. Commentary: Some psychologists and psychiatrists believe that the intensity and euphoria associated with new relationship energy can be psychologically addictive; in the psychiatric community, the term “love addiction” is sometimes used to describe this behavior.

Nuclear Family: A family consisting of one man and one woman, married to one another, and their children. In some religious and social groups, this structure is idealized as the only “right” form of family, though historically it has never been the dominant family structure in Western history.

Old Relationship Energy (ORE): The feeling of comfort, security, and stability often associated with a long-standing romantic relationship. Contrast new relationship energy.

Omnigamy: 1. Group marriage. 2. Of or relating to having multiple spouses of both sexes. 3. Complex marriage. In the sense of Def. 2, See related bisexual.

Omnigender: Possessing all genders. The term is used specifically to refute the concept of only two genders.

Omnisexual: (literally, all sexes) bisexual. Usage: In some communities, particularly some parts of the lesbian and gay community, antipathy toward or hostility to people who self-identify as bisexual has become common. The term omnisexual has started to become popular as a synonym for bisexual but without the negative connotations of the word.

One Penis Policy: An arrangement within a polyamorous relationship in which a man is allowed to have multiple female partners, each of whom is allowed to have sex with other women but forbidden to have any other male partners. Commentary: Its hypothetical opposite, a “one vagina policy” in which a woman has a group of male partners who are each forbidden to have other female lovers, seems so rare as to be theoretical; I’ve never seen or heard of a real-life example of such a relationship.

Open Marriage: Any marriage whose structures or arrangements permit one or both of the members involved to have outside sexual relationships, outside romantic relationships, or both. The term open marriage is a catchall for marriages that are not emotionally or sexually monogamous, and may include such activities as polyamory or swinging. Contrast closed marriage; See related group marriage. Commentary: The term “open marriage” is sometimes used as a synonym for polyamory, though this is not necessarily the case; some relationships may be open but not polyamorous (as in some swinging relationships that explicitly ban emotional entanglement with anyone outside the relationship), and some relationships may be polyamorous but not open (as in polyfidelitious relationships).

Open Network: A relationship structure in which the people involved are free to add new partners as they choose. Contrast polyfidelity. Commentary: This is a very common form for polyamorous relationships.

Open Relationship: 1. Any relationship that is not sexually monogamous. 2. Any relationship that permits “outside” sexual entanglements, but not loving or romantic relationships. Commentary: Some folks use the term open relationshipas a synonym for polyamory. To other people, the term excludes polyamory, and is used specifically to describe relationships that are sexually non-monogamous but that still expect that the people involved will not fall in love or engage in romantic relationships outside the couple, as for example with many swinging relationships. It’s important to be careful when using this term, as it may carry very different connotations for different people.

Open Swinging: A practice in which a group of swingers will exchange partners and then have sex together in the same room; sometimes but not always assumes group sex. Contrast closed swinging. Usage: Common in the swingingcommunity; uncommon outside it.

Oppression: exists when one social group, whether knowingly or unconsciously, exploits another social group for its own benefit.

Individual Level: beliefs or behaviors of an individual person; conscious or unconscious actions or attitudes that maintain oppression.

Institutional Level: institutions such as family, government, industry, education, and religion are shapers of, as well as shaped by, the other two levels.  The application of institutional policies and procedures in an oppressive society run by individuals or groups who advocate or collude with social oppression produces oppressive consequences.

Societal/Cultural Level: society’s cultural norms perpetuate implicit and explicit values that bind institutions and individuals; cultural guidelines, such as philosophies of life, definitions of good, normal, health, deviance, and sickness, often serve the primary function of providing individuals and institutions with the justification for social oppression.

Orientation: Orientation is one’s attraction or non-attraction to other people.  An individual’s orientation can be fluid and people use a variety of labels to describe their orientation.  Some, but not all, types of attraction or orientation include: romantic, sexual, sensual, aesthetic, intellectual and platonic.

Other Significant Other (OSO): 1. A partner’s other partner; metamour. 2. A person’s partner, sometimes but not always a non-primary or non-spouse partner; as, Bob is my husband, and Joe is my other significant other.

Oxytocin: A naturally occuring hormone produced in the hypothalamus and secreted from the pituitary gland. Oxytocin is produced both by men and women, and in women is known to play a role in uterine contraction during childbirth and in milk production. Production of this hormone increases during the early stages of a new relationship and during sex, and it is believed to be partly responsible for mediating the processes involved in emotional intimacy. New relationship energy is thought to be a result in part of oxytocin production. See related vasopressin.

Panamory: Of or relating to romantic or sexual love with partners of many sexes, sexual orientations, gender identities, and/or relationship orientations. Panamorous, of or relating to one who identifies as a person capable of romantic or sexual love with many kinds of partners regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Pansexual: 1. Of or relating to all sexual orientations, sexes, and gender identities. 2. One who engages in sexual or erotic activities with partners of all sexes and orientations. Pansexual event: an event catering to people of any sexual orientation or identity. Pansexual group: any group open to membership by any person regardless of sex, sexual orientation, or sexual identity.

Parallel Polyamory: A style of polyamory in which the relationships a person has are largely independent of one another, and there may be little or no contact or relationship between a person’s various partners. See related solo polyamory.

Parallel Play: Colloquial Of or related to two (or more) couples or groups having sex in the same room, without members from one couple or group having sexual contact with members of another couple or group. Usage: Most commonly used in the swinging community.

Paramour: (literally, par way + amor love; by way of love) 1. A married person’s outside lover. 2. A mistress—the unmarried female lover of a married man. 3. A nonmarried member of a polyamorous relationship. See related other significant other.

Phobia: In terms of mental/emotional wellness – a phobia is a marked and persistent fear “out of proportion” to the actual threat or danger the situation poses, after taking into account all the factors of the environment and situation.  Historically this term has been used to inaccurately refer to systems oppression (i.e. homophobia has been used to refer to heterosexism.) As a staff, we’ve been intentionally moving away from using words like “transphobic,” “homophobic,” and “biphobic” because (1) they inaccurately describe systems of oppression as irrational fears, and (2) for some people, phobias are a very distressing part of their lived experience and co-opting this language is disrespectful to their experiences and perpetuates ableism.

Pivot: Colloquial In a vee relationship, the person who has two partners.

Platonic Relationship: A close, emotionally intimate relationship in which there is no sex or physical intimacy.

Play Party: 1. In the swinger community, a party, often hosted at a swing club but sometimes hosted at a private residence, at which swingers get together for the purpose of recreational sex. 2. A party with emphasis on shared sexual activity or experience. 3. See BDSM: «play party». See related key party.

Plural Marriage: See polygamy.

Poly: Colloquial Of or related to polyamory; as, a poly relationship, a poly person.

Polyamory: (Literally, poly many + amor love) The state or practice of maintaining multiple sexual and/or romantic relationships simultaneously, with the full knowledge and consent of all the people involved. Polyamorous: of or related to the practice of polyamory, as in polyamorous relationship: a relationship involving more than two people, or open to involvement by more than two people; polyamorous person: a person who prefers or is open to romantic relationships with more than one partner simultaneously. Contrast monogamy; See related polyfidelity, triad, quad, vee, N, polygamy, polygyny, polyandry, swinging, responsible non-monogamy. Commentary: There is some debate over the origin of the word. The Oxford English Dictionary attributes the word to Jennifer Wesp, who founded the newsgroup alt.polyamory in 1992. The term polyamorous is often attributed to Morning Glory Zell, who used it to describe situations in which a person engages in multiple loving, committed relationships simultaneously in the essay “A Boquet of Lovers.” It appears that both people coined the term independently and simultaneously. Polyamory is not necessarily related directly to marriage or to polygamy; a person may have no spouse or only one spouse and still be polyamorous. Many people use the term “polyamory” to describe only those relationships in which a person has multiple loving partners; some people have extended the term to include relationships in which a person has multiple sexual partners regardless of the emotional component or degree of commitment between them, though this meaning was not a part of Morning Glory Zell’s original intent for the word. In 1992, when the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary contacted Morning Glory Zell to ask for a formal definition and background of the word; part of her response was “The two essential ingredients of the concept of ‘polyamory’ are ‘more than one’ and ‘loving.’ That is, it is expected that the people in such relationships have a loving emotional bond, are involved in each other’s lives multi-dimensionally, and care for each other. This term is not intended to apply to merely casual recreational sex, anonymous orgies, one-night stands, pick-ups, prostitution, ‘cheating,’ serial monogamy, or the popular definition of swinging as ‘mate-swapping- parties.” Denotes consensually being in/open to multiple loving relationships at the same time. Some polyamorists (polyamorous people) consider “polyam” to be a relationship orientation. Sometimes used as an umbrella term for all forms of ethical, consensual, and loving non-monogamy.

Polyandry: (Literally, poly many + andros man) The state or practice of having multiple wedded husbands at the same time. Contrast monogamy; see related polygamy, polygyny, bigamy.

Polycule: A romantic network, or a particular subset of relationships within a romantic network, whose members are closely connected. Also used to describe a sketch or visualization of a romantic network, as these drawings often resemble the depiction of molecules used in organic chemistry.

Polyfamily: Colloquial 1. A set of polyamorous people who live together and identify as part of the same family. 2. A polyamorous group whose members consider one another to be family, regardless of whether or not they share a home.

Polyfi: Colloquial; see polyfidelity.

Polyfidelity: (Literally, poly many + fidelitas faithfulness) A romantic or sexual relationship which involves more than two people, but which does not permit the members of that relationship to seek additional partners outside the relationship, at least without the approval and consent of all the existing members. Some polyfidelitous relationships may have a mechanism which permits adding new members to the relationship with mutual agreement and consent of the existing members; others may not permit any new members under any circumstances. Etymology: The term polyfidelity was coined by the Kerista Commune.

Polyfuckery: Colloquial; vulgar; often derogatory A coarse term sometimes used to describe people who call themselves “polyamorous” while engaging in a large number of sexual relationships which are short-lived or not emotionally intimate; as Bob practices polyfuckery. Almost always indicates derision of the activity or person so named. Usage: Almost always used only of people who self-describe as “polyamorous;” not used to describe, for example, people who identify as swingers. See related polysexual.

Polygamy: (Literally, poly many + gamos marriage) The state or practice of having multiple wedded spouses at the same time, regardless of the sex of those spouses. Contrast monogamy; See related polyandry, polygyny, bigamy.Commentary: Polygyny is the most common form of polygamy in most societies that permit multiple spouses. For that reason, many people confuse the two. Some objections to the practice of polyamory—for example, objections based on the perception that polyamorous relationships are inherently disempowering to women—arise from the misperception that polyamory or polygamy are the same thing as polygyny.

Polygender, Pangender: Exhibiting characteristics of multiple genders, deliberately refuting the concept of only two genders.

Polygyny: (Literally, poly many + gynos woman) The state or practice of having multiple wedded wives at the same time. Contrast monogamy; See related polygamy, polyandry, bigamy. Commentary: According to some sociologists, polygynous societies represent the most common form of society, with 850 of the 1170 societies recorded in Murdock’s Ethnographic Atlas being polygynous. Modern Muslim societies are polygynous, and certain religious traditions, including Fundamentalist Mormonism (FLDS) in the United States, advocate polygyny.

Polykoity: (Literally, poly many + koitus, coitus sex) Anthropology The state or practice of having more than one sexual partner, either at the same time or over the course of one’s lifetime, without regard to the relationship with those partners or their relationships with each other.

Poly Mixed Relationship: Colloquial A poly/mono relationship.

Poly/Mono; also, MONO/POLY: Colloquial Of or relating to a relationship between a person who self-identifies as polyamorous and a person who self-identifies as monogamous.

Polysaturated: Colloquial Polyamorous, but not currently open to new relationships or new partners because of the number of existing partners, or because of time constraints that might make new relationships difficult. Contrast polyunsaturated. Usage: Often considered humorous or slightly silly. Seems to be most common primarily in the western United States.

Polysexual: Colloquial Of or related to relationships which are sexually non-monogamous but which are not emotionally intimate. Usage: Sometimes condescending or derogatory; as Bill is not really polyamorous, but only polysexual. May indicate dismissal or derision of the relationship so named. See related swinging.

Polytrothism: The state or practice of maintaining multiple egalitarian relationships, each of which is equal with respect to decision-making and other practical matters. Contrast primary/secondary; See related democratic family.

Polyunsaturated: Colloquial Polyamorous, and currently seeking or open to new partners. Contrast polysaturated.Usage: Often considered humorous or slightly silly. Seems to be most common primarily in the western United States.

Polywog: Colloquial, often humorous A child in a polyamororous household.

Power Exchange: Any situation where two or more people consensually and voluntarily agree to a power relationship in which one (or more) people assume authority and one (ore more) people yield authority. This relationship may be for a predetermined time, or indefinite. Relationships based on indefinite power exchange are often referred to as TPE relationships. The defining factor of power exchange is the conscious, deliberate construction of a power dynamic in which at least one person assumes psychological control to some agreed-upon extent over at least one other person.

Primary: In a primary/secondary relationship, the person (or persons) in the relationship with the highest degree of involvement or entanglement, or sometimes the person accorded the most importance. A person may be primary either as a natural consequence of the circumstance and nature of the relationship (because that person has the greatest degree of financial entanglement, for example), or as a deliberate consequence of the relationship structure and agreements (as in the case of an existing couple who set out to add additional partners only on the condition that those existing partners are seen as “less important” than the couple). See also co-primary; Contrast secondary, tertiary.Commentary: People who deliberately seek to construct a relationship along prescriptive primary/secondary lines typically designate one and only one relationship as the primary relationship. People who do not seek to construct a relationship along prescriptive primary/secondary lines may have more than one primary relationship; a relationship becomes primary when it reaches a certain point of emotional commitment, practical entanglement, or both.

Primary/Secondary: A polyamorous relationship structure in which a person has multiple partners who are not equal to one another in terms of interconnection, emotional intensity, intertwinement in practical or financial matters, or power within the relationship. A person in a primary/secondary relationship may have one (or occasionally, more than one) primary partner and one or more additional secondary or tertiary partners. A primary/secondary relationship may be “prescriptive” (that is, a primary couple consciously and deliberately creates a set of rules whereby any additional partners are secondary, often because this is seen as a mechanism which will protect the existing relationship from harm caused by additional relationships) or it may be “descriptive,” and emerge from the nature and the situation of the relationship.See related tertiary, veto. Commentary: In practice, prescriptive primary/secondary relationships may create an environment where the people in those additional relationships feel unappreciated or insignificant, which is why some experienced polyamorous people do not construct their relationships along enforced primary/secondary lines.

Privilege: a set of unearned benefits given to people who fit into a specific social group.  The concept has roots in WEB DuBois’ work on “psychological wage” and white people’s feelings of superiority over Black people.  Peggy McIntosh wrote about privilege as a white woman and developed an inventory of unearned privileges that she experienced in daily life because of her whiteness.

Pronouns: Linguistic tools used to refer to someone in the third person.  Examples are they/them/theirs, ze/hir/hirs, she/her/hers, he/him/his.  In English and some other languages, pronouns have been tied to gender and are a common site of misgendering (attributing a gender to someone that is incorrect.)

Puppy-Pile Poly: Colloquial Polyamorous relationships in which all the people involved are to some degree physically and/or romantically involved with one another, with the implication that the people involved may share sex and/or sleeping space (hence, “all in one puppy pile”).

Quad: A polyamorous relationship involving four people, each of whom may or may not be sexually and emotionally involved with all the other members. See related N. Commentary: One of the most common ways for a quad to form is when two polyamorous couples begin romantic relationships cross-couple.

Queer:  One definition of queer is abnormal or strange. Historically, queer has been used as an epithet/slur against people whose gender, gender expression and/or sexuality do not conform to dominant expectations. Some people have reclaimed the word queer and self identify as such. For some, this reclamation is a celebration of not fitting into norms/being “abnormal.” Manifestations of oppression within gay and lesbian movements such as racism, sizeism, ableism, cissexism, transmisogyny as well as assimilation politics, resulted in many people being marginalized, thus, for some, queer is a radical and anti-assimilationist stance that captures multiple aspects of identities.

Questioning: The process of exploring one’s own gender identity, gender expression, and/or sexual orientation. Some people may also use this term to name their identity within the LGBTQIA community.

Race: A social construct that divides people into distinct groups based on characteristics such as physical appearance, ancestral heritage, cultural affiliation, cultural history, ethnic classification, based on the social, economic, and political context of a society at a given period of time.

Racism: The systematic subordination of marginalized racial groups (Indigenous/Native American, Black, Chicanx, Asian, Pacific Islander, and non-white Latinx people, non-white Middle Eastern people, etc.) who have relatively little social power in the United States, by members of the agent/dominant/privileged racial group who have relatively more social power (white).

Relationship Anarchy: A philosophy or practice in which people are seen as free to engage in any relationships they choose, spontaneity and freedom are desirable and necessary traits in healthy relationships, no relationship should be entered into or restricted from a sense of duty or obligation, any relationship choice is (or should be) allowable, and in which there is not necessarily a clear distinction between “partner” and “non-partner.”

Relationship Orientation: A preference for sexual or loving relationships of a particular form; as, for example, a preference for relationships that are monogamous, for relationships that are polyfidelitous, for relationships that are polyamorous, and so forth. See related switch (Def. 1). Commentary: Just as some people feel that their sexual orientation is fluid and a matter of choice where other people feel that their sexual orientation is fixed and not subject to choice, so do some people feel that their relationship orientation is subject to choice whereas others feel their relationship orientation is not a matter of choice. It has been my observation that some people seem to be inherently monogamous,and can’t be happy any other way; some people seem to be inherently polyamorous, and can’t be happy any other way; and some people seem to be able, under the right circumstances and with the right partners, to be happy in a monogamous or a polyamorous relationship.

Religion: A personal or institutionalized system of beliefs and practices concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, often grounded in belief in and reverence for some supernatural power or powers; often involves devotional and ritual observances and contains a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

Responsible Non-Monogamy: Any relationship that is not sexually and/or emotionally exclusive by the explicit agreement and with the full knowledge of all the parties involved. Responsible non-monogamy can take several forms, the two most common of which are polyamory and swinging, and is distinct from cheating in that everyone involved knows about and agrees to the activity. Responsible non-monogamy often explicitly spells out the conditions under which it is permissible for one person to take on additional partners, and often includes some form of safer-sex agreement such as a condom contract as well. Contrast monogamy, closed marriage.

Romantic Orientation: Romantic Orientation is attraction or non-attraction to other people characterized by the expression or non-expression of love.  Romantic orientation can be fluid and people use a variety of labels to describe their romantic orientation.  See also Orientation.

Safe, Sane, and Consensual (SSC): A code of conduct which holds that any activity between adults is acceptable as long as it is safe, sane, and consensual. Often held up as a test to whether or not a particular activity is ethical. See related RACK. Commentary: Many people see a flaw in the idea of “safe, sane, and consensual” because whether or not an activity is “safe” and “sane” is subjective, and because people may choose to engage in activities which might not always be “safe,” as in some forms of edge play (def. 1). (This is true even outside the BDSM community; consider skydiving, for example). Because of this, SSC has given way to the code of conduct called “RACK” (risk-aware consensual kink) in some places.

Safeword: A predefined “code word” which a submissive can use to stop an ongoing activity if it becomes too much. Commentary: Safewords are often used in situations such as resistance play, where the submissive may be expected to struggle or resist and where the word “no” might not actually mean no. In such cases, for safety’s sake it’s often helpful to have some word that does mean “no,” and is a word unlikely to come up otherwise.

Same Gender Loving: a term used by some African American people who love, date, have attraction to people of the same gender.

Sapiosexual: Colloquial Of or related to sexual attraction to people based on their intelligence.

Secondary: In a primary/secondary relationship, the person (or persons) in the relationship who, either by intent or by circumstance, have a relationship that is given less in terms of time, energy, and priority in a person’s life than a primaryrelationship, and usually involves fewer ongoing commitments such as plans or financial/legal involvements. A secondaryrelationship may be secondary as a result of a conscious decision on the part of the primary partners, or simply as a result of circumstance or the natural development of the relationship. See related tertiary.

Serial Monogamy: A relationship pattern in which a person has only one sexual or romantic partner at a time, but has multiple sexual or romantic partners in a lifetime, and may change partners frequently. Arguably the most common form of relationship in the United States, serial monogamy is predicated on the idea that a person can love more than one other person romantically in a lifetime, but not at the same time. Contrast polyamory, polygamy, swinging; See relatedmonogamy.

Sex: a medically constructed categorization. Sex is often assigned based on the appearance of the genitalia, either in ultrasound or at birth.

Sexism: The cultural, institutional, and individual set of beliefs and practices that privilege men, subordinate women, and devalue ways of being that are associated with women.

Sexuality:  The components of a person that include their biological sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, sexual practices, etc.

Sexual Orientation: Sexual Orientation is an enduring emotional, romantic, sexual or affectional attraction or non-attraction to other people.  Sexual orientation can be fluid and people use a variety of labels to describe their sexual orientation.  See also Orientation.

Significant Other: Colloquial A romantic partner. Usage: The term significant other is intended to be free of assumptions about the gender of that partner. See related other significant other.

Sizeism: The pervasive system of discrimination and exclusion that oppresses people who have bodies that society has labeled as “overweight,” as well as people of short stature. Fat oppression more specifically, highlights the ways that Fat people experience and navigate a world and institutions that are not built with their hxstories, needs and body size in mind. This often takes the form of labeling these bodies as unhealthy, undesirable, and lazy and fails to complicate narratives around health and healthy living. In addition, diet culture which is the normalization of weight loss, diet and exercise on a basis of weight based shaming and size based discrimination further perpetuate fat oppression. This form of oppression has been referred to as fatphobia. To learn more about why we are moving away from using this term see Phobia in this glossary.

Social Identities: Social identity groups are based on the physical, social, and mental characteristics of individuals.  They are sometimes obvious and clear, sometimes not obvious and unclear, often self-claimed and frequently ascribed by others.

Social Justice: A goal and a process in which the distribution of resources is equitable and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure.  Begins with an acknowledgement that oppression and inequity exist and must be actively dismantled on all levels. (Adams, Bell, & Griffin.)

Socio-Economic Class: Social group membership based on a combination of factors including income, education level, occupation, and social status in the community, such as contacts within the community, group associations, and the community’s perception of the family or individual.

Soft Swinger: A swinger who has sexual intercourse or engages in other sexual activity only with his or her partner, but may do so at a swing club, or in the presence of other swingers. Occasionally, soft swingers may engage in some limited form of sexual activities, often stopping short of sexual intercourse, with partners outside the existing relationship. Usage: Common in the swinging community, but uncommon in the polyamorous community. Contrast hard swinger.

Solo Poly: An approach to polyamory that emphasizes agency and does not seek to engage in relationships that are tightly couple-centric. People who identify as solo poly emphasize autonomy, the freedom to choose their own relationships without seeking permission from others, and flexibility in the form their relationships take. Such people generally don’t want or need relationships that look like traditional couples, and may not, for example, seek to live with a partner (or partners) or combine finances with a partner (or partners).

Spice: Colloquial The plural of spouse. Usage: often considered humorous.

Spirituality: Having to do with deep feelings and convictions, including a person’s sense of peace, purpose, connection to others, and understanding of the meaning and value of life; may or may not be associated with a particular set of beliefs or practices.

Spouse: A person’s husband or wife.

Squick: Colloquial A feeling of disgust, repulsion, or similar negative emotional reaction to the idea of an activity which does not appeal to someone. Also, verb to feel disgust or revulsion at an idea; Water sports make Lisa squick. Etymology:The word “squick” has an interesting history. It was coined by a regular user of the old Usenet newsgroup alt.sex.bondage to describe a sudden and unexpected revulsion experienced by her partner when a group of very young kittens tried to nurse on him. It was originally intended to mean a strong negative response that was both surprising and unexpected. Since then, it has commonly been used to describe an emotional reaction of disgust in general, in spite of the original intent.

Stereotype: A generalization applied to every person in a cultural group; a fixed conception of a group without allowing for individuality. When we believe our stereotypes, we tend to ignore characteristics that don’t conform to our stereotype, rationalize what we see to fit our stereotype, see those who do not conform as “exceptions,” and find ways to create the expected characteristics.

Submissive: One who assumes a role of submission in a power exchangerelationship. A submissive is a person who seeks a position of or occupies a role of intentional, consensual powerlessness, allowing another person to take control over him or her. Contrast dominant; see related bottom, switch.

Subspace: A specific state of mind that a submissive may enter, particularly after intense activities and/or (depending on the person) intense pain play, characterized by euphoria, bliss, a strong feeling of well-being, or even a state similar to intoxication. Thought to be related to the release of endorphins in the brain. The euphoria associated with subspace may last for hours or sometimes even days after the activity ceases.

Submit: To give up power or control. A person who gives up power or psychological control to another is said to submit to that person.

Submission: the act of giving up control.

Swinger: A person who engages in swinging.

Swinging: The practice of having multiple sexual partners outside of an existing romantic relationship, most often with the understanding that the focus of those relationships is primarily sexual rather than romantic or emotionally intimate. See also friends-first swinging, closed swinging, closed-group swinging, swing club. Commentary: The common perception of swinging is that those who engage in this behavior have sex outside of their existing relationship purely for recreation, and that emotional bonds or emotional intimacy are specifically excluded. This is true in some cases, and in fact some swing clubs specifically prohibit people from carrying on friendships or relationships outside the club. However, in practice swinging is much more nuanced, and people who self-identify as swingers can and sometimes do form close emotional relationships with their partners. Many people in both the swinging and polyamorouscommunities, though not all, see swinging and polyamory as two ends of a continuum, different in degree of intent, focus, and emphasis on romantic and emotional relationships rather than different in kind.

Switch: Colloquial A person capable of being happy in either a monogamous or a polyamorous relationship. In BDSM: 1. One who can change roles, being either dominant or submissive(or, less frequently, sadistic or masochistic) at different times or with different partners. 2. A thin, flexible rod, often made from a green branch of a tree such as a willow tree, used for striking people; similar to a cane. Also, verb 1. To change roles, as from a dominant role to a submissive role. 2. (infrequent) To strike with a switch (def. 2).

Swolly: Colloquial A person who identifies as both polyamorous and also as a swinger; that is, a person who has multiple simultaneous relationships and also enjoys recreational sex in a swinging context. Etymology: The term was coined by Ken Haslam of the Kinsey Institute.

Tantra: (Literally, Sanskrit thread; loom; to weave) A form of sexual expression or activity that emphasizes spiritual connection, and holds that sex is a sacred act that can bring those who engage in it to a higher spiritual plane. Commentary: Tantra is not directly related to polyamory; however, some people, particularly those involved with New Age spirituality, often combine the two. The original practice of tantra stems from several Hindu and Buddhist religious traditions that emphasize rituals (including ritualized meditation and mantra) and mysticism, but do not necessarily teach or require sexual ritual. The New Age practice has discarded much of the original teaching, choosing instead to emphasize sexual ritual as a spiritual act.

Tertiary: A person (or persons) in a relationship that is generally quite casual, expects little in the way of emotional or practical support, or is very limited with respect to time, energy, or priority in the lives of the people involved. Contrast primary; See related primary/secondary, secondary. Commentary: A tertiary relationship may be very limited in scope or priority for many reasons, one of the most common of which is often distance.

Trans*The asterisk placed after Trans has been used in many different ways. Some folks think of it as being more inclusive towards gender non-conforming and non-binary folks. But others have offered critique that it feels exclusionary towards GNC and non-binary folks for enforcing a binary expectation to “fill in the blank” for trans man or trans woman.  There have also been discussions/critique regarding the origin of the asterisk.

Trans man: A person may choose to identify this way to capture their gender identity as well as their lived experience as a transgender person.  Some trans men may also use the term FTM or F2M to describe their identity.

Transphobia:  See Cissexsim above. Note: As a staff, we’ve been intentionally moving away from using words like “transphobic,” “homophobic,” and “biphobic” because (1) they inaccurately describe systems of oppression as irrational fears, and (2) for some people, phobias are a very distressing part of their lived experience and co-opting this language is disrespectful to their experiences and perpetuates ableism.

Trans woman: A person may choose to identify this way to capture their gender identity as well as their lived experience as a transgender person.  Some transwomen may also use MTF or M2F to describe their identity.

Transgender: Adjective used most often as an umbrella term, and frequently abbreviated to “trans.” This adjective describes a wide range of identities and experiences of people whose gender identity and/or expression differs from conventional expectations based on their assigned sex at birth. Not all trans people undergo medical transition (surgery or hormones).  Some commonly held definitions:

  1. Someone whose determination of their sex and/or gender is not universally considered valid; someone whose behavior or expression does not “match” their assigned sex according to society.
  2. A gender outside of the man/woman binary.
  3. Having no gender or multiple genders.

Transition: An individualized process by which transsexual and transgender people “switch” from one gender presentation to another. There are three general aspects to transitioning: social (i.e. name, pronouns, interactions, etc.), medical (i.e. hormones, surgery, etc.), and legal (i.e. gender marker and name change, etc.). A trans* individual may transition in any combination, or none, of these aspects.

Transsexual (TS): A person who lives full-time in a gender different than their assigned birth sex and gender.  Many pursue hormones and/or surgery. Sometimes used to specifically refer to trans people pursuing gender or sex confirmation.

Transvestite: This is an outdated and problematic term due to its historical use as a diagnosis for medical/mental health disorders.  Cross Dresser has replaced transvestite, see above definition.

Top Drop: Colloquial A sudden, abrupt feeling of depression, unhappiness, or similar negative emotion in a dominant which may occasionally occur immediately after a period of BDSM activity. May include feelings of guilt, especially if the dominant believes he or she has made an error, or has traditional ideas about relationship or socially appropriate behavior.

Top’s Disease: Colloquial The tendency for some people who identify as dominant to believe that they are owed the same sort of deference and/or obedience they want from a submissive during play all the time, from everyone. People suffering this malady may, for example, demand servile behavior or deference from all submissives they encounter, or from everyone they encounter, regardless of consent or negotiated relationship.

Total Power Exchange (TPE): A relationship in which one person surrenders control to another person for an indefinite duration, and in which the relationship is defined by the fact that one person is always dominant and the other is always submissive. One of the more extreme forms of power exchange. Sometimes referred to as lifestyle D/s. See related master, slave.

Triad: 1. A polyamorous relationship composed of three people. 2. A union or group of three. Usage: In the sense of Def. 1, generally, the word triad is most often applied to a relationship in which each of the three people is sexually and emotionally involved with all the other members of the triad, as may be the case in a triad consisting of one man and two bisexual women or one woman and two bisexual men; however, it is sometimes also applied to vee relationships.

Troika: A group marriage involving exactly three people. See related triad.

Troilism: Sexual activity involving exactly three people; either in the form of three people simultaneously engaging in sexual activity, or in the form of one person watching while two others have sex. See related ménage à trois (Def. 1).

Trouple: see triad. Etymology: A neologism coined by combining “couple” and “triple.”

Two Spirit: “[This] term stems from the Ojibwe phrase niizh manidoowag and replaces the outdated, oversimplified term berdache, which appeared frequently in research and anthropological studies that aimed to describe the place of gay men in Native society in the 18th and early 19th centuries […] The phrase “two spirit” began to gain traction across Native America after 1990, when 13 men, women and transgender people from various tribes met in Winnipeg, Canada, with the task of finding a term that could unite the LGBTQ Native community. […]For me, the term ‘two spirit’ resists a Western definition of who we are and what we should be. Two spirit [people] are integral to the struggle of undoing the impacts of historical trauma, because our roles in tribes historically were part of the traditions taken away from us with Westernization.” – Zachary Pullin (Chippewa Cree), May/June 2014 Issues of Native Peoples

There are a variety of definitions and feelings about the term “two spirit” – and this term does not resonate for everyone.

Undocumented Immigrants: People are who are born outside of the country to which they immigrated, who do not have documentation that grants legal rights related to residency and /or citizenship.

Unicorn: Colloquial; see hot bi babe. Usage: Almost always used of a hypothetical woman who is willing to date both members of an existing couple, agree not to have any relationships other than the ones with the couple, agree not to be sexually involved with one member of the couple unless the other member of the couple is also there, and/or agree to move in with the couple. So named because people willing to agree to such arrangements are vanishingly rare, whereas couples looking for a woman who will agree to these terms are incredibly common.

Ursula: Some lesbians, particularly butch dykes, also participate in Bear culture referring to themselves with the distinct label Ursula.

Vee: Colloquial A polyamorous relationship involving three people, in which one person is romantically or sexually involved with two partners who are not romantically or sexually involved with each other. See also triad, pivot; See related quad, N.

Veto: A relationship agreement, most common in prescriptive primary/secondaryrelationships, which gives one person the power to end another person’s additional relationships, or in some cases to disallow some specific activity, such as some specific sexual or «BDSM»-related activity. A veto may be absolute, in which one partner may reject another partner’s additional relationships unconditionally, or may be conditional and used more as a way to indicate a serious problem in a relationship.Commentary: Not all polyamorous recognize or permit veto power. Veto is most common in primary/secondary relationship configurations, particularly in relationship configurations where an established couple is seeking additional partners. Veto is typically limited only to the primary partners, and a relationship which grants a vetopower to a secondary partner is rare in the extreme.

Wibble: A feeling of insecurity, typically temporary or fleeting, when seeing a partner being affectionate with someone else. Wibbley: of or related to wibble, as Seeing those two together makes me feel wibbley. Contrast compersion, frubble.Usage:Primarily British; less common outside the United Kingdom.

Womyn/Womxn: some womyn spell the word with a “y” or an “x” as a form of empowerment to move away from the “men” in the “traditional” spelling of women.

YKINMK: Abbreviation for Your Kink Is Not My Kink. May also appear as YKINMKBYKIOK (Your Kink Is Not My Kink But Your Kink Is Okay)

Zie: Colloquial A proposed gender-neutral pronoun meaning “he” or “she.”

Zir: Colloquial A proposed gender-neutral pronoun meaning “him” or “her.”