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Sexual Health 101: CERT'S Key Terms

Sex, contraception, STI - we hear these words all the time. But what exactly does consent mean? What's the difference between an STI and an STD? How can you know if you've been stealthed if you don't know what that means? When we say sex, what's actually happening? Is there a difference between sex and sexual activity?

It's super important to understand these terms when discussing sexual health. So, let's get back to the basics with CERT's key terms.

1. ConsentThe agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity.

Consent is an essential part of having safe sex. It can only happen when permission is enthusiastically given by an individual(s) to engage in sex or a sexual activity. All individuals taking part in the specified activity should have the freedom and capacity to make that choice and can safely withdraw consent at any time. The acronym FRIES details all the characteristics that should be found in informed consent:

F – Freely given

R- Reversible

I – Informed

E – Enthusiastic

S – Specific

2. Stealthing Stealthing is an act of intentionally removing, damaging or tampering a barrier method of contraception, such as a condom.

Stealthing can be done either before or during sexual activity without consent from a sexual partner.

3. ContraceptionThe use of artificial methods or other techniques to avoid unwanted side effects of sex/sexual activity such as pregnancy, STIs and STDs.

Common contraceptive methods include; the pill, condoms, the rod, IUD and IUS.

4. Assault The act of inflicting physical harm or unwanted physical contact against another person, both sexual and non-sexual. For example, sexual violence is a form of assault.

5. Sexual ViolenceSexual violence is any form of sexual activity or attempts to obtain a sexual act by violence or coercion, i.e. without consent.

6. STI An acronym for sexually transmitted infection.

A sexually transmitted infection can be caused by a bacteria, virus or parasite that can pass from person to person through bodily fluid (such as blood, semen, or vaginal fluid) or skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity. It is important to test yourself regularly to keep yourself and your sexual partners safe.

7. STD An acronym for sexually transmitted disease.


Despite the fact that he terms STD and STI are often used interchangeably, an STD is more serious than an STI. It's really important to know that they are not the same thing.

An STI is an infection and an STD is a disease. Not all infections result in diseases. However, all sexually transmitted diseases start with an initial infection. Therefore, all STIs should be taken seriously and treated quickly to avoid developing into STDs.

8. Sexual healthSexual health is an area of healthcare and activism that explores an individual’s ability to express and enjoy their sexuality free from the risk of sexually transmitted infections and diseases, unwanted pregnancy, violence, and discrimination.

It is about well-being, NOT only the absence of negative health outcomes.

9. Biological SexSex refers to the biological and physiological characteristics (primarily sexual organs and hormones) that society often uses to define humans as female or male.

This is what people are assigned at birth.

10. GenderWHO defines gender as “the characteristics of women, men, girls, and boys that are socially constructed. This includes norms, behaviours and roles associated with being a woman, man, girl, or boy, as well as relationships with others.”

This does not refer to sexual organs and can be expressed in various ways.

11. Gender Expression - Gender expression refers to how a person expresses their identity on the gender spectrum that is not necessarily related to their sexual organs.

This may or may not correspond to the sex a person was assigned at birth.

12. Sex (‘Sexual Activity’)Sex/sexual activity is the physical actions through which sexuality can be expressed.

It can be defined by a variety of acts, both solo and with a partner(s). It is NOT just penetrative sex.

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