We would like to make clear that although it can be useful to have this kind of structure to introduce folks to some of the language that is used to talk about sexualized violence, this format does not lend itself to the magnitude of complexity involved in our relationship to these ideas. Some definitions have been put together by folks at AVP while others have been borrowed from online resources (see below: references ↓).
Please feel free to read, use, complicate, and expand on our ideas about any and all of these terms, and we encourage folks to learn with us as we constantly come into new understandings of what they all can mean and the ways in which they are represented in our work and in our lives.
Sex positive ↓
A system of superiority and discrimination that provides or denies resources, agency, and dignity based on one’s abilities (mental/intellectual, emotional, and/or physical.) Ableism depends on a binary, and benefits able-bodied people at the expense of disabled people. Like other forms of oppression, ableism operates on individual, institutional and cultural levels.
The process of making one’s views of the world large enough to include everyone—looking for ways to make connections among different people’s struggles and finding ways to think about how issues affect different people in different ways. It means not just not accepting ‘norms,’ ‘isms’ and oppressive dynamics, but actively working to make the invisible visible, and challenging the systems that hold them in place. Also, an anti-oppression analysis acknowledges that all forms of oppression are linked and that the best way to organize against oppression is to take into account that all oppressions are linked.
An umbrella terms for folks who do not experience sexual attraction though there is a great amount of diversity in this community in regards to how different people experience attraction, relationships, and intimacy in different ways. This is not the same as celibacy.
An economic and political system where industries are privately owned for an individual/organization’s personal profit, as opposed to the benefits of the state and its citizens.
Cisgender or cis
Someone who is cis or cisgender identifies with the gender that they were assigned at birth. Typically, cis men are men who were assigned male at birth and feel that the words “man” and “male” accurately describe their gender. Likewise, cis women are typically women who were assigned female at birth and feel that the words “woman” and “female” accurately describe their gender.
A hierarchical system that provides or denies resources, agency, and dignity based on one’s, or one’s perceived, socioeconomic class (poor/working class, middle/upper class, upper class, etc.).
Emma LaRocque has defined colonization as a “form of invasion, dispossession and subjugation of a peoples…The result of such incursion is the dispossession of vast amounts of lands from the original inhabitants. This is often legalized after the fact…The long-term result of such massive dispossession is institutionalized inequality. The colonizer/colonized relationship is by nature an unequal one that benefits the colonizer at the expense of the colonized”. Colonization provides colonizers with political power and control, economic gain through the exploitation of peoples and resources, and social power with the dominance of colonizer cultural practices and beliefs. Colonization is an ongoing process which continues to provide political/economic/social benefits to the colonizers of lands.
There are many different definitions and models of consent that take into account the particular wants, needs, and communication styles of those who practice it. At AVP, we define consent as a mutual, emotional, physical and psychological understanding between people(s) without force of any kind. When engaging intimately with other individuals, consent is necessary to ensure that everybody involved is aware and interested in what is happening. Consent is based on communication, not assumptions.
The active unlearning of values, beliefs and behaviours that have caused physical, emotional, spiritual or mental harm to the people or the land through colonization. These values and behaviours emerged out of the Colonial Process in Canada, and became normalized through settler society. In western culture people are targeted for gender-based violence based on intersections of vulnerabilities and identities. Some of these ideas include: the absence of the sacred, perfectionism, power hoarding, either/or thinking, the scarcity model — all ideas that emerged out of the colonial process.
Any type of stimulus that is witnessed or experienced (e.g., a conversation, a smell, a sound, a person, a space etc.) that elicits an emotional reaction in someone due to its relationship to past or present trauma.
Violence rooted in gender-based oppression and power inequalities based on gender identity, perceived gender identity and/or gender expression, such as sexism, cissexism, misogyny, and transmisogyny. Any act of interpersonal, institutional or systemic act of violence (physical, sexual, economic, emotional, spiritual, social) that devalues and/or reinforces expected entitlement to women, girls, and trans, Two-Spirit, genderqueer, non-binary, and gender non-conforming bodies and lives.
The ways in which one presents (or expresses) their gender. As we live in a society that holds and enforces messages about what particular genders are supposed to look like (e.g., men are supposed to look masculine) gender expression is often used (inappropriately and often ineffectively) to determine someone’s gender identity. Though these two concepts can be related, one does not necessarily determine or indicate the other.
The sense of “being” male, female, genderqueer, agender, etc. For some people, gender identity is in accord with physical anatomy. For transgender people, gender identity may differ from physical anatomy or expected social roles. It is important to note that gender identity, biological sex, and sexual orientation are separate and that you cannot assume how someone identifies in one category based on how they identify in another category.
The gender binary
The most common classification system used in our society to categorize sex and gender. The model asserts a binary in that there are two distinct and opposite labels (female/male), qualifiers (vagina/penis), and behavioural expectations (e.g., caretaker/provider, emotional/rational).
Gender identity that is mutable (liable to change) or that that is not fixed/static.
Gender that does not adhere to gender expectations within the binary model.
A term which refers to individuals or groups who “queer” or problematize the hegemonic notions of sex, gender and desire in a given society. Genderqueer people possess identities which fall outside of the widely accepted sexual binary (i.e. “men” and “women”). Genderqueer may also refer to people who identify as both transgendered AND queer, i.e. individuals who challenge both gender and sexuality regimes and see gender identity and sexual orientation as overlapping and interconnected.
A set of practices, resources, politics, and support systems that are put in place and work to reduce harm. This framework is most often cited in relation to drug use and safer consumption practices, but can be applied to many of the patterns of behaviour that we take part in. Examples include seatbelts while driving, offering and education people about safer sex supplies, consuming water and food to reduce impacts of the environment and other stimulants, and many others.
A colonial construct and concept that defines both masculinity and femininity in narrow and limiting ways in order to maintain a binary distinction between male and female, dominant and subordinate. It operates from the assertion that the earth is inherently female and is therefore seen as inherently subservient/available to be consumed and utilized. Heteropatriarchy serves to naturalize all other social hierarchies, such as white supremacy and settler colonialism. When colonists first came to this land they saw the necessity of instilling patriarchy in Native communities because they realized that indigenous peoples would not accept colonial domination if their own indigenous societies were not structured on the basis of social hierarchy.
A worldview which frames heterosexuality as the standard sexuality. This is created through repetitive representations of heterosexuality and heterosexual relationships in our society. An example of heteronormativity is the assumption that people are heterosexual unless they “come out”. Another example is how non-heterosexual relationships are expected to be similar to traditional “heterosexual” relationships (i.e., labeling one partner as the “man” of the relationship, expecting couples to want marriage/children, etc).
Active hostility or opposition towards people whose sexuality is not heteronormative. This is often based on the assumption that monogamous relationships between one man and one woman is the traditional, superior, and only legitimate form of sexuality. The language has shifted from the use of “phobia” (as in homophobia), to the use of antagonism to better encompass the violence that is perpetrated.
A concept used to describe the ways in which different kinds of oppression (racism, sexism, homoantagonism, transantagonism, ableism, classism, etc.) are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another.
For example: two people who have a disability or are differently abled (one intersection) may come from different class backgrounds (another intersection). One person may be working class, while the other comes from the middle class. The way that disability affects their lives would be vastly different because of their relationship with the class system that they come from (access to money, education, resources, therapy, etc.). Inversely, that disability can affect their relationship to class (ability to find work, finding educational institutions that can accommodate their abilities, etc.).
- Other intersections such as race, gender, citizenship, and many others directly affect these relationships and understandings of oppression.
- For example: women do not all experience sexism in the same way. Their/our race, class, ability, citizenship status, body type (and many other intersections) affect what it means to experience that identity.
“Intersex” is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that is outside the medical system’s binary classification of ‘female’ or ‘male’. For example, a person may be born with a noticeably large clitoris, or not having a vaginal opening, or a notably small penis, or with a scrotum that is divided so that it has formed more like labia. Or a person may be born with mosaic genetics, so that some of their cells have XX chromosomes and some of them have XY, or may be born with XXY chromosomes. Intersex is a socially constructed category that reflects real biological variation. Physical attributes considered markers of ‘sex’ — e.g., breasts, penises, clitorises, scrotums, labia, gonads, and sex chromosomes — all naturally vary, but in the dominant culture sex categories have been simplified into male and female, and people with intersex conditions subjected to shame, secrecy, and unwanted genital surgeries or hormonal treatments aimed at making bodies fit into a sex binary.
The everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership. In many cases, these hidden messages may invalidate the group identity or experiential reality of target persons, demean them on a personal or group level, communicate they are lesser human beings, suggest they do not belong with the majority group, threaten and intimidate, or relegate them to inferior status and treatment. Microaggressions are rooted in ideologies such as racism, classism, sexism, cissexism, ableism, ageism, heterosexism, colonialism, as well as other discriminatory belief systems.
The hatred or dislike of women, girls, or femininity; the denigration of women and characteristics deemed feminine. Misogyny functions as an ideology or belief system that has accompanied patriarchal, or male-dominated societies for thousands of years and continues to place women and people who identify and express themselves in feminine ways in subordinate positions with limited access to power and decision making. Misogyny can be manifested in numerous ways, including sexual discrimination, violence, and the sexual objectification of women. Though commonly associated with men, misogyny also exists in and is practiced by women against other women or even themselves.
The belief and actions that treat all folks as worthy of care, support, community, and accountability. Non-disposability upholds that we are indispensable in the web of humans – we are all needed! This is a lens commonly used by folks in transformative justice and anti-prison work. We all have the capacity to cause harm and while we must hold ourselves and others accountable to harm caused, causing harm doesn’t make us bad people.
Institutionalised power that is historically formed and perpetuated over time that allows certain ‘groups’ of people to assume a dominant position over ‘other groups’ and this dominance is maintained and continued at an institutional level.This means oppression is built into institutions like government and education systems. It gives power and positions of dominance to some groups of people over other groups of people.
Systems of oppression are built around what are understood to be “norms” in our societies. A norm signifies what is “normal,” acceptable, and desirable. “The norm” is something that is valued and supported in a society. It is also given a position of dominance, privilege and power over what is defined as non-dominant, abnormal and therefore invaluable or marginal. Norms are also considered to be stable or unchanging over time.
When someone reveals another person’s sexuality or gender identity to an individual or group, often without the person’s consent or approval.
One of the most influential systems of power in our society that centres, privileges, and prioritizes masculinity. Patriarchy is practiced systemically in the ways and methods through which power is distributed in society (jobs and positions of power given to men in government, policy, criminal justice, etc.) while also influencing how we interact with one another interpersonally (gender expectations, sexual dynamics, space taking, etc.).
As a colonial construct, patriarchy operates powerfully and hierarchically through exercising and enforcing the gender binary and white supremacy. We see this, for example, in the way that white cis masculinity exercises power over not only women, trans folks, and children, but also other forms of masculinity (trans, racialized, poor, disabled, etc.).
Prison industrial complex (PIC)
A term we use to describe the overlapping interests of government and industry that use surveillance, policing, and imprisonment as solutions to economic, social and political problems.
Through its reach and impact, the PIC helps and maintains the authority of people who get their power through racial, economic and other privileges. There are many ways this power is collected and maintained through the PIC, including creating mass media images that keep alive stereotypes of people of color, poor people, queer people, immigrants, youth, and other oppressed communities as criminal, delinquent, or deviant.
Privilege is an unearned, special advantage or right that a person is born into or acquires during their lifetime. It is supported by the formal and informal institutions of society and conferred to all members of a dominant group, by virtue of their group membership.
Privilege implies that wherever there is a system of oppression (such as capitalism, patriarchy, or white supremacy) there is an oppressed group and also a privileged group, who benefit from the oppressions that this system puts in place. Privilege and power are closely related: privilege often gives a person or group power over others.
Queer has many meanings and definitions for all kinds of people. It is commonly used as an umbrella term by folks who feel that they personally don’t fit into dominant norms due to their own gender identity/expression, their sexual practices, their relationship style, their politics, etc. It is a term that has been reclaimed by many folks, as it was one time considered a derogatory slur towards the gay and lesbian community. For this reason, some folks do not wish to identify with it and it should be recognized as one option for folks to identify with if they find it fitting.
Racism is a white supremacist ideology backed by systemic power, and reinforced through violence. It is a system of power that privileges those people who are defined and socially constructed as “White”. Racism treats all races as inferior to white people, and also subordinates each race to each other. Racism is often understood as an individual state of being, as in someone is or isn’t racist. Racism, however, is not merely a personal attitude, it is a racialized system of power maintained by violence. An individual can be perpetuating this system without even being conscious of their actions.
The culture in which live that normalizes and glorifies sexualized violence, creating a sense of entitlement to other people’s physical, emotional, and sexual well beings without consent.
Does NOT exist. There are assumptions and stereotypes about white people. However, such assumptions and stereotypes are examples of racial prejudice. Expressions of such assumptions do not constitute racism because they do not have power or authority behind them to affect widespread beliefs about the group, or to affect the authority, privileges and access to resources and power of white people.
An individual’s pattern of romantic attraction to men, women, neither gender, either gender, or another gender. For many sexuals, their romantic orientation and their sexual orientation are in alignment, so the gender(s) of the people they fall in love with are also the gender(s) they are sexually attracted to. For an asexual, who does not experience sexual attraction, it is their romantic orientation that determines which gender(s), if any, they are inclined to form romantic relationships with. A person may be aromantic or romantic, or somewhere in between.
Process in which colonists emigrated with the express purposes of territorial occupation and the formation of a new community rather than the extraction of labour or resources (however these become secondary objects).
Sex positive is a way of being in the world that believes that sex and sexuality can be integral part of being human. A sex positive perspective does not “yuck another person’s yum” meaning that all consensual expressions of sex are affirmed and not shamed. A couple of important nuances that often get lost are that this perspective respects all choices to have sex or not, including those on the asexuality spectrum. AVP’s approach to sex positivity includes remaining critical about how we have sex and how our sexuality is shaped by oppressive systems.
Any unwanted sexual contact. This is a range of things that includes touching or rubbing any parts of another’s body in a way that feels sexualized (always up to the person who was assaulted to decide this).
A variety of unwanted sexualized acts that create an intimidating, humiliating, or hostile environment. These acts threaten a person or group’s personal boundaries, physical choices, and/or emotional well being. Sexual harassment is many things and can include cat calling, sexually suggestive noises or motions, jokes about sex, stalking, spreading rumours, etc.
Anything that disrespects your sexuality (including disrespect of asexuality) or is violence in a sexualized context. This is many things and can look like comments, leering, intimidation, coercion, expectations, discrimination, non consensual touching, sexual assault, sexual harassment, etc.
Active hostility, opposition, aggression and/or violence towards trans people. Transantagonism reflects a hatred of those who do not fit easily into the gender binary. The language has shifted from the use of “phobia” (as in transphobia), to the use of antagonism to better encompass the violence that is perpetrated.
Transfeminine is a term used to describe transgender people who were assigned male at birth, but identify with femininity to a greater extent than with masculinity. This includes trans women, but transfeminine can also describe someone with a non-binary gender who views themselves as significantly feminine, such as demigirls. Transfeminine can also be used as a gender identity in its own right. Although they have feminine gender identities, transfeminine people may prefer not to conform to stereotypical feminine gender expression or gender roles.
This term has many definitions. It is frequently used as an umbrella term to refer to all people who do not identify with their assigned gender at birth or the binary gender system. Some transgender people feel they exist not within one of the two standard gender categories, but rather somewhere between, beyond, or outside of those two genders.
Transmasculine is a term used to describe transgender people who were assigned female at birth, but identify with masculinity to a greater extent than with femininity. This includes trans men, but transmasculine can also describe someone with a non-binary gender who views themselves as significantly masculine, such as demiguys. Transmasculine can also be used as a gender identity in its own right. Although they have masculine gender identities, transmasculine people may prefer not to conform to stereotypical masculine gender expression or gender roles.
The intersection of transantagonism and misogyny; hatred, hostility, violence targeted towards transgender women. Transmisogyny is about the hatred of the feminine. It relies on an understanding that women and characteristics coded as feminine are inferior to men and those qualities coded as masculine and therefore are deserving of hatred, mockery, and violence. Trans women experience a particular kind of sexist marginalization based on the fact that they are both trans and feminine. They are devalued by society on both accounts. Trans and gender non-conforming people who do not necessarily identify as women, but who present feminine characteristics are also targeted. Hate crimes against trans people are disproportionately and tragically high, with Trans women of Colour being the most targeted. We see transmisogyny in state violence as well. Trans people experience disproportionately high rates of poverty and homelessness caused by discrimination in jobs and housing, and also experience greater incarceration rates, largely due to gender profiling by the police.
A word for non-heterosexual and/or non-cisgendered Indigenous people that is used to refer to identity, roles, and responsibility. Not everyone chooses to use this word and instead chooses to use words like gay, lesbian, trans, queer, genderqueer, gender-fluid, gender creative instead, or in combination. This word came into being in 1990 via Myra Laramee at a gathering for “Native American and Canadian Aboriginal LGBT people”. (For more information see twospiritmanitoba.ca). This word is not for non-Indigenous folks to use.
An historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations, and peoples of colour by white peoples and nations of the European continent, for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power,and privilege.
this list was created on unceded and occupied coast salish territory – xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), & Səl̓ílwətaʔ (Tsleil-Waututh) nations respectively – and has grown and evolved throughout many nations across the colony of canada. it is by no means exhaustive or complete. feel free to critique and edit. please share widely and link back to us!