Sexual Vocabulary Sign Language

How to Communicate About Human Sexuality

Woman signing the word 'Yes' in American Sign Language while communicating with a man. Huntstock

One of the most important things that needs to be communicated in sign language, especially for adults, is sexuality. Understanding sexual sign language is extremely helpful for those working with deaf people, in the medical field (nurses, audiologists, ENT specialists), as interpreters and especially with children.

Of course fingerspelling the words we don't know is always an option, but knowing the correct signs makes it much easier to communicate.

It also makes it easier to differentiate between sexual and non-sexual words that share very similar sign hand movements. These signs can easily be confused, but knowing the difference can prevent you from making a potentially inappropriate and embarrassing mistake.

Whether you are a teacher, a medical professional, a parent, an interpreter, and ASL student or a hearing-impaired person, understanding sexual vocabulary will help you communicate more accurately and effectively. Explore the print and online resources below to learn more about human sexuality sign language.

Sexual Sign Language Books

There are many sign language books that include sexual vocabulary that are available online and in bookstores. One tried-and-true sign language book that focuses solely on sex signs is "Signs of Sexual Behavior" by James Woodward. It includes illustrations and explanations of more than 130 signs, as well as details on the origins of the signs.

It's a classic and has been a go-to reference for decades.

Another wonderful book that is unfortunately out of print and available only through used booksellers and libraries is: "Signs for Sexuality: A Resource Manual for Teachers, Counselors, Interpreters, Parents and Hearing-Impaired Persons Concerns with Deafness and Human Sexuality." The book is written by Susan D.

Doughten, Marlyn B. Minkin, and Laurie E. Rosen and was published first in 1978 and again in 1991 by Planned Parenthood of Seattle/King County. Use WorldCat.org to find a copy of "Signs for Sexuality" at a library nearest you.

Sexual Sign Language Online Resources

When we want answers, we consult the Internet. A simple Google search will reveal an endless supply of resources, so take advantage of what it has to offer. Visit About.com Deafness to stay up to date with the latest in deaf/hard of hearing culture.

Websites

  • ASLPro.com. This free website offers video signs of thousands of words, as well as religious signs, everyday phrases, and sign language for babies.
  • Handspeak.com. This free site includes video signs, text definitions of words and terms, and details on how to use signs.
  • ASL Browser. In order to watch the the video signs on this website developed at Michigan State University, you need to download the QuickTime plug-in. It also includes text explanations of signs.

Videos

The Described and Captioned Media Program is a nonprofit resource library of educational media that is available to teachers and parents of deaf and blind children.

Their CDs, DVDs and streaming videos can teach you just about anything, including human sexuality sign language. Search for these videos are sure to expand your knowledge:

  • "Technical Signs: Human Sexuality" (Tape 22)
  • "Technical Signs: Human Sexuality" (Tape 28)

You can also find a Technical Signs video about General Anatomy and Physiology on YouTube, another great online resource where you can browse thousands of sign language videos for free.

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