Dear Vulva

Dear Vulva,

A little story for you- My mum and 4 or 5 year old me, sat in the doctors waiting room-

– Me (Precocious reader)- “Mummy- What’s a Virginia” (How I had pronounced it not how it was spelt- Vagina)

– My Mother (a keen gardner): “Oh um its a type of plant”

– Me (Reading a Canestan leaflet): No mummy it says you need to rub cream in twice a day to solve Virginal Itching. (pronunciation was never my strong point)

– My flustered and embarrassed mother hissing: It’s a woman’s willy!

Now possibly I think my dear old mum should have thought more about the naming of the lady parts before being completely humiliated in the waiting room like that (and as you can see LadyCurd started to feature in my life from a young age ;)) and erm seriously A WOMAN’S WILLY!? Erm No just NO!

The lovely ScribblesFromTheMiddle  is going through this dilemma at the moment with her boys and this led to a discussion on twitter.  Some advocating girls bits, or vagina, or Gina (pronounced as in China not as in Ford ;)) or Yoni (Sanskrit for Vagina), and then there are a whole host of other cutesy euphemistic names (but seriously anyone who calls it “twinkle” automatically makes me think “Twinkle in your Father’s Eye- and then I want to vomit). Personally I love Fanjo but I think that’s an an adult term really (and don’t get me started on the offensive terms for female genitals that somehow carry more venom and offense than the male equivalence- in fact there is another letter in that somewhere- Dear Cock).

Now I have two girls and I am a feminist of sorts and a scientist.  It annoys me how many women are confused by their own body parts and unable to name them properly (not helped by only generally learning the internal not the external female genitals at school etc.)  Now I am not expecting my 2 year old to start realing off Labia Majora, Labia Minora etc but technically when I am talking about “Girls bits” I am talking about Vulvas and not Vaginas  as such, But I am pondering how brave I will be when it comes to naming the parts for my girls. Do I really want them to be the only girls in the playground using the anatomically correct term?  Thinking back to my playground experience- everyone at my school called it a “split” – yuk! I really don’t want my girls to be using offensive names for a part of the body I hope they will learn to love and not be embarrassed or ashamed by.

It annoys me that there is inherent sexism in that little boys can be quite happily taught “penis” as the correct word, and no-one raises an eyebrow, yet naming girls parts causes sniggering and embarrassment. Why? Why are we ashamed of our vulvas and our vaginas? Why can’t we can’t we comfortably say to our little girls in the bath or on the loo- now wash/wipe your vulva? Argh and I was ever so slightly embarrassed even just to type that! How very annoying!

I think I am coming to the conclusion that I am more comfortable with the word Vagina when even though strictly it is anatomically incorrect, it is something I can probably live with. But nargh it will rankle with me AS ITS INCORRECT- I AM TALKING ABOUT A VULVA NOT A VAGINA. Hmmmm.

So anyhow dear Vulva- I am sorry we all seem so utterly embarrassed by your existence we can’t even call you by your proper name.  It is something I am working on addressing and I definitely will be clarifying with my girls once they are old enough to understand and not completely humiliate me in a doctors waiting room or playground.

Lots of love

LadyCurd the euphemistic name for vaginal discharge in cases of thrush

P.S Best Joke Ever:

Have you got a Vulva?

No I drive a Vauxhall.


15 responses to “Dear Vulva

  1. I called it a “gina” when I was little and I was furious at my parents for letting that go on for so long without correcting me.

    My friend (who is Greek), uses the term “pulaki” which literally means “little bird” which I think is delightful but the Danish dad calls it a “numse” which literally means “bum”. When the kid complains of a sore “numse”, I have to ask “foran/bagved” (front/back), so thanks a BUNCH, Søren.

    My kids are going to know “vulva” and sod the social consequences! (Slang terms in Danish for lady gardens are “wee-wee wife”, “duster/polisher”, “cavity/vault” and “something you can touch in a sexy way”.)

    • Yeah the whole front bottom/ back bottom- grrrr! Yeah it’s simply down to a Vulva/Vagina debate in my head now- defo not any of the other terms. I definitely will clarify when older its just which do I start with….. Hmmmmm

      • Vulva, definitely. I have no clear memories of my vagina until I was about seven (when puberty started), but loads of clear memories of my vulva before that.

  2. Ha. kids really don’t understand vulva.
    yr10 :”Miss, why does that sow have balls?”
    Me “It doesn’t have testicles”
    yr10; “Yes, it does, I’m looking at them”
    Me; “No, you are looking at the sows vulva – If moist and enlarged, that would be a sign she is in heat”
    Pretty much the whole class; “Vulva? WTF? Vulva, like the car?”
    Me “No. VulVA – externtal female genitalia”
    Them *giggles* “External what?”
    Me; “What do you young people call girls bit these days, no don’t answer that out loud, that’s the answer to what you are all looking at”

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  5. Itsmotherswork

    I have taught the girls and boys of my family the words vulva and penis, but actually they don’t call a penis a penis generally, they call it a willy; and they don’t call their vulva a vulva they call it a Milly (term invented or appropriated by my oldest when he was my only, now used by them all).
    I’m happy that they know the right words, but also that they have a playground friendly term. Oddly enough, although I’d never heard the word “Milly” used for vulva before my son used it, whenever my children use it, everyone knows what they’re referring to.

  6. We never called it anything when we were young. In fact, my parents never talked to us about sex. A shame, in more ways than one. When I first met my husband, he was uncomfortable with the word “vagina” but I used it so frequently (I’m known for talking about vaginas – the value of this is questionable) that he grew accustomed to it. Recently, I’ve become evangelical about the word “vulva” but he’s not having it. I figure as long as he doesn’t end up calling it “fanny” or nothing a victory has been won for our daughter.

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  10. We called it a tutu when we were younger. When I was giving birth to my first child my mum was with me and was appalled when I said fanny to the midwife…

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