Let’s Talk About the VaginaWhy is it that even as adults we struggle so hard with the names of our genitals? Too many parents don’t teach their children the correct names. The penis may be called a willie, weewee, doodle, little noodle, ding-a-ling, etc. Believe it or not there are over 100 adult names for the penis.
For girls it’s not much better: nooni, woo-woo, mini, muffin, kitty, little girl parts or, worst of all, the front bottom. You’d be surprised how many adult women still refer to their private parts as ‘down there’ when they come to see me.
The word ‘vagina’ first hit the headlines in 1996 when Eve Ensler wrote and starred in a play called The Vagina Monologues, which was staged all over the world and included a successful run in Australia. The play’s recurring theme is the vagina as a tool of female empowerment.
But now, after all those years, just when people are finally – very slowly – getting used to the word vagina, there is another problem. Some academics, educators, feminists and politically correct women are lecturing us that we shouldn’t use the word vagina but rather the word ‘vulva’. We have to be ‘vulva conscious’!
I admit it’s confusing. If you take a mirror and look at your genitals you will see the external organs – the pubic mound, the labia (inner and outer lips), the clitoris and the external openings of the urethra and vagina. And, yes, these outer parts are called the vulva. The vagina is the canal behind the vaginal opening. Is it too much of an assumption to think most people are aware that the vagina is inside the body?
One of the reasons given for this latest lecture is the difficulty women may have when they seek medical help and don’t know how to name the right body part to their GP. I can’t think of many ailments women may suffer from that have to do with the vulva. If they have a pap smear they have an internal vaginal examination. If they suffer from discharge or vaginal infections, or have an STI, they are mostly present inside the vagina.
The only time patients would ask their doctor to check their vulval parts these days is when they believe their labia are too big or ugly and they would like to have labiaplasty. This surgery can have damaging after-effects such as infection, scarring and painful sex; it can even destroy nerve endings and sensory receptors of the labia minora.
When I talk to my clients I only use the words ‘vagina’ and ‘clitoris’. Most heterosexual intercourse is ‘penis-into-vagina’ sex, and there is sex with fingers or toys in the vagina. Most people know where the clitoris is situated. Tampons are put into vaginas. Babies are pushed out of them. I could go on!
So why should we change our language? Now that women are finally getting used to saying the word vagina, why confuse them?