Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Farewell to Vagina

In Poland, you get a "pochwa"* to work with.
Vagina, vagina, vagina. Nope, still not comfortable saying it.

Oh, we tried. Believe me. But vagina, well, it rankles.

This despite Naomi Wolf's  Vagina: A New Biography becoming a best-seller, thus providing the enjoyable side effect of listening to NPR newscasters having to choke out the word.

This despite the general vindication of Representative Lisa Brown after she was boorishly silenced for saying "vagina" on the Michigan house floor.

And this despite (or, in may case, perhaps because of) my own dear Fight-the-Power mother being involved in a vagina-saying vaginal protest at the Michigan capital. (With t-shirts featuring Statue of Liberty saying "Vagina."  That no one wanted to wear again, ever.)

Yes, we made a valiant stab at vagina, as it were, but it's time to accept that "vagina" is just not gonna happen.

Vaginas get examined and might require special ointments. Vaginas rile overly vigilant feminists when used improperly in place of vulva. Vaginas do not get fucked.

Yes, I covered this breaking news back in 2010 in The Land Down Under, but it delights/pains to tell you that Caitlin Moran did it 8 thousand times better in her Jezebel article Naming a Vagina is Tricky Business. I mean, her bullet points alone!

There is a panoply of slang words that are, in their ways, just as truly awful as "vagina." Let's bullet point!
  • Your sex: sounds like a preemptive attempt to shift blame.
  • Hole: a bad thing that can happen to stockings or tights. My Johnnylulu is a GOOD thing that happens to stockings and tights.
  • Honeypot: inference of imminent presence of bees.
  • Twat: an unpleasant mélange of cow-pat, stupidity, and punching. No.
  • Bush: the band of the same name are tiresome. The vegetation has spiders. No.
  • Vag: sounds like the name of a busybody battleaxe, à la "Barb" and "Val." Suggestion also of chain-smoking Marlboro Lights, and borderline addiction to bingo. No.
So this whole idea of re-claiming "vagina"--well, I feel like we've given it a fair shake. And when it gets down to it--oh, just fucking admit it--no one really likes saying vagina.  Even Eve Ensler, Little Miss Vagina Monologues, wrote "Doesn't matter how many times you say it, it never sounds like a word you want to say."

Saying it more is not going to make anyone more comfortable with the word. Vagina is, and will always be, just too...vaginaey. And I, for one, am still on the lookout for a suitable replacement.


*Hej kretynie, srom pochwa nie jest! (translation from the Polish: Hey, moron, a vagina is not a vulva.)


Silenus said...

Pussy is still slang,but perhaps not so fraught with negativity. I'm as comfortable with that as anything else. Many of my friends are fine with cunt, as hard as that is for people who are not on the cutting edge of the sex positive movement.

Lady J said...

Vagina is one of the few names for this I can say (word prude) and it still sounds wrong. If you find something you like better, let me know. Maybe it'll catch on.

Jen C. said...

Add to all that, the fact that if you're a parent of girls, you're supposed to use the word "vagina" when reference to anatomy is required, instead of a nickname (in our house growing up, it was "poopy" which makes no fucking sense but apparently it's Yiddish, so that explains a lot). And we're supposed to say it matter-of-factly, casually, so our children will theoretically have no hang-ups about the word. "Hang on, let me wipe your vagina before we put on your nighttime diaper." But this won't work. Even my 4-year-old does a comedy routine called "The Vagina Show" because she knows, instinctively, the word borders on satire.

in bed with married women said...

this in via an email subscriber:

"I like 'the good china' or 'downtown dining and entertainment district.

Great post! I giggled out loud at 'vigilant stab.'"

Jill Hamilton said...

Silenus--I'm curious: in the sex positive movement, what is the male counterpart to the pussies and the cunts.

Lady J--I had an awakening at your comment, like when people read a description of Asperger's and think, "That's me!" "Word prude"! That's me!

Jen C.--Is it wrong and creepy of me to say that I want to see The Vagina Show?

in bed with married women said...

And here are some more via an email subscriber.

"As to alternatives to the V-Word, I like 'YaYa'. Then there's the
movie Ted in which the teddy bear says to Lori, 'Don't worry. I'm
not looking at your funny business.'"

Anonymous said...

I've never really been on board with this whole line of discussion on the blog, quite simply because I've never had a problem with the word 'vagina.' Also I'm apparently one of those overeager feminists who corrects people when they say it and mean things that are obviously (to me) not the vagina. But maybe I'm just young and my parents pulled off the whole "it's just a word" thing.

Anonymous said...

oh dear i come from the land of slang for everything and it's not through prudishness or fear of offence that i daren't repeat some of the more colourful phrasings we have for said body part...tis that i don't think i will be adding to the greater knowledge of the world by repeating them...
on a completely different topic i do like the term 'jajowody' for the ovaries....very star wars sounding!

Spiffy McBang said...

I kind of enjoy the way you refer to it as your wang. Using that also creates a gender-neutral genitalia term- who'd have thought it possible?

Erotiblog said...

I kinda like "Furry Purse" myself Jill lol ;)

Mongo, At The Moment said...

C.S. Lewis (of all people to quote), once said in a television interview, "To describe the act of love in detail without resorting to allegory, one is restricted to three choices: The language of the nursery, of the gutter, or the language of science. All are equally unsatisfactory."

That could equally apply to the musical question, "What to say when you want to talk about Vaginas". I don't agree with C.S.'s reference to the gutter, which sounds a little class-conscious; like our clothes, choice of language should be comfortable and is partly a matter of style.

During sex I've used Pussy and Cunt without issue; it depends on who you're with and whether using the word is a turn-on or -off for your partner -- and Talking Dirty is a hitherto unexplored aspect of the "Name That Vagina!" game.

All I know is, right in the middle of some fairly decent, Journeyperson's-level sex, a woman referred to "my Woo-Woo", and only a lack of oxygen because I could barely breathe stopped my laughing.

Molly said...

Technically the word vagina only refers to the internal part of you between the vuvla at the bottom and the cervix at the top. The whole outer structure, that so many people refer to as their vagina is in fact their vuvla.... another terrible word in my opinion.

When I had my daughter and she was old enough to start asking I told her both these word but she adapted them to make her own word that is 'gina (pronounced like the end of the vagina) I rather like it to be honest, it is seems softer and more appropriate.

For me it is my pussy nearly always although I am completely comfortable with cunt too. I hate all the twee words for it though, like woo woo, front bottom, vagjayjay.

Oh and for all your American's out there... in the UK your Fanny is your pussy not your bottom.


Gia said...

Ugh, I hate "your sex." It's just so old fashioned and off to me.

Mrs J said...

I hate all the slang terms for a woman's genitals - none of them seem to apply to me. I find them all offensive or juvenile. And I prefer to keep "cunt" as a swear word to refer to terribly-awful-beyond-description people/things/situations - it's never seemed to have anything to do with genitals to me. I grew up with a "front bottie" and a "back bottie" (which is weird because my parents were very matter of fact, prosaic and down to earth), and then as a more mature person (?!) used to call mine my "girl bits" or "lady parts" (and call my husband's his "boy bits").

Since having had girl children I've managed to get used to the word vagina, and now we use anatomical terms for all the genital areas. We've got to the point where saying "vagina" really is no more odd than saying "elbow" or "ankle".

I don't really see the point in being extremely pedantic about anatomical terms - yeah ok technically your vagina is only the internal bits, but why confuse things for kids. Also, getting comfortable with anatomical terms in any form is better than not at all. And just as a BTW technically, urine comes out the urethra, the opening of which is at the end of the penis (in Men)but you never hear anyone saying anything that anatomically specific. So I reckon we can be forgiven for calling the whole area a vagina.