Anyone who knows me has probably heard me rant about the importance of teaching children the proper words when it comes to reproductive anatomy. I find it extremely frustrating when young girls aren’t even given a word for such an important part of their own body, and instead face embarrassment and frustration anytime they need to refer to it.
I was one of these little girls. I very vividly remember not having a word to express that part of my body and it being shrouded in discomfort. Not out of malicious intent of course, my parents are two awesome people who would never want me to feel bad about myself, but I was never taught the proper terms for my vagina or vulva. This led to me making up my own name, one I recently heard a young girl use and I can’t begin to express how I felt when I heard it come out of her mouth – front bum. The reaction to this little girl saying it was that the adults in the room giggled and she, as one might expect, shied away from the conversation and left the room. “How adorable,” “Oh my god,” and uncontrollable laughter were the responses to the real concern that her tights were causing her discomfort in that area. I felt sick because I know exactly how she felt in that moment.
There are many legitimate reasons why a young girl might need these words. Two pretty important ones being if she were experiencing pain, or had been abused (they touched you where?). As I grew older, my options for sources of information also grew and I learned the proper words, but I also learned that it wasn’t okay to use them because why else would we not openly talk about them the way we might talk about our elbows or knees.
I came across this article on the subject and wanted to share a few of its key points:
1. What message does it send to girls when we tell them that they have a body part (a wonderful and important body part) that doesn’t need to have a correct name? That the part is so unimportant that it doesn’t need to have any name?
2. Does this lack of language and inability to talk about vulvas at all make girls feel encouraged to look at their vulvas? To see what their body is all about? Nope. Is it any wonder that many girls and women feel very detached from their vulvas and have trouble talking about them, whether in a medical context or a sexual one?
3. If we don’t have a correct (and universal) language for our bodies, how is it possible to talk about what we want sexually? What feels good? What doesn’t feel good?
4. How are doctors suppose to diagnose or treat us if the term we use to talk about a body part isn’t the actual term?
5. How can we possibly teach children to identify good touch from bad touch when we don’t have a universal and correct language?
6. And what’s the big deal with the word “vulva?” That is its name.
Dr. Logan Levkoff: Sex Education: It’s Called A Vulva.