Love & Sex

I Don’t Care What You Call Your Vagina, But Call It Something

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She Who Must Not Be Named no longer.

Earlier this week, college sex columnists Julia Reinstein and Laken Howard discussed sexting semantics on HuffPost Live. Reinstein expressed her distaste for the word "pussy," arguing that — in general — there's no "socially comfortable" word for vagina. "I never feel comfortable describing my vagina in a sexy way," Howard agreed.

I, for one, am oddly fond of the word "vagina," but I nevertheless fully sympathize. In a superficial sense, it's not hard to generate all-purpose euphemisms for the female genitals. Complete this sentence. 

Ow! You kneed me in the ________.

"Cooch." "Snatch." "Vag." Vajay." "Vajajay." "Beaver." "Jacqueline Lee Bouvier." "Fish taco." "Roast beef sandwich." I could do this all day, folks. But I suspect most ladies, like myself, would be loath to whip out any of this goofy, ungainly slang during sex (or even in a sext). Try finishing this sentence.

Baby, lick my ________.

Comparatively, I come up more or less blank. "Pussy" certainly works, as does "clit," though that's a different anatomical story. "Vagina," like "penis," is clinical — something you'd hear in a doctor's office, if not in her bedroom. For me, at least, the overtly pejorative connotations of "cunt" and "twat" have precluded their earnest use as anything but an insult.

In Elizabethan England, "nothing" was a common euphemism for vagina — one William Shakespeare, wonderful perv that he was, used extensively. Realistically, the play might as well have been titled Much Ado About Vaginas. Consider this well-known exchange from Hamlet:

HAMLET: Lady, shall I lie in your lap?
OPHELIA: No, my lord.
HAMLET: I mean, my head upon your lap?
OPHELIA: Ay, my lord.
HAMLET: Do you think I meant country matters?
OPHELIA: I think nothing, my lord.
HAMLET: That's a fair thought to lie between maids' legs.
OPHELIA: What is, my lord?
HAMLET: Nothing.

Modern translation: "Vagina. Vagina? Vagina, vagina, vagina." (See also: "cunt-ry matters."). At that time, a vagina was definitively "no thing" between the legs — the absence of a penis, and nothing more. I think vaginas deserve a lot better. If we're ever to overcome the effects of a culture that instills shame in our language, we must be proactively unashamed in our use of it.

This is why it's important to call our vaginas vaginas. Or pussies, or twats, or whatever-the-hell-you-likes. (I've grown to appreciate "biscuit," the term favored by the Here Comes Honey Boo Boo clan.) Call them something that works for you, and in doing so, take ownership of them. As the Bard himself wrote in Romeo and Juliet, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." What about a rose without one?

Image via Flickr.