One of my problems with my girly-bits was that I didn’t know how to name them, I didn’t know what to call them, even when thinking about them in my head – never mind talking about them. So I just kind of avoided the subject, both in my head and outside of my head.
It’s not that there aren’t any words. We all know lots of words.
Beaver, Bunny, Clitoris / Clit, Coochie, Cunny / Coney, Cunt, Down there, Fanny, Front bum, Gash, Gina, Girl-flower, Girly-bits, Hairy bits, Honey pot, Hot button, Itsy bitsy, Labia (minora and majora), Minge, Mons veneris, Muff, Penny, Privates, Pudendum (lit. “shameful thing”), Pussy, Quim, Slit, Snatch, Tunnel of Love, Twat, Twinkle, Vagina / Vaggie / Vadge, Venus’ mount, Vulva, Witch’s teat, Ya-ya, Yin, Yoni… to name just a few.
But names are important. How can you love a thing called “cunt”? A thing that sounds like an expletive, that sounds like something you hate? How can you love a thing called “vagina”? So cold and medical, it sounds like an infection. How can you love a thing called “Minge”? Minging, mangy, manky, no? And if the alternative is the likes of “girl-flower”, so simpering it makes me want to puke, or “front bum”, so prim it makes me wonder if I have the thing for any particular reason – if these are the alternatives from which we must choose… Is it any wonder we have trouble talking about Those Bits Down There?
So it is important to have a name that makes us comfortable.
And, like the woman in “The Vulva Club” (from the Vagina Monologues), without a name for my down-there whotnots, I found myself unable to really get my head round them. So I bascially ignored it and got on with life.
After all, who needs to have a Relationship with their genitals anyway? Right?
I mean, ignoring your genitals can be a successful life strategy. I managed it for many years and I seem to be OK. But isn’t it better to feel at home in your whole skin, familiar and comfortable and at ease with every single bit of your body? Isn’t there something a little disturbing about the idea of a lurking secret place in your knickers that you Dare Not Think Much About? Not thinking about it in the way we don’t think much about our arms or little toes is fine. But Not Thinking About It in the way that we Do Not Think About the monster in the cupboard, the unpaid bills in the drawer, those frightening ever-closer exams – that’s not fine.
And isn’t it even, dare I say, a healthier option, to know and love our genitals, to keep them healthy, to notice if anything isn’t quite right down there, to be able to call for medical help without embarassment? And – not that I’m much of a one to bang on about sex – I would think a comfortable sense of familiarity with the business end of sexual pleasure has to be a help in that department too. Just saying.
And – for me, at least – having a good name, a name I can love, is the first step towards loving the object named. I couldn’t love a Snatch or a Fanny or a Pudendum. I guess I’m not quite spiritual enough to love a Yoni overmuch. A Twinkle is quite sweet, but my bits are not sweet. They are a bit scary-looking, and I don’t smell like a Honey-pot. A Quim is just too Jackie Collins. “Mons Veneris” just says “dickhead” to me. And “Slit” says American Psycho.
But “vulva”… Vulva… That word, I can roll around in my mouth, turning it over and kissing the soft insides. Vulva. That is the word for me.
It means: the lot, the whole external kit and caboodle. Two sets of labia, complete with furry overcoats; a little secret clitoris surprise, hidden in its hood; and the opening to the vagina, leading as it does to the cervix and hence to the womb and the ovaries beyond.
Its etymology: it comes from the Latin, meaning “womb, female sexual organ, wrapper,” (wrapper!) and has its roots in volvere “to turn, twist, roll, revolve, turn over in the mind,” and other roots hint at twining, netting, roundness, rolling, waving, winding, wrapping, squeezing, spiralling, waltzing, wheeling…
Yes. Vulva. That’s the word for me.