Ladies, We Need to Talk About Our "Vagina" Problem

Why are we so reluctant to call a vagina a vagina?

(Photo: iStock)
(Photo: iStock)

A lot of women dislike the word vagina. In fact, 65 percent of teenagers and women say they don’t like to use vagina or vulva to refer to what they’ve got, according to a survey by the UK women’s cancers charity The Eve Appeal.

Dislike of the word can be a problem given the fact that every woman is in possession of one. Fortunately, some handy euphemisms have cropped up to save women the embarrassment of saying vagina aloud (though it may echo, terrifyingly, in their heads late at night). The most popular euphemisms for your muff also happen to be the cutest: ‘lady parts’ and ‘women’s bits.’ Though I’ve never heard women’s bits used in North America—it feels like the perfect name for a low-fat cereal brand for post-menopausal women, don’t you think?—lady parts is gaining ground here. It’s even been granted indie cred. A few months back, Daily Show co-founder Lizz Winstead launched the women’s reproductive issues website Lady Parts Justice. Sarah Silverman helped promote the launch with a viral video.

While it’s fun coming up with euphemisms for your biscuit (thank you, Mama June), it is pretty silly to think that almost half of young adult women are so embarrassed by the term vagina that they won’t use it at all. Even more troubling: there may be a connection between that embarrassment and a lack of knowledge and initiative when it comes to sexual health. The Eve Appeal survey found that nearly half of the women surveyed couldn’t accurately locate the vagina on an anatomical diagram, and that one-third admitted embarrassment often kept them out of their gyno’s office.

Clearly our collective reluctance to call a vagina a vagina has some significant consequences. It may even suggest that we’re not comfortable with what we’ve been given—that’s it more than the term we dislike, it’s also the thing itself—which is really a shame because we’ve got a lot going on there.

That little doozy can perform miracles.

Perhaps it’s time to play cheerleader for the much-maligned term. My vagina doesn’t really look much like a “part” or a “bit.” It’s got a little more… gravitas than that. If I’m honest, it looks like a… vagina. Furthermore, I’ve never seen a man wince when someone says the word penis. In fact, I’ve seen a stoked fist pump. Even their genital euphemisms (c-ck, d-ck) assume a certain level of adult swagger. There’s no male ‘bits’ or ‘parts,’ but rather a whole ‘package.’

Ladies, we’ve got the whole package, too. It’s called a vagina and it comprises a vulva, a clitoris and so much more. Tell your friends.

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