If you’re like me, you probably grew up in an era when the genitals were imbued with a wonderful sense of mystique. When it came to body parts, an eye was always an eye and a tooth a tooth. When it came to the vagina however, it was a pocket, a pok-pok, a coochie, a pokey or some other slang term, some of which will remain unmentionable in this forum. What these “covert” terms revealed was that our parents and grandparents had a distinct discomfort with the issue of our genitals. They were a mystery to be unravelled, after all they couldn’t even be addressed by their real names!
Fast-forward to the present-day, and not much has changed. We are still very much into coining endearing terms like vajayjay. If we explore the science of naming, we would recognize that names are given to reflect inherent characteristics. They are however as much a reflection of the namer as they are of the named. The name that I choose for my child for instance, may reflect either my language preference, my educational background, my knowledge of other cultures, my lack of knowledge of other cultures, my boldness, my penchant to be different or unfortunately my downright stupidity! I believe that the name we give our genitals on any given day, also says a great deal about our approach to our sexuality.
Women who always call their vagina by its rightful, biological name are perhaps convinced that the vagina should get no special treatment. It is what it is; it does what it does, no questions asked. Such a woman is not necessarily uncomfortable with her sexuality; she just believes that vaginas should get “equal opportunity”.
Cute slang terms like “coochie”, “nooksie”, “poonanny” and the like, suggest a certain playfulness regarding the sex organ (almost right up there with the teddy-bear!) The woman who uses these terms in a specific context understands that her sexuality is not static and may like to diversify her sexual roles. It does not have to mean that she is uneducated or unable to use the biological term (although this is also a distinct possibility). While these terms may have their place in a steamy or playful bedroom setting, they may however appear inappropriate in your OBGYN’s office and may suggest that you haven’t quite “grown up” sexually.
Other more graphic slang terms, which I will fore-go spelling out, may suggest a larger than life view of the sex organ; and this is not necessarily a bad thing. The woman who feels comfortable using the “P” word is perhaps very sexually uninhibited or likes to lay on her sexuality in a fairly thick way. She may understand quite well that she has a vagina but may prefer to “interpret” this in her bedroom in a way that allows her to be a bit more adventurous. She may be big on letting out her “inner tigress”! (And please don’t think that I’m promoting use of any particular name because what you decide to call it, is entirely personal!)
The vague and often used term “down there”, suggests a peculiar discomfort with the sex organ and is often reflective of the woman who has not yet owned her sexuality. It indicates her perception that below her belly button is a dark, mysterious cavern to which she has not yet journeyed. It is an outward (or downward) projection which communicates a negative sexual self-image and reflects an individual who is either conflicted sexually, or detached from her sexual self. (She may also not have a clue as to what the real word is!)
Am I suggesting that there is a “right name” or a “wrong name” when it comes to our sexual organs? Not necessarily; obviously culture and socialization as well as context, and personality will impact on the names we choose or even our comfort and discomfort levels when it comes to acknowledging our sex organs. Even though the male organ carries its own variety of “pet names”, when it comes to the vagina, the sense of mystery surrounding it, is distinct. Perhaps this is because it appears to be well hidden within the body.
All things being considered, however, a name does not have to be fixed or set in stone. Even though the name we choose may be contingent on our “audience”, the fact remains that there is no other body-part that gets this peculiar treatment. It suggests to me that as natural as sex is, our sexuality remains shrouded in ritual. This tells me that sex is no easy walk in the park. There is a distinct difference between brushing our teeth, combing our hair, taking out the trash and having sex; yes all body parts were definitely not created equal!
If as women we are perhaps to overcome some of our inhibitions and discomfort with respect to our sexuality, perhaps we should practice getting a mirror and looking at our best friend (yes, it’s not an enemy). After establishing “eye contact” we should practice positive affirmations which confirm that every delectable inch of us, is “fearfully and wonderfully made”.