2.20.2007

The Vagina Dialogues

The other night, I was putting lotion on Thalia during a diaper change when she grabbed her genitals and said, "butt!"

"No, honey," I corrected. "That's your vagina."

Cough.

Gulp.

Eep.

Deep breath in...

Exhale.

Phew.

It was hard. Harder than I thought. Which makes no sense at all, if you know me. I was raised with an open, liberal, communicative mom, the kind who said vagina and penis the way other moms might say peanut butter and jelly. All things reproductive and anatomical were discussed in our home with acute candor; let's just say my mother felt absolutely no hesitation in handing ob tampons out at my eighth birthday party so that my friends could dunk them in water and see what happens.

(Okay, there's a little more to the story than that--as a weird pre-adolescent tradition, we used to hand the giggling birthday girl a tampon under the table, freshly purchased from the vending machine in the ladies' room at the Ground Round. My mother's response, upon seeing that faded mint-green box in my hands at the restaurant was, why pay for a quarter for it when we have them free at home?)

I am the type of woman who can sit in a business meeting and blurt out, "Ow! The baby's kicking my cervix!" And while my coworkers (and Fun Mike in particular) may blush, I do not.

So why was disgorging that word from my lips so hard? And why did I wait a whole 19.5 months to get a move-on in the arena of naming the girl bits in the first place? Whatever the reason, I'm trying to get past it, pronto, because I don't think there's an up side to my discomfort with it, however small and however inadvertent it might be.

Here's a start:

VAGINA VAGINA VAGINA.

See the lengths to which I'll go for my kid?

Yes, I could call it kitty or whatever parents are calling such things these days. It might even be more comfortable for me at first. But I just don't know what good can come of euphemisms exactly. Does calling the play The Hooha Monologues somehow make a vagina less...I don't know. Real? I just imagine all these church lady types sticking their fingers in their ears, squeezing their eyes real tight and squealing, "make it go away! Make it go away!" As if denying the word long enough might somehow lead their actual vaginas to mercifully cease existing as well.

How do we instill in our daughters that a vagina is nothing to be ashamed about, if we're ashamed to even say the word in the first place? Don't girls have a hard enough time with their bodies as it is?

Then, right as this whole topic was unfolding in my mind, a new story cropped up, one that gives me some hope in a backwards logic sort of way.

For it seems that this pattern of censorship and semantic substitution is not some sort of anti-female conspiracy at all, but an equal opportunity witch hunt against all medically correct descriptions of body parts, both male and female.

Apparently ten year-olds should not read books, even Newbery award-winning books like The Higher Power of Lucky, that mention, in an entirely appropriate context, such things as...

(Church ladies feel free to click elsewhere now. Right now! This very minute!)

scrotums.

Better to call them balls, I say.

Apparently the heroine of the book, a ten year-old girl, wonders what it means when she overhears that a dog was bit in the scrotum by a snake.

Collective gasps ensue.

What exactly is the hangup here? Yours? Mine? That of the librarian quoted in the Times article who said, "I don't think [I] want to do that vocabulary lesson" in explaining why her library won't be carrying the book?

Are we afraid that there's something inherently adult about having anything beyond a "pee pee hole" or a "dingdong?" Are we nervous that if children know the real word for their organs that they'll put them to use in nefarious ways? Or is it really about us and not our kids at all, an underlying fear that we'll be kicked out of the Junior League if suddenly word gets out that little Olivia blurted out PENIS during a hot game of Ring-Around-the-Rosie at playgroup.

Let's also remember that in the case of the book, it's a dog we're talking about here. A dog. And a dog's scrotum, as we all know, is not exactly tucked into his BVDs out of the sight of impressionable children.

"I don't want to do that vocabulary lesson."

Because...

why again?

I don't know.

And so, starting now, we're going to talk about vaginas more often in our house. Maybe not at the dinner table when the great-grandmother comes to visit, but when it's appropriate. If I feel myself deliberately avoiding the word, that's exactly when I'll know it's time to bring it up. Down the road a bit, Thalia will even be able to understand the distinction between the inner parts and the outer parts. But for now she can hardly distinguish her back from her shoulders, so it makes sense to me that we're starting with a single world.

(Also down the road, though probably not quite so far down, I will have to figure out a better word than "butt" for her butt. There are some things that daddy the comedian teaches Thalia when mommy is at work, and sometimes mommy has to undo them. )

In the end, I just want a daughter who's proud of what she's got, and confident enough to name it when the need arises. I don't want her having to call it a hooha or a chacha or a vajoogee or a Coocooloocoo McGillicuddy.

At least until she has her own blog and needs to work it for laughs.


67 Comments:

Anonymous Peter said...

This post hysterically reminded me of a bit in the sarah silverman program .. name 3 parts of the vagina: labia, felotian tubes .. and the bumpy part :)

so far all is well here with a 2.5 year old boy .. and no way he mistakes his penis for a butt ... but I think us new parent generation can make thinsg better .. as you outlined .. and just give the things names and make no big deal around it ... :)

2/20/07, 7:42 PM  
Blogger Queen of the Universe said...

Please, teach her. And be sure to tell her that her external organs are collectively referred to as a "vulva". "Vagina" is the internal organ. Too many people confuse the terms. Women should be proud of their bodies and know their parts :)

2/20/07, 8:08 PM  
Blogger Karyn said...

You're a rockstar. This makes me grateful for boys; I have no problem saying scrotum.

But in answer to your "why do we have these hangups" - it would help if the medical community, or whoever is in charge of this stuff - would rename the damn organ something else, something that sounds less like a freaking disease, and less icky overall.

2/20/07, 8:18 PM  
Blogger Blog Antagonist said...

Gee...and I thought Georgia had cornered the market on repression driven euphemisms and censorship based on the oh so altruistic need to protect our youth from the evils of sorcery, heathenism and sex words. Oy.

Yeah, it's hard. But you done good.

2/20/07, 8:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am all about using the word vagina! So much so, that my long term boyfriend is annoyed by it. He thinks it sounds gross...he prefers the vagina to be something sexual and the word vagina just takes all the sex appeal away from it. I just can't help it. I much more entertained by using words like vagina, penis, gonads, vulva and the like.

I loved this blog! Thanks for the read!
~M

2/20/07, 8:29 PM  
Anonymous TSM-terrifically superiorily mediocre said...

Deja Vu...big discussion going on at Bitch PhD on this one. Oh, and my blog too.

The short and skinny for my position, which is supportive of the librarian's decision, has nothing to do with my kids knowing about body parts. We're quite open about bodies and parts around here.

If the book is meant for 9-12 year olds, and 5 year olds have access to it, how, as parents, if we do not want our child to read such books until they are old enough, do we limit access? The librarian's answer was to NOT carry the book. No controversy necessary.

Additionally, what man is the author angry at that the poor dog had to be bitten on the SCROTUM by a snake?

2/20/07, 8:43 PM  
Blogger slouching mom said...

I'm with karyn. Vagina is just such an ugly word, and vulva even uglier. Who the hell made those up, anyway? A misogynist, for sure. It's a good thing I don't have girls.

As for 'butt,' we say 'bottom' in our house. So far, so good.

2/20/07, 8:46 PM  
Blogger GIRL'S GONE CHILD said...

Love. This. Post. Love you. And Vaginas.

2/20/07, 9:04 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Chicky said...

I had a hard time saying vagina for the first time in reference to my daughter's... vagina. It does get easier but I don't think I'll ever get over that woman from that Bravo television show about dogs and their crazy owners -

"He bit me on my bagina! On my BAGINA!"

It makes me giggle every time.

2/20/07, 9:06 PM  
Blogger BlogWhore said...

i can barely muster that word during hot love with the mister.

i use the nastier, dirtier words then.

2/20/07, 9:18 PM  
Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said...

Aren't girls fun? I was doing great with Vagina and then got caught up in the 'well vagina is really the inside', so I tried to call it 'vulva'. But, every time I do this, I think of "Mulva" on Seinfeld. Vulva is a tough word for little kids to say too.

Sadly, I need to go look up what a 'scrotum' is. I've just talked about 'penis' and 'testicles' but I must be missing something on my poor little boy.

2/20/07, 9:43 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Davis said...

When my siblings and I were cleaning out our parents' house last summer, we found several boxes of kids books, one of which contained the (very lame 1970's) sex ed book we all saw as kids. My siblings all laughed when I screamed "OMG, can I HAVE this?!"

Also, my first introduction to the word penis (I was probably 8 or 9) inlcluded the warning, "And don't ever call anyone that."

2/20/07, 9:49 PM  
Blogger Mitzi Green said...

i'm one of the puritan prudes. i try to work the f-word into pretty much every sentence, but i cannot and will not use any of the "technical" terms. just yesterday my husband was saying all manner of nasty things to me trying to get me to say "testes" out loud. no way, dude. no f'ing way.

2/20/07, 10:11 PM  
Anonymous mothergoosemouse said...

Wait 'til she asks to see her vagina. And you comply by standing her up on her changing table in front of the mirror and pointing to the general area.

And I can so relate to Daddy the comedian teaching the children all sorts of funny-but-inappropriate behavior.

2/20/07, 10:16 PM  
Blogger Tracey said...

I haven't started using the word vagina, only because that's NOT what she's grabbing. She's grabbing her female "parts" the whole labia/vulva/collection. It's a big ole collection of terms! And I know that when my son asks how she goes to the bathroom without a penis, he isn't asking about her "vagina", so I just explain that she has a hole that you can't see and that those are her privates. Everyone has privates. But I won't get into silly names for anything. But seriously? WHAT is the name for a woman's urethra exit hole thingy? Huh?? Anyone???

2/20/07, 10:21 PM  
Blogger Vikki said...

We use the real words around here...penis, vulva, vagina, etc. It's always been easy. It was a bit harder when my son started sorting out gender around friends and family by pointing and asking, "So, she has a vagina? And he has a penis?" Vagina, penis, vagina, penis - perhaps it is the duck duck goose of our era.

2/20/07, 10:44 PM  
Anonymous LOD said...

I now want to start a new chain of wholesome, all-American restaurants with lots of ribs and wings and poppers on the menu and call it "Coocooloocoo McGillicuddy's."

2/20/07, 10:54 PM  
Blogger CeCe said...

Thanks to Q.of the Universe. I was going to say the same thing.. "VULVA"

2/20/07, 11:35 PM  
Blogger nonlineargirl said...

I am with you - we are all vagina talk all the time at my house.

Some of your commenters said the same thing people said to me when I wrote about my gal's current "'gina" obsession: that I should have told it her was her vulva. But we can get to details later.

2/20/07, 11:51 PM  
Blogger Lady M said...

Like you said, the one thing that piqued my interest in the tizzy over that book was that it was a male part (even if it was a dog's) that was the issue.

My husband grew up in a medical family so they use very accurate terms. One might have a sore abdomen (not tummy) or an injury on a metatarsal. When someone is careless drinking water and some "goes down the wrong pipe," as most people say it, he says that he "aspirated" the water. I've gotten used to it, and it's quite nice to have the accurate language.

2/20/07, 11:53 PM  
Blogger Maman said...

hmmm, wait until she gets into an inappropriate place and starts talking about her vagina... REALLY LOUDLY! I taught my girls the proper words but I taught them some of the more common words too.. A. so they don't teach every girl in preschool a word that her mommy wasn't ready to learn... and b. so when they were shouting the word for the pudenda aloud for the world to hear... perhaps it would be viewed as nonsense instead of what it really was...

2/21/07, 12:05 AM  
Anonymous laurie said...

nonetheless, back to your blog-bday post of a few weeks ago, we certainly got saddled with a couple of charming words for our bits. vagina? vulva? could those words be any more unpretty? wouldn't ovary be a lovelier (see the similarity?) word for one of them? even cervix is softer sounding.

i don't know. i'm down with calling a spade a spade. but i must confess my desire for the spades to have more fetching names.

2/21/07, 1:04 AM  
Blogger Sunshine said...

I had this episode with my older daughter when she was explaining to me that she had two butts. Told her "vagina", yadda yadda yadda, and it wasn't until hubby helped her got potty a couple days later and in her very loud voice, "DADDY THIS IS A VAGINA" whereas he came out of the bathroom white as a sheet.... because, ya know, he was hoping she'd never figure out she actually HAS a vagina, uh, EVER.

2/21/07, 1:04 AM  
Blogger mo-wo said...

As a librarian I am pretty pissed at that quote. Librarians are there to provide access to the widest possible array of literature in schools.

Love your job for this librarian X and leave the tough stuff, the lessons as you say, to the teachers.

At least that's my policy.

2/21/07, 2:27 AM  
Blogger Queen Haline said...

This is a classic post! Congrats.

It is funny because I, too, have had "problems" talking with Rowan about her private parts - mainly because (as some of your commenters have pointed out) it is not the vagina that she is touching but her external organs (vulva and clitoris) and saying, "That's your clitoris." Or, "That's your vulva" seems so unwieldly somehow. It stopped me in my track - and so eventually I starting saying, "Yes, those are yours!" but not being specific. Perhaps I should just say, "Yes, those are your external female reproductive organs!"

Sometimes knowing too much is a terrible thing...

2/21/07, 6:39 AM  
Blogger Queen Haline said...

Oops... one more thing...

As one of the 8 year-olds who benefited from your mother's openness (I had seen pads but not tampons and had no idea they could grow so big), I just wanted to give a shout-out to Nancy.

The day after your birthday sleep over (after the tampons and after we all practiced making out with our pillows in your attic), my mother caught wind of what had happened and got in on the act, too. She gave me a whole box of tampons and told me to play away! THAT mortified me. It was one thing for my best friend's mother to do it. It was quite another for my own mother to get into the act! I'm not sure I've ever been the same since ;)

2/21/07, 6:46 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I am totally with you on this and glad I have a boy for this specific reason. He can identify his penis the way he identifies his toes. But if he were a girl, I know I wouldn't feel half as comfortable telling him that's called vulva/vagina. Like everyone above me said, it's an icky word for a beautiful thing.

Also, a question: Was the difference between vulva and vagina such a big deal when we were kids? I always heard it referred to generally as a vagina and learned in school about all the different parts. Only recently have I become aware of people making a huge deal about specifying outer/inner. Have people always been such sticklers for precise references to female reproductive organs?

2/21/07, 9:52 AM  
Anonymous Jessica said...

I remember when we brought Stella home from the hospital and it was Daddy's first time changing a poopy diaper. He was and is TOTALLY freaked out about her vagina. I was hovering over his sholder handing him the clean diaper when he says, "Hold on I'm trying to get all this off her (P-word, I can't even type it.) Needless to say we immediatly went over all the appropriate words to call a baby girl's privates. I think he prefers bajingo (from Scrubs). I was so horrified!

2/21/07, 10:23 AM  
Blogger Kelly said...

Oh, you are so amazing. And your mom sounds amazing too.

I did not have quite an open-minded upbringing. We weren't fire and brimstone at mi casa, but things were understated and not really discussed with frankness. I'm not sure all that mattered, though, because I was precocious about doing my own...ahem...research.

Anyway, I kind of swore I wouldn't go all weak-kneed about being honest with my daughter. I wanted her to use the proper names for things, but after stammering out urethra, vagina, and vulva, I was like, God, why couldn't these girl-bits have easier names?

I am inexplicably uncomfortable with it, which has taken me by surprise. And I need to fight against that. Vagina vagina vagina!

2/21/07, 10:48 AM  
Anonymous TB said...

We've been talking overmuch about vaginas, uteri, (uteruses) and cervixes around our house lately. Mostly when I say things exactly like "The baby just stepped on my cervix" or "My uterus hurts" or "My vagina feels funny and not in a comedic way".
As the only woman in our house, I feel I need to represent.
It always makes me feel weird and a little queasy to hear a parent or child refer to their genitals by some cutesy name like pee-pee, or front bottom or peach. But I was just thinking the other day about how we will refer to bodily functions. There's no way that sounds right, the clinical is too clinical and the cutesy is too stupid.

2/21/07, 10:54 AM  
Blogger wwwmama said...

My daughter pulls at her clitoris in the tub and says "see mommy, i have a penis too!"
It makes me cringe, but I try to keep that reaction to myself. We call her butt her "bum bum" and she knows vagina but I'm starting to use vulva interchangeably too. She's too young to know the difference (she's only 2), but eventually she'll get it. I find it so irritating when others can't just give girls the technical terms but have no trouble telling their little boys about their penises!

2/21/07, 11:10 AM  
Blogger movin'mom said...

As you know I have been searching for a new Blog name....maybe I should try and incorporate Vagina in there somewhere.

I can't say that we openly use the body parts language but we don't avoid it either.It seems saying vaginal area is easier then VAGINA.
We just explained to our kids that we use the actual words but some people may gasp at the sounds of these words just as they would if they were to walk around with a bright green head of hair. Instead of Butt you can say bottom, behind, seat, hiney, rumpus, or the technical gluteus maxim-us

2/21/07, 11:56 AM  
Anonymous RookieMom Whitney said...

Just found out I'm having a girl and already anxious about handling this in a healthy way. I'm comforted to hear you are still working on it. I am all about practicing, but haven't started yet. When my son two year old son watches me pee and points to my pubic hair and says "what's that?" I am still unsure of the answer. (That's hair. That's where Mommy pees.) I too was raised with openness, correct terminology, and parents who walked around nude. (Although we did call everything vagina, not specifics on vulva vs labia, etc.)

2/21/07, 12:24 PM  
Blogger PeetsMom said...

Vagina is just an ugly word...no getting around it. I like vulva better, but I'm kind of partial to hoo-ha.

As for banning the book with the word scrotum. WTF??? And to the person who was worried about 5 year olds having access - WTF?? Are you serious???

People in general need to grab their scrotums (and balls) and GET A GRIP! Stand UP for something already!

thanks for your post!!

2/21/07, 1:14 PM  
Blogger jenbc27 said...

True story-When I was at the hospital having my first boy(no vagina's in this house except my own), I had to share a room with another woman who had given birth to a baby girl. Her first child was a boy, so she was unsure how to clean the girl properly.(Ummm yeah, she was a chick and didn't know how to clean a vagina properly? Grosses me out even thinking about what disarray her nether regions may have been in.) ANYHOO...I overheard her ask the nurse how to do it. AND do you know what that nurse said????? She said, "Well, you just open up the lips on her COOCHIE and wipe front to back." My husband about spit out his soda when he heard that. He couldn't believe that a NURSE of all people used such a derogatory term.
In my house, penises are penises and vaginas are vaginas. For the love of peet, they are only 3 and 5. They don't need to know the difference between a vulva, a clitoris or a vagina! A penis makes a boy a boy and a vagina makes a girl a girl.
However, seeing as how my husband was vaginally challenged when I met him, you better believe before my boys grow up and get married, they will know EXACTLY where the clitoris is!!!!!!!!

2/21/07, 1:24 PM  
Blogger Damselfly said...

It might be one thing for a mom to tell her daughter about her vagina, but what am I gonna do when I have to tell my son about his penis?! At least I won't be like my mom -- my little brother called it a toodelum.

2/21/07, 2:31 PM  
Blogger B said...

My two and a half year old was taught vagina but it comes out ja-nine-a.

I am so happy you posted some Georgia O'Keefe instead of this crazy bat!

2/21/07, 2:38 PM  
Blogger Rock the Cradle said...

We used "vulva" when the inevitable question came, since that's the part she was pointing at. At any rate, it's a better sounding word than vagina, and easier to say (so we thought, until the Impling pointed down and piped "GO-fuh!" with a gleeful grin).

I'll never be able to look at gophers in the same way again...

2/21/07, 2:48 PM  
Blogger Jess Riley said...

I heard about that scrotum uproar. Ridiculous. What would they rather call it, wrinklerug? Shrinkyskin?

I bet these people wish we had the anatomy of Barbie & Ken--just smooth, plastic lumps.

Your mom sounds awesome, by the way.

2/21/07, 4:07 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Wow, I'm so loving all these comments - and knowing I'm not alone in trying to sort through all the vaginal madness.

b- that link is gross. I'm pretty open minded but...ew. Just ew.

Lady M - your husband sounds fun at parties.

tsm - I appreciate your perspective and I guess that comes back to my point here: Why exactly don't we want a five year old to know about this? While my knee-jerk reaction is similar, when I force myself to answer the question I just can't. So I'm left to believe there's nothing wrong with it at all. If my kid learns what a scrotum is at 5, I can't see any harm in it.

By the way, the book is based on a true story according to the author, so I don't think she's mad at anyone besides maybe the snake that bit her dog.

The sex of the snake, however, remains in question.

2/21/07, 4:18 PM  
Blogger BOSSY said...

This is nothing. For your consideration Bossy offers this expression taught to her by a British neighbor whose parents were a wee repressed when it came to talking about the female organ: The Front Bottom.

2/21/07, 5:58 PM  
Blogger Jill Urbane, The Mentor Mom said...

Great post! I chose to use anatomically correct terms after working with a little girl that called hers "the chicken." What's left to say...

2/21/07, 7:25 PM  
Blogger gingajoy said...

HEY! see what bossy said?? "front bottom." how i miss that phrase. it's useful and means we don't have to say the nasty V word. (heh).

completely agree, although my boys don;t have front bottoms. they have willies.

2/21/07, 7:56 PM  
Blogger Mocha said...

Much as I'd love to practice all my favorite words that go along with VAGINA here on your blog, dearie, I shall not. For the Gods and Goddesses of spam would surely do you in, albeit in a funny manner.

Still. I get all kinds of joy out of saying those words. Shocking people. And most of all from the reactive expressions of people from a word. Just a word.

Now, if you'll excuse me and my vajayjay, we must be leaving.

2/21/07, 9:56 PM  
Blogger Janice (5 Minutes for Mom) said...

Love the tampon story!

As for the vagina - I find all the "other" words for it more uncomfortable. I mean come on!

My 5 yr old son asked me about where babies come from the other night - and I did my best to stumble through it - I really should have gotten a book I think!

2/22/07, 12:38 AM  
Anonymous Catherine said...

And work it you do! This was nothing short of BRILLIANT. I have three girls, and I STILL find myself saying things like, "wipe the wee-wee from front to back, okay, sweetie?"

Vagina just sounds so.... not cute. But you're right. I really need to get over it already.

2/22/07, 1:10 AM  
Anonymous mrs. Q said...

Vaginas are welcome at our house. I started calling L-man's thingy 'penis' just because that's what it is and pee pee just didn’t fit. And when he grabs at it in the tub and says "peeee-nis", it just cracks me up.

Jamie had a similar conversation with the women at work (I had to remind that, as the boss, he should be careful of such potentially-fatal HR moments). One was annoyed at how parents use the 'real' terms for genitalia just to be PC. Another women says, “Jeez, Barbara. What do you want them to call it? A schlong?” So Jamie is telling me this story at bath time, at which time the baby looks at us both and repeats “schloooong”. Ah, heartwarming family moments,

2/22/07, 8:44 AM  
Anonymous Nancy said...

I have a similarly hard time using the "real" terminology for female parts, though in my case it's because of what Tracey pointed out -- mostly we discuss the parts in terms of the bathroom functions, and technically the vagina/vulva/labia are not part of that process. So sometimes I use the generic term "lady parts" (tm: my husband) and use the more specific term when I'm discussing a specific issue/question. Except I still don't know what to call it when I'm asking her if it hurts when she pees.

I'm too much of a damn literalist...

2/22/07, 10:39 AM  
Blogger Whirlwind said...

Meenie is prone to get rashes because she doesn't always wipe the best. One morning, we were bringing Einey to school and Meenie was crying. We asked what was wrong and she blurts out "my vagina hurts". EIney looks at her and says "what's a vagina?" I guess we skipped that lesson with the oldest and have some catching up to do!

2/22/07, 11:26 AM  
Anonymous Suburban Kamikaze said...

Despite the seemingly endless list of terms for this particular body part, there is unquestionably room in the lexicon for "coocooloocoo McGillicuddy."

I plan to begin using it immediately.

Can somebody get to work on the cocktail recipe?

SK at suburbankamikaze.com

2/22/07, 1:21 PM  
Blogger J said...

I think calling things by their correct names is a swell idea. After I gave birth to Maya, and while I was still in the hospital, my OB/GYN came in and asked me to lay down, because he wanted to check my bottom. I thought he meant my butt, and was checking for hemmoroids. Imagine my shock when I discovered he was checking my vagina & vulva (I also love BAGINA!!!) to see that everything was healing correctly. Weird, huh? My BOTTOM?

2/22/07, 2:22 PM  
Blogger k said...

Two tidbits (heh, I said "bits") to share:

1. not that we didn't otherwise properly identify the vagina as such, but my mom's term for that when in reference to inappropriate skirt lengths?

I just hope you don't bend over -- they'll be able to see all the way to Munchkin Land!

i still love the expression.

2. because of diapers, when i was very young i thought my entire crotch area was called a "rash." my parents joked that they didn't want to unteach that, since certainly if i spent my adolescence referring to my privates as My Rash, boys probably wouldn't be a problem.

2/22/07, 2:24 PM  
Anonymous Leah said...

I think how specific I get with my kids over what parts have what names will be similar to how I'll explain where babies come from--age-appropriate answers that they can understand rather than 100 percent full-disclosure about every last detail of the process. I think "vagina" will suffice for a few years and the more specific language will follow.

(For butt, I'm fond of "tookus." It's important to know accurate language, but it's also important to have fun with it!)

2/22/07, 6:19 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Leah, I LOVE tookus! But I think I always knew it as tuchus. Yiddish great grandma and all.

2/22/07, 6:57 PM  
Blogger Ruth Dynamite said...

I have been nothing but open and honest and vagina and penis from the get-go, and what's so funny is that despite my efforts, my daughter calls her thing a "virginia" and my son calls his a "weenis."

And frankly, the whole thing just cracks me up.

2/22/07, 7:04 PM  
Anonymous Claire said...

Has anybody used different words for a child's hand, foot, head?

If the kid falls and scrapes a knee, do you say, "Oh, dear, you scraped your cookie!"

Or, "Those shoes don't fit on your froofle any more."

I'm probably younger than most of the readers so that might be why I have no problem with saying the proper names

On the other hand, we don't have to exalt the genitals either, it's just another part of the body; if you had body issues growing up, do what you can not to overcompensate on your kid.

2/22/07, 7:14 PM  
Blogger creative-type dad said...

Too funny!

My grandmother had weird names that sounded close to the real thing-

Nipples = Nickels
Penis = Pennies
Vagina = Helena

2/22/07, 7:49 PM  
Anonymous TSM-terrifically superiorily mediocre said...

You asked what is wrong with a 5 year old knowing what a scrotum is.

Nothing! BUT...if I, as a parent, thought there WAS something wrong, it is not anyone else's place to critisize me for it, or provide my child with books that run contrary to my personal belief system. Even if it seems ridiculous to others.

Right? Thankfully, I am SO not that uptight and will probably buy the book for my 9 year old just because.

2/22/07, 8:15 PM  
Blogger tracey said...

My 3 year old daughter pointing to my "area" asked, "What's THAT crotch called?" I answered, "A vagina". My daughters stared a second and said with a scowl, "I don't like vaginas!"
Hmmm.

2/23/07, 2:28 PM  
Blogger soleclaw said...

Wow. I'm pretty sure this is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard in my life (other than the accusations that Harry Potter endorses Satanism).

We'll be using "vagina" and "penis" over here, for sure.

I think that when children are explained to properly what our body parts are and what they're for, they'll be less likely to use their parts "in nefarious ways." The more they know, the more they (and we as parents) can do to prevent potentially dangerous sexual behavior. Calling a penis a "dingdong" is more harmful, in my opinion.

Great discussion!

2/23/07, 3:14 PM  
Blogger Tania (urbanmommy is so 2006) said...

I see things a little differently. For me (and the husband), nicknames are a terms of endearment. We use slang not to hide from the proper names of things, not because we are too affraid to mention certain words or ideas, but because we are a funny, casual household where anything goes and we're okay with all words and all ideas.
I never use the word vagina because it feels medical and sterile and, well, humourless. Unfamiliar. Yo might as well say Ms. Vagina. It is just to formal an address. Uptight, ya know? Penis, too. Cold, detached, proper proper proper. Nothing else in our world is like this (we are not so proper over here) so to use these terms, I feel, conveys an unease, a tension that doesn't really exist for us. Slang translates as friendliness, familiarity, affection. Good things to convey to one's child about her body, no?

Perhaps you choked a little on the word vagina because in the midst of a fun, relaxing little moment between you and your daughter, you got all serious and clinical - technical and detached - and it was THAT, not the word per se, that felt all weird and unlike you.

I know there are plenty of schools of thought that will say slang is a device to talk about things that one finds uneasy, but what-the-fuck-evs.

You are funny and clearly love playing with words. Why do you need to give that up when it comes to this?

2/24/07, 8:30 AM  
Blogger Marketing Mommy said...

Our 2 year old daughter knows all about her vagina (or "gina" as she calls it), but she's much more interested in penises. Just a month ago, we were taking a cab to the airport. "What's your name?" she asked the cabbie. And followed that up with "He has a penis? He has a penis, Mommy? He goes potty?"

And when we got to Grandma & Grandpa's house... "Where is Ganpa?"
"He's taking a shower, honey."
"I can see his penis?"
"Um, no. He needs his privacy."

2/27/07, 11:22 AM  
Blogger MommyWithAttitude said...

I'm partial to chacha, myself, but I'm highly disturbed that there is a TEN year old who allegedly has never heard the word "vagina"?

What is wrong with people... And also, let me just say, I wish I could give a big wet kiss to whomever changed it to hoohas on the marquee. Hilarious and a point well made.

2/28/07, 12:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I vote for "vulva." Or "girl parts" for potty training, as in "wipe your girl parts, wash your hands, etc." I don't think that using "vagina" instead of "vulva" is particularly acceptable. We correct our kids when they call the whole arm an elbow. My two year old now points to his penis and says "boy?" because I tell him I'm cleaning his boy parts when I change his diaper. I tell him that it's his penis and all of him is a boy. Then I point out his hip, and then his belly button (which occasionally I call an umbilicus), and then we're both giggling.

6/15/07, 3:02 AM  
Blogger tiffany said...

you need to read peggy. that's an old post, but it's a good one.

8/14/07, 3:50 AM  
Blogger Just Powers said...

I'm coming to this post a little late (thanks for the link back) but with an 8 month old daughter I am very grateful for the conversation. Just today my chiropractor was telling me a story about his daughter (5ish) and her friends calling each other penis and vagina. He told her if she didn't stop it she would end up in time out...Seemed to me a great way of making sure she thinks penis and vagina are "bad" words.

Our plan around here (much to my husband's chagrin) is to use the correct words. No doubt I will gulp just like you when the time finally comes.

8/15/07, 4:52 PM  
Blogger Arizaphale said...

OK I am still reeling from Coocooloocoo Magillcuddy (was that right???). Too funny
.......and yet, not funny at all.
In my incredibly liberal one parent UK family we referred to anything below the waist as your 'bottom'. Of course daughter needed clarification and at about 5 asked about front, back and middle holes. These seemed sufficiently descriptive monikers for the time being and as I answered all her questions, she seemed satisfied. 7 years later she is sufficiently well adjusted to leap in front of me in the nuddy pants squealing 'furry bottom,furry bottom' in obvious pride and delight at her developing attributes.
I am not sure whether I have created a monster!

8/16/07, 10:30 AM  

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