Bring on the Vulva revolution!


Following this post exploring the gendered aspect of naming of the genitals.

@bfaware suggested

Which got me pondering what a Vulva Power salute would look like?

Twitter suggest this?

Vulcan Hand Salute via @BFAware

or this:

Ovarian Gang sign via @Edforchoice

What do you think?

Bring on the Vulva revolution!

Who is with me?

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Using the “proper words” for body parts- a gendered issue?


A year ago I wrote this for the New Statesman and on Tuesday the Sex Education Forum published this blog.

retweeting them yesterday @itsmotherswork asked in response

Which prompted this post as I needed to write a longer response than twitter allows for.

Personally I wouldn’t ever say any word to describe a body part is improper as it is just not a word I use (sounds a bit Victorian!), but obviously there are correct or scientific terms for body parts (penis) then colloquial accepted terms (willy) then slang or offensive terms (cock). That doesn’t mean the latter two are incorrect (if used about the right body part) but depends on context used in.

I have absolutely no objection to “bottom” being used instead of “anus” or “gluteus maximus” or “tummy” being used instead of “abdomen” as words to describe parts of the body for young children, children can build on the scientific terms for body parts as they grow up and tummy and bottom are widely accepted and pretty much universally known in English speaking countries.

I have HUGE OBJECTIONS to the fact that while “Willy” is a perfectly acceptable universal term to use for young children for the penis there absolutely no universal acceptable term for the vulva for children (terms range from the cutesy Fairy, NooNoo, Minnie, Twinkle*  to the rather cool Yoni (sanskrit for Vagina) frankly ick Front Bottom or Split).  This is about erasure of female sexuality, female identity- we are taught from a young age that our body parts are not even deserving of a proper name, they are either to be cutesey or shameful and mustn’t be discussed.  Have to be honest even I as a sex educator initially I was really not keen on the word vulva for a long time but in the absence of a better alternative**  it is what I use with my children***

Nowadays I am totally comfortable with the word vulva but I am 100% sure that the reason the DfE are completely refusing to specify Penis and Vulva and Vagina in the Science National Curriculum is because of a fear of the word vulva. Penis is not the problem. Vulva (and possibly vagina) is. But in the absence of a universal accepted colloquialism for vulva then vulva is what we must use- to do otherwise is a potential route to confusion, worry, stigma and shame.  It is a safeguarding issue not to have a common language of a body part that might be touched inappropriately****. It is also a health issue to be able to talk about where itches or is causing problems and it a sexuality issue about learning to communicate about your own body so that as a sexually active adult you know your body is not a source of sniggering or shame.

So vulva is a proper word- embrace it, say it with me. vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva

*Twinkle  always makes me think of the phrase “twinkle in your father’s eye”- Shudder.

** I decided against vagina as not anatomically correct as refers to the internal genitals.

***Whilst being respectful of any made up slang words they choose to adopt for their own body parts – but must admit I did gently steer away from “front bottom” which was picked up at nursery!

**** I read somewhere about a dad investigated at length by social services after a child was crying about “Daddy hurting my NooNoo”- NooNoo being her toy rabbit he had put in the washing machine- maybe an urban legend but makes a point.

Why are we not educating about the external female genitals including the clitoris?


So yesterday I read this article “Clitoris- most awkward discussion ever” tweeted by @thefworduk and this repsonse tweeted by @Cllr_Rania_Khan,  I realised that as a science teacher whose degree was a large part of reproductive physiology, then this wasn’t something that had ever been missed out of my sessions covering the male and female reproductive tracts.  However it worries me that actually the teaching about the external female genitals including clitoris is not happening in many secondary school classrooms as part of science (or PSHE education).

Now sessions covering the reproductive tract can be covered in both PSHE and Science sessions. In my experience they tend to be covered more in the science lessons and less so in PSHE sessions as anatomy is obviously more the sciencey bit.

I suspect that it maybe argued that the external female genitals don’t have such an important role in the science of reproduction that is why they are omitted from teaching of the topic, however given that I have spoken to grown women who still think they urinate out of their vagina- I do think it is so important that the external genitals are covered to clarify that there are three openings involved- urethra, vagina and anus (and no dear misguided Y7 boy – babies do not come out of your bum). For science teachers wanting to include it in their lessons then here is a simple diagram that you could use (thought I would save you having to navigate  safe searches etc!)

I actually think teachers are so squeamish about including the external female genitals is because diagrams includes the clitoris *gasp* and why are we so squeamish about mentioning the clitoris specifically? After all its a body part like any other?

I know that this is because of the following “THE SOLE (recognised) FUNCTION OF THE CLITORIS IS PLEASURE, IT HAS NO OTHER PURPOSE”.  (for more information and facts about the clitoris than you could ever wish for- check out the wiki page on it, oh and did you know the clitoris has double the number of nerve endings than those found in the penis?)

We are very hung up about talking about sexual pleasure, especially to young people under the age of 16 for obvious reasons.  Therefore we avoid mentioning anything to do with pleasure, but by doing that we are also not teaching women basic anatomy about themselves.  This results in many females I speak to being ashamed to touch themselves to find out what their own pleasure feels like or even to look at their genitals using a handmirror.  😦

“Ladies- It’s your body- you own it and you can explore it however you see fit!”

I think we often don’t talk about female sexual pleasure as it is seen as something to be ashamed of (which is reflected in a culture of slut shaming/stud celebrating) and I do think it really is high time this was started to be addressed.

In a small way this needs to start by bringing back the diagrams of the external female genitals back into the classroom.

If you are a science/PSHE teacher please get in touch if your science/PSHE department has good resources on the external female genitals particularly if they are national ones.  I want to hear examples of good practice.  I am actually tempted to start a bit of a campaign on this one .   If you don’t want to post here I have also started a thread on the TES forums for you here.

Have you got a Vulva? No I drive a Volkswagen.


Am musing on terminology of “women’s bits” given that I came across a very interesting scarleteen article on the artist formerly known as the “hymen” (and henceforth known as the vaginal corona).

You can read it here:

Now as a science teacher originally, it used to drive me wild that when teaching the female reproductive tract, schools often only ever used diagrams of the internal organs.  I always ensured my students learnt about the external female genitals too including the clitoris and labia and explaining the difference between a vulva and a vagina.   It always struck me as so important especially as so many girls don’t appear to realise they have three holes down there! “no love you don’t wee and have a baby out of the same place” Sigh!

But I have to be honest I never realised the hymen was a patriarchal invention and that technically it was the “vaginal corona” . Now I have always explained that contrary to popular belief the “hymen” doesn’t cover the vagina  and that the idea of “cherry popping” wasn’t really true and that sex should never hurt but on the first time someone who is tense may feel discomfort etc etc (solutions being lube and foreplay and being comfortable with partner and 100% ready to have sex etc etc.) so I was a little cross to read this on the likeitis website under “sex”, “does it hurt?” ) “No, Though sex for the first time for a girl can be painful as the penis breaks through the hymen, the hymen is a thin membrane that covers the vagina”.   What!?  This is a well respected Sex Education website. ( Not to mention its heterosexist approach).  but really!  I may have been wrong to call it a hymen and not a vaginal corona but the rest of what I was saying was correct, so come on you sex ed peeps- lets get this right for our girls…..

….Lets talk about the clitoris as the only organ in humans whose function is solely pleasure, lets talk about the vaginal corona and not “hymen breaking” and lets distinguish between vulva and vagina. I mean I am not going all vagina monologues on you and wanting to shout “c***” in the street (that sort of thing could get you fired in a school!) but really we do need to be doing something to educate our girls FACTUALLY about their bodies. And you know what?- we should also be de-stigmatising female masturbation while we are at it.  Maybe then when women know and understand their sexual organs they can reclaim their own bodies as a source of sexual pleasure and to be quite honest I wouldn’t be surprised if that had an impact on unwanted pregnancy and STI rates.

Happy educating.

P.S In the interests of factual accuracy I have to admit I actually drive a Corsa