Woman! Know thy bits!

A post I wrote when musing on the fact that I spent much of my childhood not even knowing what I had down below – and I’m still not sure what all of it’s called!

So, I’m not sure what my vulva is. And I’m not sure I care. I mean, it’d be nice to know, I guess. But really, unless there’s something seriously wrong with it, I’m no more motivated to do my research on this than I am to study the intricate workings of my bowels.*

Obviously I’m not a complete ignoramus about what goes on “down below”. I’ve had sex, I’ve had children, and as far as I’m aware, everything seems to be in good working order. I just don’t need to know how to name each bit. Come to think of it, I’m like that with towns. I can live somewhere for years and years and never know the names of the streets. It’s like “that place near Tesco’s” or “that place that feels ace when you rub it”. I don’t need any more information than that.

There is of course a basic level of knowledge a girl ought to have. My own mother was not keen on imparting it to me so I was nine years old before I even knew I had a vagina. A classmate revealed it to me while we were queuing up to bat in a game of rounders.** We both got ourselves caught out on purpose so we could spend the rest of the afternoon on the playing fields talking about it. The actual word she used wasn’t “vagina” – it was the somewhat less commonly-used “baby hole”, which is either cute and innocent, or the kind of thing you’d expect to hear from a gangsta rapper – “yo, who dat been in yo baby hole, ho?” (rapper pastiche not being my forte).  I have no idea when I finally came across the word “vagina”, but I know that for years I thought it was pronounced “vag-inna” (I sort of still do; it’s everyone else who’s wrong).

My sons are very conscious of each having a penis – sometimes a little too conscious for polite society, I fear. There was a brief phase when Eldest got the words for “belly button” and “willy” mixed up, which did lead to some hairy moments when out and about with his dad (“Daddy, will you do that thing when you blow a raspberry on my willy?” “Er, no son, I think I won’t”). But anyhow, that’s all been cleared up, thankfully without the need for Daddy to go to prison, and Eldest and Youngest are now under no illusions about what bits go where.

I think it was Freud who, with respect to female genitalia, merely commented that “a hole is a hole” (“ein Loch ist ein Loch” – I prefer the English as “Loch” sounds ruddy enormous). Anyhow, Freud was a complete cock (he’d probably appreciate being called that, too). But it’s the ongoing cultural dominance of attitudes such as this – the penis is real, the cunt is “a nothing” – that does make me aware of the need for young women in particular to be more aware of their own bodies. I can see the need for consciousness-raising in the form of plays such as The Vagina Monologues (which I have neither seen nor read, so let’s just skim over that quickly). But – and this is where the justification for my own ignorance comes into it – I don’t see any pressing need to go into the finer details of female genitalia, the flowery flappy bits, as it were.

I’m sorted on vagina and clitoris, thank you. As for the rest – well, I know there are outer and inner lips, also known as labia majora and minora (actually, now I’m writing this, I realise I’m better at this than I thought! Go me!). But I haven’t a clue where the vulva comes into it – is it another word for one set of lips? Is it both of them? Neither? I just don’t know (and yes, I know about Wikipedia and anatomy books. But I’m interested in my own lack of motivation to find out).

Some women are of course really interested in how it all looks down there, waxing themselves bare and having the odd vajazzle (I have no idea how a vajazzle works. Is it just sticking glittery stuff on? Why doesn’t it just come off when you wipe your bum?). Of course, people who don’t go for all this fanny window-dressing tend to get quite sneery about it. It’s all a bit TOWIE, a bit wannabe porn star. Naturally the sneering is directed at the women, never the culture that surrounds them. Even so, I suspect any female celebrity who ventures out with the odd pube sticking out of her bikini bottoms will be absolutely slaughtered these days, so you can’t win. It’s all a bit depressing. I wonder if nine-year-old girls queuing up in PE have really moved on. Do they still discuss “baby holes”, or is it now the advantages of the Brazilian over the Hollywood?

Anyhow, I’d better stop writing this now because I need to head for a wee. I could always have a brief inspection while I’m at it. But alas, I’m not quite sure what I’d be looking for.

*Of course, I am a nice, middle-class lady so I don’t really have bowels.

** The existence of the vagina, not her actual vagina.

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4 Responses to Woman! Know thy bits!

  1. etellerandet says:

    My bits were broken from early childhood so I edu-ma-cated myself on everything about them so I could get fixed. I now know where the Bartholin and Skene glands are, I can identify the posterior forchette, what was called the hymen but is now called the corona, the vestibule, the utrethra meatus. I have read Vagina Monologues and I was not impressed.

    For all the bloody good it did me, though, I wish I never bothered. If you DARE say any of these words to a doctor, they will immediately treat you like a nutter. I am not even sure if they know which part I am referring to… I tend to get the “diagnosis” that I am obsessing about my excruciating skin condition and brought it all on myself.

    If I play dumb for their convenience, then they ask me “is your vagina like an uncharted territory for you?” or “you should try to relax more”.

    There’s an Embarrassing Bodies episode about the vulva in which a passing acquaintance of mine examines her own vulva before the camera. I really should have checked the film before I showed it to my Y9s and squeaked “I KNOW HER!” shortly before she fwapped it all out.

  2. dillytante says:

    Good post. I have always defended myself against the “we use the proper names for our children’s genitalia” by saying that it doesn’t matter what they call it, as long as they are comfortable talking about it. That said I have succumbed to middle class peer pressure and started teaching DD1 “vulva”. “Front bottom” was just getting a bit too confusing!

    • glosswitch says:

      “Vulva” always sounds a bit too much like “vulgar” to me. Or “vulgar” sounds too much like “vulva” – one of the two… But perhaps if I had girls I would use it (at the moment my boys seem to call their willies “wellies” – unfortunately Daddy also taught them the phrase “welly wanging”, which I fear can lead to no good).

      • LadyCurd says:

        Haha as a kid sport’s day for me included “willy wanking” and I wondered why I kept getting told off. It’s welly wanging LadyCurd!

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