Recently, on a bored Friday afternoon, I decided to conduct a small straw poll: what did you call women’s genitals when you were a child?
I asked for two reasons: first, I was bored and wanted some @-replies. Second, I was genuinely curious as to the language surrounding the issue, especially considering that the male answer is the near-ubiquitous “willy”.
From my highly scientific survey, childhood euphemisms for cunt seem to fall into four major groups:
The ridiculous: nou-nou, fanny, twinkle, foof, minnie, and similar. Words that one cannot say without a giggle; silly and frivolous words that one could equally use to describe the remote control or other household items with temporarily-forgotten names.
The clinical: the supposedly-correct ‘vagina’ or the more accurate ‘vulva’. I had an acquaintance at school who said ‘vulva’. At six years old, I found it absurdly clinical.
The cultural: I used what is apparently a rather rude Greek word: pouto. Perhaps it was foreshadowing: it translates as ‘cunt’. Other people from other backgrounds may use a word from a mother’s mother tongue.
The shameful: one of my Twitter correspondents knew children who would say ‘Delilah’. The Freudian connotations are startling. Into this category, I would also place what emerged as the clear winner in the straw poll: ‘tuppence’. I cannot think of any anatomical reason why the female genitals would resemble a 2p coin, so the reason must buy into the transaction model of sex. A cunt is worth pennies–two, to be precise–a thing where the ferryman must be paid in order to gain safe passage.
Outside of all of this, and one which made me smile was “willy for boys and billy for girls“, which the submitter found with hindsight presented an “equal but different” approach. Certainly sweet, although somewhat derivative of “willy” and therefore suggestive of a “men as norms, women as other” approach.
A further point of note was the sheer quantity of tweeters who did not ever speak of genitals, particularly female ones.
Even as children, female genitals are surrounded by shame, by sly giggles. As one tweeter put it:
fanny & willy, although as a boy fanny always felt naughtier and ruder.
This was not limited to boys, though. Many women tweeted that they were too embarrassed to say, even as adults.
We are taught to fear cunts. They are as hidden in language as we are supposed to believe they are concealed between our legs. It starts early, with daft squishy words thought to be horribly rude, or with grubby connotations of financial transactions and treacherous sexual power. It is not just the word “cunt” which holds power.
Female genitals are supposed to be secretive, mysterious; euphemised in frivolities and foreign dialect. Shame grows from the mystery–if it is not talked about, how can we ever know that a cunt is nothing to be frightened of? That a cunt is not ruder than a cock? That it’s all just perfectly lovely, non-shameful stuff.
I am not exactly the child-owning sort, but if I had children, I would teach them a rainbow of words, from the unnecessarily-obscene “cunt”, to the absurdly clinical “vulva”, and everything in between. And with that, I would say “there is nothing inherently wrong with cunts. And they’re worth more than 2p”.