Before we had children we decided that we would call our own and our children’s genitals by their proper name. I didn’t grow up ever saying ‘vulva’ or ‘vagina’ it was called a ‘minnie’ in our house. A ”minnie’? What is that? It meant that going to the doctors, having smear tests, anything that was wrong I felt incredibly uncomfortable talking about. With anyone. If it was mentioned outside of our house it was in hushed tones of “down there”. Why?
I won’t lie, it took a while before I became fully able to say the correct words without feeling like giggling or saying it in a funny voice but having children really helped. Now, hearing pet names for genitals just sounds wrong.
We should be able to go to the doctors and feel comfortable enough to say there is something wrong with our genitals in the same way we might say we have a sore back.
We don’t give pet names to other body parts. An arm is an arm or a foot a foot. A vulva should be a vulva and a penis a penis.
Children need to be given these words without shame or laughter so that they can use them as part of their vocabulary. Alongside this we need to teach them that these are ‘private parts’ and that there are ‘ok touches’ and ‘not ok touches’. We recently bought a book called ‘Let’s Talk about Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends’ by Robie H. Harris and this covers this issue at an age appropriate level (the book says 4-7 but our 2 year old worked through it). If a child is ever in a situation where their body is being touched in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable or in the awful circumstance that they are sexually assaulted, they need to be able to tell someone. They need the words there to begin with.
I firmly believe we owe it to our children to give them ownership of their bodies and that starts with the correct vocabulary of all their body parts.
Our children’s generation need to be the ones to counteract the taboo, to be able to say the correct names of their genitals and know what is and isn’t ok to be touched by strangers, family or friends. We, as parents, can start this by teaching our children the correct vocabulary for these body parts and in doing so, break any stigma attached.