Written by Sexual Wellness Institute Masters Intern Therapist, Isabel Meyer-Mueller
On a recent trip to the gynecologist, I was asked by a nurse to describe the pain I was experiencing in my “private parts.” Was she talking about my vagina? Labia? Breast? I had no way of knowing. Throughout the conversation, it was unclear if we were communicating about the same body parts because of her vague vocabulary and apparent discomfort talking about genitals. This failure to use anatomically accurate words to describe female genitals has become somewhat ubiquitous, showing itself in conversations with friends and even in a medical setting. Slang words like pussy, vajayjay, downstairs, private parts, crotch, honey pot, and beaver have become universal as a catchall phrase for all parts of female genitalia to the point that many people do not know the difference between the vagina and the vulva. I work with several clients who show embarrassment when I use words like clitoris and instead opt for euphemisms, such as “down there.” In pop culture, we feel comfortable with songs like WAP (Wet Ass Pussy), but rarely hear the word vulva on TV. So you might be wondering, does it matter what words we use to describe our sexual organs? What’s wrong with slang words if it is more comfortable for me?
How sexual slang is wreaking havoc without you even knowing it
In terms of sex therapy, it is important for the client(s) and the therapist to be on the same page about what is going well and what needs improvement related to your sexual experiences. It may be challenging to make progress towards your goals without a basic understanding of your body and knowing how to talk about it with others. Similarly, being able to instruct your partner with detailed information sets you both up for satisfying sexual experiences. Without a shared vocabulary, you may not be able to express exactly how and where you like to be touched. While understanding your sexual anatomy can be an important first step toward more fulfilling sexual experiences, I would argue that knowledge about your own body is essential at an even more basic level. You need to have the vocabulary to describe what part of your body hurts to a doctor. Imagine if you went to the ER with a broken leg and the only word that you had to describe your shin, knee, thigh, and ankle was “limb.” It could be pretty challenging for a doctor to help if there was no way of pinpointing exactly where it hurt. Now imagine you go to the gynecologist, and you only know the word “private parts” to describe everything from your cervix to your clitoris. Again, it would be challenging for a doctor to understand your pain and help alleviate the issue. In order to receive healthcare services and make informed decisions about our bodies, a basic understanding of our reproductive anatomy is essential.
It is not your fault, sexual slang is everywhere
Before we get to the solution, I want to convey to you that this isn’t your fault! Discomfort around talking about genitals, particularly female genitals, is deeply ingrained in our society and starts at a young age. Think about how your parents talked to you when you were growing up and started to show curiosity about your body. I often hear parents tell their children not to touch their “no-no parts” in public, or not to reveal their “private square” to strangers. Although children continue to develop both physically and emotionally, their vocabulary for genitals plateaus with slang words and euphemisms. This is only exacerbated by an abysmal sexual education system that often leaves children with fear of STIs and pregnancies and without a comprehensive understanding of their own bodies and anatomy. Not only does this leave us at a disadvantage in sex therapy and healthcare settings, but it also breeds shame about our bodies. If you can’t name your vagina, how can you expect to accept, appreciate, and even love it?
Tips to improve your sexual lingo!
If you feel uncomfortable using anatomical descriptors, I have some tips for you. First, brush up on your vocabulary! Look at a diagram of a vulva, label what you know, and inquire about the parts that you can’t name. Where is the perineum? What is the mons pubis? Once you feel confident with this new lexicon, try pointing to each of these parts of your own body. Looking in a mirror or feeling with your fingers, identify your labia, your clitoris, and your vaginal opening. No matter how acquainted you feel with your body, there is always more to learn and explore. Next, clarify what you are referring to when you are in conversation with others. If a friend starts talking about washing their “puss,” ask them to elaborate in order to ensure that you understand what they are saying. You can continue to practice in safe places, like in the doctor’s office, with your therapist, and around close friends or family. It will get easier over time. Of course, sexual slang has its place, and I don’t want to discourage anyone from naming their genitals with words that feel fitting. However, I also want to empower everyone to be familiar with all their reproductive body parts in order to be able to make informed decisions about their body, convey information in healthcare settings, and increase satisfaction with sex.
Ready to Increase Your Sexual Comfort and Confidence? Talk with a Sex Therapist in Plymouth, MN
Our sex therapists want to help you address sexual concerns through sex therapy in Minnesota. You can begin t0 overcome problematic sexual behaviors, heal, reconnect and thrive in your relationship through these simple steps:
Other Sexual Wellness and Sex Therapy Services in Minnesota
In addition to sex therapy, our LGBT & polyamory friendly sex therapists provide a wide range of mental health services at our Plymouth, MN counseling office. Other services include therapy around sex and substances, couples therapy & marriage counseling, EFT, evidence-based couples therapy, EMDR & sexual trauma therapy, as well as, teen therapy. In order to help serve the mental health needs of all those living in Minnesota, we also offer online counseling & sex therapy. We also provide a variety of helpful tips on our mental health blog. Please feel free to reach out with questions, or if you would like to schedule an appointment to begin working with a skilled sex therapist! Your sex life can be amazing. Sex therapy can be a part of that process for you.
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