Featured, Parenting

Girl Body Parts Name: 5 reasons vulva is not a dirty word

5 August, 2015

Hey, we’ve all been there, googling Girl Body Parts Name. What on earth do you call your child’s privates? We don’t want to be cute – but we don’t want to have to say vulva, or vagina!

Or do we?

“That woman has a vulva. And that one. She’s got one, probably, and her too. There are vulvas EVERYWHERE.” We were at the pool, in the changing room, and Ramona was quite accurately pointing out that there were vulvas all over the place.  Did I want the slippery, pube littered tiled floor to open up and swallow me? Just a little? Oh Yep. I had taught my daughter the word vulva on purpose… but I wasn’t ready for that.

I’ve come a long way since then, I like to think that these days I would barely bat an eye lid at the word vulva announced loudly across a public place. In fact, now when my children talk about vulvas I am pleased as punch.  (Read more about my sex positive parenting here.)

I read in the news at the weekend about a new entry into the Swedish dictionary “snippa” – a version of “willy” but for girls, because none of the nicknames or the anatomical words seemed to be good enough.

I don’t know Swedish, and despite being a massive, MASSIVE fan of the Dime Bar cake they sell at IKEA,  I can’t comment on how worthy the Swedish version of vulva is.But I do hope we don’t create a new British word for female genitals as VULVA is a beaut. There are many reasons ‘vulva’ should be a part of our vocab, but the very last reason is vital, something every parent needs to know.

I reckon it just needs a campaign team. I’m here and I am stepping up as the Alistair Campbell of Team Vulva.

Vulva is powerful

Would it have been better if Ramona had pointed out all the “minis” or “nonnys” or “fuffs”? I wonder if it would have felt cuter, and I think that’s partly why I feel those are not good words for female genitals. They reduce these powerful parts of a woman to a strange little collection of fairy syllables.

Where as “vulva” – it sounds powerful. Like it could be the entrance way to a portal of intense pleasure and the exit for a ten pound human. Or something.

A mother once told me her child refers to hers as a “Volvo” – which perhaps sums up partly why it feels like a good word- like the car, it is solid, reliable, hard to break. Even by a baby the size of a watermelon. (Okay, it can sometimes feel broken, but nothing that a few stitches, a bag of prunes and a gallon load of birth hormones can’t fix.)

Vulvas themselves are rarely dirty

Sometimes we might be tempted to discourage vulva- exploration because we have a feeling it is genuinely a bit grubby. Well, guess what. The mighty vagina is self-cleansing, and the vulva needs only the most very basic of water washes to keep the whole thing spick and span. (For a funny diagram about not getting the V’s mixed up see here.)  It has the perfect balance of microbes to keep it healthy and clean and in a good environment it will thrive without any effort at all.

One small child I know for a while there would thrust a finger under any nostril and shout YUMMY! It was, of course, laden with vulva microbes. Fortunately the parents knew enough about this stuff to simply explain, without any shame or horror, that “Yummy Finger” was just for her nose.  Little children often know more truth than adults, for a healthy genitalia is designed to smell good- jam packed with appealing pheremones and things.

There really doesn’t have to be any EW GROSS factor about vulvas.

Vulva-talk is natural and an important part of development

Talk of vulvas is rife in our family at the moment- exactly as it should be, according to natural, healthy child development. Intrigue, exploration, play and learning about genitals happens between the ages of three and, well, I guess, forever, really, and these can be precious moments for a child picking up a sense of being okay, of shamelessness, about their private parts and their sexuality.
There was one part of the article about Spinnas that I enjoyed. The creator of it suggested that when parents see their child touching their vulva to “smile encouragingly”- how inspiringly different to world where children are shamed when they show a healthy curiosity about a part of their body.

The origins of the word are perfect 

Do you know “vulva” most likely comes from the Old Latin “volvere” meaning to roll it or, more literally “wrapper”- our vulva is the wrapping on one jolly bonanza of a gift. Women’s bodies are the vessel of humanity! The genesis of generations! Our wombs BIRTH THE FUTURE! And our vulvas are the golden ribbon around the present and the icing on the cake.

Knowing the words “vulva”and “penis” are critical for child sexual abuse prevention

And here is the most important, the really serious case for why “fanny” and “vajay” don’t cut it. People who work in child sexual abuse prevention understand that knowing the anatomical terms for genitals can actually protect children from abuse. It is three pronged- children knowing anatomical terms for private parts usually indicates that there is healthy communication about genitals meaning children are more likely to discuss any scared feelings/ scary situations they experience with their parents or carers. Using these words also deters predators as it shows an understanding, and finally it helps specialists in the aftermath of child sexual abuse as children can accurately describe what happened.

In The Atlantic Laura Palumbo, a prevention specialist with the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), explains how teaching the words vagina, penis and vulva promotes positive body image, self confidence, and parent-child communication; discourages perpetrators; and, in the event of abuse, helps children and adults navigate the disclosure and forensic interview process. 

Stop googling Girl Body Parts Name and get on Team Vulva!
Stop googling Girl Body Parts Name and get on Team Vulva!

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  • Adele @ Circus Queen 5 August, 2015 at 7:38 am

    I was going to blog about this, actually. A few people have been shocked by my 4-year-old’s unashamed use of the word “vulva” recently, which has genuinely surprised me because we’re so used to the word. You’ve said everything I wanted to say far better than I could so I’ll just share this post around instead. 🙂

    • Lucy 5 August, 2015 at 8:31 am

      Yeah, I’ve had a few people shocked too… I actually found myself saying the words “vulva is not a dirty word” last week- hence the post!!!

      • Carolin 6 August, 2015 at 1:11 am

        I don’t get the whole foof stuff either, it’s so important that kids use the correct term – for more than just one reason x

  • Rachel (RooPaprika) 5 August, 2015 at 7:43 am

    All the YESes! In fact my 21 month old can already say ‘penis’ (he doesn’t have a vulva…) You don’t have to wait until they are 3 or 4

  • Rachel (RooPaprika) 5 August, 2015 at 7:43 am

    All the YESes! In fact my 21 month old can already say ‘penis’ (he doesn’t have a vulva…) You don’t have to wait until they are 3 or 4

    • Lucy 5 August, 2015 at 8:14 am

      Absolutely! I think the less deal made of it the better, it is just one of many anatomical terms they will pick up x

  • Jess @ Along Came Cherry 5 August, 2015 at 7:54 am

    Love this Lucy! Totally with you. The other day we were talking about the names vulva and vagina and then Tiger started running around shouting vulvgina, it was most amusing! x

    • Lucy 5 August, 2015 at 8:30 am

      It’s AS IF HE KNEW that vulvovaginal is the anatomical term for the whole system!

  • ThaliaKR 5 August, 2015 at 8:17 am

    Go, Lucy! Brilliant!

    A friend’s toddler daughter once came into the lounge complaining ‘Daddy, my vagina hurts!’ then, brightly and empathetically (and in company): ‘How’s your penis?’


    • Lucy 5 August, 2015 at 8:28 am

      Oh, how perfect!!

  • Kate 5 August, 2015 at 8:48 am

    Last week when asked what bedtime story she wanted, my daughter replied “Vagina Puddleduck”!!

  • Jean 5 August, 2015 at 9:15 am

    Brilliant, love it. As the mum of two girls (now teens) I’ve always used the correct terms for body parts but it does raise eyebrows. And I’ve never understood why all the nicknames for the penis are sort of funny (willy, dick, etc) yet all of the terms for the vagina/vulva are considered highly offensive (twat, c*nt, etc).

  • Boo Roo and Tigger Too 5 August, 2015 at 8:58 pm

    I think most parents have been brought up not to talk about these things and that is why they don’t feel comfortable explaining to their children the correct wording – It’s a shame really as we shouldn’t make the human body so taboo

  • Adi 6 August, 2015 at 12:30 am

    Definitely Team Vulva!
    Crikey -i got a bit more than i bargained for popping in for some happy hair tips 🙂 Loved the post Lucy! I am also quite fond of the Polish c(h)ipka for its cuteness-to-my-ears factor, but Vulva sounds like a Goddess. Viva la Vulva!

    • Lucy 6 August, 2015 at 1:03 am

      Hahahah you sure did! Love it- Viva La Vulva!!!

  • Mammasaurus 6 August, 2015 at 12:42 am

    Food for thought Lucy, food for thought, maybe my vajaja days are behind me…

  • Madeleine 6 August, 2015 at 2:02 am

    As a swed, here comes some info about snippa/vulva. Vulva is actually a part of the swedish language. Most think it sounds clinical though. Snippa is a counterpart to boy’s snopp. It did not exist in the 90’s when I grew up but now its commonly used. It is a huge progress from words like mouse (mus) which was the common word when I was a kid. I can still remember my mum and me sitting around trying to find a better word but we did not come up with one. The inventor if snippa is a genius! New fun words that has come up is hen (when you dont know the gender of someone or you dont define yourself as either male/female) and onna (female masturbation). I am so glad for my sons generation. They will have a vocubalary that will greatly improve their confidence in their bodies. Oh lastly I got to show this song. Its from a kids programme and it is fantastic!

    • Lucy 6 August, 2015 at 5:42 am

      So great to hear from you! I loooove the word hen- and that is a word I think needs to be created!

  • Pinkoddy 6 August, 2015 at 7:19 am

    What a very powerful post.

  • Emma 6 August, 2015 at 7:52 am

    so good and so important. I am one for correct names too. I asked my sixth formers once and it was crazy what some of them had grown up calling our reproductive organs.

  • Helen 7 August, 2015 at 9:37 am

    I agree with your thoughts completely! Great blog!

  • Abi 7 August, 2015 at 10:32 am

    Brilliant x

  • Otilia 7 August, 2015 at 6:44 pm

    You are right! Why should we invent new words to describe our bits? Vulva is not an embarrassing word!

  • Michelle Twin Mum 8 August, 2015 at 6:29 am

    Ok, you definitley sold it to me with that last paragraph. I’ll have a hcat with the girls about their vulvas! Miich x

  • Cathy 10 August, 2015 at 2:43 am

    We’ve always gone with ‘fanny’ which has recently been abbreviated to ‘anny’. I have been thinking we need to start using the correct name. They do know vagina, but not vulva.

    They also know their own vulvas very, very well. It has surprised me actually how uncomfortable I feel at my three-year-old’s delight in her own genitals. I’ve always been fine about them having a good old play but she’s started getting a bit more intent, doing it for longer and to my surprise I do feel a bit squeamish.

    I hope it doesn’t show – I try not to let it show, and keep reminding myself it’s fine, normal and healthy and entirely MY problem and not hers.

    We talk about how it’s nice to play with our fannies but it’s something that we do in private.

  • Michelle 14 August, 2015 at 1:17 am

    I don’t think I’ve read the word vulva so many times in one piece of writing in my life! When I was a kid we called it “the front bum” Criiiiiiiinge!

  • Siobhan 18 August, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    Anybody clicked on Madeleine’s YouTube link? Imagine singing genitals on cbeebies! I love the granny vulva especially…

  • Angela 30 September, 2015 at 11:16 pm

    When my daughter was 4 she announced to a crowded bus load of people that her vulva tickled when the bus rode over the speed bump. Made me laugh and blush.

  • Fiona @ Free Range Chick 25 October, 2015 at 5:34 am

    I am the only vulva owner in my family of four, so it isn’t a word that we use a lot. Penis is everywhere though. I’m sure it’s on their minds, it’s usually in their hands and they are frequently saying the word. I have taught them the word ‘vagina’, which usually turns into ‘gina’, but it is rarely discussed.

    LOVE this post. Oh, and by the way, my husband is as well-versed with all of these words as me – I was mostly referring to my 2 and 3-year old sons!

  • Nadine 26 October, 2015 at 9:14 am

    Our two year old is obsessed with penises and vaginas (I know, we’ve taught her the wrong V), which she refers to as teamis and jima!

    I’ve no problem with her discussing who has what, for all the reasons you’ve outlined in your post. It’s funny though, even though I’ve explained the reasoning to one set of grandparents, they baulk when she says either, and will refer to them as the “V word” or “P word” instead *sigh* I’m hoping they’ll come round.

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