Laissez Faire

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Article #11: Yeah, My Daughter Knows Where Her Clitoris Is And Doesn’t Say Vagina When She Means Vulva

IMG_20150926_095430I know someone must have cringed at the title there, and not because of its length.    The thought of a toddler or kindergartener knowing certain vocabulary sends a lot of people running to wash their ears out with bleach, or clutching their palpitating hearts.

I am not going to lie and say it was easy at first to overcome American prudery on the subject of children and genitalia.   I felt like I was swearing five letter words whenever I said penis and vulva, and was sure that the propriety police would swoop in and fine me for my anatomy infractions.

Americans tend to think everything is about sex when it isn’t.    Even a simple anatomy lesson about things existing on a child’s own body freaks people out.  Some people just skip over the area entirely or make vague references.

Here is your nose, and your chin, and you hand, and your belly, and your knees, and feet!     Sometimes there might be a “down there” or “privates”  or a euphemism like your “tinkle” in the bathtub.  There is no song for “head and shoulders, penis and toes,” and even less likely “head, and shoulders, vulva, and toes”.

Basics:  A Vulva is not a Vagina

I bought the book It’s Not the Stork before my daughter was born for my own reminder and preparation.    We had looked at the pictures from early on and we called a vulva a vulva, and I hoped the book would help her to learn that her vagina was internal and that her vulva had parts.      Unfortunately for my husband, the day my daughter was four and got new brains online and had a new awareness I was at work when she brought her dad the book.       “Why do we even have this book!?”   He complained.       A trooper he was though, and he got through it.

Jokes aside.  This is important stuff.     When my daughter tells me her vulva hurts, I know she doesn’t mean her vagina.    And because she know that her clitoris exists and what a urethra is I can narrow down the issue.   Are her jeans too tight and chafing, or is it a sign of a bladder infection?     We can also talk about body boundaries and autonomy and all those things that I hope will give her to tools to use against predators and even just unwanted hugs.  The same I am doing for my son.  This is not a gender specific subject.

A Girl Needs to Know Her Own Parts

We do have to be more vigilant about naming body parts with our daughters because it is all tucked away.    With a boy, a lot is external and it is very easy for them to see the penis, foreskin, and scrotum. Testicles are not difficult to point out too, and it is more likely a boy will see other penises in passing.  The male anatomy is out there.    A girl needs to see that anatomy book and be handed a mirror and encouraged to have a look even more diligently, because she is not likely to see a vulva flash in the locker room.  It is harder for her to see herself.     It is a shame that in the 21st century there are still adult women who don’t know where their own urethra is, and have little understanding of all the parts of their vulva much less the internal workings of their reproductive organs (like how the cervix moves higher or lower).

It all starts with just calling a vulva a vulva, and a penis a penis.    The more you say it, the more natural it becomes.     Funny names need to be designated for amusing word play, but not to avoid calling a spade a spade.  And “the talk” needs to be an “ongoing conversation beginning with basic anatomical facts”.

I want my children to know these things as easily as they know their way around their toes.

Because Her Anatomy Is Worthy of a Name

Clitoris and vulva are not dirty words, despite the fact that my autocorrect keeps changing them to California and gulag.    I am not making that up!    I find it disturbing that autocorrect doesn’t try to alter scrotum, foreskin, testicles, or anus.      I feel sometimes — a lot of the time — that the female genitalia get erased from conversation and life.  The message makes me uneasy.   Unimportant to name, unimportant to notice, considered weak even though testicles are more vulnerable to injury, and the person with them — by extension — weak and unimportant.  What does this teach my son?

Think about all the times when people mention female anatomy and how often it is used to berate others and call them weak.

I might complain about the ridiculous gender segregation of colors and toys, the endless struggle with knocking back the terms “tom boy” and “mama’s boy” and “girly girl” and “all boy”, and having to balance that out with assuring my children that colors and toys are for everyone and those terms are meaningless and are categories that don’t really exist.    Child’s play compared to this!

How do I deal with a society that wants to erase my daughter’s genitals by omission?

I will start by acknowledging that they are there, and are worthy to be named.    Even if it makes me uncomfortable to type and say clit (see what I did there?)

Go forth my children and make the masses clutch their pearls and reel back from the shock.     Tell them that girls have a clitoris and boys have a penis.

 

 

 

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11 comments on “Article #11: Yeah, My Daughter Knows Where Her Clitoris Is And Doesn’t Say Vagina When She Means Vulva

  1. Susanne
    October 1, 2015

    I have three things to say about this post: Exactly! Bravo! This should be Freshly Pressed!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laissez Faire
      October 1, 2015

      Thank you ! It has been something I have been meaning to blog about while. I am glad it hit a note with you. 😃

      Like

  2. sepultura13
    November 20, 2015

    I say kudos to you – great post!
    🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Beeray
    November 24, 2015

    Brilliant! I didn’t cringe reading your title, I loved it. There is a reason we have specific names for our body parts and I too used the right terms. I may have not gone in depth with it but reading this makes me want to. My toddler know what a vagina is and what a penis is. When she says it, some heads do turn like she had just cursed. Superb article. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laissez Faire
      November 24, 2015

      It can be funny to watch people do a double take. Lol. Children provide endless opportunity to put together words that you never thought would ever meet…like… dude, It’s not a good idea to stick your penis in that monster truck window.

      Like

  4. Rebecca Lovell
    November 27, 2015

    Late to the game but I love this! We have a little girl and I hope we can raise her as smartly as you!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hannah
    November 27, 2015

    You are a mother to be envied! I plan on raising my daughter this way, despite the protests of my mother and my grandmother.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Peregrine
    December 2, 2015

    Hear hear!

    Liked by 1 person

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