August 07, 2017

Why Are We Calling It Vagina and Not Vulva?

Even though I paid attention to my sex ed classes, I still call the outer part of the female reproductive system the vagina. When really, what we refer to when we use that word, the part which we can see, is called the vulva. Why is that?

I started calling it that because that’s the most “socially acceptable” term. It’s what I see on commercials, how most women call it when they don’t want to resort to colloquial terms, and also how most men refer to it. Artist Alex Cu-Unjieng explored how we resort to so many names (“flower,” “purse,” “pussy”) for it because there seems to be a sense of fear towards the female genitalia and how there is always a need to censor it unlike penises.

Vice pointed out how society has made it more acceptable to say vagina because it’s linked to how we perceive sexual pleasure. The vaginal opening is just one part of the vulva which includes the clitoris, labia (minor and major), and the urethral opening. When we say vulva, we acknowledge how women are capable and equipped for sexual pleasure. It’s also linked to how some medical books on female anatomy often don’t depict the vulva accurately. “Danish anatomist Casper Bartholin’s illustrations of the female ‘lust organs’ from the 17th century showed the clitoral erectile tissue and the crura similar to the way they’re depicted today. In the 1840s, German anatomist Georg Ludwig Kobelt drew an enlargement of the shaft of the clitoris similar to a penis, as it’s known today. In the 1901 edition of Gray’s Anatomy, the clitoris is labeled and somewhat prominently featured. Then, in the 1948 edition: POOF! The clit disappears in both label and graphic illustration.”

Furthermore, the article talks about how the omission of the vulva is also linked to the refusal of women’s pleasure during sex. Talking about the vulva and using the term freely is being accepting of the fact that women get stimulation from sex. Women deserve to have fun in bed, too! But as most misogynistic narratives go, women shouldn’t derive pleasure from sexual intercourse. The impulse is looked down upon and if  women like to have sex for pleasure, she’s shamed for it. Some women even opt for dry sex. Vice also point out how some women go to the extremes of labiaplasty and genital mutilation.

The fact that women cannot enjoy sex and must be stopped by all means for maximum male sexual benefit and pride is perhaps one of the biggest reasons why we need to keep the conversation of feminism going. Sex is normal and it’s natural. Our bodies are equally equipped for sex as an expression of affection, an activity for pleasure, and as a biological function for reproduction.

Calling the vulva a vagina just shows how certain archaic beliefs have been so ingrained in us. To acknowledge the word is to acknowledge its existence. If we want to keep fighting for sexual equality in and outside the bedroom, call a spade a spade. Recognize a vulva today!

 

Art by Lara Intong

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Related stories:
The Dangers of “Dry Sex” and Why This Practice Exists
An Intimate Cure for a Case of the Uglies
Why Does Religion Assign So Much Guilt Over Sex?

 

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Alex Cu Unjieng, Dry Sex, Female Genitalia, feminism, Sex, ulture, vagina, Vice, Vulva



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