We’ve all been there, a conversation made unnecessarily awkward because an adult found it too difficult to say Penis or Vagina. I’ve seen it more than once; that moment when they realize mid-sentence they’re going to have to refer to a certain body part, pause slightly, stumble around a few words, and out comes the word “Pancake“. Imagine for a second as this word is spoken, you’re watching and listening to a 5 second slow motion, low-tone mouth, speak each letter; meanwhile everyone else involved in the conversation has this look of “Don’t, Do, It!” And then it’s too late. Some people laugh, others attempt to maintain a calm and calculated demeanor, but the conversation has been derailed and we’re all left unusually hungry with thoughts of hot buttery pancakes.Why do we feel embarrassed to say Penis and Vagina? Is it natural or is it cultural? I believe it’s cultural. From day one, parents assign silly names to their childrens body, and they’re stuck with us through toddler-hood. Eventually we grow up, and because the real terminology has never been used, a conflict is created. On one side of the conflict we have the habitual use of some silly erroneous term, and on the other side we have the true terminology accompanied with shame and embarrassment. I’ve actually heard a parent reference her child’s body parts as “bad parts.” I won’t go into how ridiculous of a statement that is, but this belief that our genitals are shameful and bad is a true anomaly in American parenting culture. And with it, sometimes comes some tragic, and not so tragic consequences.
Some parents think there’s no harm in teaching their children silly terms to use when describing their body parts. Imagine if someone was inappropriately touching your child and they attempt to tell a teacher or guardian that so and so is touching their pancake? It sounds far fetched, but it has actually happened.
Those who teach their children improper body terminology, usually accompany it with shame or embarrassment. In the natural process of self discovery, a child might be told “Stop that!”, or that “Sex is dirty!” In men, this type of shaming can result in the Madonna-whore complex, where later in life he will seek sex with women he perceives to be degraded because he’s been taught that sex is dirty and bad; which gives him excitement he might not otherwise receive from the “Madonna”, being a women he loves or values, such as his wife.
On the lighter side of consequences, there’s embarrasment and humiliation as described in the first paragraph. No person of any age, especially an adult, should start sweating bullets when they’re faced with having to state the name of a body part. A person shouldn’t have to refrain from saying Penis or Vagina because they think it might offend others in the room. If you’re in a room full of people and it’s relevant to state the real names, do it without hesitation. If some people look uncomfortable, good! They more they hear it, the more they’ll begin to realize there’s nothing to be afraid of. Ultimately, the best way we can get over this is to use the real names around our children as early as possible so that we can usher in a new generation of people who don’t fear words.
Religion and Sexuality
In Christianity, sex before marriage is a sin. If your parents grew up in a Christian home in which the idea of sex before marriage was wrong, then it’s not a reach to assume the willingness of your parents to assign false names to your body parts was an attempt to falsify the idea of sex as well. While it might not have been on a conscious level, it certainly appears to have some merit.
A Matter of Logic
A nose is used to smell, eyes are used to see, ears are used to hear and skin is used to touch and protect. Each of these objects have a purpose and we have absolutely no problem telling our children their real names. A penis and a vagina are both a part of that same body, and they both have purpose. Why is it so difficult for us to teach our children their real names and their real purposes? Perhaps for some it’s a matter of religious indoctrination, others it might just be a matter of tradition and repeating cycles.
Whatever the case may be, there is no benefit or excuse for teaching our children improper terminology.