Who Does The Voiceover For Your Vagina?
Oh, haven't you heard? Your vagina is now a cartoon character named "Vajayjay."
Not surprisingly, this idiotic wee-wee poo-poo word flew into use after "Grey's Anatomy," pandering to the network standards and practices nannies, had to cut the number of "vagina" mentions in a script.
In the show, a pregnant doctor who'd gone into labor ordered a male intern, "Stop looking at my vajayjay." (Note to those who find themselves short on emetics: "Grey's Anatomy" may be an effective substitute.)
As with so many things that make me hurl, it wasn't long before the word spread like a bad girl's legs...all the way from Jimmy Kimmel to the HuffPo to Oprah. The New York Times Stephanie Rosenbloom was on the warpath for an explanation. My favorite was by linguist and Manhattan Institute senior fellow John H. McWhorter:
“The reason that vajayjay has caught on, I think, is because there is a black — Southern especially — naming tradition, which is to have names like Ray Ray and Boo Boo and things like that,” Dr. McWhorter said. “It sounds warm and familiar and it almost makes the vagina feel like a little cartoon character with eyes that walks around.”
The feminists were predictably concerned:
In a voice-mail message left for a reporter, Gloria Steinem said she hopes the women using vajayjay are doing so because they think it is more descriptive than vagina, not because they are squeamish.
Technically speaking, the vagina is the canal that leads from the uterus to the outside of the body, a fact that has led both Ms. Ensler and Ms. Steinem to write that vagina — while not a word that should be stigmatized — is inadequate because it is not inclusive enough. It does not, they have pointed out, include the labia and clitoris, the nerve-rich locus of a woman’s sexual pleasure. “I’m hoping that the use of this new word is part of the objection to only saying vagina since it doesn’t include all of women’s genitalia, for instance the clitoris, in the way that vulva does,” Ms. Steinem said.
A gynecologist argues for a little more adulthood:
Dr. Carol A. Livoti, a Manhattan obstetrician and gynecologist and an author of “Vaginas: An Owner’s Manual” (Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2004), said vajayjay and other euphemisms and slang offend her and can render women incapable of explaining their symptoms to health professionals. “I think it’s terrible,” Dr. Livoti said. “It’s time to start calling anatomical organs by their anatomical name.
Shonda Rhimes, the creator and exec producer of "Grey's Anatomy" says she fought to use vagina in the script:
“I had written an episode during the second season of ‘Grey’s’ in which we used the word vagina a great many times (perhaps 11),” Ms. Rhimes wrote in an e-mail message. “Now, we’d once used the word penis 17 times in a single episode and no one blinked. But with vagina, the good folks at broadcast standards and practices blinked over and over and over. I think no one is comfortable experiencing the female anatomy out loud — which is a shame considering our anatomy is half the population.”
...“Now, vajayjay’s just a given for me,” Ms. Rhimes said. “It’s a word I use, a word my female friends use, a word I’ve heard women in the grocery store use. I don’t even think about where it came from anymore. It doesn’t belong to me or anyone at the show. It belongs to all women.”
Anybody got any ideas on what we can do to give it back? And while we're at it, what's your favorite non-sickening euphemism for 1. vagina, and 2. penis?
Posted by aalkon at October 28, 2007 11:58 AM
Thanks for asking.
Posted by: Crid at October 28, 2007 1:43 AM
My personal favorite, too. Although I'm also a big fan of "pussy." Standard, but very comfy. But, you forgot the penis euphemism. Hmm...or did you?
Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 28, 2007 4:58 AM
I find the use of words to describe sexual organs and female/male sexual characteristics to be the product of the intense shame instilled in the onwers of the aforementioned parts. Females of our species are brought up to be ashamed of their sexual organs/female sexual characxteristics (vaginas, breasts...) and consequently, can't even bring themselves to say vagina, breast, etc. Just as with shit and shoot, fuck and fudge, damn and darn - humans think it's ok to change the word and it will make the meaning less offensive. Vagina and vajayjay, breasts and hooters, penis and trouser snake....The tragedy is the deeply instilled shame and psychicatric damage it takes to make someone so ashamed of their own bodies that they can't even bring themselves to say the word, vagina.
Posted by: bones at October 28, 2007 6:41 AM
"Cooter" has an interesting history in this sense. Most animals used as metaphors for the vulva are furry and reasonably cute: "pussy," "beaver," "squirrel," French "lapin." Does anyone know others? In ancient Rome, the metaphor is said to have been Latin for "little pig." Cute, maybe, but not furry. How come? Women plucked their pubic hair back then, so a little warm, soft, pink, naked animal made a better image.
"Cooter," borrowed in the American South from an African language, means "turtle," an animal that is not only uncute and unfurry, but cold and hard. It doesn't look like vulva, so it isn't even based on the same rationale as "bearded clam."
Turns out it's not a physical metaphor. In Carribbean folklore turtles are said to be able to copulate for a hundred days at a time. So "cooter" is a tribute to the female's amatory staying power. By the way, in southern Louisiana, the French word "caouanne" replaces "cooter" in both senses.
Posted by: Axman at October 28, 2007 7:08 AM
Nothing special but they do the trick. I have no problem w/ vagina and penis, but there is nothing sexy about a guy whispering dirty things into your ear and having him sound like your goddamn gynecologist. I want some play, not a pelvic exam, thanks. So, people, it's not about "shame" it's about differentiating yourself from memories of having a speculum up your vagina or swab in your penis.
Like, "pussy lips" versus "vulva." "Scrotum" versus "balls." Any questions as to which ones sound less medical?
Posted by: Gretchen at October 28, 2007 7:28 AM
On the other hand, censoring "vagina" and not "penis" is an issue all on its own. Furthermore, "vajayjay" isn't exactly "sexy" sounding either. Why, then, is there a need to implement another set of vagina terms. Medical and sexy terms are enough; why do we need "cutsie" or "safe" terms?
Outside the context of talking dirty in bed, why DO people need to refer to vaginas in "cutsie" terms? Why ARE people offended by vaginas?
Posted by: Gretchen at October 28, 2007 7:32 AM
I despise cutesy names for things where the context clearly supports the use of a straightforward term. It's another symptom of infantilization.
But another thing I hate is the "from x to y to z" construction like: "all the way from Jimmy Kimmel to the HuffPo to Oprah." Especially where the x,y and z are hot, hip, trendy things simply "everyone" is talking about. It's like the writer was told by the editor to work the names in so people will know they are edgy. Of course in the case of Jim, Ari and the "O" lady, there's no danger of giving such an impression.
Posted by: martin at October 28, 2007 7:33 AM
I wonder why it is seen as a necessary part of conversation. I'm not telling you, a stranger or casual acquaintance, anything about me other than that I'm healthy, thank you very much, and I don't want to hear about anything of yours that might be sagging, bagging, itching or leaking. Details rank right up there with pictures of your colonoscopy - oh, is that your multivitamin? Although I would find a display mesmerizing, it would not be a public one.
What about this hints that sexual organs should be a part of everyday concern? Amy, you've already expressed your revulsion for yellow toenails. We know that video professionals are the exception in performance and appearance; the rest of us are mere mortals no one wants to look at (well, except you, Goddess). I just don't find the average Jane or Joe's genitals to be fit for serious conversation.
Meanwhile, here's a list of euphemisms for you, collected by John Bloom (Joe Bob Goes To The Movies): see joebobbriggs.com/list/hooter.txt .
Posted by: Radwaste at October 28, 2007 7:50 AM
> or did you?
Too many contenders. Back when he was new and funny, Robin Williams called his "The Incredible Heat-Seeking Moisture Missile."
> it's not about "shame"
Exactly, and even if it were, shame is underrated. I think it's like the sex roles thing discussed in a nearby post... We're probably doomed to have some insane, slowly-drifting energies about this. Playful names for these things keep ugly truth nearby for when we need it. One day far too soon, your body is going to disappoint you badly, and not just in your underpants. The only species to recognize the wretchedness of this is the only one to make good jokes about it.
Posted by: Crid at October 28, 2007 8:33 AM
What about this hints that sexual organs should be a part of everyday concern?
My personal speech is entirely uncensored and sometimes quite jokey. I don't run around shouting VAGINA! Eve Ensler-style, but I'm completely comfortable using the word. And cock, pussy, penis, balls. And practicing with the parts themselves.
The thing is, while I prefer "pussy" to "vagina," I prefer just about anything to "vajayjay." What's next, you go to the doc and she doesn't ask if you're having regular bowel movements but, "Do you make poo-poo daily?"
Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 28, 2007 8:48 AM
Additional intellectually pretentious but on-point observation stolen brazenly from a recent movie-
"The Aristocrats" is a film from Penn Jillette (loving father of Moxie Crimefighter Jillette and a fabulously clearheaded libertarian.) Basically it was a chance for him to chat up a few dozen fellow comedians. It's a good-humored couple of hours, but the thing you notice as you see all these smiling faces parading by --some fond and others half-remembered-- is that they all look fuckin' old . A good attitude doesn't help you: nobody gets out of here alive.
The best line in the film is from a comedienne named Carrie Snow, speaking of Bob Saget.
SPOILER ALERT, READ NO FURTHER
Once for Hanukkah, he gave me some slim Tampax... He said "Leave 'em out, so guys'll think you're really tight."
Posted by: Crid at October 28, 2007 9:00 AM
What's next, you go to the doc and she doesn't ask if you're having regular bowel movements but, "Do you make poo-poo daily?"
Actually had that experience at a Chinese herbologist's office, asked by a 35 y.o. woman with an MD in Chinese Medicine, who obviously was hanging on to childhood with both hands.
"How's your poo-poo?"
"Why, it's fine, thank you. It's thinking of vacationing in the south of France this year."
Posted by: Gog_Magog_Carpet_Reclaimers at October 28, 2007 9:04 AM
Time, perhaps, to revive a poem written many years ago by a well-respected English poet:
The portions of a woman that appeal to man's depravity
are constructed with considerable care.
What appears to be a simple little cavity
is really an elaborate affair
There's the VULVA, the VAGINA, and the jolly PERINEUM
and the HYMEN, in the case of certain brides.
And lots of little gadgets that you'd love if you could see 'em
The CLITORIS, and other things besides.
So can you tell me why it is that when common people chatter
about the things to which I have referred
They use for such a delicate and complicated matter
such a short and unattractive little word?
Posted by: Stu "El Ingles" Harris at October 28, 2007 10:16 AM
The one I find most amusing is C you next Tuesday. How you get from the most vulgar, basic word for it to an entire cutesie phrase is an entertaining bit of verbal gymnastics.
I agree that vagina" is terribly unsexy, and if I'm talking about it with anyone besides my doctor, I wouldn't use that word. If I'm talking about it at all, it's in the context of sex, so its "pussy". Occasionally, for fun, among my girlfriends it's "bits".
The penis is "cock". Way hotter word for it.
It doesn't seem to me that using "trouser snake" is about shame, by the way.
Posted by: Christina at October 28, 2007 10:19 AM
"Anybody got any ideas on what we can do to give it back?"
Point out that VaJayJay sounds like a drunken celebrity puking her guts out in the back of a stretch limo on YouTube?
Posted by: Steve Daniels at October 28, 2007 10:36 AM
"The only species to ...make good jokes..."
Are you telling me there is another species out there making jokes, even bad ones? It's the squirrels isn't it? Those little fuckers act all cute and the minute your back is turned they gnaw through your brake lines.
Posted by: martin at October 28, 2007 10:41 AM
You mean, The Naughty Bits?
On the furry animal theme, the Norwegians use "mouse." I'm not sure what that is in Norwegian, though.
All too frequently I refer to my favorite member as "rusty."
Posted by: Shawn at October 28, 2007 11:30 AM
Vagina and penis and all the other clinical names are way too, um, clinical. It's not just that we need a euphemism; we need a better name than the clinical one.
Pussy and dick are probably the most common, but both are also (mostly?) used as insults. As dumb as vajayjay sounds, at least it's not an insult. Yet. And it's better than vagina.
But we can and should do better, so how about we steal from one of the masters:
Vagina = Holiest of Holies (stolen from Tarantino)
OK, that's a mouth-full, but ... oh, never mind.
Posted by: Blake at October 28, 2007 12:28 PM
Remember Southpark? "Then the man puts his hoo-hoo-dilly in the woman's cha-cha." For dirty-talking purposes, I'd have to go with cock and pussy. But conversationally, I prefer Mr. Happy and Poo-nanny. As for anatatomical inclusiveness, The Little Man in the Boat, anyone?
Posted by: Allison at October 28, 2007 1:32 PM
Posted by: ramona at October 28, 2007 1:37 PM
All the way from FARK to the Advice Goddess: Cooter crisis in Citrus County
Posted by: jerry at October 28, 2007 2:22 PM
Love that. I'm so immature. I laugh every time I hear "Big Beaver Road," which is a street in Troy, Michigan, even though I grew up there and should be used to it by now.
Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 28, 2007 2:33 PM
Cookie (for women's genitalia).
Posted by: Chocolate Chip Please at October 28, 2007 5:21 PM
From "Grumpy Old Men" taking the skin boat to tuna town.
Posted by: martin at October 28, 2007 5:47 PM
Any time Gloria Steinem gets involved, a little magic dies. Seriously, who cares what anyone calls any body part? When I talk to my Dr., I'm using a different word than when I'm talking to a girlfriend and that's not the same word I use when I talk to my husband. Eve and Glo-Glo need to be stigmatized.
And where is Shonda Rhimes buying groceries? Remind me to avoid that market.
Posted by: KateCoe at October 28, 2007 8:15 PM
Bits as in "bits and pieces".
Posted by: christina at October 28, 2007 8:20 PM
> Any time Gloria Steinem gets
> involved, a little magic dies
Without a cooter to call my own, I've been waiting all day for someone equipped to say that.
> no one is comfortable
> experiencing the female
> anatomy out loud
Shonda should hang out with boys... We're wicked verbal about female anatomy. And violation of our buddy's preferences can give a lot of spice to a romantic pursuit.
Posted by: Crid at October 28, 2007 9:10 PM
Cunt and dick.
"Pussy" and "cock" have always struck me as smug, 1970s-swinger lingo. Men with godawful Robert Reed perms and masses of pubicky chest hair, and gibbering women in big, floppy hats and giant sunglasses, forever sharing their innermost thoughts about themselves.
Love it when a woman uses the C-word to describe her package. It's so butch and un-PC, the language of buccaneers or two-fisted adventuresses who don't give a damn. It flatters me silly when someone like that finds me worthy of her attention.
Posted by: Tom W. at October 29, 2007 12:18 AM
'Cock' and 'pussy' work for me.
The one I find most amusing is C you next Tuesday
Heh. One of the guys in Sol Dog wrote a song for his ex: "Can't Understand Normal Thinking".
It's actually a damn good song.
Posted by: Flynne at October 29, 2007 6:15 AM
Most brilliantly twisted use of a euphemism for the groin was "my front bottom" by Ben Kingsley's psychopath character in the movie 'Sexy Beast'.
(Sir) Ben's usually sewer-mouthed character slyly uses the nursery expression to accuse an airline steward of touching him inappropriately.
Yeah, yeah - I'm stumbling through a movie scene description probably few have seen!
The plot point was his evil character knew that the hideously embarrassed coyness of "my front bottom" would give his accusation far more credibility than saying bluntly that the (blameless) steward had "grabbed my dick".
(90% of this film is totally fabulous - for those who have Netflix)
Posted by: Jody Tresidder at October 29, 2007 7:27 AM
My wife and I get a kick out of saying "massive throbbing member." By the way, I almost choked on my coffee when I read, "Although I'm also a big fan of 'pussy.'" Aren't we all? Though it takes a real woman to admit it.
Posted by: Michael at October 29, 2007 8:28 AM
Ok, my favorite euphemism for penis, is an in-sibling joke. My brother Ed's given name is Richard, which meant that in middle-school, his nickname became Dick, which he hated. So he became Ed. After a particularly nasty fight, my next oldest sib, began using Ed, in place of penis or dick. On occasions when we have been drinking, it has been known to come up, in spite of the fact that we are all (mostly) adults now and far too mature for that sort of thing.
Beyond that, my fave is an old lover's; "Jackhammer of Love." For the female genitals, I'm with Crid, cooter rocks. Though outside discussions about sex, I am pretty much an anatomical correct sort of guy.
This has become especially true since becoming a parent. I want my kids to be comfortable with their bodies. Even more important, I want them to be capable of talking to a doctor about genital anatomy, if it is necessary. My five year old knows the proper terms for the parts of his genitals. Even better, no matter how funny poop and pee are, he doesn't get the giggles when talking about his penis. That which comes out, hilarity, that which it comes out of, just another part of the body, much like ears, nose and toes.
Posted by: DuWayne at October 29, 2007 9:44 AM
shlong, shaft, tube steak or mini-me.
Taco, roast beef curtains, the pink bat.
However I think I'm lacking in maturity for this but I don't like any of the euphemisms for it when used in the sack. I'm not even sure why.
Posted by: vlad at October 29, 2007 10:33 AM
Speaking of anatomy, what’s your pet name for a lady’s perineum? I call it the “chin rest.”
Posted by: Roger at October 29, 2007 10:35 AM
I bet you're very popular with the ladies Roger!!
Posted by: moreta at October 29, 2007 11:32 AM
I like the words cock and pussy, but only in the sack. Outside of that, the topic rarely comes up except with a doctor. The euphamisms that seem to be used in our circle are "woohoo" and everything under the sun for penis.
My son couldn't seem to figure out the word penis and started calling it "weenis" as it was shaped like a weiner. It was hard not to giggle when he said it. Don't know how old your kids are Du Wayne, but mine was good with the body parts until about 8. Since then, he finds both the body parts and the outputs hilarious. I think its the impact of going to school. It's great how much he's learning there....
Posted by: moreta at October 29, 2007 11:44 AM
what's your favorite non-sickening euphemism for 1. vagina, and 2. penis?
1. "The Girl in the Canoe" (Although this may be more of a 'clitoris' thing.
2. "The Dumbstick"
Posted by: RedPretzel in LA at October 29, 2007 1:19 PM
I've always been partial to "vadge". I believe I heard that one on Will and Grace. "Twat" works for me too. It's the one I use to refer to my dog's business.
Is it bad for a gay guy to not have a favorite euphemism for "penis"?
Posted by: Darry at October 29, 2007 1:56 PM
"Penis" and "vagina" are euphemisms already.
Posted by: Framus at October 29, 2007 10:27 PM
When I was playing flag football in college, one of the competing teams was named "Dangling Fury".
Posted by: Allison at October 30, 2007 1:03 PM
If you want to get Elizabethan, as per Chaucer, I think they used the word 'quim' for the female bits. I like 'muff' too.
Posted by: Chrissy at October 31, 2007 8:40 AM
Furry Horse Collar and Cockasaurus Rex.
Posted by: eric at October 31, 2007 10:12 AM
"Mr Happy" and "Mrs Happy", with my sweetie out of the sack, "cock" and "cunt" in the sack (it was "pussy" for a while but that got, I don't know, boring.) But it's odd I feel much more comfortable with various slang words for my guy's genitals than either one of us have for mine. I think it's because pretty much EVERY common slang word for vagina is also a cutting hostile insult.
When I'm talking to anyone else, it's "vagina". Why is that word considered so vulgar? And why can't you say it 17 times in a season when you can say "penis" 17 times an episode?!?! I find that double standard frankly offensive. And "vajayjay" sounds effin' dumb! It's as if the scriptwriter asked his or her 5 year old what to call it. Yeesh! It weally makes me want to frow up! (said in a little baby squeak.)
Posted by: redblues at November 1, 2007 8:41 PM