You say foofoo...I say vagina...

(48 Posts)
UnknownGnome Sun 07-Apr-13 13:33:17

This may have been done before but it's something I find interesting. It's kind of a thread about a thread, but, more specifically, about a particular way of thinking.

I'm talking about the need to have a cutesy, acceptable word for female genitalia. I've seen the question asked here on MN many times by different people, so it's clear that how we refer to female genitals is a real concern for people these days.

Vagina, vulva and labia seem to cause so much offence that they need to be replaced with minnie, flower, tuppence. Why is it, though? Why is referring to the vagina seen as so shocking to some? Is it a feminist issue? Are we still bringing girls up to feel ashamed of their genitals?

Boys get, in the main, willy or winky. Even penis seems to be accepted in a way that vagina isn't. There is never a thread entitled 'what do you call your son's privates?' because there's no need for it.

I don't intend to point the finger at the person who wrote the thread. The problem isn't with asking the question. The problem is that the question needs to be asked in the first place. What do you think?

elQuintoConyo Sun 07-Apr-13 13:42:54

I live in Spain. We'll be calling DS's penis 'peepee' like everyone else, ditto for little girls. It seems to be a British/American (maybe?) problem.
I hate the cutesy nicknames, too. But I also think 'willy' is too cutesy for boys, just call it your penis.
I think it might be the clinical sound of vulva, labia, vagina that put people off. My DDad once told me, in a park, 'stop touching your fanny', I can't imagine him saying, 'don't touch your vulva' !
Perhaps it's a generational thing? My parents gave us cutesy names, as did their parents, and granparents' parents etc.

Or perhaps it's a way of keeping childhood innocent? To some people, anyway.

I'm not making any sense, am I? I think my short answer should read, 'I don't know!'

BabyMakesTheBellyGoRound Sun 07-Apr-13 13:43:00

I just call it a vagina. I'm aware that it includes vulva and labia and the older DC know each part but for the younger ones its a vagina.

BabyMakesTheBellyGoRound Sun 07-Apr-13 13:44:06

When I was young it was called a fanny.

sallysparrow157 Sun 07-Apr-13 14:04:28

One of the things that bugs me about these kind of threads is that someone always says "we don't give other body parts cutesy nicknames, why should we do it for girls genitalia?"
We do give other body parts nicknames though, both for kids and in general - tummy, belly, bottom, bum, boobies, tootsies (and for that matter collarbone and shoulderblade rather than clavicle and scapula...) - do the little girls who say vagina or vulva also say they have abdominal pain or do they have tummy ache? And if they have tummy ache why is it more acceptable to use a nickname for the abdomen than for the genitalia?
The reasoning that adults outside the family will know what they mean if they use anatomically correct terms is fair enough if you actuall use the anatomically correct terms - uncle billy put his finger in my vagina may mean that uncle billy put sudocrem on her vulva when changing her nappy in the case of a child who calls the whole area a vagina whereas the fully anatomically correct version is far more significant.

SatsukiKusukabe Sun 07-Apr-13 15:57:08

I agree, these threads are just there to ridicule others. I say arsehole, or bum hole even to another adult.. sure if I am speaking about piles to a doctor I may say anus. I'd never say my gludious maximus is sore from my bike, I'd say my bum is sore. yy to belly ache, etc.

UnknownGnome Sun 07-Apr-13 15:58:34

I suppose it's not the words in themselves that are used that bother me. I use 'bits' myself with my dd most of the time. I think it's mainly the negative reactions to the proper terms that bothers me. I couldn't use the words 'vagina' and 'vulva' without cringing until relatively recently so I've deliberately tried to introduce the words to my dcs while they're still young in the hope that they become normal to them.

SatsukiKusukabe Sun 07-Apr-13 15:59:39

my children will learn the proper names for things as they get old enough to pronounce them, but as a family we'll probably still use fanjo and willy.

PipkinsPal Sun 07-Apr-13 16:02:16

When I was little it was a Mary. Now it's a foof. My cousin calls it a toot. I too hate the word tummy, cannot bring myself to use it. It's always been a stomach or belly.

tethersend Sun 07-Apr-13 16:03:14

I haven't labelled it as 'vulva/vagina', not because the word is shocking or offensive, but because it is not used informally in common parlance.

We've gone for 'fanny' as its universally understood yet informal.

SatsukiKusukabe Sun 07-Apr-13 16:04:59

you also can't ignore the fact that vagina and penis are sexual organs and that for parents it does sometimes feel too grown up a word to use about a child. even if it's not a rational feeling.

actually this is a feminist issue. my predictive text just made me save the word vagina. it wasn't saved there already! penis was but it still defaulted to Orbison? confused

sjupes Sun 07-Apr-13 16:05:09

My dd has a 'jyna' basically vagina without the 'va'

ds has a penis/willy/tinky.

UnknownGnome Sun 07-Apr-13 16:06:20

Right, in no way did i intend to ridicule anyone. I genuinely find it interesting that some people find the words vagina and vulva etc difficult or embarrassing to say, more so than penis or anus.

I guess it's not a topic as worthy of discussion as I'd thought.

NeoMaxiZoomDweebie Sun 07-Apr-13 16:09:35

Isn't the current thread already discussing the issue? confused not sure why you've started another!

tethersend Sun 07-Apr-13 16:11:21

I don't think many people do find vagina or vulva difficult or embarrassing to say though.

It's about the formality of the words.

SatsukiKusukabe Sun 07-Apr-13 16:12:03

I think it is because you were talking about usage with children. I think it is a feminist issue that adults feel the word is hard to say. or that adverts don't use proper words etc. I think it's about the context. I'd not be slightly embarrassed to say vagina about a medical issue. to anyone. I'd more likely say fanny in a jokey way though.

spottyparrot Sun 07-Apr-13 16:15:50

I think that vagina and penis are quite medical. That's why people use willy and a random choice of word like foofoo.

It's just the same as people using poo or turd instead of faeces or stools. And wee instead of urine. Most of us are not doctors and use more conversational words.

UnknownGnome Sun 07-Apr-13 16:22:29

I didn't think the thread in aibu was the appropriate place to discuss it. The op simply wanted to know the names that other people use. It raised another issue which I thought was worthy of discussion.

I suppose I wondered whether the problem with adults using the words stems from the cutesy names we're given as children.

ImTooHecsyForYourParty Sun 07-Apr-13 16:25:50

sally. As someone who does argue exactly that, that's actually not quite how it is from my point of view. We don't give other parts of our bodies cutsie fluffy names out of some need to avoid using the medical terms. We don't all have unique or family names for them. We don't decide as parents what we are going to bring our children up to call them. We don't avoid, consciously decide to avoid the names. That approach is unique to the genitals and therefore sets them apart from other parts of the body. There is a difference in attitude and I don't think anyone can pretend otherwise.

tum, tummy, belly etc may not be the medical word, but they are the words that are just commonly used, they come as standard. They are interchangeable. The same person may swap between them or just stick to one. Everyone knows what they mean. Importantly, you don't sit down with your partner and say "ok, what are we going to teach our children to call their abdomen? A booboo or a huggiewoo? In my family, it was always the Pit, shall we do that?" grin

We don't see threads asking what do you call your child's scapula, we call it a foofoo but my next door neighbour calls it a minnie. What do you call yours?

There is also no feeling that the words must be used in place of the medical terms because the medical terms are somehow wrong or too direct, or a bit dirty or too adult or something.

There is no embarrassment about the words. No feeling that they really can't be mentioned in polite company. no other body part has people sit down and debate and decide how or indeed if it should ever be referred to.

So it is different. Whether it's right or wrong, well, we'll all argue about that until the cows come home grin and I don't think anyone has or will ever change anyone else's mind on it grin but it is different.

It comes with an embarrassment that no other body part comes with. And I think there's no need for that. They are just the reproductive parts.

And the parts you wee through.

Which I have always felt to be a small design flaw. grin but never mind.

The only reason there's so much debate and argument about it is because of our attitude towards sex and reproduction. If we were matter of fact about that, we'd be matter of fact about genitals. But we've all got so many hang ups about it all that it really does affect how we feel about our genitals.

tethersend Sun 07-Apr-13 16:26:02

But I don't think that there is a problem with adults saying the words- do you have any examples?

ImTooHecsyForYourParty Sun 07-Apr-13 16:26:44

holy CRAP I waffle on!

Don't bother wading through that if you don't want to. It's not that great anyway. grin

CajaDeLaMemoria Sun 07-Apr-13 16:30:36

Your argument is full of assumptions.

You are assuming that adults don't want to say the words, and assuming that their unwillingness to use the medical terms causes them to use a different word, and assuming that this must be due to embarrassment.

I can't see any evidence for any of that.

meditrina Sun 07-Apr-13 16:31:51

The thread abo the naming of female parts comes up pretty regularly.

What is missing from the lexicon is a parallel term for girls that is equivalent to "willie" (general use, not anatomical/Latinate).

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any real contenders emerging from ordinary use. So I suppose I lament the double standards about talking about male/female body parts that have led to the absence of an adequate female terminology, but still hope that there will one day be unexceptional terms that are genuinely on a par with willie/penis - balls/testicles.

aufaniae Sun 07-Apr-13 16:32:20

The problem for me is that there is an alternative word for "penis", it's "willy". Which sounds fine IMO and is pretty much universally recognised.

There's no universal equivalent for vulva / vagina. And also I've noticed adults even get confused, telling their DDs to call their vulva their vagina!

tethersend Sun 07-Apr-13 16:34:50

Is 'fanny' not universally recognised?

Tethers: ok it's an example from the US, but here's one

UnknownGnome Sun 07-Apr-13 16:35:15

You articulated it better than was able, hecsy!

badguider Sun 07-Apr-13 16:35:17

I don't mind talking about my vagina if I am actually talking about the passage (so talking sex, periods, mooncups, childbirth etc). I find small girls talking about their vagina odd. I guess because they don't really "use" their vagina until puberty. I also guess its because I didn't really come across the word myself until asking about childbirth and periods and sex.

Branleuse Sun 07-Apr-13 16:36:03

The words vagina and vulva and penis are horrible.
I don't see a problem with cutesying them. I also call my navel a bellybutton and my stomach area my tummy.

ImTooHecsyForYourParty Sun 07-Apr-13 16:38:21

Yeah, well, I used about a gazillion more words blush

MN really should ration me. grin

tethersend Sun 07-Apr-13 17:17:14

AKiss, misogyny abounds in US politics- and they don't even know what fanny means wink

ohdobuckup Sun 07-Apr-13 20:06:35

The difference between a Great British Fanny and an American Fanny is a matter of inches but can cause much mirth/embarrassment/legal difficulties.

During the war my mother was being taught by a G.I how to get into a jeep while protecting her modesty, he said " knees together and swing your fanny in first"....much uproar from British nurses. Explanations were given, adjustments to terminology made, order restored.

Incidentally, she also said that for a lot of girls of her generation, they simply had no name at all for their genitals other than "down there", and as trainee nurses were shocked by the facts of life. However,by the time they were nineteen they had seen and attended to things no one should ever have to, and had no problems with the rough and ready terminology used at times.

Where I grew up fanny was equivalent to dick, yes everyone knew it but it's not a word you'd teach your toddler.

TeiTetua Sun 07-Apr-13 23:33:48

Actually I would say that if "willy" is acceptable, then "fanny" should be too. It doesn't have the connotations of "cunt", anyway. If the Americans want to use it with another meaning, let them.

MajaBiene Sun 07-Apr-13 23:39:34

Fanny seems crude in a way that willy doesn't, but it is the best alternative I think. Cunt is totally inappropriate for a child, pussy too sexual, vagina incorrect really for children - it's not the bit you see so generally isn't what they are referring too.

I think we are going for willy & fanny as children's words, penis & vulva/vagina as the correct terms.

qumquat Mon 08-Apr-13 12:46:08

Calling the whole area vagina is just plain WRONG and could lead to all sorts of confusion, as mentioned up thread.

I also think using vagina suggests that the most significant part is the part a man will put his penis in, over and above the parts you wee through or which give you the most sexual pleasure.

FreudiansSlipper Mon 08-Apr-13 21:29:46

I used to call it a tweenie

obviously it was long before the childrens show called the Tweenies

I use the word vagina, cunt, and foofoo depends why I am talking about my vagina and who too

ds calls his penis a willie he knows the correct word is penis as he gets older he will use other words. I would do the same if I had a daughter, probably use peepee

NiceTabard Mon 08-Apr-13 23:22:53

This comes up time and time again.

As a poster upthread said, there is (unfortunately) no female equivalent of "willy" - just nice, friendly, no probs with saying in public, with no connotations.

I don't know what the answer is.
Vagina / vulva - if you're going down the anatomically correct route then you need to differentiate + labia (minora & majora) which is just too much detail for a toddler. I'm not even sure my 5yo knows that things go up inside so vagina seems off and then if you're going to talk about the area & name then they need to know clitoris etc.

So sadly the best we did in this house was "girly bits" which encompasses all of the above, well, bits, which can be named individually later.

Thinking about it surely it's not quite right to teach "vagina" when actually most little girls will be unaware of the vagina bit and only aware of the labia minor and major or whatever it is and the clitoris???

badguider Tue 09-Apr-13 18:54:38

vulva includes both sets of labia and clitoris and openings of urethra and vagina so actually performs the same role as 'bits' or 'genitals'.

fwif i usually use 'bits' for general conversation where it doesn't matter exactly which bit i mean.

Xenia Thu 11-Apr-13 10:47:26

Medical family here on the whole so we have always used with my children and the generation before vagina, vulva, penis etc. In our family from about 2 or 3 children are saying and I hope knowing the difference between vagina and vulva. |They might see mummy putting in a tampax and the conversation would be along the lines of mummy is putting it into her vagina or having their bath and be drying their vulva.

Ridersofthestorm Thu 11-Apr-13 10:54:09

I just call it 'me bits' grin

IncrediblePhatTheInnkeepersCat Thu 11-Apr-13 22:22:06

My Gran calls it her nether regions. She was surprised when doing a crossword that nether regions was another word for Hell!

I've never liked fanny. I do like the suggestion of jyna up thread. Close enough to vagina without being too clinical-sounding.

YonilyDevotedToYou Thu 11-Apr-13 22:24:27

(quietly) couldn't you just call it a Yoni?

<slinks off>

HullMum Fri 12-Apr-13 16:59:25

damn you! I came in here to say that!

forcednamechange1 Sat 13-Apr-13 04:49:19

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runningforthebusinheels Sat 13-Apr-13 15:00:35


grumpyinthemorning Tue 16-Apr-13 13:55:08

I call mine Robert...

HungryClocksGoBackFourSeconds Tue 16-Apr-13 21:48:37

How do people feel about simplifying it and just using 'genitals' universally?

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