Mar 182010

If you ever doubted that the United States is a bizarre place, think again. Three major television networks (unnamed, naturally) have refused to air a tampon advertisement containing the word ‘vagina,’ reportedly because use of the word is ‘a bit too frank.’

I can only guess this is out of deference to male sensibilities, since all American females from approximately the age of 12 are well aware they have vaginas and that vaginas are where tampons go. Even girls younger than twelve are generally aware of these facts.

Many men, however, may naturally be ignorant in this regard, having become accustomed to referring to the birth canal and its associated organs as the pussy, box, snatch, cunt, twat, quim, honey pot, slit, hairy/bearded clam, penis glove, clunge, minge, beaver, cooter, poon, muff, fanny, gash, hole, cooch, camel toe, fuck hole, cock sock and similar.

I can see why the word ‘vagina’ might be ‘a bit too frank.’

  26 Responses to “First rule of vaginas: don’t talk about vaginas”

  1. Someone ought to do a monologue about this.

  2. Thanks – I now know more words for it (although you left out front-bottom, hairy Mary, etc, etc)!

  3. Isn’t that one of those Latin words that caused the recent balls up?

  4. Founded by Puritans and still running that way. Never mind Utah …

  5. Damn you Talwin, getting in first with the best lines. Oh well, so the lips are moving but no one’s allowed to hear except Frank?

  6. If it’s just a male sensitivity then why do ante natal classes, reserved exclusively for females bearing really what must be the most uncontrovertible evidence that they possess vaginas, traditionally refer to them as ‘birth canals’?

    • I guess because in ante-natal classes, the emphasis is on the process of birth.

      • Still, you won’t find ‘birth canal’ on any doctor’s diagram of the female reproductive system. If ante-natal classes require a term for the you-know-what, women are clearly embarassed by the v-word and reach for a euphemism.

        (BTW I can vaguely remember Boswell writing how he fell ill as the result of a ‘dip in the canal’ and the dirty sod didn’t mean he had a stomach upset)

        • I don’t think many women are embarrassed by ‘vagina.’ As I say, I think referring to it as the birth canal emphasises the function being discussed in ante-natal classes.

          As a side note, ‘vagina’ is not a term that encompasses the fact that the passage is an egress as well as an ingress. Vagina means ‘sheath’ and primarily meant a sword’s sheath. So even our ‘medical’ terminology describes it solely as the residence of a penis without including in its meaning any reference to its other important function. Even women’s body parts are named with reference to men.

          • Charitably, you could argue that it’s the more common function. In fact, you could argue that it is the prime function, and that the vagina only acts as a birth canal as well in order not to have too many holes down there.

          • I think anatomically that’s a very dubious statement. You could as easily say that the birth canal only acts as the penis receiver as well in order not to have too many holes down there.

            Whereas obviously it’s impossible to separate the reproductive functions. The passage where reproductive material comes out is the same as the one it goes in. Anything else would be glaringly inefficient. And while sex might be the more common function, it is clearly the least significant. By all accounts, giving birth is the most momentous (and dangerous) thing women ever do; sex is a mere sideshow by comparison. Surely then we can all understand why pregnant women think of the vagina primarily as the birth canal!

          • OH, absolutely, I wouldn’t dare trivialise giving birth. But just because it is involved in an immensely traumatic process doesn’t mean that is what it’s primarily there for.

            I admit I’m no expert, but I thought the whole penis/vagina arrangement is to minimise the risk of infection in an organ as complicated as a womb. Particularly during pregnancy, I imagine even a mild contamination could kill the child if it got into the womb.

            You could just have the cervix mounted externally with some kind of surface docking arrangement (yes, I’m a guy in IT. I do apologise). That would be a far more efficient, less traumatic arrangement for giving birth, wouldn’t it?

          • Ha! a docking arrangement. Presumably some sort of clamps would be involved…

            But no, that wouldn’t work. It’s the cervix that’s the painful cause of childbirth trauma, being a miniscule opening that stretches most unwillingly. Obviously the whole thing would be better arranged if babies were smaller when born. Unfortunately, the human cranium is comparatively huge. Damn these brains!

          • The word ‘birth canal’ is used because canals are nice wide things and this helps create the impression that it’s going to be like a narrowboat gliding down the Grand Union, or maybe like Venice. Don’t panic.

            Instead of which, it is more like getting a football out of a bottle, but if they used the term ‘birth hosepipe’ people would have all the wrong images and it still wouldn’t help.

  7. Mmmm’kay, but would you expect a less silly response for a clip along the lines of ‘check your gonads for cancer’?

    • Ha! I don’t know. Probably if it used the word ‘gonads’, yes.

      What puzzles me is what they’re supposed to use in place of ‘vagina.’ Apparently they tried ‘down there,’ and that wasn’t acceptable either. ‘Birth canal’ is a little too, well, birthy, and incongruous when juxtaposed with the idea of menstruation. I seem to recall there was a similar reaction when a sanitary-towel manufacturer wanted to use red water instead of blue in an advert to demonstrate absorbance. Why? The sight of blood on television doesn’t seem to bother anyone unless it’s connected to a woman’s period, at which point it suddenly becomes icky and must be euphemised by a colour change.

      • Well presumably they use blue because some pre-pubescent girls might react badly if you give them any clue what they’re in for. By boiling out any direct references it’s entirely up to the parents to decide when to have that little talk, though I’m not entirely convinced that’s a good thing.
        Also, someone might be having their dinner, and not expecting blood in the middle of their episode of Corrie, or whatever.

        Likewise, I imagine any reference to down below bits is considered taboo. There’d be one kid who’s parents leave it too late to go over the bit about the birds and bees, a few quick googles leading to a bit of how’s-your-father behind the bike sheds, newspapers kick up a firestorm, and it’s the end of civilisation as we know it. Or something.

  8. As they say…you really couldn’t make it up…

    This reminds me a lot of the furore back in the early 1990s when they started advertising “feminine protection” products on TV in the UK. I remember one featuring Claire Rayner extolling the virtues of “those special wings” which were apparently a rather novel feature at the time. That got TONS of complaints – overwhelmingly from women, incidentally. “How could you mention our little secret on primetime television?” one of them read.

    Er.. it’s supposed to be a secret that women menstruate?? Since when?

  9. Maude Lebowski: Does the female form make you uncomfortable, Mr. Lebowski?

    The Dude: Uh, is that what this is a picture of?

    Maude Lebowski: In a sense, yes. My art has been commended as being strongly vaginal which bothers some men. The word itself makes some men uncomfortable. Vagina.

    The Dude: Oh yeah?

    Maude Lebowski: Yes, they don’t like hearing it and find it difficult to say whereas without batting an eye a man will refer to his dick or his rod or his Johnson…

    I apologize for lowering the level of discourse in these comments…

  10. Whereas on the London Underground there are posters with various euphemisms remdered in the shape of a heart advertising a site, not mentioning the product this site is itself an advert for. No prizes for guessing the product category, bringing us nicely full circle.

  11. I think “Vagina” is a far more beautiful word than any of them and I certainly would not use the “C” word as a substitute!

  12. Having just finished The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire [abridged], I was mighty disappointed to find there wasn’t one single emperor’s wife called Vagina. Also, ‘vaginas’ spelt backwards is ‘sanigav’. Surely Sanigav is a great potential brand name for tampons.

  13. If this is their ignorance over a fairly evident part of the female anatomy can you imagine the storm created if they used an advert with a clitoris involved?

  14. I’d like to take this opportunity to point out that the sticky-outy bit at the end of the vagina[1] is a structure independent from the vagina known as the vulva[2]; this is popularly misunderstood by male and female alike; we in the non-female community generally avoid this pitfall by referring to the sweaty gelatinous blighter as the flange[3].

    For more information, please see my citations (below); I’d draw your attention to the diagrams, and particularly to the location of the anus, which serves as a backup “sheath” for use in case of obstruction or hazard within or around the primary sheath.


    • Oh bugger. I’ve just mirrored the classic vagina misnomer vis the rectum, which is the true backup sheath; not the anus as I wrongly suggested moments ago. In fact the juxtaposition of anus and rectum is analogous to that between vulva and vagina.

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