I grew up in a house where everything was discussed. It wasn’t a rule, nor was it enforceable it was more a culture of comfort. It was just the way we did things. We would chat to each other while we got dressed, we would chat to mom while she showered, we would continue the conversation as she dressed and offered our assistance in zipping up dresses when requested. We weren’t a family of nudists by any means but we had a high level of body comfort. We knew all the correct names for our parts, the function of those parts and how to tell if they were not functioning correctly. We even openly discussed our periods, the boys of the family frequently fetching hot water bottles and cups of tea for the crampy, hormonal females. Although I think I embraced the concept of my period a little more readily than my sister who upon hearing she would have to have periods declared that she was going to cut her fanny off!
Growing up I assumed everybody’s house was like this- full of open discussion, not sisters threatening to remove their vagina’s. I learned pretty rapidly that this was not the case. During my pre-teens I learned pretty quickly that the messages I had received at home were very wrong. It was not ok to call your parts their correct names, in fact you would get teased mercilessly if you did. The idea that you could possibly be ok with your own body was also ridiculed and you wouldn’t fit in with a peer group unless you had a list of things that you loathed about yourself. These messages stayed with me for many many years. Thankfully I no longer feel this way and I overtly embrace my body and the names for all of my parts once more.
However when I teach sexual health workshops it never ceases to amaze me the amount of adults who lose the ability to speak when it comes to naming a body part. I have had professional women panic at the idea of having to say “Breasts” out loud. There is still a huge level of shame around the names for our parts. Instead we refer to them in terms of location – “Yknow Down there ” or in hushed whispered tones “It was his…..(looks left and right then whispers) Bum” All of this modesty and yet these parts are Everywhere!! There are boobs in the newspaper, bums galore, vagina’s advertising that they need to be waxed bedazzled, bejeweled or have a water feature installed- demanding things these vagina’s.
I have a challenge for you dear reader. I want you to pick names for your parts. Whatever language you are comfortable with, boobs, tits, fanny, vagina, bum, arse, cock, penis, willy, tallywhacker, balls etc. etc. When you have picked your terms of choice repeat these terms to yourself until you are comfortable enough to use them with another human being. I don’t mean shouting the word fanny at strangers on the bus- unless that’s what you’re into. I mean using it in conversation with people you can trust. They are just words, remember that. They are just body parts. Trust me once you become comfortable with these terms so will other people and when you become comfortable with the names for your parts you will become more comfortable with the parts themselves. Who doesn’t need a little less body shame in their lives. Not only that but you might be surprised using the names might invite your friends and loved ones to use their words too. Imagine how much more interesting your conversations could become! All the enlightened people having conversations and being utterly ok with their bodies and what they do. Oh what a wonderful world it would be!
Now go forth and make your list and let me know how you get on!