The Case for Teaching Kids 'Vagina,' 'Penis,' and 'Vulva' - Page 2 - Mothering Forums

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Old 04-20-2013, 03:07 PM
 
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Vulva is a collective term for the labia majora, labia minora, clitoris and vestibule. That covers pretty much everything. Yes there is more clitoris on the inside than the outside and the vagina isn't included but what else is missing?

What about the uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, and ovaries?

Those are the internal reproductive organs not genitalia.

Genitalia = external reproductive organs

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Old 04-20-2013, 04:26 PM
 
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Those are the internal reproductive organs not genitalia.

Genitalia = external reproductive organs

I learned it as "internal genitalia" vs "external gentalia" (look in any medical or anatomy textbook). If we're going to be so particular about teaching kids body parts then its important not to dismiss the internal genitalia. What if your daughter has pain her ovaries? If you only teach her about the vulva then she wont have any clue whats going on. Also, its important to explain the internal genitalia before she starts menstruating so she doesnt become traumatized.

Anyway, i still think using "vagina" as a collective word is good enough when they're really little since there is a lot to learn when it comes to both internal and external genitalia. I learned "vagina" as a collective term and its used as such in general language so there is nothing harmful about it, imo. If you're going to be exact then dont leave anything out.

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Old 04-20-2013, 11:14 PM
 
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Those are the internal reproductive organs not genitalia.

Genitalia = external reproductive organs

I learned it as "internal genitalia" vs "external gentalia" (look in any medical or anatomy textbook). If we're going to be so particular about teaching kids body parts then its important not to dismiss the internal genitalia. What if your daughter has pain her ovaries? If you only teach her about the vulva then she wont have any clue whats going on. Also, its important to explain the internal genitalia before she starts menstruating so she doesnt become traumatized.

Anyway, i still think using "vagina" as a collective word is good enough when they're really little since there is a lot to learn when it comes to both internal and external genitalia. I learned "vagina" as a collective term and its used as such in general language so there is nothing harmful about it, imo. If you're going to be exact then dont leave anything out.

Maybe this is a regional thing? I have looked in many anatomy etc textbooks, being a midwife and an emergency nurse winky.gif and I've never seen the term internal genitalia used.

And I totally agree with you that we shouldn't ignore the internal reproductive organs. Im sorry if i gave that impression. My oldest daughter is not quite three so we haven't done a lot of internal anatomy yet but I taught her that her baby sister grew in my uterus. As she gets older and asks more questions then I will teach her the other organs. And not just reproductive either.

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Old 04-22-2013, 04:38 PM
 
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I feel like euphemism have the additional downside of giving your kids the impression of "this is not a topic we can discuss frankly; do not talk about it." When I was abused as a kid, I knew I should tell my mom... but I just couldn't. I'd mentally freeze up. She didn't find out until thirteen years later, when she straight up asked me about it because the man had been accused by others.

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Old 04-23-2013, 10:40 PM
 
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Having said that, personally, i feel my vagina more than my vulva, although i see my vulva.  A boy feels his penis  like a girl feels her vagina ( i guess) So what the girl feels is just as important as what she sees . Thats why the word 'vagina' is important, and maybe how it came to be used in the first place.

 

 

 

Interesting. As an adult I'd say I feel both, but I think it was different when I was a little girl. I'm not sure if you mean "feel" in the sense of "touch" or in the sense of "be internally aware of", but I'd still say the same for either usage. I wasn't really conscious or connected to my vagina until puberty and beyond. I knew it was there but more in the way that I know my pancreas is there. 

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Old 04-24-2013, 12:49 PM
 
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I mean 'internally aware of'. You raise a good point, i cant really remember what i felt as a child. Possibly, when naked, i would 'feel' as in 'be aware of with an internal feeling', both the vagina and vulva, but not feel  the vulva so much if dressed, which i am most of the time....

 

actually, i would have to say that even then , most likely i had more awareness of 'vagina'.... 

 

I wonder if knowing the words gives us the more of a physical awareness?

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Old 04-24-2013, 01:21 PM
 
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'Birdie'?!  Really? Wow.  Never heard that one before.  


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Old 04-26-2013, 10:59 PM
 
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So I see that so far everyone agrees, use the right words, not words that make it feel like vagina/vulva or penis are something to be embarrassed about. 

Can this discussion now evolve to, WHAT we teach about them. If we say vagina must be kept private, and don't let our kids see us naked, aren't we still sending the same message?

 

I come from Europe, and there my kids run around naked all the time, here I hear people talk how their 3 year old is STILL not aware of what is appropriate, and opens the door to guests in his underware. ...!!! I mean, aren't you sending the same damn message, that your private parts are bad even at age 3 and even if they are covered, just not covered in enough layers. 

I live in the states, so I have to balance this, and keep my kids clothed at the beach and when guests arrive, but I try to make it about "do you want to wear something cute when guests arrive" instead of "go cover yourself up, we have guests coming!" I'm practically paranoid about making my kids feel in any way that there's something inherently bad about little penises. And still they have learned how it is here, and they will cover their underwear-covered penises around their friends the same summer they just spent naked in europe.

 

We have a common nick name in my country for vulva, that is cute and normal, and everyone knows it, and while we learn vagina or vulva in a natural way along the years, we continue to use them as medical words only, not in normal conversation. So I think that a little deviation from vagina is ok, as long as it's commonly used, not a word like cookie!

 

As to what kids feel, their vulva or vagina, I have lots of memories running around naked, and how you want to put on underwear when things are poking you in your vulva, or the visual memories are of vulva. I had no idea about vagina until later, but I do remember, how swinging in the swing we would scream, "I feel it in my vulva" but only as an adult I know it was not in vulva, it was the inside, vagina. but did that really matter to me as a child, that I didn't know I was talking about the outside even though I felt it in the inside. No. What mattered that we were free to scream out loud I feel it in my vulva, and not have to pretend I felt it in my belly, which is not correct!

 

Someone touched the subject of also talking about sex to your kids as a continual learning curve, not having "the one talk". And I so agree! I think this is guidline from my country, maybe even here, to tell your kids the absolute truth about how babies are made, but ONLY answer their question, no need to go further. So in my world this has meant that babies grow in mommy's belly, until the 3 year old asks "does it pop out of your belly button" then they need to learn it comes out of vagina. When my kids asked how does it get there, I say that you need daddys sperm and mommy's eggs to make a baby. and my then 6 year old didn't ask how daddy's sperm got there, and according to this rule you shouldn't tell more than they want to know. So that's where our conversation ended, and he will probably ask more soon, or eventually. At that point I don't know what I'll say, if it's soon, something vague like we make love, love is great :D or if his older, get him a illustrated book... My kids also know about periods, because we are weird and we dont close the door when we go to the bathroom. I had to tell my potty training two year old: "no, mommy doesn't have a diaper because she pees on herself, she gets blood once a moth, not all the time just somethimes." then seven year old wants to know why i bleed, and I'm not going to leave him wondering about mommy's scary condition, so I tell him that womens bodies are pretty much ready to make babies every month, and if you don't get pregnant, you bleed for a few days and then the body gets ready for a new one. And his reply was: "Yeah, don't make a new baby, we already know how THAT is, then you don't have time to play any games"

 

A good base for one day understanding that if you don't prevent it somehow, she will get pregnant :D

 

I also struggle telling kids things like, no-one should touch you around your swimwear line... then a slap in the booty from a friend is sexual abuse that they should feel bad about? I so wish I didn't have to, but I have said that no adult is allowed to touch your penis, and you have to tell mom about it, even if they would say don't tell. But more important is probably to be open about these things and remember to keep their trust, so when they come with any other bad secrets, you shouldn't freak out so bad that they never tell you another secret... 

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Old 04-27-2013, 06:26 AM
 
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tittipeitto-I am in total agreement with all you have said here! I have also struggled with the culture of covering ourselves without feeling like their body is bad. My 10 year old will change clothes right in the living room in front of the huge window for all the neighbors to see and I have to stop it.

I remember once my little kids playing in the sprinklers at my inlaw's, and I had no changes of clothes(it was a last-minute idea) so I just let my 18 month old play nude...everyone acted like it was very weird!


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Old 04-29-2013, 07:35 AM
 
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I am all for my children knowing their anatomical parts and names for areas less spoken in our culture.  However!  Dirty connotations comes from the tone and intent of the person using them more so than word choice.  Language, both for private and non-private subjects, needs to take into account maturity of the child.  "Did you know there are many names and nicknames for your body parts!" is a great segue to learning additional names when the child is interested.  What if giving your young child the anatomical names for their body parts and requiring them to use the names appropriately lead them to believe that their anatomy is complex, boring, and a bit scary.  

 

Think of other examples where we use nicknames to simplify language for the early years.   ..."Boo boos" are more specifically lacerations, x degree burns, abrasions.  And calling it "green lollipop soup" makes split pea way more tasty!  

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Old 04-29-2013, 12:49 PM
 
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Originally Posted by tittipeitto View Post

 

Can this discussion now evolve to, WHAT we teach about them. If we say vagina must be kept private, and don't let our kids see us naked, aren't we still sending the same message?

 

I come from Europe, and there my kids run around naked all the time, here I hear people talk how their 3 year old is STILL not aware of what is appropriate, and opens the door to guests in his underware. ...!!! I mean, aren't you sending the same damn message, that your private parts are bad even at age 3 and even if they are covered, just not covered in enough layers. 

 

I see the answering the door as a matter of drawing boundaries between public and private. That can be taught without making a child shameful. My 3yo used to answer the door naked...i didnt think it was a big deal.  

 

 

 as for letting  the children see us naked, that depends on the family, In our family we are naked or scantily dressed, and that is what my children are used to. I cant imagine having to worry about my own child seeing me naked when i step out of the shower, not to mention, there goes the possibility of having showers together...

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Old 04-29-2013, 12:51 PM
 
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I remember once my little kids playing in the sprinklers at my inlaw's, and I had no changes of clothes(it was a last-minute idea) so I just let my 18 month old play nude...everyone acted like it was very weird!

They are weird if you ask me.  I have done the same.

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Old 04-29-2013, 01:20 PM
 
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I tend to agree with the 'not getting uptight' over vagina/vulva distinction. I grew up with 'vagina'. What about 'clitoris'?  Its also visible...The fact is, female genitalia  is  more complicated that male, and therefore there are more parts to it. I dont need to go into every detail with my daughter (or son) Just a functioning word that is more or less accurate (as is vagina, even though it refers to the inside part rather than the outiside visible part) When you say 'penis' to a boy, he understands that thing he sees, that he pees with, that feels good when he touches,  that must be kept private etc.  But for a girl, you have to use so many different words, why not vagina? Vulva is also good and more accurate when describing the visible part, but not so much the part that she 'feels'.

 

Also, 'vulva' is an ugly word, 'vagina' sounds so much nicer.

 

However, having been alerted myself to the strict scientific differences between  vag and vulv, i  teach my kids the  strictly correct words.(still dont like the word 'vulva')

 

 

 

My sister, 40yrs old, pregnant with her first child, and doing lots of research on childbirth, surprised me by her ignorance of the word 'perinium'.  Do you tech your kids the word 'perinium'? I bet those who get uptight about the vulv/vag issue dont  ....

 

(Shocking the story about the cookie)

 

I agree! 'vulva', 'vagina', 'scrotum' just sound ugly to me... I don't even like to use them in a sentence, not because of what they're describing, just because of the sound that they make... I also think the words 'pregnant', 'placenta', 'uvula', etc just sound gross... I can still remember in grade school, kids freaking eachother out saying "your uvula is showing!" so it can't just be me...

 

I think it's important for kids to know proper words for things, but outside of that conversation, you can't make me use them! :) 

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Old 04-29-2013, 06:59 PM
 
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I agree! 'vulva', 'vagina', 'scrotum' just sound ugly to me... I don't even like to use them in a sentence, not because of what they're describing, just because of the sound that they make... I also think the words 'pregnant', 'placenta', 'uvula', etc just sound gross... I can still remember in grade school, kids freaking eachother out saying "your uvula is showing!" so it can't just be me...

I think it's important for kids to know proper words for things, but outside of that conversation, you can't make me use them! smile.gif 

See, I'm in the minority here. I think vulva and labia sound fine and used them with my children of both genders. Vagina as an all encompassing word is so WRONG. It's like saying you are wearing your innards on the outside. It gives me squicky vibes when I hear folks using the wrong language for private parts.
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Old 04-29-2013, 07:03 PM
 
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I think "scrotum" is a hilarious word, personally. 

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Old 04-29-2013, 09:03 PM
 
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I think "scrotum" is a hilarious word, personally. 
When I was a kid, our neighbours had a very hard to pronounce name similar to "scrotum". We just called them "the Scrotums" lol (not to their face of course).
I think 'testicles' sound kinda funny and 'ovaries' sound cute... lovely actually. They should switch 'ovary' with 'vagina' then I would have no problem referring to my vajayjay by its proper name. smile.gif
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Old 04-30-2013, 09:36 AM
 
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Agreed. I think the word 'ovary' is lovely. 'Scrotum', quite ugly. Vagina...well, i like Opera's suggestion 'VJJ'. 

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Old 05-09-2013, 07:09 AM
 
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Interesting post (I would have never suspected semantics would be of interest on a "mommy" site)...but a couple of points...

 

Most of the folks have the correct spelling for the anatomical parts and most have them generally in the correct physical location, but to be factually correct, a vagina is not visible to the casual observer nor can it be viewed by its owner unless squatting over a mirror.

 

"Vulva" is the more inclusive, but still doesn't cover all her external parts, for example her mons veneris.  Try the word "pudendum" (singular) or "pudenda" (plural, and more commonly used)...but be forewarned, many in the medical community wouldn't know, or even use, the word, finding it too imprecise.

 

But I like it..it covers everything, just as "cookie" does for the little girl in an earlier post.

 

"Pudenda"...say the word out loud a few times.   ---and many of you found "scrotum" a screamer.

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Old 05-09-2013, 07:50 AM
 
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"Vulva" is the more inclusive, but still doesn't cover all her external parts, for example her mons veneris.  Try the word "pudendum" (singular) or "pudenda" (plural, and more commonly used)...but be forewarned, many in the medical community wouldn't know, or even use, the word, finding it too imprecise.

 

After researching "pudendum" I would never use it.  Here it is from Wikipedia:

 

 

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For example, the term pudendum, which denotes the external genitalia, literally means "shameful thing".

 

Yeah.... no thanks.


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Old 05-09-2013, 08:13 AM
 
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I actually read the pudenda word for the first time in Wild, a book by Cheryl Strayed. I was shocked that first, she used a word I didn't know... I'm a huge word nerd.. and then upset that she choose such a word over vulva or labia or the general term "mound".
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Old 05-09-2013, 08:33 AM
 
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Blech.... "mound" and "pedendum" (even before I knew the definition) sound icky too... This is why I could never read those romantic "ladies" novels... every time I'd get to one of these words I'd get itchy. 

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Old 05-09-2013, 09:55 AM
 
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You would be amazed at how the intellect continues to function, even after pushing a baby through the vagina....  ( i believe i got that right :-))

 

Someone once said they preferred  to use the term 'birth canal'.  Not sure why.

 

 

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Interesting post (I would have never suspected semantics would be of interest on a "mommy" site)...but a couple of points...

 

 

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Old 05-09-2013, 10:09 AM
 
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This thread makes me think of "frank and beans" from There's Something About Mary.

A pp said that kids aren't taught inaccurate terms for other body parts, but that's not really true. Many kids are taught "tummy" to refer to the entire abdominal area. "My tummy (or even stomach) hurts" is often vague and could refer to stomach, intestines, or even appendix. We use other vague terms. "Mouth" may refer to lips, tongue, gums, etc. There's nothing wrong with not being super exact terminology sticklers all the time, but an educated child would be able to narrow it down when specifically asked.

I plan to teach my son the terms "testicles" and "penis" and will certainly make sure he knows their meanings, but realistically, I'm sure I'll also say peener, balls, etc. because, well, I just like the word peener :-P. No different than saying noggin, piggies, kisser, paws, or any other pet name we have for our bodies. As long as he knows the real terms, I don't find anything wrong with it.

Besides "sex talks" that do use the correct terms, I also plan to explicitly teach my son about right and wrong touch from a very early age and onward. Regular talks about sex organs in a developmentally appropriate manner is a priority for me. First step is identification of our body parts and knowing exactly what they're called - whether it's penis or lower intestine. Casually though, nicknames are okay.

I also don't believe that cookie story. That has urban legend written all over it. The point though, is that kids should learn when it's necessary to use proper terms, like around doctors and teachers. Totally get that.

&
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Old 05-09-2013, 02:13 PM
 
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My sister, who died at three...called it her "pocketbook"..."Cookie" doesn't seem that far fetched to me and being a daddy/grand-daddy (so you aren't confused as to where I am coming from), I sort of like it.  "Out of the mouth of babes..."  gk
 

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Old 05-09-2013, 02:27 PM
 
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I am not even going close to your word "itchy"...and I don't read "those romantic ladies novels" either.  Thanks for the input.  gk

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Old 05-09-2013, 02:31 PM
 
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Sorry, I didn't catch that "new mama" addendum at the bottom of your post...So what was it?  An occasion for cigars or for donuts? gk

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Old 05-09-2013, 03:19 PM
 
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Hi word-nerd...never heard that assonant before.  Thanks...I can use it.  One of the courses I had in Pre-Med was "Greek and Latin Medical Derivations...Proud to say I aced it.  I've got Strayed's "Wild'" in my corner heap of books, I going to...want to...read but tell me, did you enjoy It and, my goodness, where and how did she use "pudenda"? gk

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Old 05-09-2013, 03:56 PM
 
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OK, fair enough...but should you be interested, the word "pudendum" derives from the Latin gerund, pudere, to be ashamed.  It is word from the very prudish Victorians. One would never use the word even obliquely in polite conversation. It would be too shameful to admit that such an area even existed on the female body.  I didn't realize such squeamishness would still be extant in these Internet Times.  gk
 

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Old 05-10-2013, 08:35 AM
 
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A pp said that kids aren't taught inaccurate terms for other body parts, but that's not really true. Many kids are taught "tummy" to refer to the entire abdominal area. "My tummy (or even stomach) hurts" is often vague and could refer to stomach, intestines, or even appendix. 

Ugh, I'm definitely avoiding this with my kid. When I was a teenager, I had a conflict with a school nurse who didn't understand kid-speak medical terminology and refused to provide me medicine for my terrible "stomach" pain. (Although if you have abdominal pain, I don't know how you're supposed to pinpoint exactly which organ it is, so why the heck would a medical professional just assume that it was definitely whichever organ you guessed? This wasn't the only time this nurse was obnoxious, but....)

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