Vagina Vs Vulva

The battle of the Vs.

The issue of the name of this book keeps coming up, so I thought I might as well write about it for the sake of clarifying the issue.

The main objection to the use of the word vagina seems to come from the fact that the photos are not actually anatomically of the vagina itself. This is true, they are not. So, here are the main reasons why I am sticking with the word vagina.

1. The book is not just about the photos but also about the text, which is to be a message from or about the woman’s genetalia to the world. It is also about any and all issues surrounding women’s genetalia and about breaking down the taboo around genitalia and the word vagina.

2. The photos are actually not just of the vulva either since they include the mons pubis, pubic hair (if present, which often hides the vulva), may include the labia, and does include the hips and partially the thighs and abdomen.

3. Vulva has far less stigma and taboo attached to it than vagina because it is not as widely known or used, so the name would have less impact in removing the taboo around the word vagina and around the whole genital area.

4. Vulva specifically refers to the external genitalia only. Vagina, while technically only the internal tract, colloquially incorporates both the internal and external genitalia.

In conclusion, what word is there to encompass the whole of a woman’s experience of her genitalia? For lack of a better word that encompasses the vagina, vulva, labia, clitoris, mons pubis, g-spot, cervix and even womb, I have chosen the word vagina in it’s broadest publicly understood meaning.

If there is a better word I’d love to hear it. In Hindi they have the word yoni, we don’t have an equivalent in English.

Words often have two meanings, the technical meaning, and the common-use, colloquial meaning. I believe both are valid. The word vagina is therefore used in it’s broadest colloquial sense in the same way that people may say stomach when they mean abdomen or say head when they mean scalp etc. etc.

I appreciate all the feedback I receive and am thrilled at the dialogue and discussion that this project has already generated and I hope that this is just the beginning :)

xx

5 Responses to Vagina Vs Vulva

  • Thank you for explaining your process of making this decision! My initial reaction was one of confusion and questioning your choice of language, and I think you explain your awareness and choices beautifully here :)

  • I would have used ‘Pussy’ if this book is for Australians for pussy is Australian slang for vulva which is what you are taking photos of

    • Thanks for the suggestion, but I somehow doubt that pussy would have attracted less disapproval than vagina, quite besides the fact that the book is not just about the photos.

  • Besides “vagina, vulva, labia, clitoris, mons pubis, g-spot, cervix and even womb” another word you could have chosen is pudendum (or pudenda, plural, the external sexual organs, usually referring to female organs, but it can refer to either sex). But the word is rare and also means something to be ashamed of (according to Webster’s dictionary), so your choice of vagina is definitely better.

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