Here’s Why I Correct Every Man That Calls My Vulva A “Vagina”

In recent years, there’s been a movement to finally use the right word for what is one of the most focused-upon parts of the female body. The number of times I’ve heard guys say “vagina” when talking about the vulva is annoying at best and distressing at worst. Here’s why I’ve made it my mission to correct this folly every single time.

It’s just basic anatomy.

In case you don’t know (and sadly, so many women are also misinformed about this), the vagina is the internal canal leading up to the uterus. The vulva is the name given to all the external parts of the female genitals—the clitoris, lips, and entrance to the vagina. As sex educator Emily Nagoski says on the topic, “Let’s make the world a better place for women’s genitals.”

It’s actually absurd that this is even a thing.

For all the over-sexualization of women’s bodies that goes on in our culture, you’d think we’d at least know the right words for the body parts that we’re so obsessed with. But nope. We’ve all been using the wrong words for the longest time and it seems absurd when I think about it like that. Why is this still a problem? Get it together y’all.

I make sure to call men out on it.

If ever I hear a guy refer to the vagina when they clearly mean vulva, I’ll take the opportunity to gently but firmly correct him. I don’t blame men for not knowing, but I do care about what they do with the information afterward. Best case scenario, they become a little more educated on the female body, which is only ever a good thing. Worst case scenario, well…

Most dudes don’t appreciate it.

I’ve had dudes give me snide looks, tell me it’s petty, or just straight up refuse to use the right word when speaking about my vulva. And I’m not the only woman dealing with this. I once saw a man argue that, while anatomically a doctor would differentiate between a vulva and a vagina, the rest of us shouldn’t have to. No one likes to be called out on their mistakes and I get that, but arguing with a woman about what you get to call her body parts is just plain obnoxious.

That won’t deter me.

I’m not planning on giving up this particular crusade any time soon. It might seem petty to some, but it’s one small act in getting women’s bodily autonomy recognized. I’ll keep correcting dudes as long as it takes for them to get it into their heads that the vulva is not a vagina.

It’s about time we got this right.

Seriously, it’s 2019. It’s really time to put this outdated and inaccurate naming convention to rest. I know there’s a tonne of other things to be worried about but this one is so simply amended. Can’t we all just agree to call women’s body parts what they are and get on with it?

If the tables were turned, it would be a different story.

If I were to call a guy’s penis his scrotum, he’d probably be baffled, bemused and very quick to correct my obvious mistake. See where I’m going with this? Calling my vulva a vagina isn’t just annoying, it’s completely inaccurate and should be corrected for the same reason guys wouldn’t put up with us calling their balls their prostate.

It’s so simple but so important.

It’s not like I’m suddenly asking all men to become experts on the female form (though that would be nice too). Changing our vocabulary is such a simple thing and it happens all the time. Language is a powerful thing and subtle shifts can often change so much. It’s not that much to ask, is it?

It’s personally empowering.

For most of my life, I’ve been out of touch with my body and especially with my pussy. Even now I know there’s a lot I have to learn about my most intimate area. Taking a stance to defend what’s the most simple part of my vulva – its name – is one small but empowering step in taking charge of my body at the same time as standing up for other women too.

We’ve all been poorly educated.

Most of us were just never told the right terminology, myself included. It wasn’t until I was well into my 20s that I learned the word vulva. When I was finally alerted to the fact that I’d been calling it the wrong thing for most of my life, I realized the tiny ways in which women’s bodies are devalued and deprioritized.

I want to make the world better for women.

I’d love to live in a world in which this just wasn’t an issue. There are a million ways in which the world could be better for women in general and this, in particular, is one incredibly simple one. So, if you’ve been ill-informed until now, consider yourself wiser for having read this article! And the next time you hear a dude say “vagina” when he clearly means “vulva,” you know what to do…

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