Lessons in female anatomy

There are many things I didn’t think about before agreeing to take on the kids. Having to learn the anatomically correct words for the various parts of female genitalia is one of them.

For starters, I never really considered that there were multiple parts to learn. I was comfortable just calling it a vagina. In my mind that is the socially accepted word for that general area of the female body. Apparently I’m wrong. The vagina is a specific term, not a general term. As you can see below, it is an internal piece of the puzzle. I’m not sure when I was supposed to have learnt this, or why it matters, but I have been told it does.

Picture of Human Vagina

How did this come about, you ask? Well Chaos and Hurricane shower together, and he knows to wash his penis. She knows the word penis because he’s quite happy to talk loudly about its existence – when it’s sore, or itchy, or stuck to his sack. So she then looks at me and asks recently: “I wash my penis?”

I say: “No, you have a vagina, Hurricane has a penis. You wash your vagina.”

And I was perfectly satisfied with that interaction. Job done.

But then BB tells me no, it’s not her vagina, it’s her vulva. That’s what she has said to Chaos before, so I need to reinforce it.

What’s a vulva? Seriously, what’s a vulva? I have no clue what that is. Admittedly I dropped science in high school at the earliest opportunity, so maybe I missed out on the detail. Regardless, I don’t recall anyone talking about vulva before. Volvo is a car. Close but not related, it seems. The only other connotation it serves up in my mind is that it might have something to do with a volcanic eruption, or possibly be one of those old Greek gods.

Anyway, if I have to learn about this now, then so do you.

Diagram reproduced with permission from The Interstitial Cystitis Survival Guide by Robert Moldwin, MD, New Harbinger Publications, Inc. © 2000.

Turns out the vulva is, well, that entire area, as this rather confronting diagram shows (I probably should have found a friendlier illustration, but it was the first one that popped up on a very legitimate human biology site so I didn’t exactly want to go searching for more). And look at all the other pieces in there. Introitus? Urethral meatus? They sound terrifying. For some reason I thought a Vestibule was just a porch. I guess it is, kind of.

BB is keen that we be accurate in our descriptions so that Chaos knows they’re just body parts and never feels there’s anything shameful about them. I understand her point. It’s fair enough. Vagina, vulva, they’re both anatomical terms, and yet there is something mundane and inoffensive about the former, while the latter, and more accurate term, is well a bit cringe. I bet you’re sitting there yourself feeling a bit uncomfortable – though that could be because I failed to warn you there would be a lovely picture of a vulva staring at you in this post and you’re reading this at work.

I’m not opposed to the idea of being accurate for Chaos’ benefit. Kids pick up loaded meanings of words from us. It’s our discomfort, not theirs. We pass it on to them. If I can somehow find the maturity to be comfortable using an anatomically correct term then Chaos should hopefully never feel embarrassed about it herself. It makes sense. Maybe eventually vulva and vagina will just be interchangeable. Or maybe they won’t. I don’t know. I’ve already spent more time thinking about vulvas than I ever thought possible.

Anyway, I asked BB, well what about the rest of it? If Chaos points at something and says: “Daddy, what’s dis?” am I allowed to just say vulva? Am I safe? Please say I’m safe.

I’m not safe.

What am I supposed to do at this point? Guess? Because let’s be honest, if there’s a guy out there who can answer these questions with even 50% accuracy then he’s a gynecologist. And I reckon even he would just say vagina and exit the conversation as quickly as I did.

There is a solution to this, however. Honesty. The next time she asks, and she will, I’m simply going to say:

“I don’t know Chaos. It’s too complicated for me. You need to ask your Mother, she’s got one too.”

I just really hope she doesn’t mimic Hurricane and start telling me loudly in the supermarket that her Labia majora are itchy.



2 thoughts on “Lessons in female anatomy

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