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There is copious literature regarding the subject of the naming of genitalia (Braun & Kitzinger, 2001; Cameron, 1992; Allan & Burridge, 1991; Weijts, Houtccop, & Mullen, 1993), regarding the common theme that the naming of genitalia is a taboo subject. Moreover there is previous research detailing how female genitalia is seen as more forbidden and unmentionable of the two (Allan & Burridge, 1991; Jespersen, 1992). There has common themes been found such as derogatory words being used vastly for the "vagina" (Braun & Kitzinger, 2001), and words of empowerment and "idolisation" been used vigorously for the "penis" (Cameron, 1992).
The purpose of this research therefore is to find out if these themes still exist, assuming they do, and if they still exist in young people in Northern Ireland and to update current terms used for genitalia by young people in Northern Ireland.
Male and female genitalia are considered widely to be unmentionable and taboo. (Cameron, 1992; Braun & Kitzinger, 2001; Allan & Burridge, 1991; Weijts, Houtccop, & Mullen, 1993)
More specifically it is the female genitalia that is considered utterly unmentionable, with some previous studies showing only 7% of respondents (10 %, 5% of women) considered the vagina a body part that is freely mentionable (Allan & Burridge, 1991). A more recent survey found that 53% of women "felt some discomfort using the word vagina" (Bulletin, 1994, p.10). Women and gynaecologists have been shown to hardly ever bring up the word vagina (or even a synonym) during gynaecological consultations (Weijts, Houtccop, & Mullen, 1993). "Vagina" in the World English Dictionary is defined as, "the moist canal in most female mammals, including humans, that extends from the cervix of the uterus to an external opening between the labia minora", whereas the penis is defined, "the male organ of copulation in higher vertebrates, also used for urine excretion in many mammals." (The World English Dictionary). The fact that the "penis" is defined as an "organ" and the "vagina" as "the moist canal in most female mammals" shows that female genitalia is utterly taboo.
Although both female and genitalia are both taboo previous research shows that the female genitalia are more forbidden of the two (Braun & Kitzinger, 2001). Women are generally more uncomfortable talking about their private parts than men (Bulletin, 1994).
Although the penis is taboo, it is taboo in a different way (Bulletin, 1994). Previous research has shown that men name their penis because they take pride in their penis, they put it on a mental pedestal raising it above all else. (Boonstra, 2009, A Step-by-Step Guide to Naming Your Penis and Testicles, Points in Case Articles), there is very little if any derogatory words if any for the "penis" (Cameron, 1992; Braun & Kitzinger, 2001), whereas for the vagina there are many (Braun & Kitzinger, 2001). The linguist Jespersen commented in 1922 that "women ...are shy of mentioning certain parts of the human body and certain natural functions by the direct and often rude denominations which men...prefer among themselves" (p.245). There is considerable research that backs up Jespersen's report (Murnen, in press; Braun & Kitzinger, 2001; Jay, 1980; Simkins & Rink, 1982).
Taboo topics tend to generate many slang expressions (McAtrhur, 19920), and these have been thought as functioning to resist oppressive norms that deny voice to certain groups of people and render some subjects unspeakable (e.g., Hughes, 1992; McArthur, 1992; Jay, 2009). There is previous research with abundance of varieties of slang expressions for male and female genital parts (e.g. Cameron, 1992; Cornog, 1981; Ritcher, 1987; Braun & Kitzinger, 2001). Some records mention endless slang expressions for "vagina" and for "penis," drawing on "every imaginable aspect of the appearance, location, functions, and effects of the genitalia" (Allan, 1990, p. 161). Women however have been found less likely than men to produce terms for their own genitalia (or men's genitalia), and are likely to produce euphemistic terms (Sanders & Robinson, 1979), and are more liable to report using proper terms for genitalia, across different interpersonal backgrounds (Simkins & Rinck, 1982). Men have correspondingly been found to report using more derogatory terms for both male and female genitals than women (Muren, in Press).
Kapsalis (1997) refers to the vagina to be simultaneously rendered "sacred" and "profane"-as something taboo, private, not talked about: and as something public, displayed in gynaecology and pornography. Men's genitals are also sacred and profane (Bordo, 1999), although not entirely the same way as women's genitals.
Coy or euphemistic terms, such as down there, private (private parts), and crotch, "strengthen the view that a woman's genitalia are something mysterious, vague and taboo: 'eclipsed' through the avoidance of naming" (Ussher, 1989, p. 20). Others, such as cunt, twat, and snatch, are considered to be derogatory, "epithets of hate" (Greer, 1986, p. 77), in which "the enigma and mystery are replaced by more explicit, derogatory terms" (Usher, 1989, p. 20), more often used by males than females (Murnen, in press), which sexualise women's genitalia from a heterosexual male perspective (Mills, 1995).
Men's genitalia is often elevated and put on a pedestal with words such as, his Excellency, your majesty and Excalibur (Cameron, 1992), being used. From past research the "penis" is almost described as almost superior to the vagina when you compare the many derogatory terms for the vagina, such as, "cunt", "twat", "stench trench" (Braun & Kitzinger, 2001), to the contrasted authority terms for the "penis" such as, "the Chief"," the Commissioner" and "Rod of Lordship" (Cameron, 1992). Men's genitalia is often personalised and made out to be an authority figure (Cameron, 1998), whereas women's genitalia is often used in a derogatory sense (Braun & Kitzinger, 2001), and made into a euphemism as so not to be named (McConville & Shearlaw, 1984, p. 11).