The Naming Of Genitalia Biology Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

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).

Slang terms and expressions serve a purpose as to let people communicate topics that are usually seen as taboo, "taboo words can communicate emotion information (anger, frustration) more readily than non-taboo words, allowing speakers to achieve a variety of personal and social goals with them" (Jay, 2009). According to Gibs and Nagoka (1985), "the use of slang metaphors permits speakers to not only convey specific propositional information, but also some indication of their attitudes towards this information" (p. 178). "Wells (1989) asked college students to list the sexual term (e.g., for oral-genital contact) they would use in different contexts (e.g., with parent, lover, or in mixed company). Technical terms were preferred for mixed crowds and with parents. Sexual obscenities were reserved for same sex crowds and "with my lover" contexts" (Jay, 200). Slang terms and euphemisms such as "the birds and the bee's" are often needed for parents to communicate personal and somewhat taboo topics with their children as they are often uncomfortable talking about sexual issues tot them (Berges, Neiderbach, Rubin, Sharpe, & Tesler, 1983; Jay et al., 2006). Slang evokes meaning drawing on the shared cultural knowledge of the users (McAthur, 1992), and slang terms for male and female genitalia would then be expected to encode idea's about male and female bodies and their position/place in the world. As slang is a largely spoken and dynamic language (Coobs, Chopra, Schenk, & Yutan, 1993; McArthur, 1992) it evolves to meet the needs and situations of the moment (e.g., Hummon, 1994).

"Feminist commentators on language have noted in many contexts that the world has been 'named' from a male-dominant perspective and that lexicogrammatical features in languages often reveal important underlying cultural (male) assumptions. Some feminists, following the theories of Benjamin Lee Whorf, believes these features are not simply reflections of a poor social reality but mechanisms whereby that reality is continually natuarlized and reproduced (Spender, 1980; Elgin, 1985)," (Cameron, 1992, Naming of Parts: Gender, Culture, and Terms for the Penis among American college students, p. 367).

The aim of the current research is to collect current slang terms for female and genitalia from young Northern Irish people in order to access the range of genital slang terms currently available; also with the difference and regular findings in the naming of male and female genitalia, such as derogatory words used vastly for vagina, used more commonly by males (etc. Braun & Kitzinger), and words of power and "idolisation" used widely for penis (etc. Cameron, 1992), has culture adapted so that both sexes now use wide variations of derogatory words? Or, in contrast is euphemisms and formal wording used more predominantly by females (Sanders & Robinson, 1979), being adapted into both sexes?; And furthermore to find out if the penis is given authority names and put on a pedestal ((Boonstra, 2009, A Step-by-Step Guide to Naming Your Penis and Testicles, Points in Case Articles), by only males or both males and females by young students in Northern Ireland.