Yep, that’s your vulva!

A friend (this story is used with permission) related this humorous, yet all too common story:

She had just opened the diaper of her 18 month-old daughter when, with a great big smile on her face, her daughter reached down and started touching, pulling at, and lightly slapping her little vulva.  My friend realized she hadn’t even ever told her daughter what that area of her body was named — like parents do with practically every other body part on their child’s body.  Further, she realized she was much more comfortable talking to her sons about their penises and testicles, but she was much less comfortable with this.

So she decided, as the ranking female member of her household, to take charge of the situation.  She said she took a deep breath and with a forced smile on her face said, “Yep, that’s your……vvvvuuulvaah.”  She tried it again, but with a different strategy, “Yep, that’s your chest, that’s your belly and that’s your…vulva,”  said in a very small voice.  Frustrated with herself, she tried once more, “Yep, you have a vulva, I have a vulva, women everywhere have vulvas!  Vulva! Vulva! Vulva!”  At that point her husband and sons came into the room wondering just what in the world was going on and why the word “vulva” was being shouted through the house and did she know the windows were open?

She fastened her daughter’s diaper, picked her up, smiled triumphantly at her husband and sons and said, “Just wanted to make sure you all knew that there are two complete females living in this house and we — looking at her daughter — have vulvas.”

At that point her “men” — as she affectionately calls them — had had enough female genitalia talk and quickly dispersed.

She told me she still isn’t very comfortable with that word, but for the sake of wanting to teach her daughter about her body and what is, “really going on down there,” she is determined to get better.

So, if there are a few body parts you’re not sure about or are decidedly uncomfortable even saying them, you’re not alone.  Somewhere out there is a woman, standing in front of her bathroom mirror, with the door locked, practicing the words, “labia, vulva, and clitoris” hoping that at some point they’ll sound like actual body parts and not like something she has to say behind a locked door.


  1. I can completely relate to this story, although this woman is definitely steps ahead of me. I was in an art history class and we were studying a work called “The Dinner Party” by Judy Chicago. It’s an important feminist work and it includes plates representing various significant women from history. Chicago specifically represented these women using imagery of female anatomy, somewhat disguised as butterfly and flower imagery. Anyway, I remember the professor mentioning the word ‘vulva’ in discussing the piece, along with the butterflies and flowers. A year later I was looking through a dictionary and happened on the word ‘vulva’. I was shocked at the meaning, through the entire art history class and for the year since, I had just thought vulva meant something related to butterflies and flowers. I sent a message to the professor explaining the confusion, she responded, “It’s always helpful to hear that the message you thought you were delivering was completely different than what your students hear.” I’m not going to lie, it was easier for me to say when I thought it was about butterflies and flowers.


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