What did your parents teach you to call your genitals growing up?
Winnie? Minnie? Willy, winky, foo foo?
Our parents meant well, but now, a campaign is urging future parents to avoid the same skirting around the actual, medical terms of ‘penis’ and ‘vagina’.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s sexual health service, Sandyford, have set up a website that encourages parents to stop using slang words like ‘front bottoms’ and ‘downstairs areas’ and start teaching their children the proper, accurate words for their genitals from a young age.
‘As parents, we spend a lot of the pre-5 years telling our child the name for things e.g. animals, toys, machines and parts of their body,’ explain Sandyford on their website.
‘From when they are very young we give them names for lots of parts of their body – eyes, nose, mouth, feet etc – and we tend to all use the same name, with some regional variations like ‘oxter’!
‘There is, however, a huge variety of words used by families to refer to the private parts of their body , in particular the penis or vulva – you’ll have heard flower, front bottom, winky, wee man, to name a few.
‘No other part of the human body has been given so many different names!’
‘This can be confusing for children, particularly when they hear different words being used by other children at nursery.’
To avoid confusion and enable kids to learn about what behaviours and actions around these areas are appropriate, Sandyford want parents to teach their children words such as penis, vulva, vagina, bottom, and nipples.
They explain that while adults can often view these words as sexual, they’re not, and kids won’t view them as ‘dirty’ words unless we teach them to do so.
That means using the actual medical terms for our bits, and not shushing or telling children off when they use these words, too. Because ‘vagina’ isn’t a bad or embarrassing word.
‘If we want to be clear about what children mean when they talk to us about their body and touch, then we need to teach them accurate language,’ notes Sandyford’s website.
Their campaign includes resources to help parents become more comfortable with using these terms when talking to their children, with tips and a video available for any parents who need a little help (as many of us do).
Which we applaud. Vulva, vagina, penis – none of these words are ‘bad’ or embarrassing.
The only way to take down our collective discomfort with them is to start using ’em from an early age, and scrap ‘winnie’ and ‘winky’ forevermore.