Genitals. Everyone has them. Sometimes they have weird and wonderful bits. Do you know where to find a raphe of a penis? How about the bartholin’s glands? Occasionally we don’t seem to know how to use them, or what they are for. Sometimes they go wrong. Ever feel like we should be handed a manual? You know – ‘Genitals: A User’s Guide.’ Maybe it could be issued sometime before puberty. That’s what I’d like to create over the next few months – ‘Genital’s: A User’s Manual’. With words and pictures.
Let’s start with the basics. The external genitalia. For a lot of people there are two basic flavours: the penis ( and it’s sidekick the scrotum or testicles) or the vulva get up. Note that I don’t (and won’t) use the words ‘male’ and ‘female’ to delineate these two. Chromosomal and genetic sex is separate from gender identity – people of both and any gender can have either genitalia. Also, it is possible for people to be born with genitalia that do not fit in to this penis/ vagina divide – again, more on that later.
We tend to be pretty familiar with the basic components of penises – the pole and two balls, depicted for generations on the walls of public loos. A little more mysterious seems to be the vulva. People often refer to this as a ‘vagina’. Technically though, vagina is the name for the hole bit – the bit that connects the outside world to the inside (more detail on that next week). The vulva is the word used to describe all of the external parts.
Here are a very small collection of words that we use for genitals in English. I think it’s important to have the vocabulary to describe genitals if we’re going to talk about them in more detail. Enjoy – and let me know (@SquiSquaSque) if you’ve got any favourite words for ‘down there’ that I haven’t included.