So, what do your kids call their genitals?

November 6 | Guest post by Starr C.
Offbeat Home & Life runs these advice questions as an opportunity for our readers to share personal experiences and anecdotes. Readers are responsible for doing their own research before following any advice given here... or anywhere else on the web, for that matter.
LOVE the family mustaches!
LOVE the family mustaches!
So there I was…about to sit down for some lunch with my father, step-mother, Ranger and The Kids. Ranger and Big J were wrestling in the living room when Big J shrieked with laughter, "Daaadddy, you hit me in my penis!"

It was as if a record scratched to a halt in the distance. My father looked up from his newspaper, and my step-mother glowered over in my direction. In a low whisper she said, "Did-he-just-say" (wait for it…) "Penis?"

"Yeess," I slowly and mockingly whispered back.

Keep in mind that we're Texans, true "suthanuhs" my father would say, and there are just some topics that those with proper decorum do not discuss in the presence of others. Especially when you are about to eat. Correct terminology for private parts are one of those topics.

I dismissed my parents' arched eyebrows of disapproval with an, "Oh puhleeease. What is he supposed to say, Pee Pee? Privates?"

The continued conversation of our private parts was about to send my southern Baptist father over the edge so he interjected with, "Now that's enough. We get the point. I forget that you do live in Austin so this type of discussion is normal for you folk."

For those of ya'll not from Texas, Austin is as liberal as Texas gets. And, according to my father, it's Austin that has made me a "bleeding heart liberal/Nancy Pelosi lover" which therefore excuses the penis talk.

When I was a child we used all sorts of cute terminology to describe our private parts but we never actually used the right terms. Saying vagina or penis was like saying a curse word in that it was whispered and giggled over behind cupped hands and hushed voices.

I never gave much thought to the words I used to describe our parts until I had my own children. Being a feminist mama, and feeling rather embarrassed to use "chee chees" to describe breasts, Ranger and I decided that we would use proper terminology around the kids to describe our bodies from the beginning.

I feel that being honest with my kids about their body parts will lead to less confusion as they grow. I'd rather they hear it right from Ranger and I the first time. I believe that talking openly and using correct terminology normalizes the discussion.

The hope is that by doing so my kids will feel comfortable asking questions or addressing concerns they have later on. Plus, I have nursed both daughters in front of Big J and the last thing I wanted to hear come out of his kiddie mouth were chee chees or boobies to describe that which fed his sisters.

I'm also not going to sequester myself when nursing at home simply because my son might catch a glimpse of the flesh! The horror!! Shouldn't he and my daughters know firsthand what breasts were originally designed for?

I still draw the ire of my family but they've gotten used to such terms being spouted off nonchalantly by their grandson. Because I'd rather such talk be normal than taboo like it was when I was a child.

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  1. Haha. Not a mama, but a childcare provider for toddlers, and potty training 5+ kids simultaneously means I get to tell all kinds of hilarious genitalia naming stories, despite my own use of correct terminology in the classroom. My most recent favorite was when one kid (call him J) was sitting on the potty while I stood nearby, and he decided to tell me all about his "pee-pee dragon." "This is my pee-pee dragon! Here's his head, and here's his back …" I was cracking up.

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  2. Thank you for this! I don't understand why we, as a society, are afraid to call things what they are. I'm looking forward to having a kid comfortable enough with his/her body that they'll call their penis a penis or their breasts their breasts!

  3. I've always taught my two sons that a penis is called a penis. I see nothing wrong with calling it what it is. When my oldest was 3, he asked his daycare teacher where her penis was! My ex mother in law picked up my son that day and of course she found out and wasn't too happy with it. If they want to make up a name with it, I'm fine with that but I think children should be taught the proper terms as well.

    When my youngest was 3 I used the term, "booty" and he corrected me real quick and said, "it's not booty, it's gluteus maximus!" Oh man, was I owned! haha

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  4. My parents raised me with all the anatomically correct language (breasts, vulva) which then led to me getting into a fist fight at age 5 with a friend who insisted that Barbie had "boobies." I informed her that no, those were Barbie's BREASTS, one thing led to another, and the next thing I knew I was getting a lecture from my mom about how people have lots of different nicknames for breasts — and that "boobies" was one of them.

    • My mother always insisted on breasts, and I'm so glad. And thank you for pointing out that 'vulva' is truly the correct term for the external genitals. Someone corrected my newly three year old when she said vulva ("you mean vagina") and, ugg.

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  5. My mom always called 'it' our 'bottom'….probably what was passed down to her from the English side of the family. I'm pretty sure her mom used it, and her mom, too. And now, with our baby, I've caught myself doing the same thing. It is a handy term, covering all the private parts at once. "It's time to clean your bottom!" But I'll be sure to teach her the true words, too. But in the meantime, I like it, and I'll use it.

    There's a great monologue in The Vagina Monologues that uses all the different terms — hilarious!

  6. This is an interesting article. As the child of an OB/GYN, I was definitely raised to know and use all of the proper medical terminology (I also called my fingers phalanges, haha!). Even though I totally agree with this approach in theory, I remember feeling kind of weird about it as kid. I never had a problem with "penis" or "breasts", but I definitely had issues with the word "vulva"–while this is clearly the proper terminology for the female body, I just think it's a weird word that I've never enjoyed saying. I'm not sure what a better alternative would be, though, and I would love to hear what other people use.

    One of my HUGE pet peeves is people/parents who talk about cleaning your "vagina", or it not being proper to "show your vagina" or whatever. First of all, it's a self-cleaning organ, so there is never any need to "wipe" your vagina. Second of all, it's REALLY difficult to show your vagina to anyone, seeing as it's a completely internal structure! Aside from the vulva/vagina issue…I personally became very fond of the word "cunt" after reading Inga Muscio's great book of the same name…but I have to admit that even I wouldn't be too comfortable teaching that word to a toddler!

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    • I'm totally with you on the whole "vulva" issue — I know it's the correct word, but as a child I always got it confused with "Volvo" ("I can't believe they named a car that!" I'd giggle) and it's just a pretty meh word. I use "crotch" as the catch-all, but you're right that "vagina" has taken over as the wrong term.

      Cruising a pregnancy forum once, I saw a woman refer to her "vagina hole." I was completely confused until I realized she was calling it that because she was trying to differentiate between her "vagina" (aka vulva) and her vagina … hence, Vagina hole. (Which would be a great punk band name)

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      • I'm with you both as well. Penis..no problem but Vulva? There is almost something not right with that word (not the meaning of course which I don't have a problem with). I just wish there was a more correct word to use that didn't sound so…odd?

        Probably the best "nickname" I've heard for Vulva/Vagina has been Vajayjay. I just love that term for some reason. It's almost appropriate but nicer sounding too.

        Now the funniest nickname I've heard was Lady Town. Classic and demure. But that certainly does not top "pee pee dragon".

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      • I'm cracking up right now. I don't think I'll ever look at a Volvo the same way again.

      • I totally agree with teaching kids the correct terms for body parts now. As a teenager I was babysitting a two year old girl who after he bath informed me that, "You forgot to dry my vulva." THAT freaked me out, and I calmly informed her that if she knew what it was, she could dry it herself!

    • though my feminist parents tried to do the right thing by calling my parts a vagina and my brother's parts penis and testes, i was totally confused when faced with a science diagram for the first time. you mean pee doesn't come out of my vagina? so confusing!

      i think that's why i'm in favor of teaching the individual parts (labia or lips, clitoris, vaginal opening, urethra, head, shaft, perineum, anus…did i miss any?). and even though that's a lot for a 3 year old to retain, i think it's important for identifying pain or problems or even abuse. it's important for kids to be able to say "she touched my perineum" or "my vaginal opening is itchy".

      the problem i have is how to explain that while it's important for us to know our own bodies, know what things are supposed to look like down there, how to take care of ourselves, etc. that these areas are "private" and "special". the good touch v. bad touch stuff just doesn't cut it because sexual abuse can often feel good. it makes my head explode just thinking about it.

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    • When she's ready, she'll get the other names. For now I've worked on getting her to stop calling the whole region vagina 🙂 I don't like vulva either, so taught my bonus daughter the term pudenda. It's accurate to describe the same region as the vulva, and we've discussed that it's a phrase that covers a lot of area – sort of like the word 'face'. We all have faces, but each face has specific parts and those parts look a little different on everyone to make each face unique.

      BTW- cunt rocks!

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      • "Hey Kymba, its cool that you and your kids explore different names. I thought you might want to know that "pudenda" is a Greek work meaning "shameful thing". Many people dont know the etymology of the word so Im sure you could still use it if you really like it. BTW, love the term "bonus daughter" as opposed to step daughter!

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    • Boy am I glad I found this page. I have a four year old daughter who I have not talked too in depth w/ regarding her private anatomy parts. She still calls the whole area her butt. I was just reading an article on good touches vs bad touches and how to talk to your child. I thought about the lack of language in our home and looked up this topic online and found you ladies (off beat mamas). Thanks for all the advice and ideas and good laughs too. I've picked up some great tips. Thanks from a "Keep Portland Weird" but not creepy mom. 🙂

  7. P.S. I used to teach a little boy who called it his "cowboy". Not *quite* as awesome as "pee-pee dragon" but still pretty hilarious.

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  8. I love this post! My daughter is two and since she started talking for some reason I just called her private areas, parts. If she happened to get diaper rash she'd say "mommy my parts hurts" lol. I never meant for her to call it that it just sort of happened. When I realized that this was probably odd I told her the real names. She does use slang she most likely picked up from us. She asked if I was putting my boobs on the other day, meaning bra and everytime she sees her nakey tub picture she screams my booty. We plan on always be honest but she can call it what she wants.

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  9. In the book "Breeder" here is a really interesting short story about one mom as she is trying to figure out what name to teach her daughter. She chose "yoni" as the word her daughter would call her vagina. Yoni is Sanskrit (I believe) for vagina, and means something along the lines of "the source of power". Vagina means "a sheath for a sword".

    By the way, I think this book is a must read for offbeat mamas. I love it and read it at least once a year.

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  10. Growing up calling our boobs "chi-chis" and my vulva "cosita", it was hard coming up with names for my son's parts. I do plan on teaching the correct terms but for now his penis is "pee-pee" and his testes are "huevitos". He was very fond of my "chi-chis" but when I started breaftfeeding his sister they because "sister's cup". The first time I heard that made me crack up. We also call womanly parts "coochie", I think its hard at this point to teach them the correct terms but my hispanic family would not be very happy hearing penis and vagina at this stage.

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  11. My son calls his equipment either penis or "winky." We say vagina, which became "yaya" when my 2-year-old daughter started talking. So, we kind of bounce back and forth. I think Ryan has a good point. Maybe we should sit down and discuss the technicalities. Or maybe I should take the kids along to my next gyno appointment. Family outting!

  12. Hate to bring down the light hearted vibe, but there's another very good reason for teaching young children the proper names for their body parts, and that's the unfortunate and awful reality of child abuse (sexual or otherwise).

    I've known a few folks who have been in the social services field and have heard terrible stories of perpetrators getting let off of charges in court on the technicality that the child/victim couldn't properly name where they had been violated.
    I'm not a parent yet, but of the many reasons i agree with Starr, this is one of the biggest reasons that i personally support the method of telling one's kids what the proper names for body parts.

    great post, thanks!

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  13. I'd also like to mention that when I was a child, I called mine, "tootie". My sons also call breasts "women" now and I don't know who taught them that! They know what nipples are though because while watching Coraline, one of the characters has large nipple tassles and my youngest says his favorite part is with the girl with the big nipples! haha I crack up when he says that. My four year old also knows what testicles are because when he was two he had to have one removed. He says he still remembers it and what the doctor called it when he was at the hospital. He's a very smart little boy.
    Sometimes, aside from penis, they will call it a peanut or penor. lol

  14. My grandmother referred to her daughters' genitals as thier "middle" , which My Mom never taught me (she called my sister and my genitals our "birds") , so when one of my aunts, changed her diaper, she noticed a rash and said "Oh, her middle looks red!" I was like "uh… her belly looks fine to me" My aunt looked at me like i was the idiot and said "No, her MIDDLE…her MIDDLE!" so I said "Oh! Do you mean her Vulva?! Here's some Penaten"

    Genitals are such a touchy subject. I dont want my daughter to think theres anything about her body that she should be ashamed of, but I also don't want to put her in a position where she could be preyed upon and not realize it, you know?

  15. I use "girl parts" and "boy parts" as sort of catch alls when describing them in general and use correct terms when talking about particular parts. For instance, I was explaining the birth of our son to my 8 year old, I used words like uterus, vagina and after he was born and saw he was different I named the individual parts (penis, testes) but collectively called them his boy parts. However, while chaning his diaper, he managed to shoot a stream of urine over his pack-n-play and hit a window. Since then, my daughter has refered to his penis as a "pee gun".

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  16. I can't take the credit for it, but my husband and his ex taught my step-daughters "Labia". My husband said he got pulled aside by a mother of a playmate when his oldest was young after hearing C refer to her labia. She thanked him profusely for using the right language and the fact that her own daughter had picked it up. He thought for sure he was going to get a talking to!

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  17. This puts me in mind of a coworker at the Montessori preschool where I work who had someone… was it an adult or a child? I honestly can't remember! Anyway, someone mentioned to her class that there was "a baby in so-and-so's tummy." A 5-year-old boy in the class – a son of a midwife, I believe – said, "It's not in her tummy, it's in her uterus!" One of the other parents in her class heard about this and got all up in arms, appalled that they were letting this kind of language be used. Like "uterus" is some kind of Bad Word. Sheesh. (I also can't STAND hearing people tell children that there's a "baby in her tummy," and if I feel the need to use a specific locational word for myself, I'll definitely be using "uterus" at school!)

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    • I've always hated "baby in her tummy". As a fairly bright 7 year old, I couldn't figure it out when my mom was pregnant with my brother. How is it in your tummy, isn't that where the food goes? Is she going to poop it out later?

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      • I''ve seen kids hear this and be horrified that the pregnant woman must be eating babies. Not a good thing to be confused about.

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  18. My daughter's first word was vulva.
    Not even a mama before that. And that's generally what we say but I occasionally refer to it as her 'bits'. She also knows about breasts but I tend to call them boobs, and she knows that she used to get 'mama milk' from them. And as for boys, she knows that they have a penis but I'm pretty sure it's registering as 'peanut' in her mind. She's only 2, so boys having a peanut is fine and kinda cute at this point 🙂

    I have noticed that quite a few older adults, ie grandparents and what not, get a little huffy about her use of vulva in front of them. So I'm not totally surprised about the uterus story, but it's still awful. I mean I think all kids should learn about where the baby is coming from. Doesn't have to include the sex talk, just that a baby isn't in a tummy it's in a uterus and it's not coming out Mama's but… :p

  19. Thanks Off Beat Mama for posting my story! I am glad this has generated so many thought provoking comments. Big J lately uses the term tenders to describe his parts since that's was Po uses in the movie Kung Fu Panda. They are indeed tender so sure, why not?

    As many readers have commented my goal to use the right terminology with my kids has mostly been to avoid misunderstandings about our genitals and what goes on "down there" (as my family sometimes says). I know they'll eventually use the slang to describe their parts. It's what kids and heck, even us adults do. As other have commented, Vulva is just not as catchy as say "Lady Town" or "cunt". But I want them to learn the foundations at least first and be aware of what is what.

    As a kid, I remember sneaking into the "sex" section of the public library to learn about sex and my body (imagine my amazement at the age of 12 finding the "Joy of Sex" on a shelf!). Granted, learning such things in a library was not the worst way to figure this stuff out but I also felt completely insecure talking about such things with my parents. Again…penis, vagina etc WERE not said in my household.

    I tell you what, if my parents went over things like urethra, vulva, penis, gluteus maximus etc with me from the start Anatomy 101 would have been a hellava lot easier to tackle in college!

  20. My grandmother calls her vagina her 'person.' Little creepy, I think.

    I wanted to second Sara's comment above; I am a pre-school teacher and we just did a training on child abuse. One of the things we learned is that children who do not know what to call their privates, or who are too embarrassed to talk about them, are more likely to be sexually abused because the perpetrator feels safe that they won't be able to tell anyone. Imagine if the little boy from the first comment came to someone and said, "That man touched my dragon." We'd have no idea what had really happened. Food for thought!

  21. AHhhhhhhhh thank you thankj you THANK YOU! I also live in Texas, and grew up with most kids around me using words like 'teetee' and 'bobo' and I swore I would never make my children embarassed about their bodies. My daughter sometimes says bottom, and like "butt" as much as almost any 7 year old. (Butt jokes are big with her) When she was an infant she had trouble with labial fusion, so it is important for her to know the proper names of the different parts so that she can articulate to us the specifics of any problems she has. She prefers the term boobs, and is acutely aware of mine, but knows the term is breasts, and what they are for.

    **Righteous fist pump** for no shame in our body parts!

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  22. My parents always referred to my genitals as 'front bottom' and 'back bottom' when I was little, then when they taught me about sex I learned that the vagina existed. No one ever mentioned the rest of the female genitals to me, and it was only when I was in my late teens that I actually discovered the correct names. I think it's entirely correct to teach children the correct names for their genitals- it allows them to communicate properly and I think goes some way towards stopping themselves thinking that gentals are somehow 'dirty' and something to be ashamed of.

    I used to look after a kid whose family referred to his penis as a 'wink'. He was about 4 years old and I was getting him ready for bed when, completely spontaneously, he started telling me about his wink and how his Dad had a bigger wink than him. It was all I could do not to giggle.

    I was channel hopping a while ago and happened upon a program on one of the Christian channels, and they were interviewing a man about raising small children. He was explaining how he accidentally taught his small (~2 year old) daughter the word 'penis'. He had been shaving naked in the bathroom and hadn't locked the door, and she'd run in and started asking him the names of things. One of the things she pointed to was his penis, so he told her what it was, then she immediately moved on to another object. The lesson he was explaing from this was that children have no shame attached to bodily parts, and that they pick this shame up from adults, so if you don't instil shame in your children they're less likely to pick it up. I thought it was good that he was going on air discussing this.

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  23. My sons call their penises dingy-dings thanks to my grandmother. They know the correct term but refuse to use it. We refer to my daughter's vagina as her "girlies".

  24. We decided that we would just go with penis with our son – no need for cutesy nicknames. But then of course he couldn't say it properly and said "peanut" instead, which was close enough and it's stuck. This of course provided for much laughter and humor when he saw a Disney cartoon that had an elephant and Mickey Mouse singing "Shake shake shake your peanut!" together. Two years later and that song still cracks him up if he hears it…

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  25. This is such a great discussion! Growing up, my family didn't even have a name for these things. It was just "down there." Maybe "private parts" was used? The word pee was even treated as a bad word. We were trained to ask to "use the restroom" and constipation/diarrhea problems were referred to as a BM. Only years later did I understand that it was a "bowel movement." I got to fourth grade health seminars without even knowing where or what a vagina was.

    Talk about repressed! My children will definitely know the proper terms for things.

    • This was my upbringing exactly. And because of it, I am embarrassed when I have to discuss my "lady parts" as my mother called them. And honestly, it wasn't until late high school that anyone even told me that you don't pee out of your vagina. I refuse to raise my kids this way, but I'm afraid that they will pick up on the fact that it does embarrass me, even though I don't want it to. How do you plan to address that issue?

  26. One time my sister and I took our then five year olds to our local museum. The kids ran ahead into the next room and we could hear the kids arguing. They were in the African Art section and were looking at the statues. My daughter was emphatically stating that it was a PENIS and NOT a WEINER!

  27. Not a mom yet, but I fully intend on using "penis" and "vulva" for private parts. My parents always did. In fact, they were very open about sexuality. Any and all questions I had were answered. I think it is because of that that I remained a virgin until 18, even though most girls in my town lost their virginity no later than 15. However, I will probably use "bottom" or "tush"…I work in a day care center, and those names have kind of stuck. I don't know about teaching young children to annouce they have to urinate or have a bowl movement, I'll probably just use the stand-by pee-pee and poop.
    I was surprised one day at work when a 3 year old boy said "my penis hurts"-his mom looked so young and straight laced, I didn't expect him to know the proper terminology (if you're curious, he had a piece of hair wrapped around a bit of skin of the shaft).

  28. Yeas ago I got in trouble while babysitting my sister-in-law's 3-year old for using the word "butt" (as in, "Emily, come sit your little butt down next to me.") Apparently Emily told her mom "Auntie Dawn used the "B-word!". After sorting out just which B-word it was that had been used, Dee informed me that they used the term "bottom" and that "butt" was vulgar.

    Later that week, Emily cleverly notes aloud "hey, mommy's boobies are bigger than Auntie Dawn's boobies!" I turned and looked at Dee and asked "boobies?" Dee said "well, what's she supposed to call them?" I said "well, how about breasts?" Dee looked appalled.

    I'm still trying to figure out how "butt" got on the banned list, but "boobies" is on the approved list. Just who makes up these rules, anyhow? Just plain silliness.

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    • I had the same sort of situation with my little cousins. I said the word bum and was told quite sternly by my auntie that they use the word bottom. Then again, these are the cousins that aren't even allowed to watch PG films even though they are 11 and 13 (even some U films are not allowed – drives me mad).

  29. I whole-heartedly agree. It's silly to use little cutesy names to describe our body parts.
    My best friend grew up calling penises "peepees." Now she's a 24 year old married woman and still blushes as the word "penis." She made the mistake of calling her husband's penis a "peepee." He definitely didn't like that, "It's not a peepee, it's a penis!" I'm sure no husband/boyfriend/man would want his 'manhood' being referred to as a shrimpy peepee.
    And further more, there is nothing shameful about penises, vaginas, or breasts…and we shouldn't make our kids think there is.

  30. penis is kind of a funny word. i'm definitely not ashamed to use the word, for sure. but it does make me giggle sometimes. it's such a strange word! penis penis penis. hehe.

    i do fully intend to inform our child(ren) of the proper terminology. i fully expect that our child(ren) will also adopt the goofier made-up terminology, seeing as s/he will be spending the bulk of each day in daycare starting around 2.5-3mo of age. but s/he will be taught the proper terms at home, even if s/he doesn't use them.

    personally, my favorite eye-roll terms for "girl parts" is either vajayjay as posted previously, or bajingo.

  31. We call penises penises and vaginas vaginas in our house. Like other posters have said correct terminology is important from a legal standpoint. We had an awful incident at a park near our home this summer. A 16 year old boy was parading around the splash pad showing off his g string underwear that were sticking out of his shorts. After he was sure us mom's saw him he sat down under a pavilion near by and started masturbating while watching the kids play. The park rangers and state police got involved. It was awful. It took that incident to make me realize I really hadn't done very much talking about strangers and touching with my 3.5 year old. We bought books, made up a password to get into vehicles and we do role playing with puppets. The puppets have been great. I have a police officer puppet, little boy puppet, and the tiger fills in as the stranger. On a much lighter note, I heard a funny story about testicles from a new mom. Her little boy was sitting on a chair naked after his bath. He told his mom his penis cheeks hurt. She walked up closer to him and asked for him to repeat what he said. He did repeat what he originally said while pointing to his testicles. LOL

    • That sounds like an awful experience! But we need to be careful about the stranger talk also and not making our kids afraid. If there was ever a time that for some reason our chil(dren) was seperated from us a stranger is someone that might help them, so we don't want them to be afraid to ask for help. I have taught my daughters what kind of strangers to ask for help if they were ever seperated from me (ie: a woman with children, or just a woman, or a man with children, or someone in a uniform cop, fireman, etc.). The password for vehicles is a great idea though.

  32. My little girl is only about 3 months old, but seeing this has made me think. Whenever she has a dirty diaper, I always end up saying "Time to change your butt!" even if she's only peed and such. I think I'm going to have a talk with my FH about when she's older teaching her the correct terms (though I have the feeling he'll be like "talk to mommy about your… parts.") I remember when I was about 8 or 9 years old and I knew the words penis, vagina, etc… I felt guilty about knowing them, because saying stuff like that was "bad". I distinctly remember seeing a magazine cover that said "Do your kids know too much about SEX?" and feeling horrible, like I was disappointing my family by knowing those words.

  33. Reading through these comments, i've found my new fave phrase – Ladytown! I like to imagine it has lots of coffee shops and requires the wearing of fab outfits. And possibly poodles.

    I told my partner before he left for work, and just got an email saying he's planning an early night as he wants to 'pop over to Ladytown' tonight. He he heh. Yes, our combined maturity equals a 12 year old.

    In regards to my girls, we have quite a liberal view of nudity in our house (often afterschool on hot days my 11 year will wander past in a teeshirt and undies declaring it's Pants off Monday or whatever), and so they're pretty clear about what a penis, vagina etc are, but the 5 year old may know the words but still uses Gangina or 'front bottom' if there's a problem. We all use boobs for breasts though, not sure why.

    In short, they know the correct terms, but we're more interested in the feeling behind the words than what they call them for now.

    Ladytown…

    Yep, still precious.

  34. I'm trying to remembers what my late-eighties-brand-new-open-but-with-a-prudish-mother taught my brothers and I… We definitely knew all the right words, and were the kids at school people would go to for sex questions because Mum was always honest (although Dad still hides behind his newspaper if I mention the word "bra") but she preferred "wizzie" to vagina. She was fine with penis, though. Weird.

    And although the three of us were fine with the real words, we still used nicknames because most other kids were taught them instead of the biological names. That always felt silly to me – it's a penis, people. Not something you should be afraid of!

    I don't like the word vulva though, I much prefer vajayjay, because it's fun to say. 🙂 Vulva just makes me think of Seinfeld. 😛

    (And I really need to get my mum to submit something here – her kids were accidental triplets. 🙂 )

    • I had to add my mum's favourite story about us. Sitting in a cafe with mum and dad, we were in our stroller and the waiterr came up for a chat. He looked at the three of us and asked who the leader was. My brothers both pointed at me and said "she is" then one added "and -she's- got a bajina!" the waiter left very quickly..

  35. My son was 2 when my daughter was born. We had already taught him proper terminology for his body, and now with a little sister in diapers, he wondered what happened to hers? After a bit of explaining, he got it-boy=penis, girl=no penis. While out to eat with my grandfather, aunt, and two uncles, my son began what we now affectionately call "penis role call." He pointed at each person at the table, and based on their gender bestowed a "penis" or "no penis" along with appropriate headshaking to emphasize this. My grandfather was a conservative fella, so he nearly fell out of his chair in tears of laughter over this. I think he was slightly uncomfortable with the term being used by a child, but so tickled it didn't matter:)

  36. I am pregnant and until reading this I hadn't even though about what to call genitals. By boyfriend and I have decided to go with the proper terms. I don't want any confusion or shame. I really can't wait to see what my family has to say about this decision as I know it will be funny.

  37. Ummm it started out as Noodle… I dunno why thats just what he called it… but after watching too my Law & Order and being reminded about how many screwed up twisted people there are in this world… I really started pushing penis, vagina… and boobies is the slang I suppose… it may be right, it may be wrong. But I want my kid to know that those are HIS parts.. those are the names… and when they are spoken of there is no confusion…

    i can be a little crazy sometimes, lol

  38. AMEN! I don't have kids yet, but they will absolutely know the correct terms. I'm a nurse so I've always thought the cutesy nick names were ridiculous. A few years ago I realized my husband didn't understand the difference between vulva and vagina I immediately went and found him my old anatomy text book. How does one get to be in their late twenties and not know this stuff?!?!

    (I also made him look at charts about menstruation cycles because he was fuzzy on how that works too. Craziness.)

    • I recently had a conversation with a 28 year old male friend of mine who was amazed to learn that the cervix was not inside a woman's anus. I kid you not….

  39. I wonder at what point in time correct terminology of body parts became so "dirty"
    I do the same thing with my kids and it elicits the same looks from family members that you described!

  40. I wouldn't tell my children that their arms are their "long reachies" so why would I make up names for their genitals!?

    1 agrees
  41. My mother grew up with a very technical term usage family and she jokes that it scarred her for life. She thought the terms "expel gas" and "bowel movement" were nauseating. The only thing worse was "passing gas" as if they were gifting it to the neighbors of something. My sister has three boys and they know the real terms (the youngest had a Vagina Song) but we still have nick names for them. Breasts, boobs, boob-a-la's, breastisis, the boys, the girls, Vagina, Good Girl, Garden, va jay jay, 'gina, etc.

    However, some of my favorite stories are about the mispronunciation of the correct terms by children. My sister made some poor girl cry in grade school insisting that her name, Virginia, was the real word for your privates. Then there is that fact that my Aunt pronounces "Volvo" as "Vulva". HA! It was priceless…"Jennifer has a gray vulva." "Why were you looking at her vulva?" "She brought her new car over to show me." "…do you mean VOLVO?!" Could have died I tell you. But my newest favorite is when my mother had an Angina attack and the 14 year old said "Grandmom's had a 'gina for 50 some years why is she so worried about it now? And what does it have to do with her heart?" Bwahahahaha! I still can't tell that story without laughing until tears.

    I think letting your kids know the correct terms is fine but you need to realize that confusion and mispronunciation are par for the course (not to mention comedy gold). I think the truly important thing is creating an environment of openness and acceptability. No matter what we called it it could always be discussed with the family. None of us were or are afraid to ask questions. Letting your kids know about appropriate settings would be good too. Nothing is quite as startling as when the six year old tells his lesbian aunts that they need a fecky (penis) to have a baby while out to dinner at HomeTown Buffet. 😉

  42. Loved this post and all the comments. It's fascinating how far people will go to call a thing anything other than the perfectly good word it already has! We raised our boys to use the word penis and it's not a big deal for anyone except my mom, who once talked to them about their "wee-wees" and they just stared at her. I had to translate for them, "Grandma means your penis."

  43. A few weeks ago my mother asked me why I used the word "maker" to refer to to my daughter's vulva. We've been using the phrase 'pee-pee maker' since she was born. My daughter just turned two, and frankly, it's easer for her to say 'maker' since she still can't pronounce certain sounds. She does refer to her butt as 'hinee' and breasts as boobies. That she picked up from both me and her father. Within the next year I plan on teaching her the proper terminology.

  44. Being the only daughter of a feminist single mum she was big on teaching me the right words and I will definitely be passing this on to my daughter. I remember having no shame about these things as a child and actually finding it really useful growing up. Of course, initially I think I caused my mum a bit of embarrasment – like telling a visiting Rabbi that I had a clitoris! – but that didn't continue on for long and I'm sure my mum would agree was worth it in the long run.

  45. Hahaha, my kids know all the right names for things, but it has been a process. Our first child knew them as parts. This was mostly to separate them from the bum. Our second was a boy, so penis was introduced. With our third, came the names vagina and vulva. My hubby still cringes when he hears the word vulva, to the point that he has said he would prefer the girls call it their vagina even though it's wrong and still makes him squeamish. Just less squeamish than vulva. I find it hilarious, and watching some of our friends get all curly is fantastic fun. Fact is though, the name of a part is the name. Nothing we can do to change it. With breasts, I'm not so fussed. Most of the names used for them are fairly commonplace. I do still laugh my arse off when all four of my kids call my bra's booby patches. Love it so much. Not something I'm going to correct them on too soon, because it provides ample entertainment.

  46. It seems that my childhood experience was rude enough to catch the filter! I heard a crass term for vagina as a child. I asked my mother what it meant, and she explained, adding that it wasn't very polite. Clearly, I thought, I must make it polite by calling it my "meow meow." She has never let me live it down.

  47. My Daughter doesnt really call it anything…just her private area. However, *I* had the ultimate term in my opinion. I called my vagina a GOOGIE!

  48. My daughter started school this year and in the play ground another girl said she had a boy name so she was a boy.My darling little girl turned around to this girl and said naaahhh i have a vagina so i am a girl! the other little girl thought vagina was a swear word and told the teacher!!!
    A swear word!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  49. I don't have kids yet, but was taught that I had a bum and a vagina when I was little, but my vagina was also a flower, according to my phillipino nanny. Very poetic, I liked that, as well as knowing the correct words.
    I happen to have triplet brother and sisters that are sixteen years younger than me. One boy, two girls equaled a very early discussion of boys have penises and girls have vaginas. This lead to gratuitous use of the words… They would bring them up in almost every conversation for a period of time when they were two!

  50. This is a very refreshing story. This is the approach i want to take with my kids, but it would really bother my parents. Growing up in my family, we didn't use slang or proper words, because we couldn't talk about our bodies at all! I don't know why. I never felt shame about my body, only confusion. I didn't know what any of the proper terms or slang words even meant until i was in high school. When I heard the word penis at age 5 I thought it's where urine came from, because people also call it a peepee. Girls pee too, so i assumed my pee also came out of a penis. In fourth grade I found out from a boy at school that girls don't have penises, so I asked my mom what girl's private parts are called and where girls pee from if they don't have a penis. I was so confused, but all she said to me was, "uh, I don't know."

    • No kids yet, but I wanted to share that my parents were the same way. They called it a "bo-fronty" and a "bo-hiney." My father would scold me for saying "butt" or "fart" as though I had used one of the supreme cuss words. To this day I'm still working through feelings of shame and embarrassment when I discuss my genitals — even with my husband or my doctor! I still can't say penis with a straight face — I tend to refer to my husband's as his "man bits" or "man parts." As a grown-ass woman I know this is ludicrous, but I can't help but feel like Jesus is listening or some other nonsense. I can cuss like a sailor, but I still hesitate or have to crack an uncomfortable joke or use a silly accent when I say "Peee-nusss" or "va-JHEE-nuh." It's insane!

      Predictably, my parents would never discuss sexual or anatomical issues with me. I remember sneaking into my mom's room when she was outside gardening and looking through her books on childbirth, desperate to find pictures or explanations so it would all make sense. That's how I finally figured out the proper names, but I think it only served to make them even more taboo. It wasn't until AFTER I took the sex ed classes in elementary school that my mom asked if I had any questions and all I could say was, "No, they explained everything," which wasn't true at all, but I had learned to associate my parents with shame about my body.

      One last thing, when I was in middle school I went to a sleepover and one of the girls accidentally kicked me right in the groin (right between the crease of my leg and my genitals). When she asked me what was wrong, I said (trying to be very adult about it), "You kicked me in my groin!" to which she replied, "You're a girl! You don't have a GROIN! GROSS!" Unless I'm mistaken, a groin is a groin no matter what your sex which tells me that LOTS of people don't understand anatomy and (thankfully) I'm not the only one.

  51. With both parents being medical professionals, it was definitely a vagina and a penis for me and my brother, with my English mother calling my bottom a bottom. We shouldn't be ashamed to teach our children the truth. I am a nurse and work with a Filipino woman who tells our female patients during baths "I need to clean miss Kitty!" The first time I heard this I laughed until I cried! Maybe it was her accent.

  52. My kids call their genitals "penis" and "vagina"…even though the RN at our doctor's office says "boy parts" and "girl parts". I think it's odd that even at the doctor's office, they aren't comfortable with the proper terms (even when the kids use them first). When my husband and I took a childbirth class before our twins were born, the gal conducting the class said "down there"…as in "When the baby's head emerges from "down there" it is called crowning." Growing up, my mom's family called the vagina a "toadie" …a term she did not pass to us. We mostly called it our "crotch" but also "vagina". However, our term for a penis was "go-go". You can imagine how confused/horrified we were to learn there was a band called the "Go Go's". I also remember wondering what the heck my mom was talking about when I overheard her talking about go-go boots once. They certainly weren't anything I'd ever seen her wear!!

  53. This is a fantastic post! I'm a proud offbeat bride, and a proud offbeat auntie! My nephew, who is almost 2, called his penis his 'puss-say' until about a month ago, when he began referring to it in the bathtub as his penis. His mom – my sister – has definitely done her best to encourage proper names being used. My mother, too.

    When we were little, my sister and I, called our vagina's our 'front bum'. When my mother heard this, she bought a book about puberty called "What's Happening To Me" – hilarious title, lol – and made sure we knew all the proper terminology. A couple weeks later, she read us "Where Did I Come From", which – looking back on it – was a really excellent book, very comprehensive, perfect for parents who are wondering how to go about the "birds and the bees" chat. Actually, both of these books are great.

    It's so good to know that my nephew knows and understands about his body parts… And that he's not the only one! lol

  54. Wow! Excellent post!! I loved reading all the replys!
    I have a 20 month old daughter and my husband and I have had a few discussions about the proper terms. Unfortunately my parents are french roman catholic and I grew up saying bum and bottom… and even the word "crotch" seemed a little inappropriate.
    And my husbands family is full of people who make up 100 different dumb words for anything! I've heard them call the penis everything from peepee, firetruck, dewy, peanut, to sword. (yes that's right.) And vaginas get coochie, vajayjay, cooter, peehole, and even… wait for it… (his cousin has taught her 3 yr old this for her vagina…) COOKIE!! Who thinks that's a good idea??! What kind of confusion do you want for your daughter! "Mommy… my cookie feels funny." "Daddy I need to wipe my cookie!" Yeah… I don't know what to say to that.
    So although I've begun to call my daughters 2 things… vagina and bottom… we shall see what happens in the near future. Hopefully no one tells her its a cookie. Also… even though I've been trying my darndest to change this… my daughter refers to my breats as "boobies".
    But hopefully none of us will get scolded at the park or daycare for using the correct terminology!!!
    P.S. I'm thinking of changing my vaginas name to Lady town… Haha! Love it!

  55. LOVE this post! My husband and I have always stressed the proper names for both penis and vagaina as our parents did with us. We do use the term "boot" instead of bottom…as in "sit on your boot" which has been shortened into "boot sit" now. However, as much as we tried to stress proper names you can't take into account pronuciation! when my daughter was little (around 2) she couldn't say "vagina" and instead called it her bagina (bah-jine-a)…often rather loudly in public places.

    My mom also loves to tell the story of how I corrected my younger brother one day when he referred his penis as his "weenis"…"No, it's penis and girls have a virgina".

  56. I've always tried to teach my son proper terms. One day he pointed to his crotch and said what's that, and I said your penis honey, and he said no THAT and grabbed his testicles. I was at a loss for words, haha. I knew balls or nuts would be totally confusing so I just said your testicles. Try to keep a straight face with your 2 year old saying testicles. OMG! But after that he was fine, until we taught him the word bicycle and he would confuse which word went with what object.

    He also got really specific and asked all about his butt. So he learned butt cheeks and butthole. I mean he was asking specifically so I told him the most appropriate names I could think of at the time. So a couple days later he falls down in his room on a pile of mega bloks and comes running to momma saying he hurt his butthole. I said, no that was probably you butt cheek. Sure enough when I changed his diaper later that day he had a bruise right beside his anus. I was like, well you really did hurt yourself. He also went through a phase where he discovered hat our pets have buttholes and thought it was funny and amazing.

    All I can say is I'm glad my family is pretty open and hard to embarrass (my 80 year old Grandma has asked complete strangers if they have tattoos on their butts or "diddles" because since I have tatts, not on my butt or diddle btw, she thinks they'e great). I think my hubby gets a little embarrassed and has taught our son euphemisms like weiner, but that's his comfort level.

  57. OH and about the knowing of proper terminology to help prevent sexual abuse topic. I actually read somewhere that it creeps pedophiles out if the child asks them to stop touching their penis or vagina as opposed to some childish euphemism.

    Food for thought.

  58. My youngest sister couldn't say vagina and called it her "china"
    She just turned 21 and we still (lovingly) tease her about it. My Mom was pretty open with us about the names of everything. Thanks Mom! ; )

    Also I am a teacher in a 2 year-old classroom. Potty training means we talk about bodily functions basically all day. Makes for some interesting conversations. I can totally agree with the problems that nicknames can pose. Some of them confused me as their teacher when I started (like dupa???) so I can totally see what other problems that could pose. I have every intention of teaching my own future children the proper terms.

  59. My best friend from the very beginning always said she was going to let my godson (now 3 1/2) know that he has a penis and not a "peter" or "pee pee". Just be upfront with children..i mean he does have a penis and not a "pee pee". That however is what comes out. I will do the same with my children. She even said growing up that her mother said the word vagina and penis.

  60. I am still so glad my story still gets comments! I was very proud of my 6 year old son tonight. As we were eating dinner, he shouted to his sister in response to something he heard her say, "Boobies is not nice! You're supposed to say breasts!". In my 2 year old daughter's defense she was actually saying, "poopies". As in, "I have poopies, Mommy!", not uh…boobies.

  61. This is such a great post. I, too, am all for using the appropriate words, but I have to say it can feel a little awkward at first. I asked my husband if we should use the scientific language–for lack of a better term–and he said absolutely. But then it came time for him to answer a question and use it. He paused, shuffled around…. We've gotten more comfortable now that potty training has come into the mix, and because my son's not asking quite as many questions. Still, your ideas of what you'll do/say as a parent and what you actually feel comfortable doing/saying do not always fall in line with each other. I guess as with all things, you sometimes have to force it.

  62. A friend of mine refered to her cousins different parts as 'MOM DADDY BRODY HAS A TAIL!'

    I have heard it refered too as peeen. I never knew what to call my own parts as a child. Breasts were boobs. but i as a child never much talked about it that i can remember.

    When working as a nanny i would often have things whispered in my ear if it had anything to do with private parts. Also there was a time i was buying tampons it was an emergancy and i had to explain that as simply as I could to the five year old girl who i was looking after. Her mom laughed said i did a good job of explaining and was glad she wouldn't have to talk about the whole periods what are pads and tampons for thing. She wasnt used to seeing pads or tampons as her mother used a reusable insertion…. anyway… awkward funny story.

  63. i live in Sweden, and here there has always been an accepted word for the penis: "snopp". Penis is mainly used in a medical or official context, while snopp is the everyday word that all clidren learn. Just a few years ago there was a debate about the lack of an equally accepted word for the vulva/vagina, and a brand new word was invented and launched: "snippa". It's a feminized form of snopp, and by now snippa is almost as commonly used as snopp and is the default word in all daycare centers and schools.

  64. Good topic! I was helping my (new) stepson in his bath over break, and he was all "Even Daddy doesn't see me naked." I asked him if it was ok that I was in there, and he said it was ok.

    I also told him that it was ok to be naked in front of people, that being naked was ok, but that if he even felt uncomfortable, or if anyone ever tried to touch his privates, that he should tell them no, and tell one of us grown-ups.

    I kind of left it at that, but I will use proper terminology, but I interchangeably use breasts/boobs and bottom/booty/butt.

    I am less modest than my husband, but I also don't want to push any boundaries with the kiddo (he's 8) so I will put on PJ bottoms while he is here, but he's seen me in my undies, and I think that's fine.

    I plan on having lots of books around that the kiddo can reference, and his mom trained to be a sexologist, so he will be well-grounded in a commonsensical approach to language, reproduction and body image.

    Plus, I taught sex ed to my high-school students, so there is NOTHING he can ask that would shock or throw me!

  65. My parents (a pair of hippies) decided to teach me 'twat' and 'tit' for my own body parts, though 'penis' for boy parts. They thought about it a lot, and that was the least offensive, yet anatomically accurate term they could come up with. I don't know if I would want to use this for my own kids, but we'll see. When my brothers were born, they had 'penis' or 'willy' for their own parts, I can't remember what, if anything, they were taught for their testes. Maybe 'balls'. Mammary glands were 'tits' or 'titties' (they hilariously referred to bras as 'bye-bye titties' for a while)

    I see the value in teaching and using both 'scientific' and colloquial names for body parts. I am (unpopularly) adamantly against the use of the word 'vagina' to refer to the whole of a woman's primary sexual organs. I would go with vulva, myself. And I definitely agree with teaching little girls that they have both a vaginal and a urethral opening. That's just good information to have, and too many kids don't figure it out until much later in life. But I think it's good to have both the 'proper' word and some other kind of word, for use when around grandparents, etc.

    1 agrees
    • I like that you brought up distinguishing between vaginal and urethral openings. There are many adults out there who still don't realize this.

      I wasn't aware of this until I was probably around 10 years old. My aunt (a nurse) was visiting and somehow it was brought up in conversation and she said "I always taught my daughters that they have 3 holes down there, a poop hole, a pee hole and a baby hole."

  66. Ugh, that is a pet peeve of mine: the vagina is NOT all of the ladybits! It's a very specific bit.

    I'm still appalled that The Vagina Monologues got that wrong.

  67. I don't know why, but as my mum has had more kids her language has become more and more childish! Growing up I was taught that I had a fan (short for fanny) and my my brother had a diddle. Now with her 5th being 8 months old, and her using words like "fries" (flies) and flingees (fingers) I shudder thinking what my sister is going to get taught. My partner and I both want to use the proper terms (penis, vulva, vagina, uterus etc) and since my kids will be close in age to her youngest, I had to warn her that my kids are bound to inform their aunty what things are really called.

  68. I only have sons right now, so boy genitals are all we discuss right now. Right now, the word used to describe his penis is "pee bird". He's 3, it works for now. He's started to discover that mommy has boobs, so I've been calling them that for him. As the situations and age changes, he will learn the correct terms from us, but I take it as an age thing.

  69. I have three sons (one isnt finished cooking yet though) and my eldest picked up the term 'Winkie' on his own, I dont know where he got it from, but everytime I tell him its called a penis he corrects me 'no mummy this is my winkie' And mummys have front bottoms, or so I'm told. A breast is called a boobie and daddy has non-boobies…

  70. just as an added thought, i recently read an article or book (dont remember exactly) that recommended not specifying penis for boys and vagina for girls to leave room for the variety of nature. and instead to just explain that different people have different body parts just like we all have different body shapes, colors, and sizes.

    3 agree
  71. While the technical terms don't bother me in the least, we're just a family of interesting euphemisms. My son, to alleviate having to explain differences between the parts, has 'junk'. Since this is what we all called it anyway (among other, much less appropriate terms… that's what I get for associating with masses of eternal twelve year old men) this is what he calls the whole package deal, and mine too. Since he blurts things out enthusiastically so much, at this tender age, unable to explain conversational timing very well, it works. It was cute however, at seeing my husbands 'junk', and wanting to know more about it in his inquisitive manner, he now also has 'berries'. We'll explain it all better soon, but for now, considering I have to take him out in public and sometimes the condescending glares are too much for me, this works out great, and gives me a giggle at the same time 🙂

    1 agrees
  72. My mom was all about us using "penis" and "vagina"…though I think she might have regretted it just a little when I was three. I fell down at church and my uncle came to the rescue. He asked if I was okay. "NO!" I screamed, "I hurt my VA-GIIII-NAAAAAAAA!!!" He nearly had a heart attack. 😀

  73. My parents taught me French before English, so I used the term "vulve" (French form of vulva) for the first 7 years of my life. When my sister was born and English was more commonly used in the house, vagina was preferred nomenclature. A penis was a penis. Vulva weirds me out as well, but vulve doesn't. Vagina in French is vagine, and that weirds me out as much as vulva.

    Boobs and butt were considered naughty words. It was always breasts and bum – or seins et fesses.

    Among my group of university friends and classmates, we're fond of tits, dick, ass and vagina. I'm not sure how vagina became viewed as being on par to dick a slang term for female genitals, but it has.

    As a camp counsellor working with at-risk-youth, our sexual abuse social worker instructed us to use the same terms that a child uses to name their genitals, especially when/if a child chooses to disclose any history of abuse to you.

  74. My mother always called my vagina my "Doodah" which caused much giggling when ever I heard the song "Zip a dee doodah, zip a dee ay…"

    With my daughter we used to call that whole area her "bits" but now that she is older she knows the term vagina and uses it almost exclusivly. As I am expecting another child we have recently talked about the different opening s a woman has in her body because she, like so many children was convinced the baby was going to come out of my bum, and then when I said that was wrong she said "so it will come out with your pee then?" We have now got a good children anatomy book so that I can show her what will happen :o)

  75. My mom taught us the proper names for our genitalia (minus confusing vagina with vulva) but as a kid I always remember referring to my genital area as either my crotch or my bird. I knew the proper names I just preferred those two nicknames. Perhaps because they were gender-neutral and that's what my cousin used to call his penis?

    I recently found out that as kids my great-grandmother always referred to my nanny's (and later my mother's)genitals as their "Dim-dam-doo" or *gasp* "Mustnt-touch-it" !!!!
    After I stopped laughing I was horrified at the thought of teaching your kids or grandkids to refer to their vulva as their "Musnt-touch-it"… but those were different times I guess.

  76. my girls, I think in a way to try to annoy me, call their whole pubic region their "Chipmunk" honestly I don't know where it camer from or why but they love the little rise they get out of me when I try to correct them.

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