Monday, May 08, 2006

The Vagina Litmus Test

So a word I’ve been using a lot recently is “vagina.” I don’t remember exactly when I moved it up in the conversation playlist. I think I had it on shuffle for a while, and then at some point it got moved into permanent rotation. Another word I use all the time is “negro,” which, obviously, is probably more expected, by you, a reader of The Assimilated Negro.

Now while I don’t know exactly when I started using the word, I do know why I’ve continued to use it. It’s become what I think of now as “The Vagina Litmus Test.” Despite The Vagina Monologues having come out ten years ago, what I’ve discovered is that “vagina” is a word that still draws a reaction. One might even call it a “hot-button” word, if you will. When using the word vagina, particularly around women, some will cringe, some will slap you, some will just stop-and-pause, some will laugh, some will ask, “you have any crack?” Some won't bat an eyelash.

Now for me the word “vagina” is just a word. For me word choice always comes across as "a piece of the puzzle that is you." A person who uses the word “cooter” and a person who uses the word “vagina” are not the same person. I don’t want to rush to judgment about what kind of person uses each word, but again, it’s a piece of the puzzle. And when I'm acquiring puzzle pieces, there are four basic reactions I'm looking for:

The first reaction is the mortified/aghast/stupefied STOP. The person completely STOPS the conversation, looks at you in a manner that reflects the adjectives I used in the previous sentence, and usually engages in some sort of confrontation about usage of the word. I’d liken it to using the n-word around a militant black person. And the reaction can sometimes be physical, aka the stop-and-slap. These types of people, generally speaking, I will only be able to deal with in limited doses. I just don't have a lot of respect for getting fired up over someone's word choice. It's important, but you need more depth to work up a lather in my eyes. Now if I'm a known vagina-hacker, wanted in every state, that's clearly understandable cause for alarm. But, well, ... google me at your own peril.

The second reaction is the cringe-and-pass. This is a CRINGE that is just short of the full blown stop call, but the person gives you a PASS and doesn’t necessarily stop the conversation. They key here, however, is the cringe has enough flourish to indicate that the word should not be used again. This is the most common reaction. I generally respect any request to not hear the word, unless it strikes me as blatantly controlling/hypocritical. For example, I've had people tell expletive-laden stories and then ask me not to use that word. Bleh. I don't care about what inappropriate words you think are appropriate. And there's also the girl wearing the short-skirt and/or push-up bra, with her cleavage all splayed out, who hears the word and says, "ewwww." Bleh. If your titty-crack can be up in everyone's grill, I can definitely use whatever words I choose. For example, titty-crack.

The third reaction is a laugh. Self-explanatory. This is what you sort of expect if you're talking to artsy-types or hipsters. Also crackheads.

The fourth reaction is indifference. This one is the most disarming. Ultimately turning the whole litmus idea back the other way, because now you’re the one reacting and thinking, “what, she doesn’t respond to the word “vagina,” that’s crazy.” If there's no response, I proceed with extreme caution.

Of course a lot is dictated by the context and particular circumstances in which you use the word. There are too many variables to try and cover them all [now] but one scenario that always strikes me as an ideal opportunity for the vagina litmus test is when a girl is discussing some sexual scenario, and she has to indicate that area. She might point, or say, “down there” or use some slang term. That's when I like to interrupt and say, “oh, you mean your vagina …” and then proceed to the litmus reading. This is an ideal scenario primarily because she's opened the door on sexually oriented convo. So it's all the less reason to get in a fuss about word choice. In this case the reactions translate as such:

Stop/stop-and-slap – Stop is pretty much the same in all scenarios. But in this scenario, as she was discussing the subject, it comes off very poorly.

Cringe-and-pause – The key thing here is that she cringes, pauses, and then continues with the rest of her story. So you see she has to process it, but then she decides to not make a stink about it. There are also secondary metrics to evaluate i.e. the force of the cringe and the length of the pause.

The Laugh - The laugh is ideal in this scenario. In other scenarios the laugh might be a little "much," but here it's golden.

Indifference - indifference is always disarming, but a lack of response despite you interrupting raises a flag that is particularly red.

So there you go, get on out there and start saying "vagina” … with purpose.


  1. So I'm generally fine with the use of the word vagina. I mean, I'd probably laugh or pause briefly and then let it pass depending on the context. But that picture of the apple that you've got posted?

  2. you can say it - I don't mind. I'm only commenting so I don't seem indifferent.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. I am sorry, But I am actually a friend of yours. Defending yourself to people on the internet is a little ridiculous when they aren't the ones who have to constantly hear the word vagina come from your mouth. What's even more ridiculous is that I went on a date with you after you said this to me. So, in conclusion, leave the word for your blog and your fans. But don't ever say to me, Alice - Vagina. My name and this word shouldn't be used in conjunction again. Again, I actually have to hang out with you- shouldn't this count for more. B

    Bite me, it's my birthday.

  5. Anonymous5/08/2006

    ha ha ha ha. I love it TAN.

    I don't use the word, but come on, you can't get worked up over vagina. I saw the "monologues"on broadway. girls should be over it.

  6. Opal Irma5/08/2006

    LOVE this word. I used to work for a really uptight guy and when I was at my breaking point with the constant religious dialog I would just say Vagina. It would always end the conversation. He would get a look of confusion that would morph into that look you get when you eat WarHeads candy. Love the word and Love my very own Vagina!

  7. I don't know TAN. i guess you can use it, but I certainly prefer not to. It's jsut not a pretty word. most of the words for that "region" I'm not that in to ...

  8. i don't know, "new fan of tan", that apple actually turned me on a bit, and i'm straight. so, well done, TAN.
    i'm also a new fan, and you remind me of too many ex-boyfriends... and yet i keep coming back for more.


  9. Ever notice how much they resemble orchids? Lovely.

  10. maybe I'm a prude, but I kind of like "cooter."

  11. I have been using the term Vagina Envy as of late, and it raises eyebrows but I don't think that any one has had the nerve to really question my usage...out loud!

  12. Ok, so it's a litmus test for what then? What kind of person has what kind of reaction? And based on this reaction, what do we figure out? That's what I wanna know.

    Ps- I go more for "vag" (pronounced with a soft g) or chocha.

  13. I've wandered into "cooter" territory of late. It works so well for clinical terms—why speak of a transvaginal ultrasound probe when you can call it a cooter wand? And the term covers more than "vagina" does—for example, one might wax to obtain a "bald cooter," encompassing both the vagina and vulva in a single handy term.

    I hope you're giving equal time to "scrotum" or "glans," TAN. The average man shouldn't be spending all that much time pronouncing "vagina." I mean, you haven't even got one.

  14. Anonymous5/09/2006

    seems like you're making a lot of hoopla over what's more your own issue than the person you say it to.

    penis penis penis.

  15. Wow, given the number of unsavory synonyms/euphemisms for female genitalia, I didn't think that a clinically approved term like "vagina" would rouse (arouse?) anyone's indignation.

    Call me a silly cunt, but "vagina" seems to be safe terrirtory.

  16. this is a very interesting piece. I am surprised to know there are women out there who slap, or cringe, or laugh at the mention of that body part. I say vagina all the time, because that is what it is called. The women you hang with are either idiots, repressed, or of little education. Of course this whole thing is probably satire. It is interesing though.

  17. personally, i prefer cunt. my boyfriend CONSTANTLY flinches when i use it & since he's recently discovered the word - snark - has decided 2 drop it in where [vagina] or [pussy] - a word i detest can be called in, and i'm like, dammit, just say CUNT!!! he thinks cunt sounds dirty. i think it's empowered.

    i think we'll default 2 vagina from this point on...

  18. The only objection I have to the word is that it's too clinical and should be left to a boring anatomy lesson. I don't like the word Penis, either, for the same reason.

  19. Right, if someone used the word vagina I would be getting the impression they were uncomfortable with their sexuality and others and nervous about being nekkid.

    Its like a parental term, or a doctor. Cooter, cunt, pussy, froo froo(heh heh), hoohaw, yinyang...those are intimate cuddily terms. I agree they are empowering terms(sorry you don't like the word "pussy" Pretamulatta.

    Vagina is not sexy, it's not sexy like beef curtains ain't sexy.

    But I like that you are talking about this, lots of fun!

    love and sex,

  20. Well, your hypothetical "she", pointing downward, might intend to use the word "vulva", which is preferrable to "vagina" in my book. The vigina is the flexible interior tube, referred to as the "birth canal" by obstetricians.

    The vulva is the entryway, and includes labia and clitoris -- and to me, it indicates the exterior portions more generally.

    The obsession with the interior tube -- which does not even have much to do with reproductions -- or, for a lot of women, pleasure -- strikes me as odd. But as the tunnel of the journey or as the sheathe for the penis, no doubt its central mystery grabs some people.

  21. hmm there are people who are indifferent just because it may be normal to them. I don't think word's like pussy and cunt are empowering, not only are they disgusting, but I think they're degrading. Like when guys refer to someone who may not stand up for themselves, they will usually say, "his such a pussy." How is it empowering to use those words in whatever context?!?!?! But anywho yea people who aren't mortified or reacting to vagina probably don't give a rats ass because after all that's what its called!!!

  22. i actually love the word vagina...i think it sounds exotic. Much better than say "cunt". That one will stop me from even breathing every single time.

    Penis, however, along with all of its variations doesn't really do anything for me. It seems like such a stupid word...

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  27. I'm with Wendy, you need a better class of woman TAN. When I hear 'cooter', I think of that guy from Dukes of Hazzard, Roscoe P. Coaltrain. I don't know why but I do but I know I don't want to.

    Vagina is clinical and when I hear a man use it, it makes me worry that he's had more experience reading about than exploring it. Kind of like when you hear a man mispronounce "clit-OR-is"... You've been warned.

    Personally, I like "pussy". I think its an appropriatly affectionate and encompasses more than the birth canal.

  28. Anonymous4/05/2007

    I don't think I'd like to hear someone bring up the word "vagina" in casual conversation. It would probably be a pause-and-continue response. I know I wouldn't want to hear "cooter" or "cunt." But that's because I wouldn't think of using those words, nor of using the words "penis," "dick" or "prick," in casual conversation either. I usually assume that discussion of genitalia, whether the words used are clinical or obscene, will make others uncomfortable and therefore shows a distinct lack of manners.


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