Why We Should Use The Correct Anatomical Names for Children’s Genitalia

What should you call your child’s genitals?

The simplest, and most positive, answer is simply – their real names. That means:

For girls: Vulva (the outside part) and Vagina (the inside tube).
For boys: Penis and Testicles (the inside balls) and Scrotum (the outside sac).

This idea makes many parents cringe with embarrassment and disgust. This reaction is the very reason why it is so very important to use the correct anatomical terminology with children (and when I say children, I mean babyhood and up, it’s never too early!). The more adults use these terms around their children, the more likely children are to grow up without the cringe-factor that so many adults struggle with. There is nothing dirty, or inappropriate about the anatomical terminology.

Why else should you use the correct anatomical names? For girls in particular, other names can cause issues with body image and perception. For instance, terms such as ‘front bottom’, ‘wee wee’, ‘bum bum’ and similar, subconsciously imply that the vulva and vagina is somehow dirty and equates it with urine and poo, rather than sexual pleasure and conception/birth. This can absolutely impact the relationship a girl has with her body – and sexual organs – as she grows.

Finally, pet names – ‘floof’, ‘fanny’, ‘minnie’, ‘noonie’, ‘mary’, ‘fairy’, ‘lulu’, ‘willy’, ‘percy’, ‘bits’ and so on, are ambiguous. This means if a child is sexually abused, they may struggle conveying what has happened accurately to an adult. For instance a girl saying “he touched my fairy” may be misconstrued as somebody touching her doll without permission. Using the correct anatomical names is the best way to keep children safe.

Yes, it can feel awkward using the correct names at first, but you soon get over the embarrassment – and actually, it could have a positive effect on you too!


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Published by SarahOckwell-Smith

Sarah Ockwell-Smith, Parenting author and mother to four.

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