Private parts: of shame and of embarrassment

I am puzzled – and amused – in almost equal parts.

One of the rather less serious conversations on Saturday night was had courtesy of Suraya, editor of Filament, which describes itself, provocatively enough, as “The magazine for women who like hot men and intelligent thought”.

As with the work of Anna Span (aka Anna Arrowsmith, feminist academic, some time Lib Dem parliamentary candidate, and also, more exotically, producer of porn by women for women), Filament excites controversy. Mostly, I think, because it pushes the boundaries of eroticism in directions that appear extreme to a public brought up in the male tradition of same.

We are used to categorizing “porn” according to men’s ideas of “hard” and “soft”. So work that dares to suggest, by its very existence, that a different spectrum of eroticism might exist – and worse, that such a spectrum might have its own ideas about what is, what is not a turn-on – appears to scare the pants off the upstanding folk at W H Smith and the big commercial distributors.

I digress. Somewhere along the way, we got to talking about words used to describe various (female) body parts, and the way much debate was, yet again, overly influenced by male usage. How else to allow that in some circles, use of the c-word is regarded as the ultimate in oppressive writing – yet how alternatives are either clinically cold (“vagina”, anyone?) or ridiculous in the extreme?

Serendipity? Its been a week when this particular issue has come back to haunt me from several angles. First off, I was pointed towards an excellent blog that highlights the ultimate hypocrisy of how “respectable folk” can fulminate against one particular word, whilst being more than happy to spout bigoted, racist and sexist claptrap in its stead.

Next up, a piece of Daily Mail silliness, to which my attention was drawn by Jess, over at Pink News. Just one of those stories of everyday newspaper prissiness, made ridiculous by the fact that journalists were referring to it as “Fu-fu-gate”.

“Fu-fu”? Has anyone, outside of the pink imaginings of the departed Barbara Cartland, ever used such a term with genuine erotic intent.

Last but by no means least, is the bizarre reference I noted a week or two back, in the surgical consent form, with which I began in earnest the next stage of my journey. As part of the process, I learnt, the surgeons would be constructing a new “vegan” for me.

Really? I’ve never heard it called that before – and a quick google provides very little evidence that ANYONE uses that term. But unless I’ve got hold of the complete wrong end of the stick, that, too, appears to be one of the current acceptable medical euphemisms – at least when it comes to trans parts.

(Can anyone explain the etymology to me?)

Ah, well. At least we’re a long way from my school days when, in translating a particularly smutty piece of ancient greek, I looked up a word in the definitive Greek dictionary, only to find it was translated not into English, but Latin.

“Pudenda”: literally, “those things one should be ashamed of”. Thankfully, we’re no longer discussing shame, and have now moved on to literary effect. That’s progress for you.




2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    andrea said,

    see…you start by getting enthusiastic about vegetarian buffets and end up with a vegan!

    oh…and heres a fluffy foo foo

  2. 2

    Rebecca said,

    Vegan has GOT to to be a mistake. Got to be. Transcribed by a person with poor language skills maybe?

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