In some circles, the use of the word “vagina” is considered taboo.
This stigma surrounding words associated with sexuality has persisted for over 140 years but a new campaign — “Legalize Vagina” — is working to change this. In partnership with 12 influential female partners, including Alexandra Fine, the co-founder and CEO of Dame Products; Karen Long, CEO of Nuelle; and, Michelle King Robson, founder of HER Inc.; “Legalize Vagina,” is looking to create a movement. According to the campaign’s website, the movement “made up of women, men, companies, health care professionals, educators, and brands that are committed to destigmatize the word vagina.”
History has given the vagina many monikers, ““down there,” “private area,” and even “vajayjay.” Each nickname unfortunately normalizes the use the of more seemingly socially acceptable words for a body part whose name should not be considered offensive. According to the “Legalize Vagina” website, experts say women are less likely to report sexual abuse when they haven’t learned and don’t use anatomically correct language for their body. The inability to proudly own the properly descriptive words for their own bodies, in turn makes it difficult for women to verbalize their personal experiences or their personal needs.
For instance, up until the mid-1900s, the Comstock Law, otherwise known as the “Suppression of Trade in, and Circulation of, Obscene Literature and Articles of Immoral Use,” sought to block all sexual content, even in personal letters and packages, to protect the public. Under the law contraception was found under the umbrella of sexual content that was considered illicit.
The censorship of the women centered vocabulary and assistance does not end there. In 2013, Tim McDaniel, a biology teacher at a public high school in Idaho used the word “vagina” in one of his classes, resulting in several parents filing complaints against the teacher and an investigation by Idaho’s Department of Education. In June 2012, Michigan State Representative Lisa Brown was banned from the state house floor after she said “vagina” while discussing proposed abortion bills. Both of these people were punished for using the word “vagina” in the context of sexual content relevant to their profession.
The “Legalize Vagina” campaign provides an outline for supporters to join the movement towards destigmatizing “vagina.” The first step is simple, but powerful, use the word “vagina.” Supporters can then share the videos created by the “Legalize Vagina” campaign or create their own to raise awareness about the censorship of “vagina.” To help overturn the remnants of the Comstock Ruling, supporters can sign a petition and send lots of letters to those who control content about sexual health, urging them to use the term “vagina.”