Personally, I have no problem discussing the human body. You want to talk about periods? Sure! You want to know what a UTI feels like? Let’s chat! Maybe it’s the inner medical student in me, but I find conversations like these pretty normal. It wasn’t until recently that I noticed not everyone is as open to these topics as I am. Now that I am aware, I see how many people dance around saying words like “vagina”, “penis”, or vocabulary often generalized as “sex talk”. Instead, most people use slang, which can often be offensive, or even innuendos such as “my lady friend”. To me, that’s just plain weird. It’s medical terminology, literally, so why do most people act as if these are inappropriate words?
Because I rarely hear these kinds of topics come up in public, I wanted to see how many people considered them wrong to openly discuss. I decided to create an anonymous survey to test this. One of the questions I asked was: “Does hearing the words; ‘menstrual cycle’, ‘sperm’, or ‘testicle’ make you uncomfortable?”. While the majority responded no, there were at least ten people who said those words do make them uncomfortable. Why? The only possible reason I can come up with is that as a society, we are conditioned to differentiate between what is “good” or “bad” based on someone else’s interpretation. To dig a little deeper, the next question I asked in my survey was: “How often do you hear these words on the radio, television, or news?”. Unsurprisingly, the majority voted for rarely or never. What’s even more unsettling is that when I asked surveyors if they hear words like “pussy” or “dick” on the radio, television, or news, the majority responded with frequently. While I understand the need to separate slang and medical terminology depending on the situation, I’m shocked. If people are so concerned with the inappropriateness of a word, how is “pussy” more acceptable than “vagina”? I know which word I would rather have my children learn.
Another question that came to my mind is: what if the government is regulating the use of certain words over others? This seems obvious since slang is more prevalent, but I investigated the regulation of radio channels anyway. According to the Federal Communications Commission, content must meet the three-prong test, which includes not appealing to the average person’s prurient interest. If this is the case, and the use of excretory organs is only prohibited when in a sexual way, then why don’t we ever hear the word “vagina” during a tampon commercial or “penis” during a warning for prostate cancer?
I guess what I really want to know is why are people so scared of these topics? Medical terminology should never be deemed inappropriate when used in a correct manner. As a society, I think it’s time to normalize sex talk.