is a twenty years old girl felt her breasts were too small. She
wrote: I hate looking in a mirror or wearing a bathing suit
because I see how flat I am. I would mortified to let a guy
touch or see my breasts.
is an athletic seventeen years old that quit his schools
basketball teams because his breasts were large. He told us that
his teammates kidded him mercilessly in the locker room and
showers about when he was going to get a bra. He was afraid he
might turn into woman.
married couple in their mid-twenties who were sex therapy
patients said they frequently used stimulation of the clitoris
as part of making love. When asked to identify the clitoris
during a physical exam, the husband pointed to a large freckle
on the lower part of his wife’s labia major.
these examples show, many
of us have inaccurate information or negative feelings about our
sexual anatomy. This should not be surprising for a variety of
are taught to keep our sex organs covered by clothing;
are scolded or punished for touching our ”private
are not likely to be told the correct terminology to
describe our sexual anatomy;
are discouraged from conversations or questions about sex;
sexual images we are exposed to in movies and magazines are
likely to present almost unattainable standards to measure
is no wonder that our sexual anatomy can be a source of anxiety,
shame, guilt, mystery and curiosity, as well as a source
mixed feelings we have about our sexual parts are mirrored in
the words we use to talk about them: some words are clean
and proper, while others are dirty and impolite”. These differences are a result of how we interpret
words, not an innate property of the words themselves. Consider,
Nigeria, the moral taboos of sex were taught by missionaries and
administrators who used only clean words. These were the words
that became taboo. The dirty words used as part of the
vernacular of sailors, traders, and the like, became part of
Nigerian vernacular English, with no taboo attached. In
consequence today it is as forbidden to say sexual intercourse,
penis and vagina on Nigerian television as it is to say fuck,
cock, and cunt on the national networks in the United State. In
Nigeria, the latter terms are considered normal and respectable.
are encouraged to feel as if our bodies are not ours. Our
“figure” is for a (potential) mate to admire. Our breasts
are for “the man in our lives” to fondle during lovemaking,
for our babies to suckle, for our doctors to examine. The same
kind of “hands-off’ message is even stronger for our vaginas .
who has been around young children knows that baby girls play
with their genitals just as they touch and explore all parts of
their body. Although this activity seems pleasurable and
interesting, most girls are quickly taught that it’s “not
nice” or “dirty,” a prohibition that is probably reinforce
during toilet training when the two-or three-year-old girl is
urged to “wipe carefully’ and “be clean.”
sex-negative tone of these early childhood messages is
consistently reinforced for most girls, as they grow up,
commonly creating anxieties and inhibitions about sex in general
and their sexual anatomy in particular. These difficulties are
compounded by many people’s perception of the female sex
organs as unattractive and unclean.
is one source of such negative attitudes:
periods are sometimes called “the curse”.
flow is contained by” sanitary” napkins (which suggests
an underlying condition of uncleanness),
during menstruation is often avoided by men and women
because it may be messy, and
some societies, there are strong taboos surrounding
menstruating women that isolate them, so they will not
contaminate food, plants, or people.
our cosmetic-conscious society of perfumes, deodorants, and
after-shave lotions, women have been told that their vaginal
odors are unpleasant and should be hidden. As a result,
“feminine hygiene deodorant sprays” were widely used
until it became apparent that they frequently caused vaginal
irritation and itching.
women have not taken a direct look at their own genitals or
cannot accurately name and identify the parts of their sexual
anatomy. (Sex organs in the pelvic region- in females, the outer
sexual structures and the vagina, and in males, the penis,
scrotum and testes-are customarily called the genitals.) While
we cannot imagine a person unable to distinguish between eyes,
nose, mouth, and chin, many men and women have no idea of the
location of the female urethra, clitoris, or hymen.