I was recently at the checkout at the supermarket, observing a mother distressed by her three year old child misbehaving. Then she said, “stop that you stupid little c_nt!” Keeping in line with my policy to be an “involved bystander” when children are concerned, I approached her to discuss this suggesting “that word actually describes the most beautiful part of a woman’s body”. The three year old looked up at me and she seemed to get where I was coming from. Her mother told me to “f_ck off”.
While it is no longer taboo to use words such as f_ck in all means of communication, the use of c_nt is still considered off-limits and too vulgar by most people outside very limited social contexts. Scholar Germaine Greer has said that “it is one of the few remaining words in the English language with a genuine power to shock”.
C_nt traditionally refers to female genitalia and is a word which is usually considered disparaging and obscene when used in a negative way particularly in reference to women, but is now also used in an offensive way referring to people of either sex. In Britain, New Zealand and Australia, it is sometimes used as a term of endearment – REALLY?
“The C Word” was the title of an episode of 30 Rock written by Tina Fey, and according to the Nielsen ratings system, was watched by 5 million households during its original broadcast. The episode reportedly resounded with viewers in the 18 to 49 year old demographic who were interested in exploring the consequences of calling a colleague “a c_nt”.
In the show, lead character, Liz Lemon shares her disgust about being called “the worst name ever!” She explains “I – I’m not upset by cursing. I *love* cursing. I love it! But this word is not acceptable – no – because there’s nothing you can call a guy back. There is no male equivalent to this word.”
If that’s true, what does that say about our values?
In my capacity as a clinical sexologist, counselling psychologist and mother, I ask kids to name all the words used to describe male and female sexual parts. It’s no surprise that the majority of names for female sexual parts are ugly and demeaning and the names for male sexual parts were fewer in number and more complimentary in nature.
Along with so many of the other derogatory terms, the word c_nt is used as a weapon to insult, and very rarely used with joy and respect.
I have noticed two recent trends in the last few years. Girls complain that it’s not just the boys, but also girls (and even adult women and mothers) who use the word c_nt to bully other girls. The bullying equivalent for boys is still to be of accused of being ‘gay’.
The other trend has involved activists campaigning to reclaim the word in a positive way by following in the footsteps of Betty Dodson, Germaine Greer, Inga Muscio and Caitlin Moran. Colette Nolan, founder of ‘Cherishthec_nt.com’ describes the ancient and powerful heritage of the word c_nt and encourages both men and women to choose to use it with pride. Nolan believes “it is within these four letters that our fear of women’s power lives today. The history of the word is vast and it can be linked to other words related to ancient queens and female deities all around the world. It was once a word that was used in reverence and respect for women.”
Happily, there is another ‘C word’.
I have spent years joyfully educating all who are open to listening, about the wonders of the only organ in the human body whose sole purpose is for pleasure – the Clitoris.
Adjunct Associate Professor and Sexual Therapist, Dr Vivienne Cass describes the clitoris as “an amazing part of a woman’s anatomy that is as long as a woman’s hand span, beginning as a small glans on the outside of the body with 6000 to 8000 nerve endings on its tip and extending inside the body towards the vagina, which makes it super sensitive to touch.”
Boys have a penis and girls have a clitoris – no, we are not just vaginas, so let’s get it right!
This “most excellent” organ is said by some to be God’s bribe for childbirth. The East is full of erotic and beautiful terms such as ‘the gateway to heaven’ ‘women’s flower’ but in the West, the entire sex act has been intentionally debased through the use of words like c_nt.
We need to give birth to a word in English that identifies and celebrates women’s sexual parts. If we can’t reclaim the word c_nt as a positive (and I doubt it), we can give the power to the word clitoris, and then create our own terms of endearment such as ‘clit’, ‘clitty’, or ‘girl woody’! We need to educate our tweens with correct terminology, so let’s refer to penis and clitoris, instead of penis and vagina, and give power to this ‘C word’.
How do we provide our tweens (10-13 years olds) with positive role models who educate them about appropriate and respectful language as they begin to experiment with sexually explicit terms that shock? This was my challenge when creating ‘Parents, Tweens & Sex’ app for the iPad. I wanted to provide parents with a safe and enjoyable resource to help them share their personal values and ethics with their tweens. This unique App supports parents to educate their tweens with the ‘sex IQ’ needed to be mindful and respectful about sexual relationships.
We want our tweens to have the understanding and skills to feel powerful because they have positive role models in their lives, who communicate joyfully and honourably, using language that is respectful and accurate.
So, go ahead, use the beautiful ‘C word’ on me, and we can all rise to the occasion!