I’ve just learned, via Pandagon, that you can’t use the word ‘vagina’ on US television, but ‘penis’ is completely hunky-dory.
“I had written an episode during the second season of ‘Grey’s’ in which we used the word vagina a great many times (perhaps 11),” Ms. Rhimes wrote in an e-mail message. “Now, we’d once used the word penis 17 times in a single episode and no one blinked. But with vagina, the good folks at broadcast standards and practices blinked over and over and over. I think no one is comfortable experiencing the female anatomy out loud — which is a shame considering our anatomy is half the population.”
She ended up coining the hot new euphemism ‘vajayjay’. The whole thing is a very nice illustration of the way in which things relating to female sexuality are considered dirty in a way that things related to male sexuality aren’t. It can be hard to get students to see this, and this sort of example can really drive it home.
Update: It seems the above is overstated. It was the network which blocked the use of ‘vagina’ in the episode where ‘vajayjay’ was substituted. They don’t block all uses of ‘vagina’ but according to the writer they have a much higher tolerance for ‘penis’ than for ‘vagina’. So there is a double-standard, but not as stark a double-standard as I initially thought. Thanks, Cara, for pointing this out.