Vulvas Get Bad Rap on Yahoo Answers

// 16 February 2008

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First, a bit of background: Yahoo Answers is a community where users informally ask and answer questions on a range of topics. It can be a bit hit and miss if you need a reliable source of information but is often fascinating if you want to get a feel for public opinion or find out what is generally thought of as established knowledge. It’s also incredibly addictive, with the relationships and health sections readily serving as prime fodder for procrastinating feminists in search of distracting challenges. Admittedly, I wiled away many bittersweet hours during the peak of my own addiction…

The latest jawdropper, while browsing the site this week, was my discovery that, when it comes to comparing the word cunt to the far more restrictive description of “cum dumpster,” the majority of answerers actually found plain old “cunt” more offensive. Seriously. A term that quite literally reduces the vulva to a passive site for “cum” to be dumped like waste is considered more acceptable than a simple word for it! In fact, at the point when I began to type my own earnest justification of why “cum dumpster” is obviously derogatory in a very literal way, the other answers had all singled out cunt as worse. (I appreciate that “cum dumpster” could probably be considered puerile enough not to cause any real offence in certain social situations but that doesn’t change its literal meaning does it?)

Unfortunately, Yahoo’s Customer Care had rather caringly removed the question by the time I hit “submit” so here’s a sample of the answers I had saved:

“C**T is a very offensive word. The other one……not so much.”

“c**t definately!!! havent heard the other one….obviously i can work out the meaning, i just haven’t heard it before…..they are both pretty horrible words to use!”

“The first one i think.”

“Hell, both repulsive. First one worst. Can’t stand that word.”

All the answers so far were from women, as the asker had specifically asked for responses from “ladies.” (Ironically, I’ve found that some of the most interesting results on the site come from provocative questions from possible jokers or trolls who are probably just looking to get a reaction before they -predictably- get reported.) However, I can also say that a male friend of mine wrote on my Facebook wall, after I posted a status update on the matter, to admit he can hardly bear to type the word as “c*nt.” We might be led to believe otherwise but, in my experience, direct words for “lady-bits” tend to make guys squirm too…

How can one word be so powerful? Why is it that the words “prick,” “cock” and “dick” don’t cause nearly as much offence, even when they’re used as insults? I appreciate that some people just hate the way the word “cunt” is used but does that really mean the word itself is bad? And, if so, doesn’t that impact on attitudes towards women’s bodies?

In my view, getting offended by a word for a part of the body that millions of women live with and achieve pleasure from every day just plays into the hands of misogyny.

Photo by JCardinal18, shared under a Creative Commons Licence.

Comments From You

Danielle // Posted 16 February 2008 at 10:12 pm

I personally have no problem with the word cunt. My mum absolutely hates it, like so many other people she sees it as the ultimate insult.

But I can use it almost un-selfconsciously now. Maybe something to do with putting on a production of the Vagina Monologues last year! When you’ve said it enough times it loses its taboo.

It’s just another word, and it only has as much power as people give it.

mike // Posted 17 February 2008 at 1:43 am

don’t see what the big deal is with “cunt”. As a gay man accustom to being called names since I first came out at age 13 , names really do not define me Besides most men are consumed with envy once they learn that the clitoris, for instance has twice to three times the nerve fibers as to be found in the penis! that doesn’t even take into account the labia’ G-spot or the muscled lining of the much-maligned yet always feared but desperately sought after CUNT. men always seek to belittle that which they are inferior to- and yes , in nearly all ways, the penis is a pathetic poser along side even the scrawniest vagina! how do I know all this , cock loving fag , queer ,buttlicker that I undoubtly am? you women, womyn , tell us gay boys every thing! oh, I was in a gender study a few years back. PENIS ENVY! HA! LONG LIVE THE MULTI=ORGASMIC CUNT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

jo // Posted 17 February 2008 at 3:18 am

The offence attributed to the word cunt differs regionally. When it is considered most offensive it is usually considered so by people who accept the greatest difference in ascribed gender roles. In the region I originate from it is used as liberally as ‘cock’ and ‘prick’ etc, and is treated the same. Men and women are treated much the same. I moved away for work some years ago and found that it is considered very offensive – by people who have a very strict idea or two about women. I have lived and worked in many places since and this theory has borne out.

Samara // Posted 17 February 2008 at 9:18 am

I LOVE the word cunt. It’s the only word for that part of my anatomy that I’m not totally grossed out by. The word “vagina” is actually much more offensive when you look at the etymology – it’s the Latin for “scabbard”. Charming. Nobody really knows for sure where “cunt” came from (might be Latin again – “cunnus” was the word they used back then) but it doesn’t mean anything other than what it is.

Jess McCabe // Posted 17 February 2008 at 11:30 am

I personally think the word cunt is more offensive in how it is used, than because of any etymology. It’s meant to be extremely offensive, and so it has become so. Whereas the term “cumbucket” is absolutely, undeniably grotesque and offensive. There’s going to be no reclaiming “cumbucket”, there’s no way to turn that into anything woman-positive… I can’t believe that anyone could in all seriousness rank it as less offensive than cunt.

Amy // Posted 17 February 2008 at 7:48 pm

Personally, I have absolutely no problem with the word cunt in the context of its actual meaning, and will use it synonymously with vagina. However, I hate it when people use cunt as an insult. I find the concept of using the term as an insult – particularly the “worst” possible insult – as insulting, rather than the word itself.

Cum dumpster…well, that IS insulting. It may be seen as puerrile, but I honestly think that is such a misogynistic term, by the nature of its literalness.

Amy // Posted 17 February 2008 at 7:50 pm

P.S. I believe the first use of the word cunt in English appeared in the name of a lane in London called Gropecunt Lane, or something like that. I think in Chaucer’s time they spelt it something like quointe, or something. This is from memory, we read an article about it in EngLang last year.

Jess McCabe // Posted 17 February 2008 at 8:32 pm

Amy, I’m not sure if that is the first use of the word cunt, but you may be interest to know they changed the name of the road you are talking about to the (if you think about it!) more offensive Threadneedle Street. It’s in the City.

mike // Posted 17 February 2008 at 9:57 pm

Thanks! Wasn’t sure that I’d get posted in such Xy limited territory. On that note I consulted two people who should know from “CUNTS”, my next door lesbian tennants. Nightly these ultra-femintst Dykes, as they refer to themselves, prove, audibly ,just how limitless the female’s capacity for sex and specifically, orgasm, really is. Where as my nightly effort lasts all of 3 or 4 seconds, as is typical of males in their forties, The Grryls routinely have sex for two hours, resulting in a seemingly (to my envy-ridden male ears) endless cacophany of ever louder, more drawn out orgasmic episodes. These, I’m told routine “cunt exploding” multiple orgasms defy, not only my somewhat gender-study educated imagination, but the stunned even more incredulous, male-ego shattered. minds of my boyfreinds. Talk about SHRINKAGE! So, enogh about the sexual frustrations of the real weaker sex for now and onto the real reason I’m taking the time to explore a subject that as a gay man I’ve long avioded: the Female Pysche as it relates to sex and the use of coarse male language applied to female anatomy. Not only is it a mystery to men, including my current almst-partner, Sam, who gets visbly bummed when he overhears The Grryl’s going at, so much so that he has gone limp more than once, but to The Grryl’sas well They regard the word “Cunt” somewhat in the fashion that, we gay men have usurped the word “faggot’. But then i”ve always felt we gay men have had to develope a thicker, even if rgrettably less innervated, skin. Few will deny that lesbianism is far more accepted (and eroticized) in our society My next door representatives of the Lesbian Race believe that words such as “pussy” and “gash”, are far more insidious because they trivialize the vagina, where as “cunt” is feared and seldom used by men infront of women, which they are also afraid of. The older half next door believes that men use derogatory words for things they fear precisely because men realize that we are the biologically inferior sex. “As womyn we live longer, suffer far less from disease,are smarter and can do two things no creature with a penis could survive: childbirth and female orgasm… call it what you want, Mr Mike, but both of those evets, that your ignorant sex is so damned bitter about – come from OUR CUNTS! Next time we hear you layin” there whackin” off late at night and your headboard starts to tappiin” on our shared bedroom wall, only to go still in less than a minute, you can rest assurred We’ll be damned glad you and your sex got stuck with the penis and we got the CUNTS!

Need I elaborate further? Take from an inferior- my “cock’, “dick”, “boner” or”prick” is a one -shot -wonder that is capable of delivering a mere 1/10th the bang that evaporates in seconds and is forced to shrivel and droop on bended knee at the foot of Planet Earth’s most formidible sex organ—————- THE CUNT!

Legible Susan // Posted 17 February 2008 at 11:22 pm

Mike, you don’t half go on! How do you fit all that in this little box?

“Few will deny that lesbianism is far more accepted (and eroticized) in our society” – actually, that’s mostly faux lesbianism, being eroticized for the (hetero) male gaze: two women = twice as hot. Actual women who demonstrate an independence from men in the bedroom – or anywhere else – may not be feared as much as you gay guys by insecure straights, but that doesn’t imply acceptance.

PS Thanks, Jess and tech person, for increasing the size of the box. It makes it a lot easier to read what I’m writing. Let’s see whether italic tags work …

mr mike // Posted 18 February 2008 at 12:11 am

Legible Susan, thanks for the clarifaction! This comes from a man who learned the hard way in that aforementioned Gender Study, that it often took two male brains to almost equal one Sister’s, but I must defer once again to your undenieable feminine wisdom when it comes to “how do you fit all that in this little box?” Was that you outside my bedroom window a mere fortnight ago? Come on now – we’ve long ago established my homostatus -what would I know from a little box! Can Miss Thing get awitness up in here? Or will my newly adopted Sisters Of Enlightenment leave one of the few men brave enough to strp his sex naked before their rightfully suspicious eyes, dangling from a rope of his own making?

mr mike // Posted 18 February 2008 at 12:35 am

Sorry, Legible Susan , but as I’ve proposed ,the male brain , even so snappy a one as most gay men are rumoured to possess , needs a little extra time for a comeback! About societies acceptance of lesbiana vs. gay men – I’m not aware of a gay male that corresponds with the follwing mainsteam lesbians : Rosie o’Donnell or Ellen DeGenneres

Legible Susan // Posted 18 February 2008 at 10:53 am

Mr Mike,

I was talking about the comment box you fool.

This “women are awesome grovel grovel” schtick isn’t funny any more.

mr. mike // Posted 18 February 2008 at 3:38 pm

Legible Susan , sorry my attempt at humor offended . Ofcourse I realized you were refering to the little box on the screen. Just found it ironic that you inadvertantly used the term “little box” since we were discussing slang terms for the vagina. Likewise if my exoeriences with women and more so lesbians comes across as patronizing , please chalk it up to , a relative lack of experience. Most of the heterosexual women I’ve encountered since my re-education on things female thanks to the gender study , find such uncharacteristic honesty from a man refreshing , even if simplistic . The first attempts at dialogue between people who speak diiferent tongues is often a bit stilted and sketchy and remember , men simply are not as readily proficient when it comes to verbal expression , so it really does take me a few extra steps to catch up . I find myself concerned with elements of female sxuality inspite of my lifelong attraction toward men , precisely because so many of the women in my life have turned their romantic/sexual gaze in my direction , explaining that they find such candor from a male both refreshing and stimulating. I’ts not that I’m at all interested in the persuit of such a relationship that rests purely on one area of shared interest – the desire to buid bridges between women and men .Furthermore , I’m not so typically male that I assume I can so easily sweep a woman off her feet , or in the case of the few lesbians who have expressed an interest in me ,expect a sexual outcome from the exploratory dialogue that we engage in. THese are womyn dedicated to a lifestyle as ” free from penises as is functionally possible “. These are womyn who regard the penis and the “creature attached as pathetic and worthless .” These are women who have all seen me in action during the tests on human sexuality that were part and parcel of the Gender Study . My poor sexual stamina and performance with a woman during those tests banished any remnant of male ego from the minds of these women study participants most of whom I counted as friends and all of whom sat as observers of the tests. They saw me for what I undeniably am , a real person ,foibles and all And despite the palpable anti-male aroma in the air , they continued to accept me after such embarrassing episodes . How can men re-learn who our sisters really are without bringing such intrspections out into the open ? Hasn’t there been enough posturing and misunderstanding already ? I know that I’ve gotten myself into a lot of mishegas assuming that my feelings and actions were accepted and understood . I’ts my desire now to end such grief beginning here and with the help of womyn like my neighbors , next door . I sincerely hope our dialogue can continue!

Amy // Posted 18 February 2008 at 11:20 pm

Jess – to be honest, I’m not entirely sure myself either, but I am fairly certain that was one of the earliest times it was used…certainly with that spelling, as I mentioned Chaucer spelt it somewhat differently. But the name stuck in my mind as one of the earliest examples.

Jess McCabe // Posted 19 February 2008 at 12:50 am

This provides some context – but not much. It does say that the word doesn’t come from the Latin, which surprises me not at all, given how distinctly Anglo-Saxon it sounds… This blog has more info still.

mr mike // Posted 19 February 2008 at 4:41 am

A heads up! Read in this mornings Arizona Republic that Jane Fonda used the C-word on the Today Show (NBC) , while discussing The Vagina Monologues ,Something must be in the air on both sides of The POND. A question for Jess McCabe: Do you think that Americans or Brits are more reserved in their use of words like “cunt” ?

James // Posted 24 February 2008 at 10:56 am

1. The consequences of women being “educated” to be ashamed of their cunts are grim for them and for their lovers, and the way the word is viewed and used is a big part of that. Change is coming, and thank goodness.

2. I really hoped that Gropecunte Lane had become Threadneedle Street. Sadly, it’s actually Milton Street.

3. As for the original “cunt” vs “cum dumpster”, I think I know why so many people would say cunt was worse. They’ve been told it’s the worst word ever (see 1. above), whereas both “cum” and “dumpster” are *relatively* innocuous words. So the two together must not be as bad as the worst word ever, right? Which ignores the fact that the latter implies an abusive relationship, whereas the first is just a part of the body.

Not an excuse, merely an attempt to explain. Oh, and this is the most I’ve ever seen the word cunt used in a discussion, despite N****’s best efforts. Good work!

Rosolution // Posted 17 March 2008 at 7:30 pm

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Lisa // Posted 5 April 2009 at 2:19 am

People who think cunts are some terrible thing worthy of the worst insult need to take their heads out of their asses. They are just patheric, sexist assholes. Being a girl I get fed up with cunts being treated as foul and horrible etc

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