Sex Roles

, Volume 10, Issue 11, pp 869–876

Sex differences in the naming of children's genitalia

  • Nanette Gartrell
  • Diane Mosbacher

DOI: 10.1007/BF00288510

Cite this article as:
Gartrell, N. & Mosbacher, D. Sex Roles (1984) 10: 869. doi:10.1007/BF00288510


Children's knowledge of human genital anatomy was examined retrospectively. Of the 223 adults who responded to a questionnaire on this subject, 39.8% of males and 29% of females learned correct anatomical names for male genitalia as children. In contrast, only 6.1% of females and 17.7% of males learned correct names for female genitalia. Most respondents learned either euphemisms or no names for female genitalia as children. Whereas male respondents acquired a complete vocabulary for male genitalia by a mean age of 11.5 years, female respondents did not complete their anatomical vocabulary for female genitalia until a mean age of 15.6 years. The importance of recognizing that children have erotic experiences and that they need a vocabulary for describing their feelings is discussed.

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nanette Gartrell
    • 1
  • Diane Mosbacher
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryBeth Israel Hospital and Harvard Medical SchoolUSA
  2. 2.Beth Israel HospitalBoston
  3. 3.The Cambridge Hospital and Harvard Medical SchoolUSA