The Misnamed Female Sex Organ

  • Mildred Ash
Part of the Women in Context book series (WICO)


In every medical book on human anatomy, the female external genitals are called the vulva. Yet, the term vagina is almost universally used when the speaker refers to the pubic region of the girl or woman. Laypersons are not alone in making this error. Sex educators fail to teach the correct term. Professionals in the mental health field, including physicians, use the term vagina inappropriately. Lexicographers make errors revealing emotional reactions leading to intellectual confusion. In some instances among laypeople, the error is due to mis-education. However, I feel the conclusion is inescapable that the word vulva causes psychological discomfort. It is repressed by a substantial portion of the population, most significantly, a substantial portion of the professional population. Substituted for it is the name of an internal organ, the vagina. An examination of the practice of using the word vagina instead of vulva should reveal psychological problems related to female sexual anatomy and the anatomical differences between the sexes.


Pubic Hair Mental Health Field Genital Arousal Female Orgasm Sexual Part 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mildred Ash
    • 1
  1. 1.Psychiatrist and Psychoanalyst in Private PracticePalo AltoUSA

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